FIGHT YOUR OWN WAR: Power Electronics and Noise Culture

It’s always exciting to read a good book on a subject which is so multi-sided that it does require quite an effort to be thoroughly covered. Such is the occasion with Fight Your Own War, probably the most successful attempt for a sincere and explicit exploration of Power Electronics and some of the related genres such as harsh noise, harsh noise wall etc. Fight Your Own War was edited and curated by science and medicine historian Jennifer Wallis. The book, designed actually more like an oldschool zine, contains essays, articles and actually pieces of all volumes by quite a few contributors among which veterans in the scene like Mike Dando, Bindweed, Mikko Aspa and Ulex Xane, representatives of the current generation artists like Sonia Dietrich, Nathan Clemence and Clive Henry, but also writers like Richard Stevenson (Noise Receptor), Paul Margree (We Need No Swords),  Jack Sargeant (jacktext.net), D Foist and many more.

As you can already guess from the list of contributors Fight Your Own War surely features opinions and pieces you will probably not agree with and I guess this is what makes the book what it is. The texts featured really do manage to present a very detailed and yet personal idea of what this music and scene is all about. It’s balanced between different view points and experiences and within a single book you can see the genre through the eyes of the fan, the label owner, the artist, the journalist, the academic writer, the outsider, the mocker… It does show the full picture.

Towards the end of the book, however, you realize you’ve been reading a very neat and sturdy collection of materials about some of the angriest artistic movements in the world and you realize this considered and calm approach is actually the only downside of this book. It’s very well structured and professionally portrayed, but with a few exceptions it somehow lacks the edge we all know Power Electronics for. There are subjects and features of the genre, which I find if not ignored then quite underestimated. The white male dominance in the scene, the often misogynistic, homophobic and discriminative imagery or straight up right wing propaganda is here often and too easily dismissed as freedom of expression and a mere artistic decision and not as a real threat and an issue… These things weren’t explored in a convincing manner until the very end of the book when BRUT’s Sonia Dietrich managed to draw a very sincere picture of the whole scene in a very emotional and yet accurate piece. Few pages earlier you have Spencer Grady and Paul Margree with great features on the comedy side of a genre which we are so used of experiencing as serious and grim. And then you realize this whole book could have been more radical, more free and more dangerous.

Still, Fight Your Own War is a very coherent work. Its overall calm and academic tone allows us to really perceive the genre as what it is – niche music, that has managed to impact to a degree contemporary experimental music, but will keep existing within its conservative self-imposed barriers and mostly behind close doors. Those who managed to take it further will be those who’ll be remembered. Not the ones with the swastikas on the artworks and the cheap attempts to shock the listeners in 2017 when we’ve really seen it all.

Nice one, Wallis & co.!

Angel S.

Freelance journalist and full-time copywriter from hell. Playing ambient & drone music as Mytrip, teaching Sound Art, booking shows with For The Kids & Amek Collective. Always in for a cup of coffee.