In today’s ever more polarized political and social climate, there are few things everyone can agree on. There are, however, certain tastes and truths that transcend class, political leanings and religious affiliation alike: everyone loves industrial harsh noise. This form of sonic entertainment, stemming from feedback, randomly recorded sounds, synthesizers and instruments used in ways they were never intended to be used, drunken shouting and the maltreatment of scrap metal, simply speak to something fundamentally human. This is why noise is universally accepted as the very best form of popular music.
The one problem keeping harsh noise from dominating the commercial music industry is actually two problems, which we may call the problems of availability. Harsh noise, power electronics, HNW and all the other numerous sub-genres of a form of music which isn’t really music, virtually always suffer from one of these afflictions, sometimes both. Firstly, most decent releases are extremely limited, difficult to come by when released, and absurdly expensive when you try to get them from the second-hand market. Furthermore, an enormous amount of noise is made available for free online in digital download form, which severely decreases the fetishistic value of the music, even while it attracts people who simply don’t buy music because they’d rather spend their money on Hentai or whatever. These problems feed into each other, since many fans for obvious reasons can’t be bothered to go after tapes limited to 4 copies, and rather just wait for the stuff to appear on blogs or simply be uploaded to Youtube.
One of very few solutions to this issue has actually been around since the internet wasn’t really that much of a thing. Since at least the early 90’s, Ron Lessard (also known as Emil Beulieau) of RRRecords has been churning out the Recycled Music cassette tape series. A large chunk of famous harsh noise, industrial and experimental musicians has published one of these, and here’s the kicker: they are virtually all still available from the label. This means that you don’t have to throw your platinum card at some shady huckster on Discogs to get some great The Rita or Incapacitants material on a physical format – it’s all still there, available as were it corrupt audio in a time capsule.
The tapes are very basic, of course. The actual audio carrier is any old used-bin audio cassette, and the label is always the same: a slab of colored tape on the cover, with the band name and the word “Recycled” written with a marker. It’s DIY taken to an extreme which should really make me dislike it, but for some reason it works – especially if you have a bunch of them to put together on your tape shelf (yeah, it makes real sense when Archaic Triad hates on hipsters, doesn’t it?).
What about the music? Well, there are really too many of these for me to be able to present a statistically significant approximation of the overall quality, but each and every one I own is kick-ass. The Rita’s installment is as good as any classic release from him, with the typical organic-yet-inhuman feeling. Merzbow seems to have been playing around with the actual format, since some pretty awesome industrial harsh noise is regularly interrupted by what sounds like accidentally recorded Japanese pop-music – and the back of the tape sounds features musique concrete dropping the musique and sounding a whole lot like Masami Akita doing some serious home improvement. Vomir’s tape sounds just like you’d expect it to, which is of course the whole point – pure, unadulterated wall. I could go on, but the bottom line is this: if you like noise (or any of the genres covered by the other artists honored with a Recycled Music-release), you’d best dig around in your beer money jar and check these bad-boys out. At four bucks a pop you’d be an awful person not to.