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Ten Bands Keeping the Gears of Industrial Music Grinding

youth-code-by-Matthew-wonderly-1244

Youth Code by Matthew Wonderly

Though it’s hard to pin down an exact date, it could be argued that industrial began in the late ’70s, when performance art groups and Dadaist thinkers took then-nascent experimental musical techniques from academia and set them in a confrontational musical context. Groups like Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle used pre-recorded samples and loops made from physically cut-up tapes to make intentionally unsettling music, and found acceptance in the punk rock world while doing so.

One decade later, the music they pioneered spread like shadow. Industrial’s tendrils began working their way into multiple genres: electronic dance music, ambient, heavy metal, and pop. Depeche Mode sampled backfiring engines and illegal explosives to give their pop compositions on the album Black Celebration weight. That album remains a remedy for the too-sunny poptimism of their new wave contemporaries. Ministry laid similar electronic elements over a backdrop of thrash metal guitars and high speed drum patterns on their landmark record The Land of Rape and Honey.

Modern industrial covers as much sonic territory as jazz and rock. It contains so many styles that describing what they have in common can be difficult. In general, the genre abides by a few organizing principles. Industrial necessarily involves electronic instruments and, in some way explores man’s relationship with machines. The genre’s aesthetics contrast the way humans fantasize about technology with the real effect that industrialization and computers have on the world around us. Industrial music also tends to adopt a nonconformist or anti-authoritarian posture, commensurate with the science fiction stories and punk music that inspired it in the first place.

Industrial hit its commercial peak in the early ‘90s with the prominence of Wax Trax! records in Chicago and the quadruple-platinum success of Nine Inch Nails. The Chicago sound and Trent Reznor’s discography remain critical gateways into the genre, but only touch on a handful of industrial’s permutations. Industrial continues to inspire popular music—bands like Death Grips and clipping. blend it, to potent effect, with hip-hop. But it mostly remains a fringe interest. Even so, the rise of cheap recording technology and software has allowed a whole host of young musicians to carry the genre forward while remaining true to its countercultural roots. Listed below are 10 artists whose music showcases the stylistic breadth and vitality of industrial music circa now.

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13 Striking Contemporary EBM Releases

Unconscious

Unconscious

Electronic body music, aka EBM—a dancefloor-oriented style of industrial—requires the people who make to have a healthy obsession with mastering machines. It is a laborious task—forging a bassline, hammering out the intensity of a beat using metallic sounds. At its best, EBM feels like the heat from the furnace, causing blistered hands and battered feet, the rippling of muscles and dripping of sweat. It is about movement, about work—about, well, the body.

Thirty years ago, two albums were released that became the cornerstones of the EBM subgenre. Both boasted a cacophony of temperamental electronic sounds that writhed in uber-masculine aggression. Official Version, released in March of 1987 by the Belgian group Front 242, was a work of computer wizardry. It was built around themes of conflict and war that created an atmosphere of dreads, with basslines that fired hard, like machine guns.

Just two months later, U.K.’s Nitzer Ebb released That Total Age, a record that approached the genre as a locked target, attacking with forceful rhythms, chants and stalwart basslines. The complex sounds of these two albums were completely new at the time, driven by the technology of synthesizers, drum machines, samplers, and the sheer determination to push those machines to their extremes.

Recently, EBM has been slowly returning to favor: the word is now used as a descriptor for many forms of dark electronic music, while classic reissues are pressed on to attractive multicolor vinyl. That groundbreaking sound manifested on That Total Age and Official Version—the manipulation of violent synths, layered over a beat that is decidedly danceable—is what resonates with artists and fans today. And if the beat is the heart of the genre, the basslines are the veins, pumping urgently.

While some current EBM producers are traditionalists in their approach to sound, turning out records that could be shelved alongside the Wax Trax! catalogue, others embrace the sleek and polished approach of techno. Either way, EBM is impossible to escape, and even harder to wade through these days. We’ve gathered some of the most exciting new releases in the genre for the year so far. From silky production methods to thunderous metallic noise, each album on this list summons the flying sparks of hammer meeting anvil.

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