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Boyd Rice NON | Terra Incognita Ambient Works | review | electro | Lollipop

Boyd Rice/NON

Terra Incognita: Ambient Works 1975 - Present (Mute)
by Karl Giesing

Boyd Rice (aka NON) has been destroying music since the mid-'70s. Like his contemporaries Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, he used homebuilt or modified "instruments" to create sounds that were deliberately non-musical. But unlike his contemporaries, he came up with it all by his lonesome, working in solitude in a suburban trailer park in Lemon Grove, California. Since then, he's become notorious in underground circles: You love him or you hate him, or sometimes both. Maybe it's because of his overt misanthropy and anti-humanist philosophy. Or his association with people like Charles Manson, Bob Heick (of the American Front), and the Church of Satan. Maybe it's his obsession with paganism and agnosticism (the same sort that the Third Reich appropriated, leading to more than one Nazi accusation). Or maybe people just don't trust a grown man who collects Barbie dolls.

Whatever the reason, his forceful personality often overshadows his music - and it IS music, or at least music's kissing cousin. It may not have much in common with anything on the radio, but it's nothing if not deliberate and meticulous. In an early interview, Boyd said he wanted his music to be "something that blanks out your brain, leaving a vacuum and allowing new thoughts to form... I wanted to create something that would run all the thought out of people's heads." That seems to be the idea behind Terra Incognita...

The first thing you'll notice about these songs is just how listenable they are. The album calls these "Ambient Works," and it's not a bad description. But no matter how much the music wants to blank out your brain, it can't quite do it. Though satisfying, this is not Easy Listening. It's not the satisfaction you get from lounging around with a smoking jacket and martini, it's the satisfaction a lion gets after devouring a gazelle. You can't shake the impression that there's something deadly lurking just beneath the noise floor, like a python swimming underwater.

All of these tracks have been released before, but since his releases are mostly out-of-print or expensive imports, that's not really much of a negative. There's a glaring absence of some of his more oddball releases like the "Black Album," Ragnarok Rune, or Pagan Muzak. But these would all be near-impossible to recreate on CD (Pagan Muzak, for instance, was a 7" consisting of 17 locked grooves). What you get, then, is an alternate history of Boyd's music, taken out of its original context and placed in a completely different one. This is the third NON compilation, the first two being Easy Listening for Iron Youth and God & Beast (where Boyd actually re-recorded his old material). Terra Incognita forms a perfect trilogy for those who bought the other comps. And it's a mighty fine introduction for those who didn't.

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