TNB at NK, Berlin, 2012 (c) Bis Aufs Messer
New Blockaders may
sound like a hip Indie Rock band, and they may want you to believe such a thing
to lure unsuspecting listeners. As merchants of 'anti-music,' they embrace Luigi
Russolo's The Art of Noises manifesto (1913) and although Russolo is widely
credited as being the first major noise theorist, contemporary Noise artists
like TNB were the first to progress from the use of noise as assault on tonality
to the development of a rich, complex language capable of subtleties of shade
and nuance without sacrificing any of its feral power or ability to unlock
repressed personae in the listener.
Their manifesto (1982) proclaims, 'Blockade is resistance. It is our duty to blockade and induce others to blockade: Anti-music, anti-art, anti-books, anti-films, anti-communications. We will make anti-statements about anything and everything. We will make a point of being pointless…’ Everything about TNB entails refusal. The title of their collection Gesamtnichtswerk is important here. It reminds us of Wagner’s dream of the ‘total art work’ – the Gesamtkunstwerk, but the art is replaced by nothing.
Lazier souls than I would place TNB within the pantheon-lineage of UK Industrial, although I see them as a free-standing unit with more in common with the Futurists and (maybe) Einsturzende Neubauten (without the ‘songs’): Electrical tools, metal, ear-shredding static noise - the very definition of nihilism through sound. Superficial similarities exist to forbearers like AMM’s free form music aesthetic, Throbbing Gristle’s Second Annual Report and Lou Reed’s one-off decadent, noise-loop experimentation Metal Machine Music. TNB differ in that they have never burdened themselves with writing excessive, sleazy Rock Pop put on, prone to current Pop culture sampling obsessions or attempts at confining unruly, nihilistic sounds. They create a true musical sound cluster of destruction to such an extent that their so-called ‘anti-music’ transcends nihilism into positivism/optimism suggesting new music.
TNB always suggested more than a band or musical project. They are bent almost as much on philosophy and literary ambitions, issuing manifestos and texts and referencing the likes of Debussy and Nietzsche. TNB never set out to be part of a self-glorifying youth movement where pompous, romanticized bullshit dies hard in an endless, capitalistic magic show. Instead, they depict the emotional tonalities of an ambivalent, ambiguous new century with no form and direction. Their musical legacy offers respite from the fraudulent herd of co-opted streamlined sounds, which masquerade as experimental.
They served as a major influence on legendary Noise pioneers as Merzbow and their influence on the current crop of popular crossover Noise artists such as Prurient and Wolf Eyes is immeasurable. Collaborations in recent years with artists such as Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore have brought their anti-sound to a younger and diverse audience. The metal-bashing of K2, the awkwardness of Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock, the density of Macronympha and the abrasiveness of Merzbow all owe something to the anti-music of TNB. They, more than any other, define the essence of true Noise music both in art and in act.