Read Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music by S. Alexander Reed Online


"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 sug"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 inspiring 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....

Title : Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music
Author :
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ISBN : 9780199832583
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 361 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music Reviews

  • Baal Of
    2019-03-13 11:01

    A number of reviewers have slagged this book off for being only about Throbbing Gristle and Genesis P. Orridge, at least for the first half, but that is a rather unfair and inaccurate assessment. This is a scholarly and intensely researched historical analysis of industrial music, and thus it necessarily gives substantial attention to the group that actually coined the term for modern day industrial, but does not do so to the detriment of the many dozens of other important contributors. (The author discusses the term industrial music as it was used in the early 20th century as music used to facilitate labor - which is a completely different branch of music).To prove my point, I'm going to list every musician mentioned in the first chapter entitled Italian Futurism: Luigi Russolo, Pierre Schaeffer, Ugo Piatti, Igor Stravinsky, Throbbing Gristle, Spahn Ranch, Nurse With Wound, Pornotanz, Monte Cazazza, , Einstuzende Neubauten, Brian Williams, Lustmord, SPK, Chris & Cosey, Clock DVA, Revolting Cocks, Lead Into Gold.That is a from a 5 page chapter. The scope of this book is not even remotely limited to Throbbing Gristle.Near the beginning of the book, the author lays out a helpful discussion of genre:"The boundaries of a genre tend to be both hazy and and changing over time. Genre in any medium is neither a prescriptive set of features nor is it a circularly defined body of works, canonized and fixed; instead it's perpetually negotiated by artists, by fans and commentators, by marketers and media, and by archivists and academics."This helps set the stage for further discussions of the history and development of the many branches of industrial music, and its relations.Early on industrial had at least a couple tendencies that were to some extent in opposition: the desire to be transgressive, manifesting in a variety of ways including sexual offensiveness, use of radical symbology, and extremeness in presentation both sonicly and visually, and an opposing tendency, due to the adoption of primitive looping technologies, to be rhythmically constrained, frequently in a lock-step 4 on the floor beat. Early industrial also tended to be primarily male and testosterone fueled, with a few notable exceptions which the author covered. There was also a strong connection to the gay and punk scenes, especially in the San Francisco area. One of the things I loved learning about was how Skinny Puppy, one of my all-time favorites, made industrial broadly appealing to women as well as men, and Reed went into a deep analysis of what factors in their sound, attitude, and appearance helped break those walls down. A substantial part of it was their gothiness, which of course makes me happy.In general, Reed does a great job of discussing the various philosophies, or lack thereof, behind various strains of industrial, covering opinions both high and low-brow, presenting them in their own words, rather than imposing his own viewpoints.

