Metal Machine Music

Last updated

Metal Machine Music
Metal machine music.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 1975
Genre
Length64:11
Label RCA
Producer Lou Reed
Lou Reed chronology
Lou Reed Live
(1975)
Metal Machine Music
(1975)
Coney Island Baby
(1975)

Metal Machine Music (subtitled *The Amine β Ring) is the fifth studio album by American rock musician Lou Reed, released as a double album in July 1975 by RCA Records. A departure from the rest of his catalog, the album features no songs or even recognizably structured compositions, eschewing melody and rhythm for modulated feedback and guitar effects, mixed at varying speeds by Reed. In the album's liner notes, Reed claimed to have invented heavy metal, and asserted that Metal Machine Music was the ultimate conclusion of the genre.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Lou Reed American musician, recording artist, singer-songwriter

Lewis Allan Reed was an American musician, singer, songwriter and poet. He was the lead guitarist, singer and principal songwriter for the rock band the Velvet Underground and had a solo career that spanned five decades. The Velvet Underground were not a commercial success during their existence, but are now regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of underground and alternative rock music.

RCA Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America. It is one of Sony Music's four flagship labels, alongside RCA's former long-time rival Columbia Records, Arista Records, and Epic Records. The label has released multiple genres of music, including pop, classical, rock, hip hop, electronic, R&B, blues, jazz, and country. Its name is derived from the initials of its defunct parent company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). It was fully acquired by Bertelsmann in 1986, making it a part of Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG); however, RCA Records became a part of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a merger between BMG and Sony Music, in 2004, and was acquired by the latter in 2008, after the dissolution of Sony BMG and the restructuring of Sony Music. It is the second oldest record label in American history, after sister label Columbia Records.

Contents

The album cost Reed credibility in the music industry while simultaneously opening the door for some of his later, more experimental material. Although reviewed negatively by critics since its release, Metal Machine Music is today considered a forerunner of industrial music, noise rock, and contemporary sound art. [1] [2] In 2010, Reed, Ulrich Krieger, and Sarth Calhoun collaborated to tour playing free improvisation inspired by the album as Metal Machine Trio. That same year, Reed announced his plans to re-release Metal Machine Music in a remastered form. [3]

Music industry companies and individuals that create and sell music and make money off of sales

The music industry consists of the companies and individuals that earn money by creating new songs and pieces and selling live concerts and shows, audio and video recordings, compositions and sheet music, and the organizations and associations that aid and represent music creators. Among the many individuals and organizations that operate in the industry are: the songwriters and composers who create new songs and musical pieces; the singers, musicians, conductors and bandleaders who perform the music; the companies and professionals who create and sell recorded music and/or sheet music ; and those that help organize and present live music performances.

Experimental music is a general label for any music that pushes existing boundaries and genre definitions. Experimental compositional practice is defined broadly by exploratory sensibilites radically opposed to, and questioning of, institutionalized compositional, performing, and aesthetic conventions in music. Elements of experimental music include indeterminate music, in which the composer introduces the elements of chance or unpredictability with regard to either the composition or its performance. Artists may also approach a hybrid of disparate styles or incorporate unorthodox and unique elements.

Industrial music is a genre of experimental music which draws on harsh, transgressive or provocative sounds and themes. AllMusic defines industrial music as the "most abrasive and aggressive fusion of rock and electronic music" that was "initially a blend of avant-garde electronics experiments and punk provocation". The term was coined in the mid-1970s with the founding of Industrial Records by members of Throbbing Gristle and Monte Cazazza. While the genre name originated with Throbbing Gristle's emergence in the United Kingdom, concentrations of artists and labels vital to the genre also emerged in America, namely in Chicago.

Style

A major influence on Reed's recording was the mid-1960s drone music work of La Monte Young's Theatre of Eternal Music, [4] whose members included John Cale, Tony Conrad, Angus MacLise and Marian Zazeela. [5] Both Cale and MacLise were also members of the Velvet Underground (Maclise left before the group began recording).

Drone music, drone-based music, or simply drone, is a minimalist genre that emphasizes the use of sustained sounds, notes, or tone clusters – called drones. It is typically characterized by lengthy audio programs with relatively slight harmonic variations throughout each piece. La Monte Young, one of its 1960s originators, defined it in 2000 as "the sustained tone branch of minimalism".

