Tuesday, November 29, 2005


KRYPTOGEN RUNDFUNK. 22.SZ (Mechanoise Labs)

In the early eighties Laibach referred to a ‘magical dimension of the industrial process’, to something uncanny and excessive that emerges from industrial (dys)function (see http://www.ljudmila.org/embassy/3a/10.htm). Laibach operated in a context that was still nominally functional, although its mythical treatment of socialist heavy industry hinted at how it was already becoming archaic (see Monroe, A. Laibach and NSK: “Industrial Diagnoses of Post-Socialism”, M’ARS Ljubljana VIII/3-4, 1996.) The current generation of Russian and post-Soviet noise and industrial artists also operate in an ex-socialist context, but one that has failed on a far more catastrophic scale than in Yugoslavia. Western industrial groups prophesied the sudden and violent collapse of industrial civilisation, but their post-Soviet successors live in and respond to such a scenario. Abandoned bunkers and military facilities, decaying factories that were recently state of the art, depopulated arctic cities and gulags – even those living relatively sheltered lives in the post-modernising cities are surrounded by and aware (consciously or otherwise) of this Promethean debris. For such artists, meltdown and apocalyptic collapse are not aesthetic ideals but an element of everyday reality.

This project, released on the French label Mechanoise Labs evokes both the uncanny aspects of industry and the trauma of its operation in an increasingly dysfunctional context. It is sometimes almost overloaded by ghostly radio frequencies that seem to haunt themselves and by grinding oppressive processes. What these might be we can only guess, but it hovers in the imagination somewhere between a grimy noisy nightshift in a provincial factory and some dangerous Tesla style techno-occultist experiment. The heavy bass pulsing of a chronically unstable power supply gives the work its momentum. Over this dense layers of noise and texture emerge. Sonic sparks fly off unnameable ominous processes. Even the more ‘ambient’ (in the stricter sense) tracks such as Radiokatzenjammer tend to give way to the layers of writhing unworldly textures constantly lurking in the depths of the sound-mass. Machinic rhythms sometimes emerge from the fog and Ohne Augen is slightly reminiscent of Techno Animal’s massively overloaded beats. The corroded metal textures and abrasive velocities of Verborgenen Spuren suggest the operation of some demonic particle accelerator built from contaminated obsolete components. Despite the predominantly dark atmosphere, more ethereal tones sometimes emerge from the din, and sublime hints emerge from the machinic carnage. Krampf in particular seems to possess an epic/cinematic quality. Organ type tones swim through a deep pulse wave, and a symphonic/elegiac atmosphere struggles with a constantly grow(l)ing seething sub-layer agitated by deeper approaching and departing pulses. On the closing Goworit Moskwa! the post-Soviet theme surfaces explicitly as a slightly kitschy but melancholic version of the old Soviet anthem battles with feedback textures. All this suggests a stance somewhere between Soviet nostalgia and absolute horror at the consequences of Soviet industrialisation (but also at post-Soviet de-industrialisation). The traumas and the aesthetic opportunities arising from these colossal traumas are inseparable but if it is possible to salvage some meaning from what Laibach once called ‘a mad tale of woe’, there is perhaps room for some perverse optimism. While it does recover valuable elements, 22.SZ is too ambivalent and abrasive to win over the listener completely. The number of layers deployed and the tensions between them give it a productive ambivalence that maintains distance, preventing full identification while still generating fascination.

Alexei Monroe.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Industrialised Culture Research...

The I.C.R.N. will act as a network for those engaged in the analysis and discussion of industrialised culture. This is centred on the various forms of industrial and post-industrial music, plus related cultural forms. We encourage anyone working in these fields to collaborate in what should become an ongoing collective project that asserts the continued relevance of "the industrial" as a continued presence in contemporary culture and politics.

Monday, August 22, 2005

I.C.R.N. Test Transmission 1

“Post-industrial” is one of the most widely (ab)used paradigms of the present era. We are constantly told we live in a utopian post-industrial age of knowledge or information economies. As physical production becomes globalised and outsourced, the physical “dirty work” that sustains our (un)reality is largely done elsewhere. In Britain, as elsewhere in the “First World”, physical heavy industries are now near-extinct, yet the roots of our reality, our society and our culture remain industrial. Outside the gated communities of the West, industrial production remains a vivid and oppressive reality. Even within these enclaves, the paradigms and pathologies of the industrial age continue to exert an often denied influence that is especially clear in the field of culture. Informational commodities such as software, music, art and texts are now systematically mass-produced on a truly industrial scale. Whilst these new industries are ostensibly cleaner, friendlier, and infinitely less oppressive than their physical predecessors, they still contain the negative potentials of mass industrial production – pollution, regimentation, de-humanisation and waste. “The industrial” as a category remains relevant not purely as a metaphor for mass cultural production processes, but also as a simultaneously repressed and repressive cultural undercurrent (which also contains destabilising and liberating potentials). It is the denied and repressed and other that so many (“progressive” as well as reactionary) vested political and cultural interests are in flight from. These factors make urgent the bringing together of all those concerned with analysing and establishing the significance of the industrial as a continual cultural-political presence. Centred on research into industrial and post-industrial music and related cultures, from their origins to the present, the Industrialised Culture Research Network will trace industrial-cultural processes across media and within cultures.