  • Vrinda Pendred
    2019-02-23 09:04

    This book seriously frustrated me – to the point where I started it last year and only picked it up again and finished it this week. I will preface the rest of my review by saying I grew up with industrial music. My parents had Front 242 records, they had their own band with industrial influences, they were influential DJs in the Arizona underground club scene (yes, there is such a thing) during the ‘90s, they ran their own record shop out of their bedroom so people in Arizona could get the latest singles imported from Europe, until they naturally progressed to trance music and put out their own singles. I personally fell in love with industrial music in 2000 when I put on the industrial station on Spinner radio (online) and heard ‘From Above Comes Sleep’ by Evil’s Toy and ‘Yu-Gung (Futter Mein Ego)’ by Einsturzende Neubauten (a band my mother used to tell me about when I was growing up). This book had little to do with any of the music I grew up with or later discovered on my own. As another reviewer has noted, the majority of the book focuses on Throbbing Gristle and related projects. I had heard most of what the author was referencing – but I don’t like any of it, apart from Einsturzende Neubauten, and even then, they only became good a few years into their career when they started making actual ‘songs’. Yet the book’s conclusion seems to be that once that happens, the genre loses credibility. It’s apparently socio-politically wrong to make something listenable and enjoyable. Surely EN don’t think this; otherwise, they wouldn’t have spent the last 30 years of their career doing it.I could say quite a lot about this book (and I still might), but I think it all boils down to one fundamental point: I totally disagree with the author’s conclusions about the roots of the genre, and what constitutes the genre now. In my view, the first ever industrial record was Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ – which came out a year earlier than Throbbing Gristle. Anyone who’s ever seen the title song performed live will tell you it’s as industrial as you can get – electronics mimicking the sounds of trains changing tracks and speeding across the landscape. Oh, and it’s actually music.Kraftwerk filled their music with heavy beats (if you blast them loud enough, they’re as hard as anything made today – again, proven if you see them live) and high-q sounds that were emulated by nearly every EBM band in existence, for years. They influenced everything from rap to disco to, yes, industrial. Just think of songs like ‘Man Machine’ and ‘The Robots’. Yet the author barely mentioned Kraftwerk, and certainly didn’t acknowledge any of the songs I’m mentioning. Apparently, they weren’t related and everything started with Throbbing Gristle.I hate Throbbing Gristle. I quote The Smiths: ‘The music that they constantly play says nothing to me about my life.’ TG do not stand for anything I believe in or feel. In fact, they are the antithesis of everything about me. Yet I consider myself an industrial fan. The author actually goes so far as to say that if you don’t like TG, you’re not enlightened. I’m not kidding; this message is repeated many times. Frankly, I don't see how anyone can admire someone who stuck needles in his genitals on stage and drew blood out of them to put in vials he probably posted to some poor unsuspecting person in the form of ‘mail art’. There was so much in this book about protest and breaking out of conformity, but I just had to ask: were any of these people HAPPY? The fact that eventually most of them killed themselves / died of overdoses told me all I needed to know. I’m sorry but self-mutilation is not enlightenment; it’s just another form of enslavement. In fact, I’ve never seen so much ego in one book in my life.Then there was the endless diatribe on sexism and racism. I’m sure that was there in the beginning, but I left this book thinking a casual reader would be horrified by the whole genre. That isn’t what this music is actually about, anymore. Perhaps if the author spent less time losing himself in self-indulgent rapture at Cosey Fanni Tutti concerts (see one of the pretentious appendices) and actually engaged in the modern scene more, he’d know this. In fact, just a holiday to Berlin would do the trick. I went recently to see And One do their 25th anniversary tour (another band who only got mentioned in passing as ‘industrial-friendly pop’) and was struck by how anti-racism and anti-fascism everyone was. Everyone was so friendly, optimistic, respectful and unpretentious. Before the show, I got to talk to fellow fans and they all commented that they thought the English and Americans took things a little too seriously and didn’t come to concerts to enjoy themselves. This audience definitely did – there was jumping, there was screaming, there was singing, there was dancing – and there were tons of women. This was not a strictly male scene. My husband, afterward, said, ‘I finally get it. The music makes sense to me, after seeing it in Germany.’Both And One and their opening acts preached messages of world peace, amidst their angry songs about how corrupt things can be and, of course, romantic themes. The whole of Berlin was covered in anti-Nazi signs. I think it’s shocking that the author of this book was so quick to brand the whole genre as racist based on a few psychos from 35 years ago. Another strange comment he made was that America had the highest number of black band members in the global industrial scene - the implication being that European bands were flying the flag of white power. Again, has he ever travelled? Because most of these other countries hardly have any black people, full stop. These countries weren’t part of the slave trade, so their ethnic split is very different from America's. It doesn't make the bands racist. This was just one of the many ignorant comments made in this book – not to speak of the pretentious way everything was written (I know, I keep using that word, but honestly...I can't say it enough). Every time I saw the word ‘scholar’ I wanted to scream. These people aren’t SCHOLARS; they are WRITERS. Writing one book about Throbbing Gristle does not make you a SCHOLAR. I expect the author likes to think of himself as a scholar, too. To quote Einsturzende Neubauten: 'Futter mein ego.' Indeed! There were other bizarrely overblown moments: the author trying to claim that the 4/4 rhythm is African in origin and, therefore, industrial music is somehow African, too - a bizarre analysis of the number / types of pronouns used in a selection of albums the author considers important, statistically assessed with percentage values and all. I actually burst out laughing on a bus, reading that.The author also can’t move with the times. The book ends with a discourse on the possibility that industrial music is dead. No; it just evolved. The whole debate was like asking if glam rock is dead. Of course that specific variety of rock is over, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still have some form of rock music. Equally, industrial branched out and did different things. If it hadn’t, that would have been BAD. Who wants things to stay the same forever? People who refuse to grow up. The rest of us look back fondly on the stuff tied up with our memories, but equally embrace the constant evolution of sound. There’s nothing wrong with this. It isn’t a destruction of the genre’s original ethos, or a sign that we’re conforming to the ‘machine’ and enslaving ourselves or whatever other BS this book wanted to suggest. It’s just us liking to dance and hear new things. I think any of the old school bands still working today would agree with that. Otherwise, why would Bill Leeb of FLA do things like Delirium? I read an interview with Steve Naghavi of And One, where he said when they started out, they just wanted to sound like Front 242. His official Facebook page lists his influences as Depeche Mode, Erasure and the Pet Shop Boys. I highly doubt he cares about Throbbing Gristle. There were even hilarious moments in this book when the author begrudgingly quoted a musician saying diplomatically that he understood the relevance of TG but they had never influenced him personally. I highly doubt anyone today would cite them as an influence. I highly doubt it matters. Even just their name is disgusting. Yes, they coined the name 'industrial' - yes, they deserve a section in the book - but no, they don't deserve 2/3 of a book supposedly about the history of the whole genre. I can’t hear a connection between them and anything that gets called industrial today. I CAN hear a connection between today’s genre and things like disco, new wave, goth rock, techno, Eurodance, etc. None of this was mentioned in this book. The book's introduction claimed it was hard to define what industrial music is - that it crosses genre boundaries, blah blah blah. Then it spent 300 pages pigeon-holing it as much as possible, to the exclusion of everything the genre has become. In fact, if you like industrial music after 1992, don’t read this book. If you think industrial music is just one style out of many in the world, and it happens to be the one you relate to, but that doesn't necessarily mean every other kind of music known to man is awful or a sign of political enslavement, don't read this book. There is some interesting information in here (hence the 2 stars), but on the

