Industrial music is a genre of music that draws on harsh, transgressive or provocative sounds and themes. While the genre name originated with Throbbing Gristle's emergence in the United Kingdom, concentrations of artists and labels vital to the genre also emerged in the United States, namely in Chicago. The first industrial artists experimented with noise and aesthetically controversial topics, musically and visually, such as fascism , sexual perversion , and the occult. Chicago-based independent label Wax Trax Records featured a heavy roster of industrial music acts. The precursors that influenced the development of the genre included acts such as electronic music group Kraftwerk , experimental rock acts such as Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa , psychedelic rock artists such as Jimi Hendrix , and composers such as John Cage.
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Cacophonic loops. Dyspeptic lyrics. Abrasive vocals. These are the calling cards of industrial music, the anti-establishment genre that made its mark by bridging art-rock with aggression, oblique synths with sturm und drang. Though now associated with rage, the roots of industrial music were far more heady. What they lacked in hooks, however, they made up for through performance. The Vancouver group, in kind, noodled these aesthetics into a highly influential, gothy electro-industrial sound. Their bubbling following, in kind, drew attention to overlooked industrial music pioneers such as the cultish Godflesh, the militant Slovenian Laibach, and the guitar-heavy KMFDM. Jourgensen became a nexus for the genre. Meanwhile, his industrial-metal style could be heard in acts such as Rammstein and White Zombie throughout the 90s, as he expanded his sphere of collaborations.
Knees and Bones
While industrial music sounds provocative, chaotic and, to some, utterly inaccessible, its origins can be found in established and organised intellectual thought around the universality of music. What Orridge and the early pioneers of the genre were championing was the notion that anything that could make a sound was a musical instrument and anyone producing that sound was a musician. Unique timbres, textures, rhythms and harmonies grew out of the freest musical experimentation and a distinct genre soon emerged. As well as experimenting with noise and sounds to create a new aesthetic in music, early industrial pioneers like Monte Cazazza, Throbbing Gristle and Australian band SPK were also intellectually and politically motivated. Association with working class disruption and anti-establishment thinking are neither of them long bows to draw. Industrial Records aimed to disrupt music and perceptions of sound; to get people thinking differently about the world around them and to question the motives of established power and established systems. The sound of the early industrial music is seemingly chaotic, often using harsh and dissonant electronic noises that build up into often rather intense textures. Beeps and scratches and thuds organise into rhythms, and repetitive electronic layers serve as melody. The human voice appears in cut tapes of speech rather than in song.
The opening night boasted a strip show in lieu of an introductory speech; alongside nude photos of Coum member Cosey Fanni Tutti, the troupe displayed used tampons, soiled bandages, and bottles of blood. News of the show rang far. This was the sound of work, but it was also the sound of the refusal to work. Throbbing Gristle—and the many industrial acts who followed in their wake—funneled that metallic uproar into music that was not, at first, intended to move units. Caustic and provocative, it had little market value, but it found its intended audience.