La Monte Thornton Young is an American avant-garde composer, musician, and artist recognized as one of the first American minimalist composers. His works are cited as examples of post-war experimental and contemporary music, and were tied to New York's downtown music and Fluxus art scenes. Young is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in Western drone music, prominently explored in the 1960s with the experimental music collective the Theatre of Eternal Music. He has engaged in musical and multimedia collaborations with a wide range of artists, including Tony Conrad, Pandit Pran Nath, John Cale, Terry Riley, and multimedia artist Marian Zazeela, with whom he developed the Dream House sound and light environment.

The Theatre of Eternal Music, sometimes later known as The Dream Syndicate, was a mid-1960s musical group formed by La Monte Young, that focused on experimental drone music. It featured the performances of La Monte Young, John Cale, Angus MacLise, Terry Jennings, Marian Zazeela, Tony Conrad, Billy Name, Jon Hassell, Jon Gibson, Alex Dea and others. The group is stylistically tied to the Neo-Dada aesthetics of Fluxus and the post-John Cage noise music continuum.

The Theatre of Eternal Music's discordant sustained notes and loud amplification had influenced Cale's subsequent contribution to the Velvet Underground in his use of both discordance and feedback. Recent releases of works by Cale and Conrad from the mid-sixties, such as Cale's Inside the Dream Syndicate series (The Dream Syndicate being the alternative name given by Cale and Conrad to their collective work with Young) testify to the influence this mid-sixties experimental work had on Reed years later.

In an interview with rock journalist Lester Bangs, Reed claimed that he had intentionally placed sonic allusions to classical works such as Beethoven's Eroica and Pastoral Symphonies in the distortion, and that he had attempted to have the album released on RCA's Red Seal classical label. He repeated the latter claim in a 2007 interview. [6]

Lester Bangs American music critic and journalist

Leslie Conway "Lester" Bangs was an American music journalist, critic, author, and musician. He wrote for Creem and Rolling Stone magazines, and was known for his leading influence in rock music criticism. The music critic Jim DeRogatis called him "America's greatest rock critic".

Classical music broad tradition of Western art music

Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820, this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period.

Ludwig van Beethoven 18th and 19th-century German classical and romantic composer

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras in classical music, he remains one of the most recognized and influential musicians of this period, and is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time.

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic Star full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [7]
Chicago Tribune Star full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [8]
Christgau's Record Guide C+ [9]
Classic Rock 5/10 [10]
MusicHound Rock woof! [11]
Pitchfork 8.7/10 [12]
Record Collector Star full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [14]

Metal Machine Music confounded reviewers and listeners when it was first released. The Stranger 's Dave Segal later claimed it was one of the most divisive records ever, challenging both critics and the artist's core audience much in the same way Miles Davis' Agharta album would around the same time. [15]

<i>The Stranger</i> (newspaper) Alternative biweekly newspaper in Seattle, Washington,

The Stranger is an alternative biweekly newspaper in Seattle, Washington, U.S. It runs a blog known as Slog.

Miles Davis American jazz musician

Miles Dewey Davis III was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music. Davis adopted a variety of musical directions in a five-decade career that kept him at the forefront of many major stylistic developments in jazz.

<i>Agharta</i> (album) 1975 live album by Miles Davis

Agharta is a 1975 live double album by American jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader Miles Davis. By the time he recorded the album, Davis was 48 years old and had alienated many in the jazz community while attracting younger rock audiences with his radical electric fusion music. After experimenting with different line-ups, he established a stable live band in 1973 and toured constantly for the next two years, despite physical pain from worsening health and emotional instability brought on by substance abuse. During a three-week tour of Japan in 1975, the trumpeter performed two concerts at the Festival Hall in Osaka on February 1; the afternoon show produced Agharta and the evening show was released as Pangaea the following year.

