Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Alec Empire - Generation Star Wars (1994)

I've always liked the idea of Alec Empire without really having heard much of anything in which he's been involved, I suppose excepting the Sham 69 cover, regarding which I much preferred the original. His name returned to me as I was reading Simon Reynolds' excellent Energy Flash, a history of dance music since acid house and techno; and a few days later I happened across a copy of this, apparently his first full length album.

The first thing that occurred to me as I listened was I could have done this. I own half of the equipment listed on the sleeve, have on occasion faked the rest, and fuck it - there are a few tapes I've done which sound a lot like this stuff so the process is no mystery. Just listening, I can tell exactly how it was done. I was expected to find myself confused, as I often am with the more labyrinthine and technologically baroque production of, for example, Front 242, but no matter; after all, Empire has always been very much in the spirit of punk - not just the aggression and the anti-establishment message, but the hard, raw sound and the DIY attitude - something anyone could have done. This shouldn't be taken as a criticism. There's nothing wrong with simplicity, with taking things back to the rock 'n' roll basics, and when someone curls a lip and sneers I could have done that, the salient point is usually that they nevertheless didn't.

Alec Empire's musical career seems to have been facilitated by the increasingly weird twists taken by all the subdividing strands of dance music in the early nineties, the point at which the disco biscuits ceased to pack a punch and as this particular stretch of the dance floor was getting dark and kind of nasty. There isn't even really a bass line anywhere on this lot because the bass mostly comes from a drum machine shoved through a fuzz pedal or equivalent effect. Consequently Generation Star Wars sounds one hell of a lot like one of those really noisy early Nocturnal Emissions albums - overdriven production line rhythms, distortion, and something more ethereal looping away in the background by way of contrast. I'm not even sure you could dance to this, or at least not all of it, although it would doubtless sound magnificent in a club.

This came out in 1994, somewhere within the general vicinity of my having a letter published in Melody Maker moaning about their lack of coverage of experimental types such as Konstruktivists, Nurse With Wound and others, cheekily informed by the fact of my being a member of Konstruktivists at the time. Their reply was something along the lines of how the musical future lay not with the cranky outsiders I'd mentioned, but on the dance floor. With hindsight, and particularly since having listened to this, I'm slightly embarrassed to realise that they were probably right.

1 comment:

  1. "Blutrote Nacht Über Berlin" remains to this day one of my favorite tracks of Alec Empire. Even ATR tracks never grabbed me as much as that one.