14 June 2011

No Frogs Were Harmed in the Writing of This Post

Some two years after the publication of his book Sonic Warfare, National Public Radio talks to Steve Goodman (aka Kode9) about acoustic weaponry, in conjunction with the current Dead Record Office exhibition at Art In General gallery in NYC.

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Which brings us to the item above. Until recently, I wasn't aware that the industrial music scene of the early 1980s had its own equivalent of Smithereens or Wild Style, but it appears that the 1984 German film Decoders was exactly that. Set in a dystopic, semi-authoritarian Germany of the near future, the film follows the story of a young musician who seeks to use his own musique-concrète recordings to combat the Skinnerian effects of Muzak and to wage sonic warfare on a string of burger joints, if not against German society in general. If this sounds somewhat ludicrous, then you find that there's a few overreaching sequences in the thing that are guaranteed to incite some chuckles. Still, it's got visual style in spades and coasts along very nicely on its own sparse economy. It features F.M. Einheit (of Abwärts and Einstürzende Neubauten) in the lead, with both William S. Burroughs and Genesis P-Orridge putting in appearances, as well. Of note is the supporting lead, played by old-school East Village boho actor and artist Bill Rice.

Apparently the script of the film was developed from a piece by Burroughs, who helped with the adaptation. I'm guessing the idea germinated from an incident in the Burrough's life, which I recall some item about him that I read many years ago. Apparently, while Burroughs was residing in Tangier, the owner of some business had slighted Burroughs in some way. So Bill supposedly slipped into the guy's establishment with a tape recorder some time weeks later, and a long stretch of the business's daily ambience. He returned to the location some time later, playing the tape back, letting the prerecorded noise mix with the real-time sounds of the place. Burroughs claimed that the establishment closed some weeks later, theorizing that his actions had effectively put a curse on the place, causing it to become "unstuck in time." (Right...that's the sort of thing you can expect from William Burroughs. Ever hear the one about his short-lived obsession with the Church of Scientology's e-meter therapy?)


W. Kasper said...

From T.G. onwards, industrial music was always better read about than listened to. It was a very 80s genre for that - the concept devouring the rapidly dated product.

Greyhoos said...

Having always had an ear for electronic music and noise, I enjoyed it quite a bit back when -- until about the middle of the decade when it came thudding to earth in a deluge of silly "neo-tribal" rhythmic and theatrical cliches.

As far as how it panned out on paper -- not so sure about that verdict. I always felt that he whole "industrial" rubric was -- on some levels -- a bit loose from the getgo. Each of the first-gen artists were going in different directions, working from different sources and ideas. Which is why I found much of the writing about it back then to be fairly misguided and pointless.

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