Category Archives: music

Fight Your Own War * Jennifer Wallis (editor) (2016)

I have recently reviewed a few books about (extreme) industrial music and wondered why there is so little information about the German scene in them. To me it seems that German industrial culture has made (and still makes) a big mark on the industrial underground. Well, here we have a book with a title referring to Genocide Organ, so that is a good start.

Fight Your Own War: Power Electronics and Noise Culture is a collection of essays from a variety of authors and with a variety of subjects. After a foreword by Mike Dando (Con-Dom) and an introduction by the editor, we set of with The Genesis of power electronics in the UK. This is, of course, a historical view on early British power electronics with anecdotes. This is probably the better known part of the book, but we also get a similar insight in the Finish, Japanese and American scenes. In Japan noise seems to be experienced differently from Europe or America. There are essays more circling around one project or one person, but also one about the ‘zine culture.
The second part of the book is more focused on the experience of noise and power electronics. The texts here are about experiencing the music life, the shock tactics that are used, the making of these types of music, the development of the scene, etc.
The third part puts the stress on philosophy and ideas, or the lack of them, used many artists. Power electronics as comedy; but also texts more critical towards the scene such as the fiercely feminist text by Sonia Dietrich.

Fight Your Own War is informative, not specific to any part of noise music (not excluding noise rock for example) or a period in time (we go from the early days to 2015). There are reviews and reports of live events, but no interviews. The book is styled like a magazine of times past and makes a descent read. It seems to aim at a more academic level in approach. What stroke me as a bit odd, is the use the terms that appear to be established, but I never ran into them before. “HNW” (‘harsch noise walls’) and “ANW” (‘ambient noise walls’) to refer to certain styles of noise also written as “wall noise”. This appears to be a different style from what I calls “walls of noise”. I guess in Gangleri terminology “HNW”, and especially “ANW” would be “noisescapes” since both appear to be hardly changing sound collages.

Not every text is as interesting as the next, but it is nice to read how artists are either deliberately ambiguous or not at all, why some artists use the imaginary (on stage, in artwork, etc.) that they use, etc. the thought of the artist or the listener. It also becomes clear that listening to noise is something different from listening to ‘normal music’. Indeed you cannot say that you like noise because of the melodies or because of the interplay of the different instruments. You can even ask yourself if listening to noise is enjoyable. Is it a ‘pleasure received through pain’? Such notions are also dealt with in the book.

The book is certainly not an encyclopedia. Many projects are not mentioned and many just in passing. There are a whole lot of names that I never heard before though, nicely mentioned in the index at the end. I do not think that this is ‘the ultimate book about noise’, but it is certainly more varied in approach than other books that I read, so in that regard it may be the best so far if you want to get an idea not just about the music and its history, but also about the artists and the listeners.

2016 Headpress, isbn 1909394408

Noise/Music A History * Paul Hegarty (2007)

The author is “a Lecturer in Philosophy and Visual Culture” in Ireland. Also he has a label (Dot Dot Dot Music) and he “occasionally performs in the noise “bands” Safe, and Working With Children.” He writes books about music and about philosophy.

In the current title you will find many references to philosophers such as Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Georges Bataille and more. Also, the term “noise” is not used in the same way as I use it on this website, to refer to a specific kind of (industrial) music. For Hegarty “noise” can be anything from consciously playing with the listeners’ expectations, to intentional ‘mistakes’, to unruly ‘messages’ (or the lack of them) to sounds that are unpleasant. Therefor the book is not just about industrial music.

The book has chapters about early musical experimentations, jazz music, rock music, industrial music and hiphop and then more in depth about the scene in Japan and then Merzbow in particular. The last chapters are about sound-art and about sampling. The author knows a massive amount of bands and projects, largely unknown to me (except for in the chapters about industrial). He discusses the (possible) functions of noise in music and the different ways of making noise. Somewhat generally speaking, the book is about the history of experimental and avant-garde music. It is not always clear how one type of music ‘grew’ from another, but I can say that the book will teach you a bit about the context where much of the music reviewed on this website can be placed in.

