Glenn Branca’s musical beginnings go back to the 1960s, when he was still a teenager and active in various cover bands. Parallel to his theatre studies in Boston, he developed what would later become his characteristic minimalist guitar playing, while at the same time repeatedly experimenting with sound art pieces. After moving to New York in 1976, he first founded a theatre group (together with Jeffrey Lohn); the following year, he formed his first band entirely dedicated to the No Wave idea, Theoretical Girls, and in 1978 The Static (together with Ess and Hahn). Following the more song-based approaches of these two groups, he devoted himself from 1980 onwards entirely to his solo career as a composer. His in some cases symphonic works – for up to 100 guitars – sounded out droning and the microtonality of long repeated chords. Branca, who also ran Neutral Records, an important label for the New York noise scene, composed for entire orchestras from the seventh to the sixteenth of his symphonies, only to return to his trademark, unorthodox, overtone-saturated guitar harmonies towards the end of his life.
In late 1977, Barbara Ess and Christine Hahn began playing together in the formation Daily Life, which initially included Glenn Branca and the artist Paul McMahon. After they broke up, the trio continued parallel to Branca’s band Theoretical Girls under the name The Static. With Ess on bass and Hahn on drums, the group recorded the single ‘My Relationship/Don’t Let Me Stop You’ in 1979 and in the same year recorded an instrumental session at a performance by Dan Graham in London, which was subsequently released on cassette.
This is where the paths of the individual musicians’ careers branch out: In 1980, Ess began playing in the well-known feminist No-Wave trio Y Pants. Partly with toy instruments and a penchant for unruly urgency, the group recorded cover versions of Jagger/Richards that ran against the grain, set Bertolt Brecht and Emily Dickinson to music and formed one of those early eighties post-punk bands that propagated a new female self-image. Traditional (heteronormative) relationships came under fire primarily from Y Pants: ‘Got this feeling for you – beat it down!’ and ‘Love’s a disease, a viral infection’, as their songs aptly put it. Later, Ess, who in the 1980s also recorded several radio plays revolving around female characters for the sound art cassette magazine Tellus, continued her feminist approach to music with the band Ultra Vulva and, in 2001, together with the artist Peggy Ahwesh, in the project Radio Guitar.
Christine Hahn, who was part of the trio CKM (together with Kim Gordon and Stanton Miranda), as well as The Static, met Martin Kippenberger in 1979, which resulted in the joint project Luxus (with Eric Mitchell). Their double single, which is still sought after today, is the epitome of rude, dilettante artist music. Hahn subsequently moved to Berlin, where she recorded cool minimalist synth odes with Tangerine Dream and the Iggy Pop drummer Klaus Krüger (featured on the LPs One Is One and Zwischenmischung). Her work with the all-female new wave band Malaria! became incomparably more successful and continues to exert a lasting stylistic influence to this day. From the beginning of 1981, they set new standards in the German-speaking music context and landed smaller hits like ‘Your Turn to Run’ and ‘Kaltes klares Wasser’, which were also played in New York’s trendy clubs. After Malaria! broke up in 1983, Hahn stayed away from making music for a while, only to return in 2017, together with her Malaria! colleague Bettina Köster, in the latter’s minimal synth epic Kolonel Silvertop.