08 April 2011

Trümmertanz, zwei

"The loudest noise you can get for nothing." Reduce, re-use, recycle...

Versus: Recup and rehab. Or, when Bataille shakes hands with Bob Vila. Tsk.

Anyway. Finally received my pre-ordered copy of Even Calder Williams's Combined and Uneven Apocalypse, which I'm looking forward to plowing through soon.1 Given the increased traction that apocalyptic themes have had in pop culture these past several years or so, it's a topical trend that's slightly intrigued me for some time.

At some point, someone proposed labeling this sort of aesthetic "no-go." Not sure where it originated, I just know that it never rose above obscurity it certainly never caught on. (No matter, the sound wasn't destined to be any sort of next-big or permanent thing, anyway.) As such, the label seemed most applicable to Bargeld & crew at the time. Admittedly, it was as if they'd taken 23 Skidoo's notion of "urban gamelan" literally, but instead replacing the gongs and marimbas with whatever discarded scraps were littering the landscape. Given the economic blight that had resulted from the slowdown and stasis of postwar industrial production, the music's clanging and decrepitude probably sounded like fairly loaded and ominous sonic signifiers.2

Yeah, it generally fell under the umbrella of early, first-gen "industrial" fare. Yet most of the other units that trafficked in mined that general vein (Throbbing Gristle, et al), never seemed to sonically suggest much more than a sense of decline.3 Yet looking back, I'd have to admit that Neubauten -- on their first couple of discs at least -- were about the only ones out of the lot who managed to sound genuinely apocalyptic. Considering the arc of West Germany's social and cultural evolution in the decades following WWII and its peculiar Cold War situation, the "no-go" moniker probably best encapsulates the racket and its catastrophic implications.4

But back to the matter of end times and such. Personally, as someone who had deep and extensive exposure to a variety of evangelical "if-the-Lord-tarries" dispensationalist eschatologies (i.e., the Book of Revelations interpreted in the most literal sense), the idea of apocalypse is far from new to me. Which is why over the past 5-10 years I've been watching the pop-culture proliferation of secular apocalypses with wry interest. Add to this that these formative years if mine fell in the decade of the 1970s, a time when many concerns with direct bearing on many of these recent scenarios (environmental degradation, unsustainable economic growth, increased oil scarcity, etc.) were first raised as pressing issues. But in the all-too-human course of such stuff, as soon as the economy recovered it was back to business as usual, with the "sky-is-falling" concerns of "alarmists" quickly shoved beyond the margins. In some ways, the whole matter may constitute our own modern equiv of the notion of an "Eternal Return."

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1. The bulk of which, I admit, is available in some form or other on the author's blog. But I never seem to get around to methodically sorting through the archives.
2. Not to mention serving as a thoroughly ironic, unromantic, and antithetical bookend to the Futurists' "Art of Noises" thesis.
3. I suppose the first couple of releases by SPK might come close to qualifying. But by the time Neubauten hit the scene, most of the first-wave industrial lot had either called it quits or were -- as was the case with SPK -- starting to descend into a morass of neo-tribal and "body music" clichés.
4. If there seems to be a recurring Germanic fixation afoot in some recent posts, it's on account of something I've been working on recently; something that's caused me to revisit certain sidealleys that I hadn't ventured down in a long while. All of which manifests itself in a number of tangents and spiraling-offs. About which, there'll be more here soon enough.

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