I was looking for topics centered around the more transgressive side of music, particularly in (but not limited to) electronic music stemming from Industrial (Power Electronics and Noise come to mind, though I know there plenty more besides). I was curious about who on here gravitates at all in this direction and in what way, but I’m also looking for thoughts on the significance of this largely dark, aggressive, ominous, disturbing, and sometimes discordant side of sound in music.
[I was going to offer a little personal background on the matter, but it turned out to be a not-so-little bit of exposition, so I’ll just cool my heels and follow up later.]
Not so much these days but I used to enjoy a lot of what got labelled ‘power electronics’, particularly Whitehouse, Ramleh. Got a bunch of Skullflower from back in the day, unfortunately, recently, he turned out to be a bit of a fascist.
I don’t think I would be listening to or making music if this type of music didn’t exist. I didn’t actively listen to music in my adolescence until I found noise and industrial in high school. I did like sound, I had a fascination with sound effects and made some of my own for Flash games I was making at the time.
It’s the only music I think I intrinsically enjoy, every other type of music I’ve had to learn to enjoy intellectually before I felt it emotionally.
I’ve sort of been in a process lately to reconcile the edgy things I like with my politics after an extended period of not engaging with them and I think to an extent pretending to myself that I didn’t still enjoy them. Perhaps more so with film than music.
I will say, going to random industrial shows of artists I have no clue about is some of the most fun concerts I’ve been to and it has made me discover some great acts.
I’m with you OP. I mostly make industrial/darkambient with powerelectronics leanings, and have found modular synth to be a very good platform for such.
In general i think the eurorack format lends itself best to digitial circuitry, and as far as im concerned is the perfect method of making droning, distorted wavetable-y walls of noise. On the other hand, most of the working artists in the noise/PE scene seem to still be predominantly using pedals and rough desktop gear, so those ‘traditions’ are going strong. (For example, the live sets from Harshfest).
For those into eurorack and looking for something harsh and deep, you might like x1l3 shard. I don’t own one but have heard very good reviews.
i used to listen to a lot of this kind of music, mostly stuff from the ant-zen label (Izsoloscope especially).
I also remember seeing Panic D.H.H live and this was kind of the ultimate mix i was dreaming of between noise and guitars (i have a feeling i did tell this story before), basically it was a rock trio where all instruments go through a fourth musician’s signal-wrecker rack before going to the PA.
From those days i keep the idea of in some way “hiding” hints of noise in my own tracks, whatever “genre” they may fit from the outside. (As a side note one of the aforementioned Panic DHH member went on with a project signed on 4AD and got a track on a multimillion selling game-console advertising.)
I wouldn’t consider myself an edgelord (maybe in my younger days lol), but R2-D2 torture noises, walls of feedback-patched sound etc, are what drew me to modular synths. However, I have a slight anxiety about spending x-thousands of dollars on this type of gear when I could spend a fraction of that on pedals, electronic thrift store detritus, etc and maybe get similar results that would feel more personal than paid for, since part of the appeal of noise music for me is the misuse of equipment to achieve a (sort of) musical result.
An example would be a pair of office intercoms that I found in a dumpster when I was around 17 years old. I basically just let them feedback into each other and move them around to get different whiney, gurgling sounds- they work terrific and I found a pretty much identical set a few years ago at a flea market for $5 after losing the first pair. Playing with something like that just feels more in spirit of things sometimes, though, don’t get me wrong, I really do enjoy making the modular stuff I have sound like it’s swallowing its own tongue from time to time .
I actually completely and utterly agree with this. I think, in many ways, electronic music at large contains this potential, but it’s in the spawn of Industrial that it’s most poignantly pronounced. I also think that we’re coming into a time (technologically, socially, etc.) in which this dimension stands to become more apparent than ever in the nearly half a century of electronic and Industrial music.
I’ve speculated upon this previously in asking this, largely in reference to this very subject matter:
What sort of music might come of the seizing of its means of production , so to speak, in such troubled and uncertain times as we find ourselves today? with so turbulent a history as has made us who we are?
I’m not sure I understand that question as stated. Noise and industrial music do have at their heart a grass-roots, simple, working-class ethos - using whatever you find, letting creativity and raw emotion triumph over technicality/skill/training etc. In this way the “means of production” of the music can readily be “seized” by any person regardless of status.
Our current times are by almost every standard the least troubled (not sure about uncertain) times in human history, and the conditions for musicians and boundary-pushing performance artists now are probably the most favorable they’ve ever been. I think the real creative drive behind extreme sonic heaviness (esp. power electronics) now is the perception (right or wrong) that the rosy future promised by technological development has been almost completely exposed as a sham sold to us by the financial/technological elite. Harsh electronic music is perfect for conveying this sentiment partly because of the great opportunities for irony: using the very tools made possible by rapid technological progress to cast a shadow over the nature of human progress itself. Regardless of your opinion about the state of the world, it’s a fantastic medium for exploring dystopian art.
