In the past year or two there has been an increased interest in No Wave. I’m not sure what brought it on, but No Wave was a shortlived musical movement in new York in the late 1970’s. The seminal document is Brian Eno’s No New York compilation which features tracks by James Chance and the Contortions, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars and DNA. Rather than buy that compilation I decided last year to track down individual compilations of all those bands. The funny thing is that none of those bands besides James Chance issued albums proper. Their recorded history is made up of singles, the odd EP, demos and various live recordings. There is no doubt that those four bands are comprise the definative No Wave sound yet each band sounds completely different to each other and perhaps No wave was more a philosophy than a sound per se. These bands and the influence of their avant garde take on rock music influenced generations of bands. I think that you can also throw UT, Theoretical Girls and very early Sonic Youth in the mix as well. It’s easy to assume that the over riding aesthetic of No Wave was a kind of nihlism but the Contortions still sound like party band to me so I’m not sure what really how to define No Wave.
Now this compilation is almost definitive. It is missing some tracks that appeared in a 1981 film starring Basquiet and Debbie Harry and there are more live recordsing out there. But as a DNA primer this is pretty fantastic and readily available. The band itself was fronted by the Brazilian ex-pat Arto Lindsay, with drums provided by Ikue Mori (now an important Avant Garde artists in her own right) and Robin Crutchfield who was later replaced by Tim Wright a former member of the dreadfully arty Pere Ubu.
Out of the four bands appearing on No New York, DNA are the most avant garde and difficult to pin down in terms of influences. The great thing about all of these compilations are the essays in the liner notes. DNA on DNA is no different. There are three essays in all and are just as good a starting point as many to get into the whole No Wave thing. Recommended