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Symphony for a Genocide (1981): Extremities?

Maurizio Bianchi, Symphony for a Genocide (Sterile, 1981; reissued on CD with bonus tracks, EEsT, 1998)

[originally posted 22Feb2000]

photo credit:

Call it what you will, “influential” needs to be in there somewhere.

Music critic David Elliott wrote in 1982, “Symphony for a Genocide is the most extreme music you’re likely to hear…. This is the sound of industrial music, not [Throbbing Gristle]; grim, harsh electronics which reflect some of the nastier sides of modern science and technology.” My first reaction, upon listening to this CD, was that Elliott’s musings may have been understandable, since no one can predict the future, and so much more extreme music has come out since that time. However, upon reflection, I feel the need to smack him with a gas mask. Whitehouse had already released six albums by 1982 (including their most extreme work (IMO), New Britain), Sutcliffe Jügend had put out the classic We Spit on Their Graves, and Nurse with Wound had released most of the powerelectronic work that was going to come from that camp. Moreover, Whitehouse and NWW had released the classic The 150 Murderous Passions the year before. All of these recordings are by far more “extreme” than the work of Maurizio Bianchi, a (then-)fascist from Italy whose obsession with death camps was made unspeakably clear in his debut release, Symphony for a Genocide. And wouldn’t a music critic, writing in a professional magazine, know that?

Perhaps not, and I’m castigating Elliott, not Bianchi. While Symphony for a Genocide isn’t what I’d call extreme, and I’d certainly not lump it in with the bands above (MB is often referred to as a pioneer in the powerelectronics scene), it’s still some fine stuff. Symphony treads that line between dark ambient and noise, works in a few samples years before sampling became such a popular sport, and in general falls on a side of the debate no one else at the time was doing—creating ominous, shifting noisescapes meant to distress the listener, rather than overwhelm/overpower.

Despite Bianchi’s personal philosophies (which he’s since recanted, having turned to religion) and the names of the seven songs on Symphony for a Genocide (all seven tracks are named after death camps), there’s nothing here that really points to any kind of Nazi fetish. This stuff is far more subtle than, say, Whitehouse, who were tossing in samples of Nazi speeches and the like during their own flirtation with death-camp-obsession. Bianchi keeps to a kind of grinding, noisy organic rhythm and layers shifting static over it, topping the whole thing off with one of those awful plastic organs that were all the rage back then (mine was a Casio).

The real surprise comes from three bonus tracks included on the CD reissue from the Bantotal/SCOPA compilation album. After Symphony for a Genocide finishes, with its layered static and silly organ, you get a few seconds’ breather before the first of these tracks, “Accop (6) Ehte,” kicks in. And suddenly you’re in a world of looped, edgy synthesizer comparable to what Boyd Rice was doing a few years later (in fact, the first two comp tracks reminded me quite a bit of NON’s “Father’s Day”). I liked Symphony for a Genocide well enough, but the SCOPA tracks are the reason you need this album. Doesn’t matter what style of underground music you like—noise, powerelectronics, techno, electronica, whatevva—those three tracks will kick your ever-lovin’ ass to the curb. *** ½



About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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