I agree with your first sentence and agree with the “feeling” part of the second. However for me it comes down to a question of workflow and sound - if I can make a solid contribution to the genre using gear that vibes with me and that sounds good, then i’ll do that rather than subjecting myself to the somewhat arbitrary limitation of using crappy pedals and bits of steel for the sake of being seen as trve kvlt.
This actually nails my sentiment, as I see what might be deemed as the progression of civilization as causing us to swing more intensely between belief and nihilism. Without going to much into it, our beliefs or underlying ideology have become more entrenched as they have become more difficult to pronounce, but equally difficult to pronounce are the ways in which those beliefs undermine themselves (the Internet, at large, being perhaps the best case in point).
And, yes, my assessment of these times as troubled stands in stark contrast to the optimistic vision of the present as elaborated by your Steven Pinkers (although I do not deny that his assertions may be imperically correct by certain metrics) and the future as elaborated by your Ray Kurzweils. Suffice to say, I’m aware of these narratives but keenly attentive to their naivete. Furthermore, the frankly indisputable uncertainty of our times is, alone, troubling enough, but rendered worse still by the contentment of an arguably privileged modern age (we know too well that we don’t know what we don’t know, but never fail to disavow knowledge by our actions, and so on).
But as to the rest, I don’t happen to think that there is any ethos intrinsic to Industrial, whatever such a characteristic might be attributable in retrospect would likely be purely circumstantial. For instance, I don’t remember who it was, but someone who was among the pioneers of electronic music in the seventies observed that punk rock largely gravitated around a rather conventional or even traditional means of making music (the three piece band, guitars, vocals, drums, etc.) and saw synthesizers, avante garde, and such as somewhat elitist. Yet, in his view, it was far more subversive than the rock and roll format (which had largely become a sort of institution in its transgressive qualities). And while I, myself, am quite keen on early punk, I definitely see what he means though feel like these pioneers were way ahead of their time in this respect.
Cheap manufacturing, an abundance of secondhand gear and DIY kits and otherwise useful tech, and the rapid development of digital technology has opened the field immensely to the uninitiated, so to speak (and I do agree with you about eurorack, which I believe to be an essential means of broadening one’s repertoire in Industrial). I would contend that this had been somewhat the case for the punk movement, as well. The main difference is how much closer to engineering the production of electronic music is when compared to Rock, or at least how much more inclined that production is toward taking a bulk of that engineering practically, if not completely in hand; to that effect, Eno’s role in Roxy Music comes to mind, but even more-so do I think of Throbbing Gristle.
Speaking of which, I would also contend that the Industrial sound has largely eclipsed the genre’s more radical implications, at least superficially, and that it’s high time it was brought back to its roots.
I also happen to agree with this. I think the time for this mode being at all truly subversive is over, and as much as I shudder to say, I think creativity in one’s craft might bear a far more subversive potential (not my idea, but one that’s beginning to grow on me).
A little background on my own preoccupation with this realm of sound: I came up listening to NIN from about the age of ten, with Pretty Hate Machine being among the first cassettes I ever bought for myself and The Downward Spiral being among one of the first CDs. It was only very late in my adolescence that I encountered the likes of Skinny Puppy and ohGr, and while I enjoyed their work well enough, I can’t really say that it stuck for me; however, it wasn’t long before that I first played the game Silent Hill, and Akira Yamaoka’s brilliant score would leave a lasting impression in terms of my particular sense of Industrial music.
Much later in life, I would adopt a decidedly Industrial aesthetic into my own music only about a year or so into music-making, which had begun by electronic means (chipmusic, oddly enough). Though I can say that my prior exposure to Industrial certainly drove this in part, I would be more inclined to attribute the turn to the literary and cinematic appetites which consumed me at that time (the work of Yukio Mishima, for instance, along with movies like Apocalypse Now and perhaps even the culmination of a nearly lifelong fascination with the movie Aliens).
It was in the midst of this turn that I encountered the work of Alberich (Kris Lapke) when this track popped up in my listening on last.fm (which I found far more intriguing in those days) and completely blew me away:
I had been making some music in a dronier, noisier mode outside of my chipmusic work, playing around with overloading amps and pedals and such, as well as experimenting with feedback, but Lapke’s particular approach revealed a far deeper and, perhaps, even virtuoso application of noise and drones than I had yet then encountered. A small bit of digging would reveal an even deeper affinity between my own direction and that of his catalog, particularly in regard to NATO Uniformen and (soon thereafter my discovering him) my favorite of his releases, Machine Gun Nest.
