Wednesday, November 19, 2014


You may assume that noise is generally a domain populated by folks scraping scrap metal and twiddling knobs,  and yes you'd be right,  but guitars,  drums,  and electricity can result in similar cochlear distress. And those that thought three chords were a kind of minimalist mantra,  think again. Rising from the mired filth  and hopelessness of downtown NY during the late Seventies,  NO WAVE was about artists seeking a voice by picking up guitars, and like art-making in general,  caution,  technique,  and meaning were orphaned or reduced to ruins much like Alphabet City itself. Arguably the "band" that went the furthest in its desire to say NO in the most psychotically immediate way was Mars (Sumner Crane: guitar/voice,  Mark Cunningham: bass/voice,  China Berg: guitar/voice,  Nancy Arlen: drums). Much of their work seemed beyond language and the mathematics of song structure,  and relied on a painter's concern for contrast,  texture,  rhythmic bursts and repetition.  The songs were often explosions of bodily expression much like Andy Warhol's OXIDATION series, those paintings that found life in the act of pissing while both undermining and expanding the process of painting.  Mars sought a similar expansion through a violent primitivism even as a track like "The Immediate Stages of the Erotic (from THE MARS EP 1978) found its original inspiration from a literary source (Kirkegaard's "Diary of a Seducer" from EITHER/OR). The track's abundant physicality presents its voyeuristic and sensual possibilities in sonic terms rather than a known language. That its intensity put off many listeners was of little concern to the band. NO WAVE was a short burst,  but one that still reverberates loudly today.

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