2007/2015 Bloomsbury, isbn 0826417272

England’s Hidden Reverse * David Keenan (2003/2016)

I knew about this book because it was (is?) high up the wish-list of a few friends. It has been out of print for ages and has long been up for a reprint. I was reminded about it because it is advertised in the back of “Industrial Evolution“. That book is about Cabaret Voltaire, but it also describes the foundation of SAF Publishing who published the first version of “England’s Hidden Reverse” in 2003. That print is now exchanging hands for preposterous prices. By the time I was reminded of the title, I had no problem of getting the Strange Attractor Press reprint for a descent price.

The book is subtitled “A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground” which suggests (to me at least) that the focus may not be entirely on music. That is not really the case though. You will learn something about the (developing) interests of the people described, but the focus is by far mostly the music.
Amazon lists a first-print hardcover with has “Coil-Current 93-Nurse with Wound” in the title. There -indeed- you have the main players of the book. The book is mostly built on inderviews with David Tibet (mostly known for Current 93), (ex-)members of Coil (John Balance, Drew McDowall, Ossian Brown, Peter Christopherson, Stephen Thrower) and people involved in Nurse With Wound (Steven Stapleton, Andrew Liles, Heman Pathak, John Fothergill). Also people like Genesis P-Orridge, William Bennett, Douglas Pearce and Rose McDowell have been interviewed along with (ex-)partners of the ‘main characters’.

The book has a bit of an odd style. It is divided into chapters, but within these chapters the different alinea can suddenly be about another person, so you are reading about the youth of David Tibet and the next thing you know you are reading about John Balance. The content is often very personal. The interviewees talk about their lives, dreams, drug experiments, addictions, relations and sex-lives. Of course you will also learn a lot about the musical development of the people involved. What and who influenced them? How did they get to know all the people they collaborated with?

The result shows a rather diffuse net (or “family”) of people who grow towards eachother and apart again, who live together and split up again and of course: who sometimes make music together. This “family” also consists of other kinds of artists such as writer William S. Burroughs or director Derek Jarman.

“England’s Hidden Reverse” makes a nice read with people with broad interests in all kinds of fields, whose personalities develop (like Tibet from a shadowy occultist to a Buddhist to a Chritian and who started making electronic (noisy) music and would shift towards a more folky sound). Especially numerous names of vague bands and projects are mentioned, forgotten releases and many, many albums of the mentioned projects that I never heard.

It would have been nice had the book lived up a bit more to my expectation based on the subtitle. Here and there you get a glimpse of the philosophy of some person, the weird rituals that they performed, the authors that they are interested in and the way they meet musicians because of a shared interest in (for example) Crowley. Speaking of Crowley, there are some odd family ties to him for more than one person in the book. These occult, esoteric, philosophical and religious sides of the people involved are usually just mentioned in passing and nowhere goes into any depth.

My conclusion would be that this book is mostly of interest of people curious about the musical (and to a certain extend personal) development of the members of “family” around Current 93, Coil and Nurse With Wound. For a peek into the ‘occult underground’ you may need to find another title.

2003 SAF Publishing, 2014 Strange Attractor Press, isbn 0946719403

Industrial Evolution * Mick Fish (2002)

During the 25th Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig (2016) Loki-Found decided to not rent a 2 metre stand at the Agra market, but a cellar somewhere in the city: a “pop-up store”. There my eye fell on a book with “Cabaret Voltaire” on the cover, so I thought: “A book about early industrial, interesting” and took it home.

There is a long story to this book. The author is a weirdo living in London. However he went to university, his interests mostly laid in drinking a lot of beer and talking about strange music, such as punk which had its peak halfway the 1970’ies. When he saw an announcement of a concert of Throbbing Gristle, Fish expected this to be a punk band and he rattled up some friends to check it out. “TG” proved to be something wholly different: electronic noise terrorism. He did not even know if he liked it or hated it, but lateron he came to think that this sort of music could well be ‘the next thing’.

One of Fish’ drinking buddies moved to Sheffield to study. “Paul” (Widger) would grow into the upcoming experimental Sheffield scene and would later become involved in Clock DVA. Travelling to Sheffield often, Fish also got involved in the Sheffield scene and became friends with “Mal” (Stephen Mallinder) and the rest of Cabaret Voltaire. “The Cabs” were more Fish’ taste than TG, but he and his buddies started to dive into the world of industrial and experimental electronic music.

