Tonight I have uploaded the third LP by the Nocturnal Emissions, a savage slice of power electronics recorded from sessions in 1982 and 1983. Equally as extreme as Whitehouse and S.P.K’s early efforts, this record could empty a room within ten minutes. Play loud and see what happens. I think it is a great work.
The Sounds interview text below along with all the photographs and flyers are from earthlydelights.co.uk which is a website specialising in Nocturnal Emissions product. Thank you in advance to that site for (hopefully) letting me thieve this material.
Nocturnal Emissions is a sound art project that has released numerous records and CDs in music styles ranging from electro-acoustic, musique concrète, hybridised beats, sound collage, post-industrial music, ambient and noise music. The sound art has been part of an ongoing multimedia campaign of guerilla sign ontology utilising video art, film, hypertext and other documents.
The project was initiated in Derbyshire in the late 1970s by Nigel Ayers, a former art student, who in the period, lived in London. Together with collaborators Danny Ayers and Caroline K, both of whom were present early in on their work, the group concentrated on the axiom of music being a form of social control, and highlighted concepts such as information overload, cult conditioning, brainwashing and subliminal advertising, in a critique of information society. Their music drew heavily on worldwide folk traditions as well as that of the European avant-garde. One of their earliest performances was in a railway arch in Atlantic Road, Brixton, while the 1981 Brixton riots raged outside.
Nocturnal Emissions ran their own record label, Sterile records and recording studio from a squat in Camberwell south east London, and later worked closely with the editors of the art music label Touch, later with both the Netherlands- based Staalplaat and USA- based Soleilmoon recording labels. All three labels came to the fore as part of 1980s cassette culture.
Since 1984 Nocturnal Emissions has continued mainly as Nigel Ayers’ solo project. The line-up has varied from one to a dozen musicians. Nocturnal Emissions temporary members have included net artist Stanza, Ben Ponton of Zoviet France and life coach Fiona Harrold.
“What we’re faced with is the same as everybody else. A constant barrage of media, education, music, film, coming at us all the time. People are told, forced and trained to be obedient, destructive consumers totally cut off from the world they live in.”
“THE ONLY records that I’ve constantly liked have been Beefheart really.”
Nigel Ayers admits all! Well not quite. Nigel is half of the nucleus of Nocturnal Emissions and along with fellow northerner Caroline K, the Nocturnals are an industrious and testing outfit of fluctuating size with three LPs and several cassettes to their credit.
Their most recent vinyl offering ‘Drowning In A Sea Of Bliss’ reveals a much more structured approach to their music and rumour has it that current recordings, with an enlarged line up, are a mutant son of dance music. But music is merely the tip of their iceberg and the Nocturnals, partially shrouded by their record label Sterile, are an outfit who’ve been flirting with media traditions in more ways than one.
“I’m totally fed up with industrial music now,” continues Nigel, “we’ve only really been linked with that because we use electronics. That’s bad because it confuses the ideas. We do things for our own reasons, we’ve got no fascination with Moors murderers and we’re not particularly interested in industry either.”
True enough the rock tradition of tarnishing everything that’s, say, a little different with the same bleak brush doesn’t work here.
Caroline: “Images of death have just become like a style and it doesn’t have any meaning any more because it’s so clichéd. A lot of the fanzines and letters that people send us just make you feel pretty ill first thing in the morning when you open them. It’s just like a fashion and we want to steer clear of it.”
Fact: Nocturnal Emissions cannot be mistaken for pop predictability.
Their sound is a well-honed tool and a well-researched one at that.
Nigel: “We read loads of stuff about psychology and acoustics and things like that which we apply to our music. To some extent it’s got to the stage where we can pick an effect that a record is going to have on people and it seems to just work like that.”
The technique is intriguing and also has many reference points to other musics. Caroline: “We take all the best bits out of different sorts of records. There’s loads of different types of music that you might just like bits of and the rest pisses you off, so you take little elements and mix them up with other bits and you make something out of the mixture that has an overall feel to it.
“It’s a technique of integrating all the sounds we like and all the ideas we like as well, it’s a kind of audio collage. I suppose it would be more popular if we just stuck to computer noises or metal bashing then people would be able to identify with it more as it was more consistent but we’d get bored with it.”
Nocturnal Emissions can’t really be likened to anyone. The beauty of the whole thing – which is currently moving into the live arena and includes more diverse projects such as animated films – is the variety. Not just the variety in tracks but the width and depth which they are able to create within tracks.
Like an habitual chameleon they change but not to blend in with their surroundings, always intentionally attempting to be one step ahead.
Nigel: “Things just lose their potential once everyone is doing the same thing so you have to move on to what’s not been exploited yet. What we’ve been concentrating on really is getting the content over, just attitudes, like how people can make choices in what they do if they just set about it.
“We’re trying really to show up what’s going on in everyday life, what’s happened to us and the influences that are working on us. The sounds that we use relate to experiences that we’ve had and the whole thing has to do with an expression of what . it feels like for us to be around. We’re hoping that people can identify with that rather than just on a noise level or a record collecting thing.”
Nocturnal Emissions are already changing their colours leaving behind a healthy set of recorded artefacts. Predictably unpredictable they will emerge with yet another musical scoop that will be watered down and popular at some future, as yet, undisclosed date.
Their most recent communiqué reveals that they will be performing live at the Ritzy, Brixton on election night. Presenting the world premiere of ‘The Foetal Grave Of Progress’ they are billed as the unique, important, seminally unorthodox and funky Nocturnal Emissions. Who could ever doubt them?
DAVE HENDERSON Sounds June 11th 1983