Wow, look what’s back! I know, I know it’s been almost two months since my last installment of Digging For Fire. Anyway… Our recent review of Balam Acab’s EP, See Birds mentioned how Alex Koone (AKA Balam Acab) scours the internet for sounds and samples which he then manipulates into constructing his own music. That bit reminded me of the godfathers of plunderphonics… Negativland. And while Negativland and Balam Acab have nothing in common in sound, their method in creating their music has much in common.
The anarcho yuckster sound collage collective known as Negativland got started in The Bay Area in the late 70s. They constructed albums built mostly from found samples along with their own musical contributions. Many of their albums would center around a theme, but as a whole you could say Negativland’s overarching theme was unraveling the fabric of most social norms,”the establishment” and mass media with their trademark snarky humor.
And while Negativland may be one of the most original bands to emerge from the 80s, their biggest claim to fame was a very public legal battle with Island Records and U2 over their EP of the same name which basically lampooned U2s hit “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, which featured a slew of hilarious profane laden behind-the-scenes rants by Casey Kasem. Not surprisingly, this whole incident eventually lead Negativland down the road of becoming champions for “fair use” rights when it came to sampling, eventually penning Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2.
In an attempt to help you better grasp Negativland you should watch this 1980s news clip about how Negativland’s “Christianity is Stupid” off of Escape From Noise was being blamed for the murders of David Brom. Now the only reason Negativland was ever even blamed for this is becaus ethey themselves issued a press release stating that were being prevented from touring by “Federal Authority Dick Jordan” because their song “Christianity Is Stupid” was the inspiration for David Brom to kill his family. This of course was complete B.S. So why did Negativland do it? Probably for shits and giggles and to show how easily it is to control the media as evidenced by the above news clip. This whole event would then inspire their next album, Helter Stupid.
Negativland have an absolute wealth of recorded material that they have released in their 30 some years of existence. I’m sure for a novice their catalog of material could very intimidating and figuring out where to start a bit of a challenge. Escape From Noise, originally released in 1987 was one of the albums that first brought the band some notoriety and is a perfect starting point for a new fan. Give it a listen, if your tastes tend to veer towards the experimental if eve just slightly I think you’ll be hard pressed to not find this enjoyable and at the very least entertaining. And if you enjoy Escape From Noise perhaps you should then also check out some other favorites of mine like Helter Stupid (1989), The Guns EP (1992) and Dispepsi (1997).