Tag Archives: The Bug

Artists Influenced by Dystopic Novelist J. G. Ballard

Locrian

Locrian by Jimmy Hubbard.

Once in a while, an author infiltrates popular culture to the extent that they’re recognized by their last name alone. In the case of J. G. Ballard, his writing remains unchallenged in the depth and deviance of its imagination. Since the English novelist passed away in 2009 after a battle with prostate cancer, we now live in a Ballardian world, surrounded by profoundly disquieting and eerily prescient themes he once warned us about—audacious visions of urban decay, exotic technologies, sexual pathology, and environmental collapse.

It is hard to equate the person of Ballard—the widowed father who raised three children in the quiet London suburb of Shepperton, and touched nothing stronger than malt whisky—with the often depraved content of his novels. For his part, Ballard denied his work was driven by doom or negativity; they were, as he put it, “extreme metaphors,” a warning of what might lie just around the next bend.

Ballard hit on a rich seam of inspiration in the mid-to-late ‘70s, turning out novels like Crash, Concrete Island, and High-Rise which would exert a powerful influence on the emerging language of punk, post-punk, and new wave. Groups like The Human League, The Comsat Angels, and Ultravox were all Ballard disciples, and many quoted him explicitly. Joy Division cribbed the song title “Atrocity Exhibition” from Ballard’s 1970 experimental fiction collection, while Daniel Miller, CEO of Mute Records, began his music career as The Normal with a song, “Warm Leatherette,” based on Ballard’s 1973 novel Crash, a self-described “psychopathic hymn” to the erotic potential of the car crash.

Ballard’s influence endured beyond punk. Luke Steele’s psychedelic pop group Empire Of The Sun took their name from Ballard’s most famous book, a demi-autobiographical novel that used his childhood in wartime Shanghai, while Klaxons’ Myths Of The Near Future took their album title from a Ballard short story collection. Meanwhile, the Ballardian influence also leaked into dance music, too—particularly into early dubstep, which took the skippy rhythms of U.K. garage and smothered them in urban dread.

Why have Ballard’s visions proved so enduring? Elizabeth Bernholz, aka Brighton electronica artist Gazelle Twin, believes the author had something to tell us about the world to come. “Ballard predicted the threat and consequences of ultra-conservatism within a fully capitalized society,” she says. “His commentary on English class tribalism, in particular, has felt relevant for at least 40 years. These are the survival handbooks of the near-future.”

Here are some of the best J. G. Ballard-influenced artists on Bandcamp.

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On “Concrete Desert,” The Bug and Earth’s Dylan Carlson Destroy L.A.

Bug Vs Earth

Bug vs Earth by Phil Sharp

Kevin Martin and Dylan Carlson have both been making music since the tail end of the 1980s. Martin first made his mark as a chameleonic presence in Britain’s industrial music scene, later metamorphosing into dancehall and dub, and founding his best-known project, The Bug, in the process. Conversely, Carlson essentially picked up his guitar, strummed a single epic chord, and never let go. As the core member of Earth, Carlson essentially invented drone metal, taking stoner riffs to their logical conclusion and, more recently, setting the project loose to explore mysticism and melody. The two artists had been considering collaborating for a long time, but didn’t actually meet until they bumped into each other by chance on the streets of Krakow. “We were strolling around looking to find some cake,” confirms Martin.

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Not Normal Tapes Illuminates, and Complicates, Hardcore

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Those who have their fingers on the rapid pulse of hardcore already know about Not Normal Tapes. Those who don’t—but who find particular refuge in urgent noise—should. For nearly 10 years, Not Normal, an operation helmed by Ralph Rivera (The Bug, Raw Nerve, Cold Shoulder), has been releasing music by some of the best bands the international hardcore punk scene has to offer.

Now headquartered out of the spare room of Rivera’s Chicago apartment, Not Normal began in Northwest Indiana (NWI). In keeping with the time-honored tradition of many DIY watermark labels like Dischord, SST, and Touch & Go, the imprint started with two releases from Rivera’s bands, and then set out to document the active, but underappreciated punk scene in NWI. “We tracked some [tape duplicators] down on eBay and bought them off a church that used them to tape their sermons,” Rivera remembers. Why tapes? “It’s easy and cheap and fast. I know that on a widespread level, maybe tape decks aren’t as ubiquitous as CD players or computers, but at that time there wasn’t a Bandcamp–or really any good way–to disseminate things cheaply and easily on a digital level.”

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From that point, Not Normal expanded beyond tapes, releasing and distributing LPs, 7”s, zines and other merch staples. The scope of the label expanded beyond just the Midwest, too, as Not Normal began to release music by bands from all over the world. Despite the expansion, Rivera still thinks of Not Normal as primarily a tape label. “I still try to approach the way I do records and do zines and the way I approach future plans in the same way I did those tapes,” he explains, “Like, ‘How can I make this the highest quality, and how can I make this cheap and easy and accessible for everybody, and how can I do that for bands that maybe don’t have that?’ So I feel like, even though it’s not only tapes, I still apply the principles I had when I started to everything I do.”

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Terminal Consumption: July 2016

Terminal Consumption: July
The exact date of the ‘death of punk’ usually coincides with when the person using that phrase bought their last punk record. In Terminal Consumption, Sam Lefebvre proves the genre is alive and well, rounding up its most essential recent releases. His picks for July include the blackened, maladjusted self-titled LP from Anxiety, In School‘s blistering hardcore, The Bug‘s new odds-and-ends collection, and many more.

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