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Noisy, confrontational, and controversial, industrial music first emerged in the mid-1970s around bands and performance groups that combined avant-garde electronic music with the provocative attitude and abrasive style of punk rock. InAssimilate, S. Alexander Reed provides the first ever critical history of this fascinating and enigmatic genre, charting its trajectory from Throbbing Gristle's founding of the record label Industrial Music in 1976, to its peak in popularity with the success of Nine Inch Nails in the mid-1990s, through its decline to the present day. Exploring twenty exemplary works and drawing on extensive interviews with musicians, record label owners, DJs, and concert promoters, Reed offers a vivid history that encompasses not only the bands but the structures that supported them and the scenes they created. Early bands such as Throbbing Gristle, SPK, and Cabaret Voltaire used shocking, transgressive imagery and destabilizing noise to produce a genuinely radical form of music bent on recontextualizing the signs and methods of cultural authority. Rooted in Futurism and Dadaism, and influenced by William Burroughs, Frank Zappa, Kraftwerk, and others, such groups sought to undermine reigning conceptions of language, gender identity, beauty, the ego, and logic itself in order to liberate listeners from the trappings of modernity. But Reed shows that as industrial music took on more and more elements of popular music over the course of the 1980s, it gradually abandoned its original mission. By the mid-1990s, it was seen as simply another style of pop music, and had ironically adopted the very conventions it had once sought to destroy. The definitive treatment of the genre,Assimilateis essential reading for fans of industrial music, scholars and students of popular music, and anyone interested in avant-garde subcultures.
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.