There are certain strong alliances between the punk ethos and free music, for a do-it-yourself aesthetic pervades both, in medium as well as practiceself-produced albums and concerts, and collectivity (the Arkestra house as a punk house?) for example, as well as the fact that both have been strongly aligned with protest, both in America and in Europe. Among a coterie of musicians in New York in the early '80s, the merger of ethic and aesthetic fueled a small group of bands, the members of which have gone on to become noted improvisers: Ikue Mori, Arto Lindsay and Thurston Moore are just a few associated with the No Wave "scene" who have taken this path.
Guitarist Lindsay and Mori, then a percussionist, were two-thirds of DNA, one of the most visionary groups of this circle. Releasing a scant few tracks in their approximately four-year lifespan (though over thirty appear on this disc), they evolved quickly, from literal "No Wave" retribution of the jagged, keyboard-fueled post-Kraftwerk New Wave during keyboardist Robin Crutchfield's tenure, to a more driven and propulsive beast with the replacement of Crutchfield with former Pere Ubu bassist Tim Wright. Arto Lindsay's guitar playing of this period owes quite a bit to Sharrock, Bailey and Ray Russell, and his vocalizing is difficult enough to decipher lyrically that it becomes another instrument, either as frantic as his guitar terrorism or as rhythmic as Mori's percussion.
Rhythmically, the Wright-era DNA created some of the most driving music this side of punk, certainly influenced by the subtly changing rhythms of minimalism but also the all-over web of sound produced by Milford Graves' tom collection (yes, there are moments here that could be linked, in however an obscure fashion, with Babi and its ilk). Mori is that much of a drummer (or was; she is now primarily an electronic artist), but Wright's fluid juggernaut is the keystone: with Crutchfield providing an electronic foil to both Mori and Lindsay, the music hit lock-step grooves but didn't really move the way it did with Wright as anchor. Consequently, Mori's percussive contributions carry more weight, and Lindsay's somewhat strangled approach is freer with a true foundation from which to leap.
DNA is not, by any means, free improvisationrather, the link is closer to Captain Beefheart and This Heat, utilizing seeming openness for both taut structural aims and social signifier. Their influenceor that of the proverbial wellhas been felt in many punk groups since, but the fact that two-thirds of this group went on to illustrious places in contemporary composed and improvised music make DNA an important, if somewhat odd branch of the tree. Not to mention perversely and immensely rocking.
Personnel: Arto Lindsay (el-g, voc) Ikue Mori (d) Robin Crutchfield (synth, voc) Tim Wright (el-b, el-g)