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Various Artists: Golpea Tu Cerebro: Spanish Underground Cassette Culture, 1980-1988

Various Artists: Golpea Tu Cerebro: Spanish Underground Cassette Culture, 1980-1988

Golpea Tu Cerebro represents an extreme over-correction.

Various Artists: Golpea Tu Cerebro: Spanish Underground Cassette Culture, 1980-1988

2 / 5

“We weren’t right in the head. Everything was crazy.” This is how José Manuel Vásquez, who began creating homemade experimental electronic cassettes in the ‘80s when he was just 14 years old, assesses the grass roots movement documented on Golpea Tu Cerebro–and he’s right. The title translates to “shake your brain,” which fairly describes the recordings collected, taken from limited-run cassettes with cut-and-paste Xerox collage covers that were distributed via mail order and word of mouth at a time long before computers and the internet made such home-brewed experimentation and distribution possible for everyone. Unfortunately, the description is so apt that, while some may be intrigued by its window into a forgotten subculture, most will find the actual collection nearly unlistenable.

Throbbing Gristle is one of the set’s clear jumping off points, but for the most part these recordings make those English pioneers of industrial music sound like Jens Lekman. “Ambient Music for Empty Congress” is a typical track. Credited to Línea Táctica, one of the better-regarded names in this obscure scene, it consists of a harsh, echoed din and distorted, guttural screams. Luix Terán, the man behind the project, explains that the group “takes its ideas and concepts from the confusion that surrounds us, which I both agree with and feel fascinated by, but…it also makes me feel concerned and disoriented.” If the creators of this din feel that way about it, imagine how someone not invested in it might be affected.

Físodo 13.4 contributes “El Universo es Mi Casa,” which is one of the more musical tracks, its simple keyboard line struggling against more distorted electronic sounds. Even without the surrounding dissonance, it approaches a rare thing indeed on this 90-minute collection: a melody. An excerpt from Polídrico’s “Sin Título” is a percolating, jerkily rhythmic piece that suggests the theme to a futuristic crime drama; it efficiently conveys the industrial horrors of modern society in a relatable form. Yet for the most part, the selections are in line with Bulbo Raquídeo’s declaration that, “We define ourselves as non-musicians.”

The Spanish underground cassette culture was formed as a severe reaction against rock music and lacks even the kind of performance or structural integrity of the most avant-garde free jazz. The short-lived zine Particular Motors was the scene’s Rolling Stone—although the compilers are reluctant to even call it a scene since the recordings largely emerged from “a series of one-person cells.” Jordi Valis wrote in its pages of “a self-discipline that severs all ties with the past,“ cautioning that, “the sound of the industrial machinery without the human violence and sexual drive would be bland, dull…it is man, the human beast, who is to be served by the machine, and not the other way around.” Sadly, most of the selections on Golpea Tu Cerebro sound like the machine won.

Interestingly, a number of figures involved in the scene took a 180-degree turn from its disruptive tenets; one became a yoga teacher, while another pioneer of the scene entered the religious life, warning one of its proponents, “It’s the devil’s music!” Whether or not you believe in such things, this mostly sounds like electronic hell. The set ends with a track that suggests what could have been a much more engaging direction—and some much-needed dry humor. On ”Anuncios por Palabras” (“Classified Advertising”), Oh-Casio-Ón recites real estate ads over keyboard accompaniment that sounds more like a mildly avant-garde synth band than an industrial iconoclast.

Listeners desperate to escape mainstream pop trends may welcome something so at odds with convention, but Golpea Tu Cerebro represents an extreme over-correction. You may be better off with something more soothing, like Peter Brötzmann or Metal Machine Music.

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