When people talk about the 1980s, it’s often in hyper-pop-culture terms. Hair gel, shoulder pads, synth pop, yuppie culture, etc. In fact, it was an intense, often serious time both culturally and artistically.
Americans chose a former B-movie actor of questionable intelligence to be their president. On the other side of the Cold War, we watched the decline of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics gather speed as the decade progressed.
Musically, the same tech that was loading Britain’s pop charts up with sugary synthesizer riffs was being put to more progressive use by independent artists around the world. Psychic TV, Einstürzende Neubauten, Zoviet France and countless others made arguably the most anti-commercial music ever recorded. While the mainstream was awash in crass luxury and capital market hubris, these acts were inventing new ways to make serious art.
The Fossil Aerosol Mining Project was in the middle of it all. Creatively at least – the collective lived and worked in the American Midwest. Land of Walmart, Reagan Democrats and county-fair Ferris wheels.
According to its website, the Project “began in the mid 1980s as a loose-knit group of artists and collectors interested in exploring and gathering the damaged remains of late 20th century popular culture. Of particular appeal were inadvertent examples of the post-industrial, post-apocalyptic landscapes so commonly imagined in Cold War-era media. Places and debris that fostered views of modern pop mummified, and contemporary provisions made artifact. Zombie pepsis and fossil aerosols.”
Not counting their early recordings (compiled on Cassette Recordings, 1983-1995), August 53rd is the Project’s 25th release. It is every bit as challenging and exciting as the group’s vintage material.
Going back and listening to the avant-garde music produced in the 1980s, it’s hard not to marvel at how progressive a lot of it still sounds. The music produced by acts like Fossil Aerosol Mining Project continues to progress and remain relevant, not just because of advances in music tech.
The political, cultural and environmental difficulties that began to emerge in the 1970s and 1980s are all more acute than ever. More and more, we need artists who see themselves as both musicians and documentarians. Add Fossil Aerosol Mining Project to a short list of creatives who’ve kept the faith.