Smersh – “The Beat From 20,000 Fathoms” (1986)

When I think of SMERSH, I think of those old James Bond movies.  SMERSH was the Soviet counter-intelligence organization that was always attempting to thwart our hero’s efforts to save the world.  Despite lots of deadly agents Bond was always a step ahead, either killing or seducing his way past their nefarious traps.

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This Smersh is a couple of guys from New Jersey who made industrial music in their basement.  Which is almost as deadly.

Mike Mangino and Chris Shepard started making music together in 1978, and man were they prolific, putting out something like 40 albums over a roughly 12 year period, mostly on cassette and in extremely limit quantities, not because they were trying to make it exclusive… but more because almost no one was interested.  Supposedly they’d record a track and then never play it again.  There’s a great piece online about them at FACT HERE, which will tell you more about the band’s history than I ever could.

The Beat From 20,000 Fathoms is some strange stuff.  Industrial is a reasonable tag for it and Smersh has vague similarities to some of the less flashy artists from the period, though there’s also a rock-like influence here that’s more reminiscent of performers like Butthole Surfers and maybe Big Black.  Smersh’s songs maintain enough cohesion to differentiate them from their more experimental forefathers like Throbbing Gristle and early Cabaret Voltaire, establishing a pattern and more or less riding it out.  There’s an abrasive quality to the vocals that fits perfectly with the less-than-clean beats and electronics – the whole thing sounds exactly like what you’d expect from an industrial self-produced cassette from the 1980s, despite the fact that this is one of Smersh’s rare vinyl releases.

Some Smersh material has been re-released and can be found on their Bandcamp page HERE if you want to check them out.

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