Industrial Electronic Music Beyond Movement and Drones


Industrial Electronic Music: Beyond Movement and Drones: A blog specifically about the industrial music genre.

Industrial electronic music is a fusion of industrial music and electronic music that first began in the mid-1970s. The term was coined by British musician Daniel Miller who founded Mute Records in 1978. Industrial music recordings were originally distributed through independent record labels, which released a variety of experimental music genres, including industrial. Industrial music has since been adapted to many subgenres such as industrial techno, noise rock and power electronics, in which sound design plays an important part.

If you love the music, but only know what Wikipedia tells you about it, then you’re missing out on the real spirit of industrial music. And that’s a shame.

Industrial Electronic Music: Beyond Movement and Drones is a blog specifically about the industrial music genre, with a focus on the history of the genre and how it has shaped electronic music over the years.

The blog covers the major industrial bands and their unique sounds, including Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, Coil and Psychic TV. The blog also features interviews with artists like techno musician John Tejada and Detroit producer Jeff Mills (aka “The Wizard”).

Industrial Electronic Music: Beyond Movement and Drones is part of a website series by Tatsuya Ishii that explores various genres of electronic music from electronica to house to ambient to techno.

Ishii is an independent writer, who has written for publications such as Groove Magazine and Rolling Stone Japan. Ishii’s writing has been featured in publications such as Pitchfork Media, Vice Magazine, The Guardian and Spin Magazine.

Ishii is currently working on his first book about techno music.

I am an active listener of industrial electronic music. While I listen to music of many genres, industrial is my favorite. Industrial is a genre that has been undergoing evolution since its inception in the early 1980s. By looking at the progression of the genre, I feel it’s important to point out a shift in both tone and structure that has taken place in industrial, particularly with artists who have broken away from the traditional movement and drone styles that are typically associated with the genre.

Prior to this shift, most industrial music could be characterized by what I like to call “the JKL effect.” This term comes from the fact that many of the early artists were using synthesizers with only three oscillators: one for sine waves, one for square or sawtooth waves and one for triangle waves. This was due to limitations in engineering at the time, which led to a lot of similar-sounding songs because there weren’t many options for sounds other than these three basic ones.

There were certain artists who broke free of this trend and not only expanded more on their instruments but also began writing more structured songs. One influential artist who did this was Skinny Puppy. They utilized different types of synthesizers and effects processors as well as traditional instruments such as drums and

I recently wrote a blog post on electronic music. It was a very general, wide ranging post. I got some good feedback, but I also had a few people ask me to write something more specific to the industrial genre of music.

I’ll try my best, but first let me clarify something: Although I mention and describe industrial music in my previous post, I am not an expert on the industrial genre. I just know it’s there and thought it was worth touching on.

My knowledge in this area is limited, but here are some things that come to mind when thinking about industrial music:

1) The sound of factories. Noise-like sounds are used as a base for songs. Machines whirring and drilling make up important parts of the song’s soundscape. This is one reason you hear so many “drones” in this type of music (longer notes).

2) Textures and patterns are emphasized over movement and rhythm. Industrial music relies heavily on layering sounds to create unique textures and patterns that keep listeners’ interest throughout the entire song. It is common for rhythmic elements (like drums or synthesizer bass lines) to take a backseat role in this genre, or even be completely absent!

The industrial music genre is extremely broad and diverse. I must say that if I had been limited to listening only to what was available through the major record labels, I would not still be a fan of the genre. I would have probably moved onto something else.

I do feel like some of the major labels are now catering to a wider audience with more mainstream artists, leaving behind some of the underground artists that have been there since the beginning. What happened? This blog is not about bashing any particular artist or label, but it is about supporting those who work hard to make their art and share it with others.

It makes me sad to see that the genre has been hijacked by artists who create music for profit alone. These artists know what sells, and they sell it. They may be talented musicians and producers, but they have lost touch with what really matters in this genre: authenticity.

Here are some quick thoughts on a particular means of listening to music in industrial music, and beyond.

Industrial music is often about the physical act of movement as much as it is about sound. This can be seen in industrial dance, which has its origins in electro, EBM, and minimal wave, but also perhaps in the way that industrial music has been adopted by metalheads and punks, genres which have their own characteristics of bodily movement. Industrial hip hop is another genre that features the body heavily in its performance. Just look up some videos of DJ Spooky for a great example of this.

Industrial music’s relationship to bodily movement is not surprising given its origins in early 20th century European art movements such as futurism and dadaism. The futurists celebrated machines and sought to infuse their artwork with the spirit of industry; dadaists mocked prevailing social structures through absurdist performances (for more on these early 20th century European art movements, I recommend reading Umberto Boccioni’s 1914 essay The Futurist Synthesis of the Arts). In their performances, both groups engaged with the body as a medium for artistic expression.

The futurists called for “the liberation of modern noises,” so it should come

“a lot of people that listen to drone music, they don’t really care what the lyrics are talking about. They’re not really even listening to the lyrics. I mean, they’re listening to it, but they’re paying more attention to the overall sound of the voice.”


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