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10/07/2003: "modern noise-rock, and spk, z'ev, factrix, and tg"

Ok I'm going to take a shot at answering Jon's question as posed yesterday!

They're part of the same continuum more or less, I think. 'Industrial' (I'm using it as an umbrella term, not just strictly in the Industrial Records/TG sense) and post-punk were much more entwined than we think now -- these hard lines that are erected between genres were really pretty fluid. My impression from reading lots of old zines from the late 70s/early 80s is that all this weird stuff kinda blended for a while into this big melty mess before they started to separate. It was not uncommon to see a punk zine covering the Screamers, Devo, and Throbbing Gristle in the same issue, for instance. Some of my favorite things to read in old NMEs and Sounds from the late 70s are the advertisements for concerts -- bands you'd think were really dissimilar would often share the same bill in ways you'd never imagine they would now. Bands like Factrix and TG drew on a lot of the same influences as a lotta the punkers, too -- fer instance they were huge VU fans, but perhaps more on the black angel death song/sister ray axis…(tho i can see Gen, old softie he is, singing 'stephanie says' or somethin when no one's around)

Modern noise-rock as I've experienced it is a very bodily kind of music, something that's often better experienced live than on CD, though even in recorded form you become very aware of your own physiological response to the music in a perhaps painful way -- your brain being pounded, your ears being grated, your heart being pumped. Live it's this weird experience of losing yourself in the physiological response of an entire crowd. I saw Lightning Bolt a couple weeks ago in a really tiny club when I was in Boston. The band didn’t play on the stage of course, but in the audience with us, and the crowd threw themselves into a frenzy, literally. Like it or not, you were enveloped in their sound, enmeshed in it: instead of looking up at a stage and having music pointed at you, you were swallowed into its goo, part of this giant roiling mass of skin and hair and muscle, of sweaty human bodies all spasming involuntarily of themselves. There's a real diff between this and the usual moshpit at a rock show that I can't quite pin down except to say that it's more like watching a whole bunch of people have massive epileptic seizures simultaneously; it's much more geometric and jarring. 'Noise is the unconsciousness of music' said Masami Akita once and I think he was onto something. The friend I was with got his glasses smashed in, I got a little bruised up, a good time was had by all...

And the bodily aspect is also something early industrial had in spades, of course -- dig the pornographic horror in the names themselves: throbbing gristle, SPK -- who started out naming themselves the socialist patients kollektiv (after bunch of german mental hospital patients who blew themselves up trying to make explosives), but then later on the front cover of their Industrial Records 45 was a photo of an impaled you-know-what with the title ‘meat processing section by surgical penis klinik’! then you got TG’s infrasonics experiments, Neubauten’s ‘Zeichnungen des Patienten OT’ with its actual literal recordings of the body...then there's the effect of the chemicals used, which certainly had its effects on the music: the Cabs and Factrix experimented with mushrooms, which are, of all hallucinogens, some of the most body-strange and freakily organic (esp when contrasted with say acid’s cold sweats and metallic, chemical aftertaste), speed use in early Neubauten -- dopamine rush, metabolic overdrive...music that's kinda the sonic equivalent of turning the messy inside outward, like German expressionism/Die Brucke did -- 'Cabinet of Dr Caligari'’s distorted bodies, sharp shadows, the contorted, misshapen city as metaphor for the body and the madness boiling in minds, 'Metropolis''s freakish fusion of machine and human, the grotesquerie running thru Max Beckmann's sketches...but just cuz the insides are messy doesn't mean they're necessarily dripping and fleshy, but they might be jagged and sharp -- check out the Expressionists' deeply emotional work with woodcuts for instance (easier to cut out hard lines in wood than curves).

Another reason maybe for Wolf Eyes' trend towards 70s/80s industrial culture is it's this patch of fertile ground that hasn't nearly been strip-mined to exhaustion yet -- there's so much good stuff in that rich vein (Factrix ruled!) that just never gets enough respect from American hipsters who seem happier to embrace the same coupla Gang of 4 beats over and over. And the hipsters who dig psych-space-rockesque drones should dig this stuff, man; it's the droniest! I had a guest spot DJing on KALX Berkeley when I was visiting California, and somewhere during the set I dropped in a live recording of Z'ev (at a totally random spot on the record) and was astounded by how beautifully luminous the shimmering percussion sounded, and left it on for about ten minutes, hypnotized by its spell until my pal Dandroid yelled 'Geeta! we should switch records!' and I snapped out of my reverie; you know, when you're listening to something that's basically at steady-state and you start becoming enraptured by even the most minute variations. Eno had a weird biological explanation for this, that our ears become a frog's eyes. The idea is, a frog fixes its eyes on something and leaves them there, but a human's eyes keep moving and scanning. When a frog fixes its eyes on one thing, everything turns to soft focus and a disruption, like a fly, flips the switch to high contrast. Say, Eno is kinda like Kermit in a way isn't he?

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