Cabaret Voltaire set off in 1978 and already a few years later Fish took up the idea to write a book about them. This would take another couple of years and in a way, “Cabaret Voltaire, the art of the sixth sense” is the basis of the current book, since the first book was reworked once and would become a wholly different book for the third version. Whereas the original book really was a book about Cabaret Voltaire, lateron Fish not only wrote about “through the eighties with Cabaret Voltaire” (as the subtitle goes), but also his own life and his occupation (“and the local government” as the subtitle ends on some websites), as the got an occupation in the local government and remained more than a decade between his weird colleagues. This results in a strange book with a chapter about Fish himself and then a chapter about music, etc.
Fish shows himself to be a fanatical consumer of beer. Lateron he starts to use different kinds of drugs and describes how this heavily influenced his life. With a lot of humour and a lively style we follow a strange guy tumbling into a strange musical world about which he can be both praising and critical (he does not spare “The Cabs” either). He also describes his own musical efforts, how he the book came to be and how he became a publisher. Of course you also learn about the early experimental music scene in the UK and a bit the USA.

I learned a few things too. The upcoming experimental scene did not so much come after punk, but (almost) simultaneously. Also, it seems that the UK may have been earlier experimenting with extreme electronic music than the “no wave” scene in New York. Brian Eno might have been the person to bring over the virus.

When you like reading about early experimental music, this is a nice book to get. Also to get an idea of the strange days of the 1980’ies under Tatcher seen through the eyes of a person with a somewhat hippie upbringing.

2002 SAF Publishing, isbn 0946719462

Written In Blood * Mindaugas Peleckis (2015)

I am not completely sure how Numen Books came to publish this book. It is a collection of interviews that Peleckis did, mostly with musicians. I cannot say what period the interviews span. Initially I had the idea that Peleckis was a youngster interviewing band for some website, but the man is actually as old as myself and he has published more books. Peleckis is from Lithuania (but lives in London?) and this is his first book in English. I think there are other interviewers whom I would prefer to collect their interviews and publish them in a book.

Most interviews are not too interesting. Peleckis tends to ask the same questions over and over again. This is perhaps not so noticeable on a website, but when you read a book with interviews, it can be quite sad. “Could you please tell me about your main influences. What books, music, films and other things impress you?” Almost every person, no matter from what background gets the question: “What do you think about the thousands of World Music / Neofolk / Industrial / Ambient / Tribal / Electroacoustic / Avant-garde bands/projects? Is it a kind of trend, or just a tendency toward better music?” Or what about: “When I first heard your music, it impressed me so much I still can’t forget the impression.” Every person’s who is interviewed who has written a book, this book is “revolutionary”. And not to forget: “The sound is magic. You’ve proved it. But what ends when there’s no sound?”
With just a handfull of questions, the length of the interviews depend on how much effort the artist put in it. Some only give two-line answers, some complete epistles. This does result in a few nice to read interviews. Patrick Leagas gives his view on the early days of Death In June. Robert Taylor a nice lecture on Asatru. Peter Andersson (Raison d’Être) gives a peek into his soul.
There musicians that I know, but many that I never heard of. Many of them seem to be “sound artists”, others doom or stoner metal artists, even a group that makes music with vegetables. The variety of people involved is a merit to the book. The biggest surprise to me is Alexander Dugin, the controversial Russian thinker, who does not really come out too well from the interview. I do not know if the interviews are presented chronologically, but the last artist, Z’ev, is about the only person who has an answer to the “when there is no sound” question. What what answer. What a guy!

“Written In Blood” is an alright read, but not much more than that. If one of the artists involved interests you and (s)he happens to have been in the mood to give some proper answers, the book could be a good buy. More out of general interest, I could say that you can just buy it, put it somewhere and read an interview every now and then like you would when you follow Peleckis’ website.

