I have a fascination with extreme music. It’s not so much that I like listening to most of it so much as I’m simply infatuated by how far outside the mainstream it is. My self-perception is that I’m more interested in the fact that it exists, the people who perform it, and the people who actively follow it than I am in the music itself. I’ve always been fascinated with subcultures, especially those on the extreme fringes, so I suppose this is a natural extension. If I’m self-analyzing, and clearly I am, this infatuation is possibly a kind of respect (or envy….?) for those who live the life they choose to live even when it is well outside of what society deems normal or, at times, even acceptable. Do I have some hidden longing to exist as an outsider? Maybe… though I doubt it. I don’t have any fundamental problems with my suburban life, or my job, or anything like that. Most of the time I enjoy it. Ultimately I think it comes down to admiring those with the drive to follow their passions, even when their passions take them to difficult places. It’s not so much what they’re doing, it’s how they’re doing it.
Which brings me to this recently acquired copy of The Fight Is On. This comp is filled with the kind of outlier artists who intrigue me – Coil, Nurse With Wound, Current 93, The Hafler Trio… musicians who take approaches to music that are well outside of the mainstream, sometimes going so far that you could consider them anti-music. I’m fascinated by them, and while none are on regular rotation in my life, when I listen to them their sonic compositions do have an effect on me. Not anything clearly defined, mind you. There are no fantasies that arise from hearing them. But what they do is they change the way I perceive, which in essence is changing the way my brain is wired, opening me up to new and different and unexpected possibilities to see things in different ways. And that’s something valuable, not just in how I interact with music, but also in how I interact with the world.
The nine tracks on The Fight Is On are on the more elemental end of the spectrum, songs that create a mood without generating a sense of anxiety or dread. So once again I’ve been thrown for a loop, as The Fight Is On did not give me what I expected from these performers. Instead I have something bordering on enjoyable. Which of course begs the question – would I have felt this way hearing The Fight Is On say five years ago… or has my paradigm shifted in ways that change how I perceive these songs today? My money is on the latter, and for that I’m grateful.