Lounge Music and Subversion

I used to be fixated on an idea of making a kind of music that would explore ultraviolence, at a social level rather than an individual level (which is another topic). I thought of it as a conceptual exploration that could obviate any sort of “angry young man” music, my rationale being that a teenager flipping the bird or even a serial killer was absurd in the face of German tanks rolling into Poland. Now I’ve returned to an interest in subversion, but more in the subversion of personal identity specifically as we create spaces for ourselves within some sort of social/cultural/historical context. I don’t care about subverting “the Man”, I’m interested in art that subverts the self, (because, after all, aren’t we our own “the Man”?) Martin Denny encapsulates this very nicely for me.

I was first introduced to Martin Denny and “Exotic” music not in the context of the late nineties lounge kitsch revival (blech), but through Industrial culture. I remember seeing a book about his music in the local occult shop, sitting amid a shelf full of photocopied zines about radical body modification and BDSM. It couldn’t have been a starker contrast, and I guess that’s why I remember it specifically and the other publications on the shelf have been generalized into a slurried memory of pale emaciated people in leather exposing themselves.

Martin Denny’s music is of course the prototype for most of what we call lounge music. Judged by that context alone, it might strike you as comically banal. In fact, I’m not sure if his music is legitimately creepy or if its creepy because of my own introduction to it, which is the thing that interests me. The placid calmness of it is in such diametric opposition to the most brutally aggressive music that demands submission (see: Whitehouse, for example). Denny’s music is hypnotic, familiar and peculiar at the same time. Where aggression fails to intimidate me into submission, Denny coerces me, which is just as much about surrender of will.