Saturday, January 19, 2008

No Wave


Earlier this week Pitchfork published an excerpt from staff writer Marc Masters' new book No Wave, which is now available from Black Dog Publishing. The 4000+ word excerpt traces possible origins of the term 'no wave', which include Lydia Lunch sneering when asked if her music shared anything with New Wave, the zine that chronicled the scene called NO and the Jean-Luc Godard remark that "There are no new waves, there is only the ocean". Elsewhere Arto Lindsay claims the moniker is wholly an invention of the Soho Weekly News and that none of the bands involved felt much affinity to the term.

Most accounts cite the five-day festival in May of 1978 held at Artists' Space, at its 105 Hudson Street location, as a seminal moment in the history of the short-lived ‘scene'. Posters advertising the event simply read "BANDS" and a list of performers, which included the four bands that subsequently appeared on the influential compilation No New York (James Chance and the Contortions, DNA, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and MARS), and half a dozen more that the above consipered to keep off the LP (The Theoretical Girls/Glenn Branca, The Gynecologists/Rhys Chatham and Red Transistor, etc.).

In attendance at these concerts were several influential journalists including John Rockwell of The New York Times, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice and Roy Trakin of New York Rocker, and Brian Eno, then a newly in-demand producer. He proposed the compilation and served as producer, though without imposing any of his usual sonic signatures.

The album was reissued a few years ago, but is now only available at costly import prices. The 22-track compilation NY No Wave, issued in 2003, is a reasonable substitute and the soundtrack to the film Downtown 81 (starring Jean-Michel Basquiat) was re-issued last November, and covers similar territory. Soul Jazz (the label that successfully marketed the excellent ESG re-issues a few years ago) has three volumes of New York Noise available, and released a photo book last August.

Thurston Moore and Byron Coley are also finishing up a book about the era, highlighting the cross-pollination of music, performance art, film and poetry. Titled No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980, the book is slated for June of this year.



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