Industrial music is relevant all over again. Amidst the music industry's infatuation with retro sounds, revivals and the general rehashing of old ideas, industrial is once again positioned as a music that matters -- an older strand that has taken on new meaning. As the continued effects of industrialization steadily turn our planet into an endothermic pressure-cooker, a music that speaks to the caustic ramifications of technological recklessness should stand center-stage in our cultural focus. It's the perfect climate for a band like Corporate Park
In this regard, Dallas is lucky. We have a healthy scene of industrial-leaning acts whose abrasive textures and subversive politics reveal a keen, albeit at times indirect, awareness of our era's most pressing social issues. Alongside Dallas noiseniks HEX CULT, Denton's Corporate Park is at the top of this class.
Informed by groups like Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and Factrix, Corporate Park make heady, minimal machine music, as sparse and direct as it is abstract. The duo consists of Shane English and Jonah Lange, two local underground music mainstays who've had more than their fair share of artistic experience. You might know English from his roles in the Undoing of David Wright, White Telephone, Chief Death Rage and Mistress, or by his stint as the bass player in the infamous and now defunct Ghosthustler. Lange is an equally restless creator involved in a wide array of multimedia activities; Lynchgate, DISCIPLINE, 8TH CONTINENT, Good/Bad Art Collective, and LZX Industries are all projects to which his name has been attached.
In mid-July, CP released Mise En Abyme, one of this year's very best local albums. Comprised of drum programming, synthesizers, vocal effects and not much else, this cassette release is full of nods to early-wave industrial and post-punk touchstones, even down to the album's cover, whose aesthetic owes much to the cassette artwork of Japanese underground label Vanity Records. In truth, there's a bit of this going around at the moment. Tape culture as a whole is chock-full of bands recycling the noisy side of experimental electronics and the avant-garde. However, few are doing it as well or as subtly as Corporate Park.
If there's one defining characteristic of Corporate Park it's simplicity. Compared to the bulk of contemporary industrial music, CP is downright skeletal. While their colleagues tend to obfuscate their music in ornate maximalism and shoegaze fuzz, CP drafts purposeful tracks from a minimal set of components. Their compositions show uncommon restraint, even patience. By stripping their songs of all inessential elements, and in turn highlighting each squelch, synth pattern and ambient stroke, CP creates music of a more intellectually engaging nature. In short, the music allows the listener space to think.
Take, for instance, album highlight "Pundit Mantra," a lurching number layered with springy chirps and groaning synths whose centerpiece is a stream of right-wing propaganda-speak sound bytes. The effect is as unsettling as you might expect, like some white noise score to social collapse. But, had the duo cluttered the track with additional textures or devices, the message might have easily been lost in the fog. Again, its strength obtains in lieu of its simplicity, its directness. "The voices are clips from conservative pundits and coverage of extreme news events. The idea was to put the listener in a mindset of information immersion/overload," English explains.
Politics are nothing new to industrial music. In fact, the genre's founders were amongst the most vocal and radical opponents of political injustice in music history, often mimicking the very enemies they opposed in order to better express the moral reprehensibility of their actions. The music they made -- sonically violent and transgressive in its approach -- functioned much in the same way, demonizing certain ideas and factions by embodying their most loathsome characteristics.
At least in terms of how they discuss Corporate Park, English and Lange seem very much a part of this lineage. What's more, their words read like written counterparts to the music they make: sparse, bleak and, although quick to the point, their responses keep you firmly at a distance.
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"[Corporate Park] was conceived, initially, as an outlet for total despair and anxiety," says English. Lange adds dryly, "Misery loves company." So what, then, are they trying to communicate with their music? "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you," is their response. And when pressed for elaboration on these remarks: "[We] don't feel the need to explain." Perhaps like many artists, the duo prefers distance to definition; or perhaps, more accurately, like a great deal of art, their music is simply best left undefined.
Mise En Abyme's closing track, "Firmament," sounds like something slowing down, cutting out, dying. Bellowing hums and fading drones form the final exhalation. Which brings back to mind the relevancy of industrial music. No longer is it primarily a means to struggle against social and cultural injustices via artistic extremism (that time is over). Rather, it's a way to respond to the threat of total and self-inflicted annihilation. We are killing ourselves, is the message, and this is what it sounds like.
In line with their progenitors, Corporate Park's new album is effective by way of its depiction of what it opposes. The phrase mise en abyme literally means "placed into abyss." By giving us a glimpse of ourselves, the duo show us just what that scenario might look like.
Mise En Abyme is available for purchase via LA label Nostilevo.