Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music

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"Industrial" is a descriptor that fans and critics have applied to a remarkable variety of music: the oildrum pounding of Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, the processed electronic groans of Throbbing Gristle, the drumloop clatter of Skinny Puppy, and the synthpop songcraft of Vnv Nation, to name just a few. But the stylistic breadth and subcultural longevity of industrial music suggests that the common ground here might not be any one particular sound, but instead a network of ideologies. This book traces industrial music's attitudes and practices from their earliest articulations–a hundred years ago–through the genre's mid-1970s formation and its development up to the present and beyond.

Taking cues from radical intellectuals like Antonin Artaud, William S. Burroughs, and Guy Debord, industrial musicians sought to dismantle deep cultural assumptions so thoroughly normalized by media, government, and religion as to seem invisible. More extreme than punk, industrial music revolted against the very ideas of order and reason: it sought to strip away the brainwashing that was identity itself. It aspired to provoke, bewilder, and roar with independence. Of course, whether this revolution succeeded is another question. . .

Assimilate is the first serious study published on industrial music. Through incisive discussions of musicians, audiences, marketers, cities, and songs, this book traces industrial values, methods, and goals across forty years of technological, political, and artistic change. A scholarly musicologist and a longtime industrial musician, S. Alexander Reed provides deep insight not only into the genre's history but also into its ambiguous relationship with symbols of totalitarianism and evil. Voicing frank criticism and affection alike, this book reveals the challenging and sometimes inspiring ways that industrial music both responds to and shapes the world.

Assimilate is essential reading for anyone who has ever

Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199832609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199832606
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1.1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds

Customer Reviews

One of a Kind

36 people found this helpful.
 on May 24, 2013
By Eric Stueville
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

Strong on concepts and early history, weak on later developments

11 people found this helpful.
 on October 2, 2013
By Pope Guilty
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.

Superb review of Industrial culture and music

 on September 11, 2016
By J. T. Gotsick
This is a thoroughly researched, well written, and comprehensive survey of Industrial Culture, especially the music that brought so many of us into it. It’s unique in my experience that someone treats a fringe cultural movement like this with such care and objectivity. I can only assume this was a labor of love for the author, and he deserves high praise for his accomplishment. I lived through much of the early days of the movement, but he filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge, and lead me to a few new finds.

Excellent and Engaging Read

5 people found this helpful.
 on June 20, 2013
By John David Eriksen
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.

New pleasant outlook on Industrial Music

One person found this helpful.
 on August 14, 2014
By Richard Krider
I was pleasantly unprepared for the deeply intellectual description and beginnings of Industrial music. This is a book that eases the mind and is very inspirational. I am a budding musician at 49 years old.

Very interesting book about the history of industrial music. …

 on September 7, 2015
By Anders Schau Knatten
Very interesting book about the history of industrial music. It is not simply a list of bands and their music, it looks at industrial music in a broader cultural context. This made the book a whole lot more interesting, even for me who is not particularly interested in cultural history.

Comprehensively Accessible

7 people found this helpful.
 on June 17, 2013
By Philip Sandifer
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.

The definitive history of industrial music

One person found this helpful.
 on February 28, 2014
By Melanie Thomas
Excellent writing from an academic. A definitive history which is both vast and well researched as well as entertaining. After reading the most awful unauthorised biography of Nine Inch Nails which is riddled with grammatical errors, this book is welcome indeed. Read this now.

Must Have!!

One person found this helpful.
 on August 16, 2015
By Eryn Olstad
This book is for any industrial music fan out there. I am really enjoying reading this book.

It was awesome.

 on December 18, 2015
By Nick Sophinos
Ditto to what the fans of this book say. It was awesome.

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