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Various Artists

An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music / Seventh and Last a-Chronology 1930–2012

(Sub Rosa; US: 25 Jun 2013; UK: 24 Jun 2013)

It says a lot about Sub Rosa director Guy Marc Hinant’s dedication to experimental sounds that in the extensive liner notes on the seventh and final compilation in the labels’ Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music series he still feels the need to apologize for skipping artists. The truth is, Sub Rosa has missed artists in its chronicling of the history of avant-garde sounds on the series over the past decade, but with 176 tracks from 42 nations covering the years 1920 through to 2012, and with close to 18 hours of music in total, Sub Rosa has absolutely nothing to apologize for.


No one could rightly expect a complete account of every alcove of outsider sonic art on the seven-disc series, and Sub Rosa should be applauded for endeavoring to present such a comprehensive overview of outré and experimental music. As an in-depth primer on electro-acoustic explorations, piercing noise, musique concrète and all manner of experimental electronic music (from radio workshop recordings to home studio releases, rudimentary software blurts and high-end laptop screeds) it’s been a mammoth and magnificently presented project overall.


An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music 7 ends Sub Rosa’s series on a high note; or at least, is another engrossing voyage into mind-expanding experimentations and frequently ear-splitting notes. The triple CD of eccentric, electronic, and—as Henry Jacobs describes on opening track “Sonata for Loudspeakers”—synthetic rhythms, contains rare and previously unheard tracks, as well as an 84-page booklet of fascinating biographic information.


As with previous editions in the series, An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music 7 contains familiar names and more well-known artists, such as Henry Cow, Experimental Audio Research, Mika Vainio, Justin K. Broadrick and Cabaret Voltaire, all provide interesting tracks. However, it’s the unfamiliar names, or little-heard sonic voyagers, that make the series so engrossing, and across the 38 songs collected on volume seven, there are fascinating sounds and artists to be discovered.


On disc one, you’ll find Éduoard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s recording of “Au Clair de la Lune” from 1860, thought to be very first piece of recorded music. Early sci-fi electronica from Bebe and Louis Barron is here with “Bells of Atlantis”, recorded in 1952 before their seminal Forbidden Planet soundtrack, and alien blips, blurts, and fractured voices can be found on Luciano Berio’s “Thema (Omaggio a Joyce)”, from 1958. Turkish experimental pioneer Bülent Arel contributes a dazzling and otherworldly piece of drone from 1961 on “Electronic Music”, while Benjamin Thigpen, Helmut Schäfer and Saule (Xavier Garcia Bardón) take those grim tidings and add varying doses of decaying noise and corrosive drone on their respective and powerful tracks. 


Disc two provides just as many discoveries. Of particular note is 1973’s portentous hiss-storm courtesy of John Oswald’s “Vertical Time”, and Fausto Romitelli’s buried feedback and disintegrating guitar opus, “Trash TV Trance”, from 2002. Isräel Quellet lays out some drum psychosis on 2007’s “Pour Percussions et Saturation”, and Dennis Wong and Sin:Net present a modem-crushing bout of clatter on 2011’s “Decompostion”. Overall, disc two provides harder-edged bursts of noises, in varying timbres and ear-splitting tones. Alan Courtis’s “Mind Broncoespasmo”, from 1992, and Storm Bugs’ death-trip “Cash Wash/Eat Good Beans”, from 1980, contain delightful amounts of pandemonium, all dunked in industrial-strength acid.


While disc two is the hardest and most nerve-shredding of the lot, disc three is the most eclectic. Polish composer Eugeniusz Rudnik starts the disc with 1985’s spectral lurch of “Collage”, which is followed by the chilling ambient soundscape of Eduardo Polonio’s “Transparencias”, from 2011. The tick-tock and thrum of Klangkrieg’s 1996 field recording, “Korpus 1”, keeps things on a haunting track. Gintas Kraptavicius’s “4m” buries itself further under the skin, and GX Jupitter-Larsen/The Haters’ “Fuechen”, from 1985, tweaks the nerves completely with its menacing minimalism.


Disc three isn’t all a soundtrack filled with ghosts and goblins though. The Rita’s “Skate” injects grating rail-riding scrapes directly into the cerebellum, and Warong Rachapreecha’s “Shambles” is an utterly harrowing recording of pigs being slaughtered. The New Blockaders drop in a mechanical, grinding crunch and pummel with 1983’s “Blockade Is Resistance”; Agro/Brandon Spivey and Richie Anderson dispense a lean and mean techno blast on 1995’s “Only Those Who Attempt the Impossible Will Achieve the Absurd”; and Gustavo Serpa launches into spacecraft-destructing noise on 2008’s “Astro Metal”. 


Throughout An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music 7, non-traditional experimentations collide. Acid-fried techno might crash into industrial noise, or more gentile electro-acoustic imaginings could well be stalked by hardcore amplified pursuits. However, rather than being a disjointed representation of idiosyncratic composition, the tie that binds all (the deep desire to experiment with the properties and potential of sound, in all its myriad forms) illuminates connections between artists. 


Guy-Marc Hinant has curated the Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music series with a clear sense of the baton being passed between artists—but that’s not a tired handover, or a mere updating of what has come before. The series as a whole has chronicled the legacy of one generation encouraging the next to dismantle and/or rebuild sound into further ingenious forms. That’s what these compilations have exhibited best, because while they’re a crucial historic record of left-field orchestrations, they’re also a wonderful account of infinite inspirations.


Each volume in the series makes for an engaging gateway into the world of experimental music. For fans of the bold and bizarre, or for the merely curious, An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music 7 is well worth purchasing, as are the rest of the volumes. While the history of aural adventurism will obviously continue, kudos must go to Sub Rosa for honoring the creative bravery and stimulating sonics of the 176 artists the label has gathered over the past seven volumes. Obviously that’s merely the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a wonderfully mangled, entangled, and tumultuous tip to explore nonetheless.

Rating:

Craig Hayes is based in Aotearoa New Zealand, and he is a contributing editor and columnist at PopMatters. Alongside his reviews and feature articles, Craig's monthly column, Ragnarök, traverses the metal spectrum. He is the co-author of PopMatters' regular metal round-up, Mixtarum Metallum, contributes to radio shows and numerous other sites, and he favours music that clangs, bangs, crashes, or drones. Craig can be found losing followers daily on twitter @sixnoises.


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