ARTITUDE No.3 : January 1985
Feel the magic of the dance
Let your mind slip into a trance
Everybody, everybody get together
In ritual celebration
is constructive passion. There are now clear hints of Chinese Communism ("With Love From China"):
We'll shape the soul of industry
We'll strike the blow that fires the fire
We'll stand in line with proud profile
And face in silhouette, the Red Star
With one great cry we'll join in song
Then I'll come to you, with love from China
And what about "industrial?" The concept of machine-age voodoo implies
an 'industrial' magic (or a magical industry). A favorite author of Revell's,
JG Ballard, writes entire novels about how the landscapes upon which we
live determine our psychic and psychological structures. In the industrial
age (see his book Crash!) the cities are the landscapes;
the machines are extensions of our own psyches, and our minds are in fact
merged with the landscape. In Ballard, highway clover-leafs and the concrete
mazes of suburban streets reflect an interior consciousness.
In Revell's interview with Ballard (Re/Search #9/10), the group founder shows a particular interest in Ballard's use of mythology. Ballard claims that he is writing "myths of the future," whereas other cultures have always written myths of the past. Our mythological consciousness is replete with our own machines: cars, computers, buildings, houses, televisions, movie projectors; and the Olympian Gods are the mythological movie stars -Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, John Wayne (see Hello America and The Atrocity Exhibition). These are the myths of the machine age, the myths of the coming Apocalypse. There is not a very wide gap at all between the visions of JG Ballard and those of SPK on Machine Age Voodoo.
On "One World," far-eastern percussive music (is it from Indochina?) becomes a funky synth song with the same percussive rhuthms. It is an important moment on the record; in it can be found the geneology of modern funk/disco/dance music. Amplified instruments, the musics of jazz, rock, funk, and dance were developed and are being played by urban musicians who live in the wasted landscapes of our cities. Still other and more primitive influences come from blues, folk, and country-western.
SPK could not however have developed in the backwaters of the Ozarks. The band came from modern cities, living among the twisted minds and bodies of the men of the "New Dark Age," with technology's imprints all over their bodies like Ballard's characters, whose faces bear the weird designs and scars of auto wrecks and jagged metal.
The liner notes of the album are designed with shafts of wheat; songs are replete with social outrage ("One world/Third world/The rich get richer/Poor stay poor") and cries of oppression ("Feel like fire/Feel like ice/Dying in this silver city/Can't accept this life of lies"). One hears a strong cry of revolt against the Metropolis, the Silver City, the murderous wasteland of machine death and decay that we are born on, grow up on, live on, and eventually get buried in. The cycle is endless; it repeats itself because of the docile complacency of its victims:
See them marching row on row
Work your fists down to the bone
The government rewards you for your pains
No you can't survive on hope
Or opiates like coke or soap
You'll learn to love your chains
So what is SPK doing on Elektra UK? Simple; using the resources of Metropolis
against itself. "Metal Dance" was a big hit; it sold a lot of records and
made the dance charts. But in the new version of that song, Sinan Leong
sings "Can you see that Reconstruction's underway?" In the new world of
hope and faith and the unification of man, there will be no room for an
Elektra Records exploiting musical talent or or the gullible record-buying
SPK uses tools in an effective, efficient, potent, and succesful manner. In this sense they are high-techno recording musicians. They utilize "the magic of the dance," "the rhythm in our bones," and "the power in your soul." By moving forward into high-tech they are also moving backwards; reversing the moments in which music became eaten alive by Metropolis.
[Machine Age Voodoo is scheduled for American release on January 25 on elektra US. For a more complete listing of SPK's discography, check Re/Search's Industrial Culture Handbook (#6/7), or write A/a]