Industrial (on eMusic)

This list has been lying in wait for nearly a year, as I don’t buy all that much of it and there’s considerably less than a ton of it left on eMusic, though browsing shows quite a few 2020 releases.  Much of it is quite old, as a result.  

Among my favorite concerts from a year in Americorps in NYC from 2009-10 was seeing J.G. Thirlwell’s Manorexia live.  Though hardly industrial, I did pick up some of it and Steroid Maximus on eMu back in the good-old days.  That so much of his work as Foetus remains on the site is one of the most prominent industrial curiosities.  See the labels Some Bizarre and Ectopic Ents for a notably extensive but still nowhere near full catalog.  

I would characterize the early works of Meat Beat Manifesto as industrial, two of which are available on Flexidisc, wrongly claiming to be from 2010 (late 80s-early 90s were the heyday of industrial music as a whole, no?).  

Throbbing Gristle spin-offs can be found in the list below, and eventually I should pick up their few original albums, now most prominent on the site for being legit full-length albums from the 70s and 80s.  

I never got into Nurse with Wound or the goth-darkwave of The Cassandra Complex, but six and eight albums, respectively, are nothing to sneeze at.

The site used to have quite a lot more by Laibach, which I enjoyed, but now there are only a couple of remixes.

There was even a time when an industrial colossus like NIN was putting new EPs on eMu, while the great label purge was just gearing up, in 2017-18.  Nowadays, all we get is a piecemeal “artists similar to NIN” list that itself is rather decimated.

I want to highlight the more obscure titles near the top, while the better-known names in the second half are here mainly to remind folks that they’re still available on eMu rather than introduce them to anyone.  

1. “The Water” - Ten Realms (2014) (“十丈波“ - 十界集樂坊).  This is probably my favorite industrial album of the past ten years, led by the incomparably intense and delightfully Chinese inflected but English-sung third song, “盼若水火,” landing somewhere between Spahn Ranch and Wumpscut if they ever wanted to storm the Great Wall.  It’s an amazing song that does what most fusion doesn’t even know it should wish it could.  The whole album is head and shoulders above most of the list, if not the sole impetus to give industrial music its day in the haze.  Female vocals in Chinese are a most unusual start to the album, backed by an ever-shifting combination of electronic beats, electric guitars, and traditional Chinese strings, flutes/woodwinds, and percussion. This is followed by a driving instrumental that almost feels like a light metal march determined to incorporate every traditional Chinese instrument.  The combination takes some getting used to, especially the interplay between ancient China and metal-esque guitars, but it’s well worth the effort for those who think they’ve heard it all. More than half of the songs are instrumental and in the range of five to eight minutes, so these are no tinny nu-rock commercial ditties that so often pass for “hard” music in Asia.  Typing the English title doesn’t seems to yield results, so cut and paste the Chinese or try this link:  The English-titled version is here:

2. “Biocosmos” - Tav Exotic (2016).  Excellent 99-cent value for two quite long tracks and a third adding up to the length of a full album.  It takes quite a while to realize that there are vocals on the tracks, longer still to discern what they’re saying.  I think I’d still call them songs.  Not something I’d play for my parents or my grandparents, but when unhappy with the world but don’t want to be too loud about it these sure do the trick.

3. “S/t” - Where Everything Falls Out (2010).  Female vocals are an unusual feature on this slightly more rock-oriented album. I’m not sure how to describe what she does on the mic—it’s breathy, not really singing, not quite a growl but similar in tone.  She does whisper and speak, and the layers feel rather experimental.  Anyone who doubts its inclusion here should check out the noisy stabs on the opening track and the hammering on “A State of Disrepair.”

4. “Aus den Anti-Imperialistischen Tagebüchern” - Im Namen Des Volkes (2017).  Little electronic songs with vocals that are decidedly less accessible than synth-pop, less slickly produced, dark, and dancefloor-oriented than EBM.  This is a rather long album maybe best appreciated in smaller chunks.  The name and cover art alone should qualify it as industrial, and it maps onto mid-1980s electronic acts well.  I could imagine it being a lost entry on the WaxTrax! catalog.  “Bio Hacker” is a strong highlight for its overbearingly obnoxious bassline and space-shuttle vocal sounds, daring the listener to let it keep playing, built like a dance track that causes its dancers to topple over like broken robots.  Einsturzende Neubauten meet The Residents at times, electro-punk on upbeat numbers like “Hunde im All.”

