In Aeternam Vale: "Dust Under Brightness"

Single (1988 / re: 2012)

By P.M. Goerner | 22 May 2012

In my mind, there is absolutely nothing more truly punk in the whole universe than early homemade electronic music. The do-it-yourself aesthetic put forth by late ’70s punk, viewed as the most apparent cultural reaction to the old models, really didn’t have the means to reach its full potential—or even avoid embarrassing itself through outright hypocrisy—before the 1980s’ digital electronics explosion, which allowed people to start actually doing it themselves. Everything, that is, from inception to production, and of course distribution. That’s a big one. With cassettes to boot, probably the cheapest, flimsiest physical medium imaginable and downright designed for quick copying, well, hell, here comes the avalanche.

One of the best examples I can think of is the career arc of John Lydon. The Sex Pistols may go down in history in a unique position, for better or worse, but their oeuvre is somewhat easily overshadowed in every way by the imposing Public Image Ltd. catalog, which found Lydon free to indulge himself (again, for better or worse) in the unrestricted world of electronics. Three dirty chords under Malcom McLaren’s guidance might be a nice kiss-off to KISS, but even Lydon can understand when I say that in the big picture, its blissfully left-field ’80s electronic experimentalists like French electro-saboteurs In Aeternam Vale that win my punk prize. And were I to set out to choose a few lucky mountaineers to stand like woolly cave-surfers on the crest of that wonderful avalanche, the Minimal Wave label is probably where I’d set up base camp. Minimal Wave has been re-releasing comparable creations to the pleasured squeals of electronic music dorks and conversely to the detriment of spontaneous generation theorists the world over since the label’s founding in 2005, and after releasing a short LP collection in 2009 culled from well over a hundred of In Aeternam Vale’s cassette releases from 1982 to 1989, the label has offered two more choice cuts a considerately packaged reemergence. I can’t wait to dance alone again.

“Dust Under Brightness,” originally from 1988’s DUB cassette, is as frothing and fierce as any of the ’77 punk classics, but the cold isolation that burns it into focus through the veiled, echoing arctic spaces that define the band’s work is what makes it something relatively more. This isn’t social paranoia or cultural disgust on any sort of large scale—we know how easily that sort of thing gets compromised. Oh, no. This is something personal.