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Straight Panic’s “Wasted Land” Is an Atonal Attempt at Bringing Politics Back to the Dance Floor

Straight Panic’s Wasted Land is almost one year old. The tape could get lost in Thomas Boettner’s loquacious discography, but Wasted Land is no trifling meditation. Straight Panic has helped to reinvent power electronics’ culture stateside, and then Boettner left Minneapolis for New Orleans to further plumb the depths of the psychic and cultural life of estranged gay men. He is the sole member of Straight Panic, Fuck Mtn. Limited Release, and is all but literally lost in Wasted Land. Straight Panic conducts a caustic play of LGBTQ+ and homophobic samples hemorrhaging in drapes of industrial noise.

Boettner’s Fuck Mtn. Limited Release is a fledgling label. The Discogs page claims that the name was an inside joke, but Boettner easily culled new talent from Minneapolis and St. Paul like Monowolf as well as the initiated Skin Graft, but Fuck Mtn. is all about Boettner’s three-year affair with Straight Panic.

Straight Panic’s “queer power electronics” focuses on the marginalized gay men of the experimental art world. Boettner has already greeted the new year with the poet Mark Doty’s Homo Will Not Inherit, adapted to Straight Panic, and released on Fusty Cunt,

where desire’s unpoliced, or nearly so
someone’s posted a xeroxed headshot
of Jesus: permed, blonde, blurred at the edges
as though photographed through a greasy lens,
and inked beside him, in marker strokes:
HOMO WILL NOT INHERIT. Repent & be saved.

While focusing on the “margins,” which Doty describes as a “shadow-zone (mirror and dream of the shattered streets around it),” Boettner wrote songs about Magne Andreassen, who was murdered by one-time Emperor drummer Bard Faust Elthun. The impetus is clear. Boettner is testing power electronics’ dominant cis-gendered hetero male.

But he isn’t willing to commit to power electronics only. His different projects—whether they be solo (Straight Panic, Family Planning, the defunct Fire Island, AK) or in a group like GASP—embrace elegantly textured harsh noise wall, burbling Casio noise, and on Wasted Land, a furtive rhythm.

Straight Panic | Credit: Olivia Munsell

However, you’d be hard-pressed to figure this out from the album cover—a monochrome bouquet and the patch “Don’t Ask! None of Your Fucking Business” (from the 22nd Military Airlift Squadron). At first, Wasted Land looks like principled art noise, but Boettner’s “back to the basics” style a la the Grey Wolves is best displayed by the titles “Jihad,” “Prey to God,” etc. through their controversial religious and philosophical themes.

Straight Panic’s reverence for Slogun and Whitehouse runs into Wasted Land’s labyrinth and is lost for a while. Moreover, we lose Boettner amongst the opposing ideologies:  for example, the emerging LGBTQ+ and reactive hetero-conservatism samples at play on both “Verboten” and “Jihad”:

“Did you see who moved in down the street?”
“A hetero couple.”

And the speech in the midst of “Jihad”:

“The pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle are the enemies of America.”

Wasted Land is sample-heavy. The conservative blurbs are pressed back with guarded lust (“Let me ask you something:  You ever have your cock sucked by a man?”), fiercely evinced against Boettner’s musicianship, which bears resemblance to Gnawed’s recent Pestilence Beholden. Like banks on a river, the samples set Wasted Land on its course. The LGBTQ+ stance versus the hetero-conservatism often overpowers Boettner’s own voice. His orations are barely audible.

Straight Panic certainly isn’t a traditional power electronics artist. Boettner plays to the genre’s foils—heavy concrete textures contrasted with high-frequency peals and a snarl that’s unintelligibly muffled and delayed—but Straight Panic’s sample-heavy approach and Wasted Land’s obvious themes differ from the canon. When Straight Panic makes a peep, Boettner is of Pain Nail’s ilk on Bulldog or Alfarmania on Hålögd Insikt. And that’s Straight Panic at its more toned-downed moments. Straight Panic has just moved his marginalization to the fore. In fact, the best comparison of all may very well be to Plack Blague, or even Black Leather Jesus, but in light of our recent article covering the depth of queer noise, those comparisons felt all too obvious.

There is a glaring lack of LGBTQ+ voices in power electronics. Boettner challenges that situation by hoisting Straight Panic’s politics up into the spotlight:  the plight of gay men, especially those of the experimental artist’s persuasion, in America. Wasted Land is his greatest step yet in channeling Straight Panic into the industrial conversation.

Track List:

A1) White Nights
A2) Verboten
A3) Penance
A4) Nihil
A5) Jihad
A6) Prey to God
A7) Agony & Ecstasy
A8) Leper
B1) 19.12.15 Live at Palmer’s Bar
B2) Verboten (Demo 8.12.15)
B3) Penance (Demo 8.12.15)
B4) Jihad (Demo 8.12.15)

Written by: Colin L.
Label: Fuck Mtn. Label Records (United States) / FMLR-021 / Tape, Digital
Noise / Power Electronics / Industrial