Negativland

Picture of Negativland

Escape From Noise

Negativland - Escape From Noise ©1987 SST
1. Announcement
2. Quiet Please
3. Michael Jackson
4. Escape From Noise
5. The Playboy Channel
6. Stress In Marriage
7. Nesbitt's Lime Soda Song
8. Over The Hiccups
9. Sycamore
10. Car Bomb
11. Methods Of Torture
12. Yellow Black And Rectangular
13. Backstage Pass
14. Christianity Is Stupid
15. Time Zones
16. You Don't Even Live Here
17. The Way Of It
18. Endscape

Negativland are one of the longest running audio pranksters and experimental artists that come to mind. Perhaps just my mind, but that's beside the point. Formed in the late 70s, Negativland have forged a career based on creating baffling, unusual and highly controversial sound collages that have riled up the media, Christians and Bono. That sort of achievement alone means they deserve attention. Though I'm hardly an expert on Negativland, who have put out a lot of material over the years, I would wager that their 1987 effort, Escape From Noise, may be one of the best ways to introduce yourself to this unusual band.

Escape From Noise is essentially a rock opera revolving around the theme of noise, though undoubtedly I've already enraged experimental purists with that assertion. That's entirely the point. In fact, Negativland seems to exist at times to push your buttons and baffle you with their output. The collection of found sounds, samples and voices is astounding in its weirdness. It ranges from a little girl singing "Over the Rainbow" while afflicted with the hiccups to the repetition of "Christianity is stupid/Communism is good". The latter ultimately was used in a morbid prank as Negativland released a fake press statement implying a young man had listened to "Christianity is Stupid" before killing his family. The prank garnered some attention and controversy, as well as creating a source of material for later recordings (Helter Stupid). The band most likely proved the media prefers to create a frenzy before doing serious fact checking (the killer in question did not own a single Negativland album and most likely never had even heard of the band before the false press release). Undoubtedly, today Fox News would be duped by Negativland.

This album is also fascinating due to Negativland's skillful use of samples, loops and found sound in a time when you couldn't just fire up your Pentium 4 and throw a bunch of noises together. Escape From Noise certainly required unknown hours of scouring sources for useful material, back in a time when you couldn't just use google, archive.org or youtube.com for amusing samples. The fact there is a strong musical undertone throughout is impressive. While the album spends a lot of time wondering if there is "any escape from noise", it also happens to be an intriguing and often startling aural experience.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2010


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