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“You don’t really have to know how to play, but if you do something interesting, that’s the important thing,” says the Contortions’ Pat Place in Marc Masters’ deeply researched history of New York’s No Wave scene. You’ve probably heard lines like that one before—every punk scene fetishizes its primitivism. But No Wavers were uniquely unschooled, careful to neither devolve into noise nor concede to pop: Glenn Branca’s and Rhys Chatham’s early guitar pieces had all the chaos and stray energy of a downed power line, the first iteration of DNA had both a language barrier and a how-do-we-play-our-instruments problem, and early Swans shows were infamously confrontational, skull-crushingly loud affairs. Manhattan rents in the early ’80s were cheap enough that artists, filmmakers, and musicians had the time to figure out what they wanted to say, and though No Wave never got slick, it did eventually acquire a sense of rhythm. Inspired by Suicide’s menacing, fuzzed-out organ tracks­—music for a merry-go-round where the horses are replaced with black eels­—a host of No Wave bands strived for elliptical simplicity; it’s no surprise that once one of them charted, it was with a dance tune, Bush Tetras’ “Too Many Creeps.” Masters, a D.C. music journalist, builds No Wave on interviews with key players like Arto Lindsay, Lydia Lunch, Michael Gira, and more, and though he journeys deep into the discographical woods, he’s careful to preserve the narrative thread. (Hop on the trend now: In June, Thurston Moore and Byron Coley will put out their own No Wave book.) Masters discusses and signs copies of his book at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3, at George Washington University’s Phillips Hall, 801 22nd St. NW, Rm B120. $5. playhaus@panicresearch.com