Power! Propaganda! Production!
Militia are a Belgian outfit who trade in a blend of industrial percussion extracted from homemade instrumentation that’s as direct and unapologetic as the anarchist critique of contemporary society to which they dedicate all they do. What’s that? Sounds like Test Dept, you say? Well, yes, as long as class consciousness and sheet metal are the order of the day TD will always be the first reference to come to mind, but since their founding in 1989, Militia (as the name suggests) have used this formula to explore martial musical territory as well. Given martial industrial’s tendency to be inhabited by nationalist goons or cowards who couch their fetish for fascist aesthetics in the guise of being “apolitical”, it’s refreshing to hear an explicitly left-wing band working in this vein.
Their fifth LP, Power! Propaganda! Production!, is certainly explicit in its aesthetics, starting with the Soviet-themed art. Don’t fret, though, Militia are still operating within a specifically anarchist ethos (yes, I’m aware of the spectrum of political positions sitting between anarchism and communism, no, I’m not letting this review degenerate/evolve into a discussion of the finer nuances of the First International), and the lyrical content reflects this; the art could perhaps simply be taken as a somewhat cheeky example of the second component of the album’s title. The anarchist critique of statism and capitalism is nothing new (as Militia know well, having penned odes to such anarchist granddaddies as Bakunin and Kropotkin), but like all good critical positions it can be retrofitted to attend to contemporary issues, and Militia do just that on this album, addressing climate change, peak oil and the Great Recession.
Industrial percussion bands by their very nature run the risk of letting whatever rhythmic or textural complexity their compositions might have collapse into pure clattering cacophony, but Militia are too smart for that, never opting to simply bludgeon the listener into submission, and P!P!P! is no exception. Its eleven tracks unfold rather than erupt, slowly but unwaveringly drawing the listener into a world of drones, rhythms and harmonies. If Test Dept are the first point of reference when one first encounters Militia, then perhaps Controlled Bleeding (at least in their slower moods) should be the second.
In addition to being a mature record, P!P!P! also serves as an excellent primer for Militia’s work as a whole. It artfully blends the pure, industrial percussion of 2000’s The Black Flag Hoisted with the more ambient style of 2005’s Everything Is One. Toss in some field recordings, some Tangerine Dreamish progressions and some Steve Reich-like phasing, as on “A Kite Of Glass In A Blood Red Sky”, and you have a diverse and satisfying record. Even if it may not line up perfectly with your own rigid archetype of what “real” industrial music is meant to sound like, Power! Propaganda! Production! is certainly an admirable demonstration of the directions in which that template can be steered once it’s been incepted, and, for my money (or communal bartering standing, in this case) that’s a far more worthy accomplishment. Highly recommended.