On release, it was reviewed in Rolling Stone magazine as sounding like "the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator" and as displeasing to experience as "a night in a bus terminal". [16] In the 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide , critic Billy Altman said it was "a two-disc set consisting of nothing more than ear-wrecking electronic sludge, guaranteed to clear any room of humans in record time". (This aspect of the album is mentioned in the Bruce Sterling short story "Dori Bangs".) The first issue of the seminal New York zine Punk placed Reed and the album on its inaugural 1976 issue, presaging the advent of both punk and the discordance of the New York No Wave scene. Reed biographer Victor Bockris wrote that the recording can be understood as "the ultimate conceptual punk album and the progenitor of New York punk rock". The album was ranked number two in the 1991 book The Worst Rock 'n' Roll Records of All Time by Jimmy Guterman and Owen O'Donnell. [17]

<i>Rolling Stone</i> American magazine focusing on popular culture, based in New York City

Rolling Stone is an American monthly magazine that focuses on popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California in 1967 by Jann Wenner, who is still the magazine's publisher, and the music critic Ralph J. Gleason. It was first known for its musical coverage and for political reporting by Hunter S. Thompson. In the 1990s, the magazine shifted focus to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music. In recent years, it has resumed its traditional mix of content.

Bus station structure, larger than a bus stop, where city or intercity buses stop to pick up and drop off passengers

A bus station is a structure where city or intercity buses stop to pick up and drop off passengers. While the term bus depot also refers to a bus station, it can also refer to a bus garage. A bus station is larger than a bus stop, which is usually simply a place on the roadside, where buses can stop. It may be intended as a terminal station for a number of routes, or as a transfer station where the routes continue.

Bruce Sterling American writer, speaker, futurist, and design instructor

Michael Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author known for his novels and work on the Mirrorshades anthology. This work helped to define the cyberpunk genre.

Village Voice critic Robert Christgau referred to Metal Machine Music as Reed's "answer to Environments " and said it had "certainly raised consciousness in both the journalistic and business communities" and was not "totally unlistenable", though he admitted for white noise he would rather listen to "Sister Ray". [9] Writing in MusicHound Rock (1999), Greg Kot gave the album a "woof!" rating (signifying "dog-food"), and opined: "The spin cycle of a washing machine has more melodic variation than the electronic drone that was Metal Machine Music." [11] In 2005, Q magazine included the album in a list of "Ten Terrible Records by Great Artists", and it ranked number four in Q's 50 worst albums of all-time list. It was again featured in Q in December 2010, on the magazine's "Top Ten Career Suicides" list, where it came eighth overall. The Trouser Press Record Guide referred to it as "four sides of unlistenable oscillator noise", parenthetically calling that assessment "a description, not a value judgment". [18] Mark Deming's review for AllMusic noted that while noise rock groups "have created some sort of context for it", Metal Machine Music "hasn't gotten any more user friendly with time", given it "paus[ed] only for side breaks with no rhythms, melodies, or formal structures to buffer the onslaught". [7]

Rock critic Lester Bangs, offering a more sympathetic appraisal of Metal Machine Music than most critics, wrote that "as classical music it adds nothing to a genre that may well be depleted. As rock 'n' roll it's interesting garage electronic rock 'n' roll. As a statement it's great, as a giant FUCK YOU it shows integrity—a sick, twisted, dunced-out, malevolent, perverted, psychopathic integrity, but integrity nevertheless." Bangs later wrote a tongue-in-cheek article on Metal Machine Music titled "The Greatest Album Ever Made", in which he judged it "the greatest record ever made in the history of the human eardrum". [19] In 1998, The Wire included Metal Machine Music in its list of "100 Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening)," with Brian Duguid writing:

Q magazine featured Metal Machine Music in its 50 Worst Records of All Time ... What higher recommendation could you possibly need? ... [Metal Machine Music] is at once the pre-eminent deranged noise record, an impossibly cacophonous screech of electric torment, and also a classic of Minimalism; some of the most enigmatic, exquisite harmonies ever documented. It's a pity the CD reissues can't include the original double LP's locked groove, but even if it doesn't last forever, the music is infinitely convoluted. It still awaits a proper critical reappraisal—even the gleefully enthusiastic Lester Bangs didn't fully 'get' Metal Machine Music. [20]