2015 Numen Books, isbn 0994252560

Death In June, Verborgen Unter Runen * Aldo Chimenti (2012)

While in the Grassi Museum in Leipzig during the 2015 edition of the Wave Gotik Treffen, my eye fell on this massive book about Death In June for what seemed to be a very reasonable price. However I am not a huge fan of Death In June, I was curious enough to bring back home the book to read the story of Douglas Pearce and his friends.

The book was originally written in Italian. The German translation was published two years later. The original edition has the notorious ‘death’s head’ logo on the cover (the ebook version even more clearly). My guess is that that cover on the German edition would lead to the book being banned like some of Death In June’s albums. It looks like there is no English translation. This immediatly makes me wonder: did Douglas give his interviews in English and were his answers first translated to Italian and then again to German? I certainly would have preferred to read the man’s answers in his native tongue. What is more, the German in the book already does not always seem too good to me, but some Germans confirm this. This already starts with the title. The Italian title is Death In June, a l’ombre des runes which (I think) means “in the shadows of the runes” rather than “hidden below runes”. Perhaps the German title make a little wordplay with the Hagakure that Pearce seems to love.

Chimenti proves to be a big and longtime fan of the band. This is often quite annoying, because everything the band does is brilliant and everything that can be explained negativelly is incorrect. (Towards the end the publisher of the German edition felt to need to correct Chimenti on a few occasions.) Even everything people did who at some point worked with Douglas Pearce seems to be idolised. This makes the book too praising and uncritical to me. Continue reading

Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music * S. Alexander Reed (2013)

A while ago I was ‘in between books’. I had finished the ones I was reading and the ones I had ordered had not yet arrived. A friend just mentioned a few titles about industrial music and “Assimilate” proved to be available for my ereader. That is buy and start reading, very convenient.

Reed makes interesting remarks about early industrial musicians who were inspired by experimental classical music, free jazz and art movements such as Futurism. Experimental electronic music dates back further than I expected. The style and ethics of early industrial music are pretty much the same as they are today. Shock value in sound and appearance, ambivalent messages, anti-modernism, it was already there around 1975 and beyond. Reed continues describing the early scenes of Northern England, Berlin and San Francisco and the way early artists and labels were in contact: tapetrading.

Slowly industrial, in Reed’s view, would shift more towards pop when the music went from unstructured experimentations to songs with structure and refrains, beats and the like (the upcoming of subgenres like EBM).

Part IV is about industrial politics. Interesting is Reed’s approach to imaginary and (alledged) politics of industrial. All of which is ambivalent on purpose, more to shock the audience and make it think than to portray a clear message. When the author writes about the ‘whiteness’ of the industrial scene (and he comes back to this several times later on), I get the idea that Reed theorises too much. He likes to make references to the hiphop scene, but nowhere does he say that this is primarily a ‘black thing’. Is this because these scenes are afraid of ‘the other’ or simply because (of cultural background?) not many coloured people like industrial and not many caucasians hiphop?

Towards the end of his book, Reed seems to be ‘over-theorising’ more and more. Does music indeed try to change the world? Do industrial musicians, their labels and their audience seek to alter world using this particular form of art? Should industrial music have to update its message and, for example, target current criseses to remain ‘relevant’? Reed suggests several times that making and listening to industrial music could indeed be simply for pleasure (masochistic or not), but he keeps insisting on the message of the music for the world. Does Reed think that blood-and-gore deathmetal bands or anti-christian black metal bands have a ‘larger plan’? What is the message of the rockabilly or the psychobilly scene where the lyrics are often about booze and women? And what about the empty popmusic which only seems to be about hedonism?
To speak for myself, the first reason for listening to music is simply because I like it. Industrial music can make an atmosphere that I enjoy whether this is dark or downright violent. I do prefer bands which (seem to) have something to say over empty lyrics about nothing, but it is not like I am looking for the ‘real’ message of albums or try to unravel the artists’ ideologies. Neither do I mind if an artist (seems to) have ideas opposital to my own.

The biggest downpart about the book is that Reed almost exclusively concentrates on the popular side of industrial music. When the style became known, industrial grew bigger than I ever thought. After this first wave came more accessible styles such as synthpop and EBM and rock-oriented bands like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Coming closer to the current, we are reading about Skinny Puppy, Covenant and Apoptygma Berzerk while subgenres like neofolk and martial industrial are only touched upon. What is more, Tesco and Cold Meat Industry are only mentioned in passing and there is nothing about Genocide Organ (first release 1989), Anenzephalia (1991) and the whole scene around Tesco, CMI, Cylic Law, Steinklang, Cold Spring, Malignant and a range of smaller labels that still offer extreme electronic music. It is like Reed missed the complete current underground.

