01 October 2009

Singing The Digital Noise: Is There A Noise Continuum? Part 11

When Kraftwerk first unleashed the ultra modern, streamlined and no-frills electronic mantric tune of 'Autobahn' into the world in 1974, it not only went up to the top of the charts all over the world but it also ushered in the age of electronic music. Serving as both inspiration and raw material, Kraftwerk basically became the godfathers to aspiring home electronic tinkerers, amateur non-musicians and inspired DIY electro-punks, spawning an entire multiverse of hiphop/electro/freestyle, Chicago House, electro-pop, Detroit techno and New York Garage.

The subsequent explosion of dance music and the genesis of a wide variety of sub-genres and sub-sub-genres within the dance continuum (which is still going on today)encourage some to describe the second summer of love to be equivalent to the original psychedelic late 1960s and the highly nihilistic late 1970s of punk, which paved the way for a whole wellspring of creativity and vibrancy in the music scene. By the mid 1990s, with the collapse of Soviet-led Communism becoming history, the reach of this electronic revolution proliferated into previous un-imagined locales in Eastern Europe and Russia too. The founders of the electronic/noise art Raster Noton record imprint, Carsten Nicolai and Frank Bretschneider, were prime examples of such globalising outreach of electronic media before internet became a household buzzword a few years later.

The Raster Noton imprint presents electronic/dance music with a big difference from most other artistes broadly classified under this umbrella category: with Ryoji Ikeda, Alva-Noto(Carsten Nicolai's own project), and even other more overtly dance-able acts like Byetone, Frank Bretschneider and Signal, they sounds are filled with what Rob Young of the Wire called the glitchtronic textures and musical syntax but they albums and tracks are infused with a perpetual tight-rope balance between atonal melody pulses and straitjacketed noise signals.

At times, the tracks just sound like a long-desserted spacecraft emitting sine-tone based electromagnetic waves into the stratosphere of the vacuum of the universe. When the rhythm kicks in, its overdriven electric-spasmotic twitches careening down one's nervous system, verging on the hiccups and tensile pull of the time-stretch linear construct of the track. Organised noise with a pulse of almost Nitzschean will-to-power forward thrust.

Few within the electronic dance canon could rightfully be placed within the Noise scheme of things, Raster Noton is one of them. Compelling stuff. The only other act I can think of would be Pan Sonic, from Finland. The duo of maximalist electro-noise driven pulse beats which first built up their sound on their first album 'Vakio' and mutated throughout the years via albums like A and reaching its creative climax with 'Kesto', a multiple box set of almost Merzbow-like intensity for electronic dance-based music. The constituents of the duo, Mika Vainio and Ilpo Vaisanen have not only released albums and tracks on Raster Noton but collaborated with other stalwarts of Noise like Suicide's Alan Vega and Keiji Haino. They managed to bring back the 'power' to the notion of 'power duo' back to electronic dance music.

To find out more about Raster Noton, go to Raster Noton for information and RN for the label site. For Pan Sonic go to, Sonic.

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