In a December 2017 review, Mark Richardson of Pitchfork gave Metal Machine Music a score of 8.7 out of 10. He describes the album as an "exhilarating" listen. [12]

Despite the intense criticism (or perhaps because of the exposure it generated), Metal Machine Music reportedly sold 100,000 copies in the US, according to the liner notes of the Buddah Records CD issue. The original edition was withdrawn within three weeks of its release. [21]

Performance

Lou Reed did not perform Metal Machine Music on stage until March 2002, when he collaborated with an avant-garde classical ensemble at the MaerzMusik  [ de ] festival in Berlin, Germany. The 10-member group Zeitkratzer performed the original album with Reed in a new arrangement by Ulrich Krieger, featuring classical string, wind, piano, and accordion. [22] Live recordings with (2007) and without (2014; all-acoustic) Reed are available commercially. [23]

A few years later, Reed formed a band named Metal Machine Trio as a noise rock/experimental side project.

Track listing

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Metal Machine Music, Part 1"16:10
Side two
No.TitleLength
2."Metal Machine Music, Part 2"15:53
Side three
No.TitleLength
3."Metal Machine Music, Part 3"16:13
Side four
No.TitleLength
4."Metal Machine Music, Part 4"15:55

On the original vinyl release, timings for sides 1–3 were stated as "16:01", while the 4th side read "16:01 or ", as the last groove on the LP was a continuous loop, known as the locked groove. On CD, this locked groove was imitated for the final 2:22 of the track, fading out at the end.

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References

Citations

  1. "Lou Reed Defends 'Metal Machine Music' Ahead of Album's Re-Release". Spinner. April 21, 2010. Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  2. Paul Morley (April 11, 2010). "Paul Morley on music: Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music | Music | The Observer". Guardian. London. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
  3. "Lou Reed is back with experimental music of 1970s". Reuters. April 20, 2010. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
  4. "Blue" Gene Tyranny on Lou Reed Metal Machine Music
  5. The album listed (misspelling included) "Drone cognizance and harmonic possibilities vis a vis Lamont Young's Dream Music" among its "Specifications": text copy, image copy (reissue).
  6. "Pitchfork: Interviews: Lou Reed". Pitchforkmedia.com. Archived from the original on January 13, 2009. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
  7. 1 2 Deming, Mark. AllMusic Review
  8. Kot, Greg (January 12, 1992). "Guide to Lou Reed's recordings". Chicago Tribune . Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  9. 1 2 Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: R". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies . Ticknor & Fields. ISBN   089919026X . Retrieved March 10, 2019 via robertchristgau.com.
  10. Fortnam, Ian (June 2010). "Lou Reed Metal Machine Music". Classic Rock . p. 93.
  11. 1 2 Gary Graff & Daniel Durchholz (eds), MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press (Farmington Hills, MI, 1999; ISBN   1-57859-061-2), p. 931.
  12. 1 2 Richardson, Mark (December 3, 2017). "Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music". Pitchfork . Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  13. Draper, Jason (June 2010). "Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music". Record Collector . Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  14. DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly, eds. (1992). The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd ed.). Random House. p. 582. ISBN   0679737294.
  15. Segal, Dave (2015). "Two of the Most Divisive LPs of All Time—Miles Davis's Agharta and Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music—Are Now 40 Years Old". The Stranger . Seattle. Archived from the original on May 16, 2016. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  16. Wolcott, James. Rolling Stone Review. August 14, 1975.
  17. "Rocklist.net...Steve Parker...Slipped Discs". Rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
  18. "Lou Reed". TrouserPress.com. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
  19. Bangs, Lester. "The Greatest Album Ever Made". Creem , March 1976
  20. Duguid, Brian (September 1998). "100 Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening) — Lou Reed Metal Machine Music (RCA 1975, Reissued Great Expectations 1991)" . The Wire . No. 175. London. p. 36 via Exact Editions.
  21. "BBC - Music - Review of Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music: Re-mastered".
  22. James, Colin (October 11, 2005). "Lou Reed's `Metal Machine Music' gets live treatment in Berlin". AP Worldstream. AP. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved November 4, 2012.  via  HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  23. Richardson, Mark. "Zeitkratzer: Metal Machine Music". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 27, 2019.

Further reading