Nocturnal Emissions – “Viral Shedding” (1983)

Nigel Ayers of Nocturnal Emissions has resisted having the genre “industrial” applied to his work as Nocturnal Emissions (though did on occasion refer to it as “post-industrial”), but that seems to be how the music is generally described. While my only experience with the project so far is Viral Shedding, I get both sides of this. The songs have that strangeness combined with often sterile beats that have come to define industrial, even at times drifting into the more pounding and truly mechanical elements. But at the same time there’s a certain avant garde-ness to it, with elements of dub and dance thrown into the mix. Come to think of it, it feels like a more far out kind of On-U Sounds release (particularly “Suffering Stinks”).

Viral Shedding would be a good starting point for someone beginning to explore industrial and expanding their horizons beyond industrial dance. There’s enough of a thread here to hold onto, the songs maintaining coherence and structure, but with a lot of added flavor and nuance. This feels like the kind of album that would reward repeated and focused listening.

Controlled Bleeding – “Songs From The Grinding Wall” (1989)

Never a band to stick with one style, the four-song Songs From The Grinding Wall was Controlled Bleeding’s move away from experimental and medieval-like music and towards industrial. The metallic beats sound like something right out of a factory, the vocals grinding along at a workbench off to the side and throwing up sparks. “Crack The Body” feels like it’s supposed to be played at a speed somewhere between 33 1/3 and 45 rpm, while “The Groan” hits you like some twisted dystopian Gregorian chant overlaid with screeching synths and relentless pressing-plant pounding. “Buried Blessing” takes those earlier medieval influences and adds to their gloominess with darkwave synths and clanging, making it the most approachable number on Songs From The Grinding Wall.

Executive Slacks – “You Can’t Hum When You’re Dead” (1984)

This early release from Executive Slacks is actually a compilation of sorts, combining the four tracks from their self-titled 1983 EP, three more from a 1984 12″, a dub version of “Our Lady”, and what appears to be one new track, “Sexual Witchcraft”. It seems odd that a band with only two releases would put out a third that is basically the first two combined, but here it is. And it’s tremendous.

The Slacks are one of those bands that gets a lot of cred from other musicians within their genre for being influential while remaining widely known outside the fanatics. In this case the genres are industrial and EBM. The frenetic pacing of songs like “Cinema” seems like a bit of a stretch to call dance, though there’s a steady underlying beat so you can certainly move to it even with the metallic-sounding percussion. Then there’s “Sexual Witchcraft” with its tribal beats and manic, distant vocalizations cutting through like the speech from some deranged shaman, the pounding beating against your chest as the words put your min into a trance-like suggestive state until the sudden, jarring conclusion.

Hotalacio – “Talkin’ Out The Side Of Your Neck” (1990)

With elements of breaks, dub, hip hop, and even a dash of industrial, Hotalacio’s three-song 12″ Talkin’ Out The Side Of Your Neck is reminiscent of the On-U sound of the mid-to-late 1980s, though a bit more metallic in the percussion especially on “Don’t Kick Me”. It’s edginess is precise, like an impossibly sharp scalpel, a cutting of metal-on-metal that brings with it a certain sterility that differentiates it from it’s more dubby cousins. The other B side track, “Deconstruction”, introduces yet another element with some short heavy-metal-like guitar riffs that clash with the funky bass line and snappy electronic percussion, somehow blending these elements together into something that grooves. Definitely a cool 12″ and one worth picking up.

“Animal Liberation” Compilation (1987)

Quick disclaimer – I’m not making any kind of political statement in posting about this record, which was a partnership between PETA and Wax Trax! Records. I bought it because I like some of the artists who contributed – Chris & Cosey, Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, Nina Hagen, and Shriekback in particular. You have to admit, the lineup is pretty solid.

While contemporary articles indicate that most of the songs were written specifically for Animal Liberation, many were included by the artists on studio releases or singles prior to 1987. It makes sense that indeed they were written for this comp, which makes sense given that all thematically touch on animal rights, but clearly they weren’t intended only for this record. Others used their song sometime after 1987 – Chris & Cosey’s “Silent Cry” wasn’t put out by the duo until 1990 and Luc Van Acker included “Hunter” on an album in 1992. As near as I can tell the one track that is unique to Animal Liberation is Shriekback’s “Hanging Fire”. Note too that the UK version of the album includes some different tracks, removing Captain Sensible and adding The Smiths and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

The collection of bands is interesting, covering indie rock, new wave, electro, and industrial. While sonically enjoyable, I find that I can’t quite detach myself from the lyrics sufficiently to get into it. Again, this is in no way a comment on the message itself, but more recognizing that it’s a bit of a distraction when it comes to just trying to sit down and play a record. Oh, and the lyric insert contains a pretty gory full color photo of a dog used for animal experiments, so don’t say I didn’t warn you about that.