The author has another strange trait, but this one is positive. Sometimes he drops into ‘technical mode’ and starts to analyse the music himself. This goes from simple explanations about why music made with certain machines like it does, to complete analyses of rhythm, melody and song structure. These elements may make the book interesting to people who make electronic music themselves and/or those who are more generally interested in early electronic music.

Not the book that will answer all your questions, certainly not about the current underground. Still a nice read about how it all came to be though.

2013 Oxford University Press, isbn 0199832609

Troubadours Of The Apocalypse * Troy Southgate (editor) (2015)

This little book (130 pages) is a collection of essays published by Troy Southgate through his own publishing house Black Front Press. BFP has a somewhat outdated Blogspot, a more up-to-date Facebook page and a “storefront” at where I linked the cover to. Unfortunately, Amazon does not list all BFP titles and the current title is not (yet?) available there. Ordering from BFP is easy though, each title, whether it has 130 pages or 550, have the same price. When you live in Europe, 15 pounds includes the book and postage, also when you order more titles at the same time. Make a Paypal payment and Troy and Carole take care of the rest. A plus for ordering through BFP rather than Amazon, is that Troy signs the books before shipping them.

On to the book then. The forword fortells the fall of our society, just as the Roman empire eventually fell. Few people dare to speak of this event. Many of those are to be found in the musical scene that the book calls the “neofolk, industrial & neoclassical underground”. 11 Musicians from that scene wrote a few pages. Some of these texts are merely musical biographies; other texts are more interesting and draw parallels to spiritual development and music, one text is more like a spiritual biography and the wonderfull closing article combines all these elements and puts the whole ‘political issue’ in perspective.

The book seems somewhat radical with a not-too-easy thinker as editor who names his publishing house “Black Front Press” which publishes titles by/about men scorned by many and also publishes political books. Does that not make a too easy link between the music scene and unwelcome politics? Some contributors, I figured, would not fear such a connection, but I was surprised to find a nice text of Francesca Nicoli of Ataraxia here. Another surprice, and a very nice one too, is Christopher Walton of the late Endvra and now of TenHornedBeast, with a very personal story about his spiritual path. Also noteworthy is the opening text of Gerhard Hallstatt of Allerseelen who tells us how Allerseelen came to be. The text of Robert Taylor (Changes) tells us a few things about his musical endeavors and early American Asatru. The abolute highlight, though, is for “the only Jew in the village”, Richard Levy, who explains how a Jew can develop a Nazi fetish yet still remain a leftish politician, how he sees the controversial project Death In June and criticise the hollowness that the scene soon developped and plagues to this day.

Do not expect an in-depth investigation of the neofolk scene; neither an investigation of the politics that the scene is so often accused of or even its larger history. The book contains 11 short texts, one better than another, telling you something about a controversial scene and keeping you off the street for an hour and a half.

2015 Black Front Press, isbn 9780993170300

Hell’s Bent On Rockin’ * Craig Brackenridge (2007)