5. “Iconic Rapture” - Artur Maćkowiak (2017).  Fully electronic and almost fully instrumental (though with some voices), but usually involving guitars as well, I’m not fully sure how industrial all these songs are.  The fact that they’re layered efficiently and rather repetitive may make a stronger claim to being industrial on paper or in concept than how they actually sound.  “Under the Mask” is one of the more interesting tracks, and I wanted to put it on my Covid-19 mix, but it was still too obtuse to fit in with the other songs.  The nearly 9-minute clarinet and spoken word “TZD” is another track that’s interesting and borderline industrial w/out fully committing.  Overall, I wouldn’t want to listen to this every day forever, but it’s a fine aural palette cleanser if one doesn’t want to go all the way to noise.

6. “The Jewels” - Einsturzende Neubauten (2008).  This starts out on a relatively conventional musical note, with a repeated alternation on a keyboard, eventually backed by strings.  As always, though, what distinguishes EN is their ability to intersperse decidedly noisy, actual industrial factory sounds sourced from things few others would consider musical instruments.  Most of the compositions include always-distinctive vocals in German and English and are under three minutes long, so none of the noises are allowed to persist long enough to become really grating.  If not minimalist, they are certainly spare, like an alien band that doesn’t differentiate between music, general sound, and noise, alternating between the three as a result. 

7. “Пособие для начинающих: Глас сéребра” - Coil (2001).  They should need no introduction here and have two albums available on Important Records; this and another are the only   entries under Feelee Records.  “Are You Shivering” must be one of the creepiest industrial songs out there.  

8. “Post Sign” - Clockdva (2013).  This is a rather subdued compilation album that I’m not sure is very industrial, but the band’s early work is unassailable, no?  I like the first and last tracks, but much of what’s in between is a rather repetitive snooze, not cheesily dated like much synthesizer music of the 80s, but definitely of a bygone era when it was perfectly OK to keep one or more loops in a song completely unchanged for five minutes or more.  There’s also a $5 “single” of remixes, “Clock 2,” that doesn’t show up on the AMG discography.

9. “Nail” - Foetus (1985).  The quasi-orchestral opening theme should have tipped me off to what Thirlwell had in store for the 90s and the 21st century, but when I first heard this album in high school well after its release date, I found it one of the most caustic, horribly unlistenable albums.  Literally howling “agony” is something one not only has to be in the mood but also fully braced for.  Yet it retains an unshakable  mystique, and revisiting it today after a couple decades to listen around and get familiar with other industrial music, it holds up much better than I remember.

10. “Armed Audio Warfare” - Meat Beat Manifesto (1988).  In the early 2000s I was pretty sure this album sounded dated, but now I’m more convinced that yelling over old keyboards will never go out of style.  A track like “Mars Needs Women” also allows the listener to imagine an alternate reality in which industrial music, rather than old-school hip-hop, is the source of today’s urban pop music.  I’d like to think pop would have evolved very differently, even as a track like “Cut Man” is very similar to the tape splicing of Double Dee & Steinski.  Despite pivoting to electronic dub by the time I heard them in the mid-90s (quite a transition between 1992’s Satyricon, a great album I think is still industrial, and “Subliminal Sandwich” from 1996, which I think is not really other than “Asbestos Lead Asbestos”), this album kept me doggedly filing them as industrial well into the 21st century.

11. “Tutti” - Cosey Fanni Tutti (2018).  This is one I hadn’t heard of but eMusers all seemed to snap up, by the former Throbbing Gristle member, which I didn’t know until after following the flock and owning it.  I don’t hear much industrial in it, rather more spacey electronica with brass on the opener, a bit on the dark side.  Understated if not minimalist, the album largely eschews beats or other rhythmic elements so prominent in much electronic music.  Pulses and, yes, throbbing, occupy that role instead.  It’s a good value at $3.50, but I don’t fully understand the appeal.  Knowing the history helps appreciate it more, perhaps.

On other lists:  “Should I Erase You?” - n400.  2017.  “Demand & Possibility” - Unclean (2019). 

A few on my wishlist that I’m not sure are industrial or interesting (feel free to inform me):  Raper Orze, Jean-Luc, Das Institut, , Marco Shuttle.

Are there any dedicated industrial labels on eMusic?  With a flexible definition, maybe.  Eye for an Eye Recordings and Dischetti come closest.  Full of Nothing might be aspiring to NIN’s former label.  Future Noise is fine.  Pinkman Broken Dreams leans electronic.  Halo Askew Entertainment is a poor man’s Metropolis but the closest to a dedicated darkwave industrial EBM label I can find.  Wow Cool is pretty limited.  Hans Mondial is split.  Personal Escape titles are half labeled industrial but basically ambient.  The techno on Singularity and TARO Records can get pretty noisy.  

Rather than reposting repeatedly, here’s my lists of what’s left on eMusic: 

& by my evaluation

& by genre 

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