Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Fight Your Own War
Fight Your Own War - Power Electronics and Noise Culture
Editor: Jennifer Wallis.
PB/HB + exclusive download
It was at Birmingham’s Shards of Ordinance gig a few years back that I saw Jennifer Wallis handing out flyers asking for contributors to write articles for a book about Noise and Power Electronics. I did my bit and passed some around, did the Twitter thing and finally a couple of years down the line a book has appeared. There’s not that many books about Noise and Power Electronics doing the rounds so anything that adds to the printed canon has to be welcomed. But with caveats.
Headpress big cheese David Kerekes must be a fan of Noise and Power Electronics, or one of them, or both. I saw him at the same gig but not down the front when Smell & Quim were on. Kerekes and Wallis had already got their heads together and decided that a book needed to had. With certain criteria and stipulations in place perhaps? These being that the book had to mirror zine style [which it does] that it had to use multiple authors [it does] that it had to capture what makes Noise and Power Electronics tick [it does], and that the transgressive nature of Power Electronics and to some extent Noise, be discussed [it does]. Fight Your Own War does lots of these things and large parts of it are worth your time but like plenty of Noise compilation albums there’s the ones you go back to and the ones you skip. Nick Nihilist’s [I kid you not] puff piece for his own band Deathtripping should have been spiked at birth and as much as I agree with what Sonia Dietrich writes and her feminist stance, reading her nine page skreed felt like I’d been shouted down for ten minutes. Maybe that was the point.
Some readers may be surprised to discover that Fight Your Own War isn't all Noise and Power Electronics either although vast chunks of it are; d foists chapter on the still missed Leeds Termite Club has enough jazz & improv anecdotes in it to scare off many a jazzophobe [but not me, I found it one of the best chapters, mainly for the humour, mainly because it reminded me of some great gigs I attended years ago] and The Bongoleeros aren’t exactly a noise band either even if they often appear on bills with noise acts.
The book is divided into three parts; ‘Scenes’, ‘Experiences and Performance’ and ‘Readings’ and contains articles from about twenty contributors. Some are familiar to me and some are new. More notable contributions come from Ulex Xane and Mikko Aspa who give detailed accounts on the rise of Noise/PE in Australia and Finland respectively, Phillip Taylor and Scott E. Candey do the same for the UK and the US. Clive Henry’s detailed report on the state of Harsh Noise Walls was worth reading just to discover that HNW’s have themes, a fact that had passed me by what with me being about a much a fan of Harsh Noise Walls as I am of poking myself in the eye. Richard Stevenson gets himself a whopping six inclusions including a decent one regarding zine culture within the genres.
Littered amongst these chapters are one off homages to albums that changed peoples lives; Tom Bench’s appreciation of The Bongoleeros Fat Arse’d Report album is magnificent as is Clive Henry’s [him again] dissection of Dave Philips ‘6’, Hijokaidan, The Grey Wolves, Maurizio Bianchi and Consumer Electronics all get the waxed lyrical treatment and these small chapters/reviews/homages do a good job of breaking up the text as well as planting signposts to the curious. If a book appears containing nothing but such work I’d buy it.
The best writing comes from those who really can write though: Spencer Grady’s rumination on humour in noise [or to be exact, the lack of it] and Jennifer Wallis’s learned look at the hoary subject of the transgressive nature of Power Electronics and certain Noise elements are both standout pieces as are Stephenson’s and Jack Sargeant's contributions.
The book certainly looks good, it even feels good [I have the paperback version here], the cover’s in keeping with the feel of the genre, white noise static cum de-tuned TV, and its zine like lay out lifts this from mere humdrummery.
Am I the only one wishing that William Bennett or Phillip Best would write their autobiographies though? Which makes me think that's its not going to be until these early pioneers start putting their fingers to the keys that we’ll get the book these genres deserve.