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Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music [Paperback]

S. Alexander Reed
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

May 22 2013
Noisy, confrontational, and controversial, industrial music first emerged in the mid-1970s around bands and performance groups who combined avant-garde electronic music with the provocative attitude and style of punk rock. In its early days, bands such as Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire produced a genuinely radical form of music bent on recontextualizing the signs and methods of cultural authority in an attempt to liberate listeners from the trappings of modernity. But, as industrial music took on more and more elements of popular music over the course of the 1980s it slowly abandoned its mission. By the mid-1990s, it was seen as simply another style of pop music, and had ironically fallen into the trappings it sought by its very existence to destroy. In Assimilate, S. Alexander Reed provides the first ever critical history of this fascinating and enigmatic genre tracing industrial music's trajectory from Throbbing Gristle's founding of the record label Industrial Music in 1976, to its peak in popularity on the back of the band Nine Inch Nails in the mid-1990s, and through its decline to the present day. Through a series of revealing explorations of works spanning the entirety of industrial music's past, and drawing on extensive interviews with musicians, record label owners, DJs, and concert promoters, Reed paints a thorough historical picture that includes not only the bands, but the structures that supported them, and the scenes they created. In so doing, he reveals an engaging story of an ideological disintegration and its aftermath. The definitive text on the genre, Assimilate is essential reading for fans of industrial music, and scholars and students of popular music alike.

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Well-written and impeccably researched, Assimilate is worth a look not only by music fans looking to learn about this industrial wall of sound, but also by scholars of pop culture wondering why the kids feel the way they do. Electric Review

About the Author

S. Alexander Reed is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Florida. He has published and presented research on vocal timbre, embodiment, postpunk music, and the recordings of Nine Inch Nails, Laurie Anderson, Rammstein, and Tori Amos. Reed has released five albums with his own gothic-industrial band, ThouShaltNot.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The only book in existence to gather all the extant threads of industrial music and make sense of them. Must read for fans of the music and anyone interested in how several seemingly totally different styles of music could all be termed "industrial".
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of a Kind May 24 2013
By Eric Stueville - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
ASSIMILATE by S. Alexander Reed has written a solid history of industrial music. The much maligned "industrial" moniker is addressed by the players involved and queried by an astute researcher. This is probably the first comprehensive study of Industrial music presented on a wide scale (at least, the first I've read). In addition to multi-page discussions of fan favorite industrial/electronic songs like "Mindphaser" by Frontline Assembly, cultural ramifications of the industrial genre are addressed. As an aside, I've from time to time wondered about some of the racial, political, and sexual implications made by this awesomely demonstrative form of music and Reed's book does not shy away from these subjects. Reed embarks on rich exploration of the roots of industrial via literature, philosophy, and film and provides compelling histories of the origins of Skinny Puppy and the rise and fall of the seminal WaxTrax! label. Reed pushes into the next wave, discussing recent favorites such as Covenant and VNV Nation. This is a thoughtful summation by a readily apparent fan and capable author. If the text suffers, it is in it's pursuit of academic defense which should not diminish it's veracity, just that the narrative can drag and apparent points are made redundant. However, that criticism should not dissuade you from a definitive discussion of "industrial"/ hard electronic music
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensively Accessible June 17 2013
By Philip Sandifer - Published on
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Industrial music can, to say the least, be somewhat inaccessible. This is, of course, the point and what's so interesting about it, but it can also be something of a problem for appreciating it. This book does an extraordinary job of capturing the fascinating depth of the topic while rendering it accessible to a neophyte reader. It's gobsmackingly thorough and detailed, but never in a way that feels snobbish or exclusionary. Accessible history abuts reasoned criticism and, occasionally, more experimental tacks that owe a clear debt to the music itself. Quite simply a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the avant garde.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong on concepts and early history, weak on later developments Oct. 2 2013
By Pope Guilty - Published on
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This is an excellent book which is far more interested in the hows and whys of industrial music than it is on chronicling it. The author lays out the philosophies and theories that underlie and animate industrial, giving the genre the serious theoretical treatment it deserves. The history of industrial music that is given is focused quite firmly on the early years, and the history starts to really suffer around 2000 or so, as the mass popularity of industrial rock faded. I got the impression that the "history" in the title was very much in service to the "critical", rather than being an equal partner. That said, I don't want to oversell it- this isn't "Please Kill Me", that history of punk rock which has the Ramones show up late in the book and pretends that punk rock was nearly over at that point- but if you want information about the last ten years of industrial music aside from futurepop, you won't find it here.

With that caveat, however, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anybody with an interest in the subject.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Engaging Read June 20 2013
By John David Eriksen - Published on
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Very deep and insightful exploration of the places and musicians that contributed to the collection of sounds collectively known as industrial. Highly detailed yet very clear and accessible writing throughout. The author's love and appreciation of the genre shines through and makes this a very fun and inspiring read for fans of the genre.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncovers the rich history of the genre Jan. 13 2014
By scottdnz - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this book full of stimulating ideas and very well-researched. It was great to learn a lot of the obscure band backgrounds and other stories that are just difficult to find if you haven't been a hardcore "industrial" fan for the entire last four decades. As a teenager of the 1990s I realised I was like some of the later wave fans who missed the big picture of had what passed before. It's been great learning about early greats like Cabaret Voltaire and Einsturzende Neubauten, and how a lot of the bands I grew up with like Nine Inch Nails are actually widely derided as examples of the time when industrial went "sell-out".

There are many fantastic and insightful song analyses which really helped my understanding of some dense music pieces. (I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds Nivek Ogre "unintelligible"!) I really like some of the questions Reed raises in the book, some of which you only find by reading between the lines. For example, is the genre Euro-centric and originating from a position of privilege, failing to address many of the questions a combative, challenging and sometimes "revolutionary" art form should? Lots to think about. I appreciated the emotional and intellectual honesty of the author, who even includes a snippet of his own rock journalist's diary, which I thought quite wonderfully shows his own credentials openly as a fan of the music.

In my Kindle edition the Notes section had split each note onto a separate page, which I found bizarre. I would've also liked more people interest stories by bands like Skinny Puppy, who pretty much could fill another third of the book with their original creativeness and engaging history. Otherwise, it was well presented. Now I'm going back on Spotify to track down all those interesting singles recommended at the end of many of the section headings...
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