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Extreme Music – Michael Tau (2022)

An impulse purchase, but not a bad one. The author dove into different kinds of extremities within music and presents his findings in a 480 page book! Obviously, there is a lot of music that I do not know and there are also scenes that I never heard of.

The book starts with music with extreme sound, such as noise, goregrind, gorenoise, medicore, later going to ‘techno’ with things such as speedcore. In the beginning the sound and thematics run through each other a bit. You can read about people trying to make an extreme as possible sound (the epitome of which the author seems to see “harsh noise wall”, unchanging walls of distorted sounds). Also there are mentions of and interviews with artists with extreme visuals, band- and track titles (from medical encyclopedia for example). It is not all but shock value. Interesting in this part is techno in which the beats got so fast that they are no longer beats but tones which are then worked into music.

From loud sounds we go to silent music. There are artists who record nothing but the occasional plop or tick of amplifying equipment. In different parts of the world, bigger and unknown artists have experimented with silence.

Next up is lengthy music. There have been attempts to cram as much music on a medium (say: a 7″) as possible even if that means loss of sound quality. Boxes have been released with 500+ cds. Also pieces have been written to (ingeniously) last for 1.000 years and much, much longer. Some of these long pieces are actually performed.
Needless to say that short music is up next. From one-minute-tracks to numerous ‘tracks’ within one second. Also here there is a lot of variety in approach.

Leaving the music itself, Tau goes to carriers. All kinds of exotic carriers have been used. Debunked systems such as floppy disc labels, microcassettes, “lathe-cut” (cut your groves in a placemat or an x-ray photo), weird sizes (18″ or 2″ vinyl), even releases that you can only play if you also buy the equipment that allows you to listen to it, even wax cilinders are reused and made again.
Also there have been experiments such as putting liquid blood into a space within a vinyl record, miniature landscapes built on vinyl records, records made from chocolate or ice. Filed under “nontraditional” we encounter experiments with electric toothbrushes and “singing dolls”. The things people come up with.

Then we have the musicians who are not so much interested in using out-of-date formats, but making music with out-of-date means. “Chiptune” actually making music with hacked Commodore 64 computers or an ancient Gameboy. Taking this a step further you come to “Lobit”, music with a bitrate as low as possible, which of course limits the sound you can make. There is even “Lowrate” scene which produces music in as small files as possible.

Towards the end subjects such as “disgusting”, “body fluids”, damaged records, unplayable releases, elaborate packing, “anti-records” and “black midi” (a computer can play things a human cannot) are written about. A short chapter is about “outsiders”.

All in all a lengthy walk through the humongous world of non-traditional music. You can read about artists, labels, types of ‘music’ and what not, that you may have never heard about. There is -indeed- a lot to discover. There are only a handful of references to artists or releases that I know. Much is written about things that do not immediately appeal to me, but since Tau did a lot of interviews and has a nice, objective writing style, the book makes a book source of information if you want to find something out of the ordinary.

2022 Feral House, isbn 1627311246

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