Bring the Noise
Re: the editorial for December’s issue (The Masthead, The Wire 322) in which Chris Bohn takes to task today’s Noise/Industrial artists for failing to further the progress made by the likes of first generation ‘Noise’ artists such as Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse. He still seems to think that today’s Noise/Industrial artist/bands are obsessed with those hoary failsafes; misogyny, serial killers, autopsies, the Holocaust, sexual perversion, porn, etc, and that the only way to get attention is by shocking people. Of course there will always be those who continue to be drawn to extreme and taboo subject matters, but does Bohn think that all Noise, power electronics, Industrial, experimental artists are still wallowing in a sea of aimless transgression? How many Noise artist are still using dead bodies as cover stars these days? Last time I looked, Merzbow had a chicken on the front of one of his releases – and it had all its feathers on. How many Noise/Industrial artists still think of themselves as controversial? How many are out there to shock just for the sake of it? How many feel the need to explain themselves with intelligent critique and self analysis? Would Bohn like to see every new Noise/Industrial/experimental act starting out today sign some kind of contract stating that they’ll never use a cutting from Readers’ Wives as an LP cover?
Can’t you make Noise and experiment with Noise and use what the hell you want for cover art or T-shirt art without recourse to having to explain yourself (isn’t that what Whitehouse did?) Can’t you make Noise and Industrial music just for the sheer pleasure of it? Because you like the sound of what you do? Because it’s what you want to do without having to worry about whether you’re advancing the cause of Noise and Industrial music by having Doris from Newark as your cover star. Why does Noise and Industrial music have to evolve and “work out new strategies for telling unpalatable truths”? What unpalatable truths? And whilst I’m here can someone please tell me why it is that William Bennett is suddenly so popular with The Wire? Having ignored him and his work for the majority of his career, you now realise that he is in fact an intelligent human being with something to say, not just some knobhead sticking knobs on his releases. Idwal Fisher via email
Much as I’m glad that Chris Bohn (The Masthead, The Wire 322) appreciated the serious-mindedness behind my Encyclopaedia Of Industrial Music Volume One, I found it somewhat puzzling that he seemed to have missed the point of this kind of publication. Admittedly, the use of the term ‘encyclopaedia’ in the title may seem misleading, but that alone shouldn’t justify the dismissively unfair and perfunctory mention he made. The series was clearly intended to be and designed as a kind of introductory and classificatory guide into an immensely broad and entangled topic, which the origins, offshoots and offspring of Industrial undoubtedly are (see the Preface). As such it could not possibly offer in-depth study as it wouldn’t be feasible for practical reasons. True, a seasoned follower of experimental music may not find the book particularly illuminating but making this particular aspect of it such a grave reservation appears quite irrelevant and unjust. Similarly, as in this case there is hardly any ground for that kind of comparison, an analogy to a magazine, however fine, which As Loud As Possible indeed is, should not be made. Two worlds apart, obviously. Rafal Kochan via email
A League of its own
Two very interesting reviews, Eno and Darkstar (Soundcheck, The Wire 322) . I was going to buy the Eno CD but Ian Penman’s review made me think twice – I thought back to the last great album by Eno (as artist, rather than producer) and settled on 1990s John Cale collaboration Wrong Way Up, which confirmed to me that the review was actually spot on in its stance. Quite the opposite with Darkstar – I guess electro-pop is not the average Wire reader’s favourite genre, just as Darkstar’s music is not your typical Hyperdub release. However, this doesn’t excuse the lazy journalism on display – the writer’s favoured (older) track is twice misnamed as “Aidy’s Got A Computer”, which hardly fills you with confidence for the rest of the comments.
Unsurprisingly, the record is far better than the one described and the Human League cover is entirely appropriate (HL not being a dirty word in this house – the dismissive could do worse than obtain a copy of The Golden Hour Of The Future reissue – easily the equal of contemporaneous Cabaret Voltaire). “Aidy” was great but “Under One Roof” and the title track are also magnificent. It comes across as a long lost Mute or Factory (RIP) release, like From The Hip or similar. Anyway, I’ll leave the Eno for now and use the money saved to order the forthcoming Shackleton Fabric mix. The interview with the latter is excellent and it’s hard not to think of Sam as the now/future and Brian, much as I love his earlier work, as decidedly the past, one celebrated much more effectively in MGMT’s ‘tribute’ song “Brian Eno”. Neil Horner via email
Marion Brown RIP
Marion Brown (Bitstream, The Wire 322) was responsible for aspects of the wider education of several people who wrote about free music, notably myself and the late Robert Palmer of the New York Times. Where Archie Shepp has the eloquence, the rhetoric and the presence, Marion was quiet and lacked bombast, yet he was equally determined to ensure that we became aware of the world beyond the music.
I photographed Marion in New York in 1966 although I can’t remember what happened to any interview we did. A year later we met again, and afterwards he wrote to me occasionally. He seemed to know instinctively that I was eager to learn more about the real African America and to understand the socio-political setting in which the music was made. He sent me copies of The Black Panther and books by black writers – he even sent issues of Muhammad Speaks, although the Nation of Islam was by no means his credo – and I played catch-up fast. In 1970 he revisited his Atlanta birthplace. He taped his reassessment of going “back to the southland”, making the connection between the blues singers he heard as a child, the gospel sounds of the church and what was happening in contemporary music. I turned this into an article for Melody Maker and a year later, visited him in New Haven where he was teaching. He gave me introductions to Clarence, an old schoolfriend and photographer, and to his own uncle, a ‘fire-and-brimstone’ preacher, and I headed to Atlanta, to stay for the first time in the black section of a segregated city. When I went back there with a companion, we stayed again with Clarence, and partied with him and drummer Allen Murphy, another contemporary of Marion’s – and with friends who were related to Gladys Knight’s in-laws. The weather was hot as hell, the music and booze were swinging, and in retrospect, some of it now seems unbelievable. In the event, the Rev Crolger was no longer the firebrand of the pulpit, but on the second visit, he took us to another church where the singing was phenomenal and where I had a transformative experience as fresh in my mind now as if it were yesterday.
Illness took Marion away from music. He spent the last dozen years or so in a retreat where he was cared for by a religious community. I regret losing touch and for never thanking him again for everything he did for me. So thoughtful, so gracious, so wise. Val Wilmer, London, UK
Corrections Issue 323 Apologies to Japanese psych group Aural Fit for misspelling their name in Avant Rock. In Soundcheck, the photo of Joe Colley was wrongly credited: the correct photographer was Bryony McIntyre.
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Next month in the February issue of The Wire
The Primer: Alternate Tuning From The Well-Tempered Clavier to Just Intonation, the finer points of tuning explained by Philip Clark
David Bedford by Mike Barnes
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