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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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