Also, I’ve only just barely scratched the surface on Martial Industrial, but I acquired Rose Croix on cassette some years back and often return to it:
I may be off the mark, here, but I feel like Industrial (or the tone which sets it apart) has something of an ensconcement in the engineering side of audio, or at least its creative application. Lapke’s work definitely gives me this sense, but more generally would I attribute it to the way in which early and more raw approaches to synthesis seemed to be ferried through the seventies, eighties, and nineties largely through Industrial, when they were otherwise abandoned for more cutting edge equipment and approaches. At the very least, I think that Industrial has a unique capacity for teasing out or appreciating the raw character of the tech used, whereas I think most other forms of electronic music lean more into an obfuscation of that character in favor of a more natural, ethereal, or altogether more beautiful aesthetic.
There’s a little anecdote about the punk scene’s reception of electronic music (apparently quite divisive, as they were a part of it but never quite comfortably). I think it must’ve been Chris Carter I was citing earlier in this regard, though not this particular interview.
I find VCVRack to be a great and accessible way to make noise with modular.
To some of the other points here on the engineering aspects, I think when you are making drones or just noisy feedback you have to become much more focused on gain and dynamics. If you have multiple “voices” being able to mix those sounds with efficacy is more important than anything else. Mixing and riding your levels almost becomes the sequencing of noise, drone, feedback, etc.
I have a really hard time with a lot of this stuff. Throbbing Gristle are interesting as a historical thing - they were, for better or worse, genuinely pushing boundaries and challenging people. The aggressive reception from the punk scene reminds me of Suicide, who were met with similar levels of spite and violence.
For me, though, very few of the artists inspired by those two in the 40 years since have shown anything like their urgency or ambition - so much noise stuff now is just monolithic macho posturing, with some cheap provocations thrown in to make up for the music’s inherent conservatism - nerdy edgelords as far as the eye can see. Even someone like Fernow, who is better than most of this crowd, manages to be both problematic and incredibly predictable.
In particular, there are a worrying number of people in this scene who are more than happy to play with far-right imagery and then absolve themselves of responsibility for doing so, using artistic license to avoid broader ethical questions. And obviously Genesis P-Orridge is an abuser too… for me, it becomes increasingly hard to separate the music from the toxicity it replicates, attracts or creates.
Perhaps as a result of that, I feel like all the people doing something more interesting at the moment are women - Pan Daijing, Lingua Ignota, Pharmakon, Lana Del Rabies.
Either way, I reckon the trope of yet another bloke in a Burzum t-shirt screaming into six distortion pedals is pretty much the least interesting, provocative or extreme artistic statement possible right now, to be honest.
what wigs me out the most is how thoroughly (and quickly, from my experience) a form of music that’s supposed to be about sonic exploration with no limits turned into a scene more conservative than even modern hardcore. I really like “both problematic and incredibly predictable” as a descriptor.
I’d add Moor Mother to that list- she’s terrific (and a bit terrifying) and making some of the most immediate-sounding stuff I’ve heard in a while.
Also, I don’t think recordings of any sort do them justice, but Ono (from Chicago, i.e. not Yoko) has amazed me every time I’ve seen them live despite the two main/only consistant members being in their 60’s (edit: actually 70’s!). I’m not 100% on how they identify, but definitely not “bloke(s) in Burzum shirts.”
While I actually agree with most of the sentiment laid out, here, I would take issue with the application of the term, problematic (understanding of course how the term has come into fashion, of late)–problematic to what? and on what grounds? I guess I find the term problematic.
More to the point, I’m not personally particularly interested in Genesis or, very likely, her contribution to TG. I don’t think Genesis’ abusiveness is or was at all a part of Industrial’s appeal or inspiration (not sure it was even known until lately). What almost certainly does factor into the many inspirations behind the tone of Industrial is Futurism and the work of Yukio Mishima as well as perhaps the work of Ernst Junger, and there most certainly is a rather macho dimension to such works with a pronounced fascist tinge (Mishima was obviously a fascist of sorts, and the Italian Futurists had a rather divisive and disastrous love affair with Mussolini’s regime).
Some in the scene are real dolts about this, as far as I can tell, and are likely closet, unapologetic, or budding NRx types. However, Industrial is a transgressive artform and, therefore, problematic. At the very least, the Industrial sound is an exploration of this dimension of the human experience. For my part I would seldom take much interest in Industrial which could be described as wholly nontoxic, but I think we can stand to be a bit more imaginative.
Of particular note is the mention of the general fascist tendency to regard most art which was not of a classical nature to be degenerate, which was actually largely how Mussolini viewed Futurism.
Also, I’d be remiss not to mention the intensely pessimistic works of Cioran as another likely influence upon Industrial, who had involved himself intellectually in fascism early in his career and later despaired of that involvement.