Industrial Soundtrack To The Urban Decay: Review

Art & Culture

Oliver Ho: The review for this film is important to include in my guest editor feature because its about a lot of music thats had a big impact on me, industrial music, most importantly Throbbing Gristle. They pretty much invented the term, and are still so relevant and amazing to listen to now. Everyone who loves noise and the darker types of electronic stuff should check this documentary out as its a great starting point for discovering a lot of bands and ideas.

The 1970s in the UK was a time of huge cultural change in the UK. The British economy had been in sharp decline since the end of the 60s and the heavy industry that had been the backbone of the country was beginning to crumble. Unemployment soared, trade union strikes came one after the other and the oil crisis lead to a three-day week in the mid 70s. Music has always been a mirror for society and from these troubled times emerged two powerful counter cultural movements. The first was punk, with it’s low production values and fuck you attitude. The second was industrial.

Blending elements of the avant guard end of 60s rock, early synth music, jazz and krautrock, but also with heavy influence from art movements like Dada, Futurism and Surrealism, a new wave of sonic artists began to use new technology to channel the sounds of the industrial backdrop to modern life into an art form so removed from all types of music that had gone before that people didn’t quite know what was going on. While the initial reaction was one of anger and disbelief, this new form of sonic expression would go on to become one of the most influential movements in sound, and it’s DNA can be traced through huge tracts of modern music, from techno to metal to pop.  

It is this story, set against the backdrop of crumbling cities, unemployment and economic decline, that “Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay” sets out to document. The directors Amélie Ravalec and Travis Colins trace the stories of some of the key artists in the development of the genre such as Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, NON, Orphx and Clock DVA.

The stories told are fascinating and the picture that builds up is less of a gloomy reaction to social woes but of a set of people who were genuinely inspired by the crumbling industrial playgrounds that they found themselves; a group of people who wanted to throw out all of the pre-agreed rules that musicians were supposed to abide by. It’s the story of clashes at gigs with crowds who did not know what the fuck was going on, of “One Shot Magazine” and “Suicide Magazine”. It’s the story of a DIY culture made necessary out of a lack of money, but made possible due to new technology and artistic desire.

What makes this film is, as I say, the first hand stories of the people who made this music that has gone on to inspire so many of the artists that are now so close to many people but, it is not without its flaws. While the over arching narrative is an interesting one, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough direction in the film. Also, some of the interviews seem pretty badly recorded, and some of the editing is somewhat jarring. But, that said, this film would be a great starting point, maybe alongside the recent Trevor Jackson “Metal Dance” compilations, for someone who wants to find out more about this music.

Buy it here