  • Mary K
    2019-03-08 09:47

    Who knew Sarah Mclachlin used to be goth? I learned so much.Other reviewers have kvetched about how this book focused too much on Throbbing Gristle, ~tarnished industrial's image~ by talking about the longstanding racism and racial segregation in the scene, and blunted its impact through engaging in academic rhetoric. I'm sympathetic with readers who find academic texts repellant--I can imagine Reed presenting this information more accessibly without compromising historical rigor, however this is a book 1) published by Oxford University Press (what were you expecting?) and 2) written by a scholar attempting to secure tenure (which, congratulations to Reed, he succeeded in. Ithaca College is lucky to have you!)I would applaud Reed for honestly addressing the overwhelming whiteness and sometimes explicit/mostly implicit racism of industrial, however to write this book any other way would have been negligent. He doesn't get applause for being decent, but I will stand on the mountain top loudly booing these reviewers averse to getting called out on their shit. This topic isn't exhausted; there needs to be another book exclusively dedicated to reading industrial through race studies, but this is a good start. I remind readers that this is a *critical* history, not a *complete* history of the genre; this book doesn't do everything, but it does enough. I'm thankful for the labor and love that has crafted it.I'm a young fan born after most of these artists had overdosed or quit the scene to make corporate jingles, but I see deep parallels of affect and aspiration in my contemporaries, in the punk scenes of DC, Olympia, and Seattle that I've called home since high school. A similar book could be written about us--or at least incorporate the work we do as a subchapter in the last ~100 pages--but probably won't be. Future teens likely wont know about the historical envelope that led to GLOSS or Turboslut, and these works will be forgotten just as Jourgensen wants us to forget With Sympathy. So yeah, I don't know. So much horizontalist reverence to Reed for writing this book. Thanks for doing that thing where you keep an idea alive by writing it down, thus displacing temporalities long enough for the idea to get to me.

  • David Nesbit
    2019-03-03 05:49

    I absolutely loved this book front to back. Now with that in mind keep in mind I am a music obsessive. If you are a casual fan of the genre this book may not be for you. On the other hand if you want to learn not just about the history of industrial music, but also want to learn about it's musical and artistic precursors this is the book for you. It covers tape music, surrealist art, the fluxus movement and dadaism, all of them crucial to the genre's initial formation. The book is remarkably well researched and the end of each chapter gives examples of the styles of work he discusses in them. Which has led to me researching a number of bands i had never heard of. A very well done piece of work.

  • Mikael
    2019-03-19 07:15

    I now know more than I ever knew, and likely also more than I ever wanted to or needed to know about the historical and political background of industrial music.And, quite frankly, this book was not any favorite of mine for several reasons:First of all it felt slightly unbalanced, given that the first 150 pages of a 300 page book more or less focused only on the band Throbbing Gristle (which I don't really like) and Genesis P-Orridge (whom I don't really know and after this intensive deep dive don't need to either), while later in the book spending 3,5 pages on the band Covenant and ending that section apologizing for "the extended look" at their songs. In fact only at about page 150 there appeared some band names I even recognized, and considering my newly re-created account from half a year ago tells me I have about 400 bands I listen to, that also makes me feel the focus is slightly off for my tastes. But that could always be considered a matter of personal taste.For second it's that while I have no doubt some of my musical friends may find the book quite interesting, some parts of it to me feel outright boring, mainly since I listen to music to enjoy it, to relax, or at a concert or pub. So reading a deep-dive description into chord-lengths, half-notes, quarter-notes and whatnots is really not my cup of tea, but I read it anyway as it is part of the book, although I must confess after the umpteenth repetition I'm getting too lazy to translate every word in sentences like "the upper vocal part is an unsyncopated leaping gesture whose lower note instead of fitting into the sounding chord, follows a melodically determined sequence". At this point my interest sort of flies elsewhere for a brief moment. And there are simply too many such parts.Still the book has some merit, after page 150 as mentioned it starts to become interesting as this is the chapter "beyond London", and we reach the time of around 1985 and after that follow the Belgian scene and the political chapters and the Wax Trax-era which is something I can recall and so also feels quite interesting and entertaining to read.But overall, despite the fact that I like the music, this is not my favorite book.

