For his 25th CD as Nocturnal Emissions, Nigel Ayers has created a work that balances noise and vocal samples against a wild array of loops and rhythm tracks. It’s a tantalizingly spicy cocktail that sounds nothing like an out-of-control hip-hop dump truck being driven backwards through an octogenarian’s barn dance. “Collateral Salvage” is beat-oriented toe-tappin’ music constructed from hundreds of different samples of indie guitar-pop, interspersed with fragments of song and surreal speech. Strong bass lines run throughout, and the rhythms are a blend of funk and exotic eastern promise. Subtle tonalities, acoustic guitar flavors, swingin’ saxophones, flutes and horns are piled high over tabla and soaring vintage analogue synthesizers. Mbiras mix with driftwood marimbas, wicky-wicky guitars and pitch-shifted sitars in a swirling belly-dance dub sock-hop.
“Collateral Salvage” was inspired by the sounds of modern Morocco. Late at night, lying in a bath, listening to the output of three different nightclubs, each with their own blend of local music mixed with international pop hits, all in a constant struggle for dominance, with water running in and out of the ears. The resourcefulness of human endeavor in the Third World and its contrast with the luxuries and carefree wastefulness of the developed world provided the foundation for the album. This is the music of resistance against the constant war being waged by the powerful elite in rich nations against the poor. When Bush says “you’re either with us or you’re against us” Ayers replies “There is no separation. Social divides are socially constructed. A forgotten branch of the avant-garde once suggested that art can direct thought along new lines and enable us to generate more positive patterns of social behavior.
The title of the album is a play on words, referring to the term “collateral damage” and, perhaps somewhat more obviously, “salvage”. Collateral damage was brought into common use as a byproduct of Gulf War I. It got another boost as a result of Gulf War II. It’s a polite euphemism for what happens when the non-combatants (another euphemism for “civilians”) are unintentionally injured or killed during the course of an attack on a target, but it has come to symbolize much more, and is now used to describe other situations in which unintended consequences result from sloppy execution of plans. “Salvage” as it relates to recycling and recovery, has become very important to today’s society. The earth contains a limited supply of renewable and non-renewable resources. Finding ways to reuse the components of our trash is paramount to our survival. “Collateral Salvage” is the musical expression of a kind of sonic recycling that seeks to reuse previously recorded sounds, but has unanticipated and unintended outcomes. With the best bits from all the best songs, it’s the ultimate distillation of the last fifty years of civilization. Nigel Ayers has been running his anti-career in Nocturnal Emissions since 1979. Nobody really knows what he does for a living. He is described by his friends as “a professional freak”.