“Come on feel the noise”
A short introduction to the genre of power electronics
Whilst reading a recent LTW article regarding Pere Ubu I noted the tag line ‘Glory Is Noise’ This got me thinking about that most difficult of musical genres ‘Noise’ or as is often called ‘Power Electronics’ which features screeching waves of feedback, analogue synthesizers making sub-bass pulses or high frequency squealing sounds, and screamed, distorted, often hateful and offensive lyrics.
Debate rages, and has done for many years as to whether ‘noise’ should even be considered to be music, according to Dictionary.com music is defined as;
1. An art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and colour.
2. The tones or sounds employed, occurring in single line (melody) or multiple lines (harmony), and sounded or to be sounded by one or more voices or instruments, or both.
So with that in mind I reckon the artists featured below all make music, though I accept it isn’t easy listening, but as Noddy Holder suggested “Come on feel the noize”
It could be argued that SPK aren’t a noise outfit, more of an industrial band, but without their ilk there wouldn’t be noise”Â¦
Australian band formed in 1978 who initially released singles on Throbbing Gristle’s Industrial Records. Founder members Graham Revell and Neil Hill both worked within a psychiatric hospital when they became inspired by the manifesto of a German Marxist political group Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv (SPK) one of the lines of said manifesto being “Kill, Kill, Kill for inner peace/ Bomb, Bomb, Bomb for mental health/ Therapy through violence!” These lines were worked into the bands first double single ‘Slogun/Mekano’
The name SPK came to mean differing things with successive releases including System Planning Korporation, SePuKku, Selective Pornography Kontrol, and my own favourite Surgical Penis Klinik. In 1982 Sinan Leong (now Revells wife) joined and SPK altered their sound slightly, resulting in a UK club hit ‘Metal Dance’. The band effectively ended in 1984 as members deserted Revell as he tried to take SPK in to a more synth friendly direction. Look for re-releases on Mute /Gey Area.
2. Whitehouse – London based, formed in 1980 by ex Essential Logic member William Bennett; Bennett is credited with creating the entire genre of Power Electronics; he is quoted as saying “I often fantasised about creating a sound that could bludgeon an audience into submission”. The band name was both a mocking gesture to TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse and a respectful wink to the adult magazine of the same name. Whitehouse came to the fore as other noise outfits essentially turned down the volume; Bennett added indecipherable lyrics which dealt with sexual perversion, murder, child abuse and all other forms of violence. Their first release ‘Birthdeath Experience’ was put out on their own Come Organisation label, this though was mild in comparisson to the bands third release ‘Erector’ which is considered by many as the first power electronics record.
Whitehouse ‘On Top’
Whitehouse are loved and hated in equal measure, but in 1990 attracted the attention of uber producer Steve Albini who produced all releases up until 1998, when Bennett regained control. They continue to this day though even Bennett has since introduced more traditional rhythms and even African instruments into the Whitehouse output.
3. Blackhouse – US based, essentially a vehicle for label honcho Brian Ladd (Ladd Frith Records). Blackhouse as their name suggests are a reaction to Whitehouse; they operate within the same musical field, pulsing electronics, sheets of feedback, disjointed vocals, however it’s the lyrical content that’s markedly opposing ”â Blackhouse ”Ësing’ of espousing the Christian faith, delivering a positive message. The first release being 1984’s ‘Pro’Life’ which was released on the Italian Minus Habens label
Blackhouse continue to this day, their most recent release being 2010’s ’25 Years’
4. Controlled Bleeding – Boston based outfit formed in 1978 by school-teacher Paul Lemos, and friends Joe Papa and Chris Moriarty. Not strictly limited to noise, often veering into classical and even medevial music but certainly very challenging! Controlled Bleeding are one of the most prolific bands of the era; their first 7″ release being in 1978 – It wasn’t until 1984 that they released the album ‘Knees And Bones’ which demonstrated their ability in the area of noise/harsh electronics. Controlled Bleeding have linked many of their releases by featuring track with the same name on each alum ‘Scrap Metal’ Pt1, 2, 3 etc They also released material as amongst others Skin Chamber and Joined At The Head but were essentially Controlled Bleeding
Controlled Bleeding ‘Regurgitation’
The band took a hiatus between 1997 and 2002 before returning as an experimental jazz tinged outfit, they even released an album under the moniker Breast Fed Yak!
Sadly Papa and Moiarty had both passed away by late 2009; Paul Lemos remains active and in early 2011 was reported to be recording with Martin Bisi, who previously produced both Swans and Young Gods so I doubt the results will be anything but noisy!
Controlled Bleeding Website
5. Merzbow – Perhaps the Grand Master of noise! Where to begin, to summarise Merzbow is a hopeless task. Merzbow is the moniker for Japanese noise maker Masami Akita who has to date released in excess of 375 recordings; the number has probably gone up since you began to read this! In addition Akita has found the time to gain a degree in Art Theory, publish 17 books dealing with subject matter such as BDSM, fine art, and fetish culture. His earliest musical releases were made with tape-loops, creatively recorded percussion and metal, he later moved to digital ”Ëmusic’ making, and nowadays creates his music on a combination of laptops and synthesisers.
His releases are often works of art in themselves; in the late 90’s he released ‘Noisembryo’ perhaps the ultimate limited edition.. It came as a Merbow CD pre-loaded into the CD player of a sealed BMW in an edition of one. In 2000 Australia’s Extreme Records released ‘Merzbox’, a wooden box containing 50 Merzbow CD’s
Merzbow ‘Minus Zero’
From 2001 Akita became a vegan, and began to incorporate animal sounds into his recordings, he later embarked upon ’13 Japanese Birds’ a 13 CD Box-set, essentially one per month plus a bonus disc. He has since released a series of more conventional works – ‘Merzbeat’ as the title suggests utilizes beats which is a major development. Regardless of what you think of Akita’s music, he remains one of the most interesting performers in the world today.