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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007
    Migraine Inducers/Antagonistic Music
     
    Some reviewers of the reissue of Martyn Bates' 1979 DIY cassette Migraine Inducers / Antagonistic Music say that the title is just right. It's certainly noisy and that it's an acquired taste is witnessed by my having today received signed edition number 34 out of 100, but there's a musicality to it and a depth to it which will keep it in my ears for a good while yet.

    It was Bates' recent interview in The Wire which put me onto this release, an interview which explores how an artist who began with such an extreme experiment in 'industrial' sound could also be so wrapped up in English folk:
    Bates's ... [collaborations] place him at the heart of England's 'hidden reverse', ... Coil, Current 93, Death In June, Nurse With Wound, Sol Invictus, et al. Bates goes back a long way with this UK avant garde; in the early 80s he sent review tapes to a zine called Stabmental, edited by one Geoff Rushton, later known as John Balance of Coil. "He liked the stuff," says Bates, "and actually gave me the first positive press for Eyeless, because he liked the stuff I'd done with Migraine Inducers."
    Folk and industrial are intertwined, notes Bates, in ways which have sometimes veered into dangerous territory:
    ... he is keen to distance himself from 'apocalyptic folk' or 'neo-folk', the terms commonly used to describe the post-Industrial shift from harsh electronics to a more folk based acoustic in the 1990s, and which have become controversial due to Death In June's interest in the same European historical/mythological continuum as that employed to justify the Nazi Holocaust, and references to European fascism.
    "If you look at the basic ethos behind the Industrial stuff," Bates cautions, "you've only got to make the slightest exploration of the key dark impulses of the 20th century, and if you look at fascism, one of the key proselytising aspects is folk music. If you're exploring that kind of thread, at some point you're going to come back to folk music - but I think I'm sailing far enough away, and I always like to think I'm coming from a benign place rather than the destructive aspects. You can only afford to put out so much hate, but it costs too much in terms of negative energy."
    And that last statement might be spiralled back to the Migraine Inducers tape to help explain why something called Antagonistic Music is certainly provocative, but equally carries a beauty of form and content which is - like much of Bates' future work - clearly expressive of positive energy.