Welcome to the world of flat-tops, quiffs, hard-slapping and most of all, wrecking. However I have been aware of the music style of psychobilly for a while, for a long time I had the idea that it was a current in the larger rock/punk scene. This is possibly because in the Netherlands this is largely the case. When there is something rockabilly, often a few psychobillies appear. When Peter Pan Speedrock have a party, there are psychobillies present. It never really occured to me that the horror-themed music of psychobilly represents a different scene from horror punk. In my hometown there has been a psychobilly (“and related” I used to usually add) festival and last year my eye fell on a book about psychobilly. I bought it at this years’ edition. Psychobilly proves to be a scene of its own. Psychobillies are very recognisable, but it also proves that this scene has its own labels, mailorders, concert organisers, festivals, etc. Actually, it is much bigger than I would have guessed. Even in the early days when a release came in a 2000 piece edition, this was limited, while my usual music 2000 is quite a normal edition for a regular release. Brackenridge came up with a nice, and in his eyes hardly needed, history of psychobilly. He describes how in the mid 1980’ies there were people in the rockabilly scene who pushed the boundaries of the style, mostly thematically. There appeared what Brackenridge describes as “neo rockabilly” and later when the lyrics became more horror-themed, “psychobilly”. The first psychobilly band who also gave the name to what was to become a genre of its own, The Meteors. Several classic compilations appeared who clearly show the transition in the music style, one of those compilations lent its name to the book. Pretty soon many old-style rockabillies started to distance themselves from the wicked, new form of rock’n’roll and slowly but surely, psychobilly became a genre and later a scene. In the early days the sound was still quite rockabilly, but perhaps sped up. Early bands experimented with other music styles, but the scene evolved to be quite narrowminded initially and there soon grew a typical sound, a typical look and typical themes. Later other people joint the scene with a punk background and psychobilly started to stretch to both extremes of the spectrum, some bands having more of a punk-sound, others more classical rockabilly. Especially when the disease left the UK (it all started in London), the sound became rougher and sometimes closer to rock. All these developments make that nowadays “psychobilly” is somewhat of an umbrella term for a variety of rock’n’roll based music styles. The scene melds with the punk scene on one end, with rockabilly on another and with rock on yet another, but basically it stands on its own. The followers are numerous, the same goes for labels, distros, websites and inspite of a dip in popularity in the 1990’s, especially the USA has rekindled the fire. Somehow the complete scene has been ignored by the main music press only making short encounters of a handfull of bands with major labels. Since psychobilly is (still) mostly an underground scene, many people might have never heard of it and yet, a festival will draw thousands of fans, quite like with my usual music.
Brackenridge wrote somewhat of an encyclopedia with a shitload of bands, labels, distros and individuals covered. He talks about clothing and hairstyles, subgenres, developments, different countries, name it. The problem is that this book should have come with an index, especially because it is mostly unstructured. There are different chapters, which appear to be pieces that the author wrote at some point in time, but the texts just run on an on and without even a white line, you are suddenly reading about another band or even a completely different subject. Also it is impossible to look back band information. Brackenridge uses psychobilly slang like everybody knows what he is talking about (perhaps the book was written for internal use?). It even took a while before I found out that “flat tops” are not shoes and “quiffs” not a psychobillies. Inspite of this, the book is amusing and informative and makes a very nice introduction to an interesting scene.
2007 Cherry Red Books, isbn 9781901447804

Leicht Entflammbares Material * Josef K. (2000)

I was surprised to find a VAWS stand at the 2011 edition of the Dutch gothic festival Summer Darkness. Actually, that very surprise is the subject of this book. If it has any. My copy says “Auflage 2011”, but the book must have been finished somewhere around 2000 and is reprinted as needed. The printing quality resembles photo copying, but the cover looks nice and the book is bound, not too well bound, but it is a ‘real book’. The book tells the story of the German band Forthcoming Fire, but this is not really true. Actually it contains the rantings of Josef Klumb, probably the most hated person in the music scene wherein I dwell as well. I got to know Josef’s music when I learned about his project Von Thronstahl just before the supposed performance of this project at the 9th Wave Gotik Treffen (2000). At that WGT I bought the 10″ and missed what was left of the show. The show was banned just as a few others that WGT and actually this is what this book is about. Von Thronstahl is not written about in the book itself. The project is only mentioned in the discography (up until the debut cd of 2000) at the end, so perhaps that means that the last ‘entry’ to this book is of of a few years earlier. Now why was I surprised to find a VAWS stand at Summer Darkness? About since the time Von Thronstahl was forced to give an ‘alternative performance’ during the WGT, there had been problems with anti-concert activities around other bands and at other places, also within my own country. Meanwhile I have grown used to the idea that I will not be able to just go and see certain bands, that going to other concerts I have to be carefull what I wear and that a label such as VAWS is looked upon with suspision (and still they always have a stand at the WGT and apparently also at Summer Darkness). How all this comes is minituously described by ‘enemy of the scene number one’: JK. Continue reading