Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music

ISBN : 9780199832606

S. Alexander Reed
376 Pages
221 x 234 mm
Pub date
Sep 2013
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"Industrial" is a descriptor that fans and critics have applied to a remarkable variety of music: the oildrum pounding of Einsturzende Neubauten, the processed electronic groans of Throbbing Gristle, the drumloop clatter of Skinny Puppy, and the synthpop songcraft of VNV Nation, to name just a few. But the stylistic breadth and subcultural longevity of industrial music suggests that the common ground here might not be any one particular sound, but instead a network of ideologies. This book traces industrial music's attitudes and practices from their earliest articulations - a hundred years ago - through the genre's mid-1970s formation and its development up to the present and beyond. Taking cues from radical intellectuals like Antonin Artaud, William S. Burroughs, and Guy Debord, industrial musicians sought to dismantle deep cultural assumptions so thoroughly normalized by media, government, and religion as to seem invisible. More extreme than punk, industrial music revolted against the very ideas of order and reason: it sought to strip away the brainwashing that was identity itself. It aspired to provoke, bewilder, and roar with independence. Of course, whether this revolution succeeded is another question...Assimilate is the first serious study published on industrial music. Through incisive discussions of musicians, audiences, marketers, cities, and songs, this book traces industrial values, methods, and goals across forty years of technological, political, and artistic change. A scholarly musicologist and a longtime industrial musician, S. Alexander Reed provides deep insight not only into the genre's history but also into its ambiguous relationship with symbols of totalitarianism and evil. Voicing frank criticism and affection alike, this book reveals the challenging and sometimes freeiring ways that industrial music both responds to and shapes the world. Assimilate is essential reading for anyone who has ever imagined limitless freedom, danced alone in the dark, or longed for more noise.


1. A Fading Vision Lost in Time
2. The Pan-Revolutionary
3. The "I"-Word
Part 1: Technology and the Preconditions of Industrial Music
I. Italian Futurism
1. Industry
2. The Aesthetics of the Machine
3. Crash
II. William S. Burroughs
1. Junkie
2. The Control Machines
3. Brainwashing and the Conflation of Authority
4. Mediatic Verses
5. The Cut-Up
6. Process as Composition
7. Media
8. Techno-Ambivalence
III. Industrial Music and the Avant-Garde
1. Noise and Revisionism
2. The Revolutionary Class
Part 2: Industrial Geography
IV. Northern England
1. Progress in Hell
2. The Original Sound of Sheffield
3. Meatwhistle and ClockDVA
4. Throbbing Gristle
5. Manchester in the Shadow of War
V. Berlin
1. An Island Out of This Planet
2. Strategies Against Architecture
3. German-ness
4. Ingenious Dilettantes
5. West Germany Beyond Berlin
VI. San Francisco
1. Madness in Any Direction, at Any Hour
2. Monte Cazazza and Self-Propaganda
3. Z>'ev and Survival Research Laboratories
4. Factrix and Chrome
VII. Mail Art, Tape Technology, and the Network
1. Fluxus and UFOs
2. A History of Tape Trading
3. Taping as a Political Act
4. The Eternal Network
5. A Virtual Scene
Part 3: Industrial Music as Music
VIII. The Tyranny of the Beat: Dance Music and Identity Crisis
1. Those Heady Days of Idealism Are Over
2. Irony
3. Technology and Rhythm
4. Futurist Pop
5. Pleasure
6. Industrial Identity
IX. ": England 1981-1985
1. The Mission is Terminated
2. London
3. Beyond London
X. Body to Body: Belgian EBM 1981-1985
1. A Satellite State
2. Luc Van Acker
3. Front
4. Musical Order
5. Bodily Order
XI. Industrial Music as a Theatre of Cruelty
1. Artaud-Damaged
2. Theatricalities of All Kinds
XII. "She's a Sleeping Beast": Skinny Puppy and the Feminine Gothic
1. From Pop to Puppy
2. Vancouver's Fertile Ground
3. Disrupting Maleness
4. The Feminine Gothic
Part 4: People and Industrial Music
XIII. Wild Planet: WaxTrax! Records and Global Dance Scenes
1. Industrial Music and the Mainstream
2. The Beginnings of WaxTrax!
3. Ministry
4. Mixing and Merging
5. The Business of Chaos
6. Clubbing and Participatory Culture
7. New Beat
8. The WaxTrax! Heyday
XIV. Q: Why Do We Act Like Machines? A: We Do Not.
1. Pretty Hate Machine
2. Industrial Harmony
3. Language, the Self, and Gender
4. Get Me an Industrial Band
5. Resembling the Machine
XV. Death
1. Death as Event
2. Death as Metaphor
3. Death as Fashion
4. New Life
XVI. Wonder
1. Covenant and the Ubiquitous Sublime
2. Apoptygma Berzerk and the Spontaneous Sublime
3. VNV Nation and the Unthinkable Sublime
4. The Futurepop Backlash
5. Clubbed to Death
6. The Longevity of Industrial Bands
7. Industrial Music Is Dead?
Part 5: Meaning and Revolution
XVII. Back and Forth: Industrial Music and Fascism
1. Extremism as the Norm
2. Silent Politics
3. Loud Apolitics
4. The Effects of Fascism's Spectre
5. Fascist Assimilation
6. The Hidden Reverse
XVIII. White Souls in Black Suits: Industrial Music and Race
1. Whiteness
2. The Inheritance of Blues, Jazz, and Dub
3. Exotica, Caricature, and the Techno-Oblivious
4. Technology and Racial Engagement
5. Black and White
6. Repetition and the English Ballad
XIX. Is There Any Escape for Noise?
1. Unpalatable Truths
2. The First Two Options
3. Transgression as Law
4. The Future Happened Already
5. Pleasure, Flag Planting, and Revolution
6. The Third Mind

About the author: 

S. Alexander Reed is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Florida. He has published and presented research on vocal timbre, embodiment, postpunk music, and the recordings of Nine Inch Nails, Laurie Anderson, Rammstein, and Tori Amos. Reed has released five albums with his own gothic-industrial band, ThouShaltNot.

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