  • Nate
    2019-03-06 09:50

    Even if you are not a fan of Industrial Music, Reed's treatment of music,art, and culture in the last half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century will offer an insightful and compelling read. However, if you are even a casual fan of Industrial Music this book is a must read.

  • Mills College Library
    2019-03-02 12:09

    781.64809 R326 2013

  • Ethan
    2019-03-08 09:49

    Consistently thought provoking and informative- well worth the read for any 'beginner' or 'jaded enthusiast'.

  • Micah Stupak
    2019-03-25 11:53

    In the long-running discussion of genre and its merits, one always hears breathless claims of "it's so good, even people who aren't fans of noise/film noir/paranormal young adult/arcane sexual practices/sandwiches will like it!" So we'll get that out of the way now: this is a book about a genre of music, so, therefore, it would most likely appeal to fans of that genre of music (in this case, industrial). If you're interested in that type of music, though, why wouldn't you be interested in reading the first real critical study of it? So I won't convince those people. Who else would enjoy this, then? Well:- people who like to think about music, obviously- sociologists and anthropologists who like subcultural studies- historians of recent cultural trends- those who like seeing how politics interact with youth (and vice versa)Dr Reed has a really well-written book here. I almost feel like calling it "A Critical History" is doing it a disservice because it doesn't need to be pondered and unpacked like so much critical theory and study ("it's so good, even people who don't know Derrida will like it!"). It's easy to read and well-paced, with just enough history to engage those who aren't already insiders. That's not to say the cognoscenti will be unrewarded, though: your favorite band will be named (except for a handful of omissions, sorry), you will definitely learn something new, and the abundance of interviews with those who were there will give you many good anecdotes.Subjects non-musical but deeply connected to the scene are explored: politics, technology, identity, race. Actually, the discussion of race glosses over some truly ugly incidents and characters. That's probably my number one complaint with the book, but the characters in question are...well, old now. Some of them have tossed off some (occasionally weak) mea culpas in the past 30 years. Dr Reed perhaps wisely avoids that quagmire, but the subject is one worthy of further exploration. Perhaps another will pick up the mantle based on his groundwork.Another subject that could have been explored in greater length – but for opposed reasons – is identity and gender. There is a chapter on Skinny Puppy that is simply a tour de force. As much as criticism can be a page-turner, this was. It made up for the lack of depth on racial issues. If Dr Reed's theories on this were ever common knowledge, they weren't discussed – for as much as this scene is more accepting of guys in skirts than any other, its mindset on the psyche's gender lines is still pretty mundane – but he truly has some winners here and they've given me a profound new appreciation of a band I already loved.In summation: it's very good. It doesn't matter if you...ah, nope. It's very much worth your time.

  • Peter
    2019-03-23 04:48

    This book had a lot of potential discussing the older days of industrial when it was a series of cut-ups and occult techniques, picked up steam into the 80s, and then I lost real interest because it just went straight to a heavy dose of white guilt that just seemed shoehorned in. I understand it's important to discuss the role of race in a critical studies book but after that section it got derailed and focused on EBM and the only other part that really got my attention was the Skinny Puppy section about the end of the band. It was worth the read but overall just seemed to lose steam around the 1/4-1/2 mark. I would recommend this book but with a heavy disclaimer that it may not be for everyone.

  • Josh Bunting
    2019-03-06 06:51

    This is not light reading. I really felt like I should have to answer discussion questions after each chapter. You should be serious about industrial music to take this on.I only wish it were a little more critical than it was. I felt like Reed sort of hand-waved away accusations of fascism bands like Death in June get.

  • Derek Pennycuff
    2019-03-25 06:05

    I really really wanted to like this book. But it suffers far too much for its academic origins. I read once that Straftanz arrived at their band name when one of the members observed that going out dancing in the local scene felt like a punishment. Reading this felt like a punishment. I hope Reed got tenure out of it.

  • Jon Weidler
    2019-03-13 10:16

    Illuminating, captivating, and entertaining. Also made me feel like an utter n00b toward a musical genre I've been listening to since 1995. The book takes an academic approach to its subject, but remains accessible and intelligent throughout.

  • John David
    2019-03-15 10:07

    Very highly recommended for fans of industrial music and hard-edged or dark electronic music. A tremendously inspiring read. I wish I could forget that I have ever read this book for the pleasure of reading it again.

  • Adam Williams
    2019-03-25 13:11

    finally, a definitive - or as near as it could be - look at industrial music, from someone who actually knows what they are talking about.

  • Ebm Dj
    2019-03-03 06:01

    Absolutely amazing book. IF you enjoy industrial music, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Its great from page one till the end.