One of the things about being interested in sound itself as well as music, is the seemingly endless supply of things to discover. Years ago discovering new music happened as a result of reviews in magazines, recommendations, and sometimes just taking a chance on an interesting looking record. Currently, the internet and Youtube can lead to unlimited exposure to undiscovered sound. I recently came across two female artists that I was unfamiliar with. Both Éliane Radigue and Else Marie Pade created experimental electronic music as early as 1958. Both artists created unique and most likely pioneering sound, or at least, ahead of it’s time. There are certainly many more that are waiting for me to discover when time allows.
It is interesting that a lot of people from the late 1970s to mid 1980s started releasing their creations on cassette initially unaware that others were doing the same thing. Certainly the availability of multitrack cassette recorders played a role, along with the D.I.Y. philosophy brought about by punk and post punk music. I was thinking about what influenced me to start doing this sort of thing. There is music that influences you to search out similar music and also music that creates a motivation to create your own music. My list of essential albums would probably be pretty big. But I would like to look at a few artists and albums that caused me to want to create my own sounds.
My initial attempts were at creating stuff like Public Image Limited, Gang Of Four, Kraftwerk, DAF, Cluster, and sometimes punk type music. Occasionally unique music would show up on punk compilations or get advertised in fanzines. Stuff like Carl Stone, Biota, and The Residents was getting my attention. Also industrial music started becoming more visible. I think I found Einstürzende Neubauten by way of Lydia Lunch. SPK’s Leichenshrei became a favorite. It was discovering cassette labels though, that nudged me into starting my own label and beginning the search for “my” sound. Luckily there were zines showing the way. Sound Choice, Option, Factsheet Five, The Other Sound, and Electronic Cottage all helped me find new music and inspiration for my own ideas. Sound Of Pig, Harsh Reality, and Ladd-Frith labels fed my interest for more and gave me ideas to try. RRR became my favorite record store/distributor for the major player stuff.
Okay, so this is probably similar to a few people who got involved in the cassette network in the 1980s. There were a lot of records and tapes that influenced me, but I want to consider a handful that were “ear opening”, at least to me. Discovering “noise” was what gave me my “anything goes” moment. I suppose for an earlier generation, Jazz would have provided that moment. Even though I probably knew in my head that anything was fair game, noise resonated and opened the doors for me to create whatever I felt like. Three releases stand out as my entry into noise. The first was Swallowing Scrap Metal, a cassette released on Gut Level that included Controlled Bleeding, Blackhouse, Borbetomagus, and Psyclones. I haven’t listened to it in years, but it was my first noise album and probably led to: Dry Lungs. This compilation had Controlled Bleeding, Vivenza, Étant Donnés, Merzbow, P16D4, Esplendor Geometrico, Dog As Master (Hal!), and others. Dry Lungs changed my listening and creation perspectives. Controlled Bleeding became one of my favorite artists. The third noise album was Merzbow’s Batztoutai With Memorial Gadgets on RRR. This album is difficult to describe but is unique even within Merzbow’s massive discography. It is sound collage/musique concrete more than noise. I had never heard anything quite like it. These three were kind of the foundation for what was to come.
The explosion of new music seemed to come to a head in 1985-86. That was the time I discovered the a lot of approaches to music and sound that were new to me. Even amongst the crazy amount of post punk, noise, industrial, and D.I.Y. music, there were a few things that really stood out. Laibach, and more specifically the cassette Through The Occupied Netherlands from Staalplaat, made a big impression. Although I had already been listening to SPK and Einstürzende Neubauten, this was completely different. It was uncompromising and unique. Often it was noisy and lo-fi but also musical and textural. The Rekapitulacija 1980-84 has some of the same material and is also great. I heard the cassette first so that is what got etched into my brain. Laibach had that combination of foreign, strange, and sometimes musical that was really appealing.
My first exposure to Nurse With Wound was Sylvie and Babs. This one was another big surprise. It is kind of like pop music from an alternate world. The combination of humor and experimentation was unlike anything I had heard. To me it is unique even among NWW stuff. Like most artists that produce over many years, there are a lot of different approaches taken over the course of NWW’s large discography.
I’m not sure which Zoviet France record I bought first. I wasn’t very impressed initially. “What is that? Someone plucking a rubber band?” It was Mohnomishe that I gelled with and of course became a huge fan including everything Robin Storey has done as Rapoon since leaving the group. It was obvious that he was the main creative force of the group. Once again I was hearing something that was strange and appealing and yet totally different. Often repetitious, the music would have surprise changes. Sometimes it seemed like a kind of alien tribal music. It also had what I would later categorize as drone music. Robin Storey’s music in Zoviet France and as Rapoon became the stuff I sought out more than any other artist. It also influenced my own creations as I was starting out.
It is hard to understand how such unique artists as Laibach, Nurse With Wound, and Zoviet France all seemed to converge in front of me in the mid 1980s. It was like striking it rich. Post punk and all of it’s variations had already offered up tons of great and original music. And yet here was yet another level of unique and interesting artists. Still, I was unprepared for The Hafler Trio’s Bang - An Open Letter. In some respect it probably changed how I listen everything. On top of the strange sounds and out of context use of normal sounds was the accompanying information. Research by Dr. Edward Moolenbeek into the medicinal use of sound among other things was detailed and referenced thoroughly. I suspected that it was all made up, but couldn’t be sure. This album cemented my interest in “sound” and sent me on journey to discover new and unusual sounds. It is as if you have been given the results of secret research along with the theories and philosophy behind it.
I’m not sure how I would feel about these albums if I was only a consumer of music and sound and not also a creator. They would probably be favorites along with the many other albums and artists I haven’t mentioned, including a lot from my fellow do it yourself network friends. But since I also got into the creation process, these few albums had a bigger impact as well as playing a role in which directions my experimentations would take. Not that it matters much, but it’s okay to reflect on these things, right?
Phillip Klampe has been enjoying music and sound since that little pocket radio in the late 1960s started sharing music and weird noise on the AM band. Failed attempts at piano, guitar, and violin over the years eventually led to experimenting with music in the late 1970s thanks to the D.I.Y. methods exposed by punk and post punk music. The rise of the cassette tape networking of the 1980s resulted in the first homogenized terrestrials sounds being made available (1986). Since settling on that name, there have been many releases over the years as well as collaborations and a few performances. Related hobbies are photography, drawing, digital graphics, and buying synths (both hard and soft).