Mary Staubitz and Russ Waterhouse’s first release as a duo, a lathe cut 7″ on Gertrude Tapes, is pretty much over as soon as it starts, a brief and concise ten minutes of elusive sound. But strangely, our experience of time during each listen is not nearly as cut-and-dry; the two artists manage to elicit a strong feeling of stasis and permanence in these two short pieces, trapping the listener in comfortable yet subtly sinister ennui extracts that defy our typical conceptions, like the unpredictable, unexplainable temporal distortions that occur during a university class or a shift at work. Plagued by heavily amplified rustles, chewing, and an ongoing churn of heavily processed environmental sound, the sonic scenery of “Pickup for Mark” plots itself with fractured verbal exchanges and ringing telephones. Here, we are both invisible observer and conspicuous trespasser, aware that the events taking place are not caused by ours—or even the artists’—presence, yet keenly cognizant of the jagged, imperfect opening through which we have entered this soundscape, the perceptible seams that expose its artificiality. “Exterior Scroll” is even less concrete, as lo-fi recordings of clattering, cascading junk and other objects disrupt the natural hum of the outdoors and the distant sound of human voices. Staubitz and Waterhouse is one of those modest, unassuming releases that doesn’t make a big deal about itself, but the questions we inevitably ask in deciphering the knotty quandaries it presents are anything but inconsequential.
Even excluding than his previous membership in seminal post-rock bands Fly Pan Am and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, I was already familiar with Roger Tellier-Craig from his work as a trio with Karl Fousek and Devon Hansen, who together have released several cassettes containing some truly fascinating and innovative electroacoustic improvisation. Each, unsurprisingly, also has their own distinguished catalog of solo work, but regrettably I have not made the effort to dig into any of these. Tellier-Craig’s new full-length CD Études makes a strong case for my need to change that. It’s a 50 minute tour-de-force of mind-blowing computer music, with the French sound artist manipulating a diverse array of heavily processed sound objects into increasingly complex formations. On opening track “Duelle,” the arrangements are frequently interrupted by stretches of silence, yet Tellier-Craig’s arsenal of digitally dissected concrete sounds still coalesce into bombastic cacophonies, especially near the end when there’s a brief hint of crystalline melody hidden amidst the tangles. Silence adopts a much more significant role in the following “Jamais d’un vouloir,” where the composer utilizes pure absence to evoke a Frey-esque suspense. Like Frey, too, the nature of the intermittent intrusions of sound recontextualize the moments when there is no sound present at all; the listener is suspended between processing what they’ve just heard and anticipating what will come next—the fragile, flimsy platform we build beneath our feet to avoid falling into nothingness. Études certainly draws from the acrobatics and artificiality that computer-based electroacoustic music makes possible, but it is never cold nor lifeless. As human listeners, we’re always searching for warmth and emotion even when there is none to be found; there is plenty to be found here.
Poe bores me to tears, but one of his most well known stories provides a fitting, albeit overly poetic title for this mix, which is focused on walls that are intensely immersive, some to the point of stifling imprisonment. Ranging from the conspicuously sparse to the overwhelmingly maximalist, these are the pieces that demand to be listened to in entirety, that refuse to relinquish their hold over you until their final minutes expire. As with all of my wall noise mixes, I highly recommend you listen to the full versions of the pieces you enjoy most to get the full effect. Some (I won’t spoil which) even change over the course of the duration.
00:00. JohnW – “-” from Wordless Paragraph (Absent Erratum, 2019)
04:31. Little Fictions – “River Spirit” from River Spirit (Void Worship, 2016)
08:20. Ratteknaeghen – “Deel 1” from Jammerlijke Toestand Door Lichamelijk Contact (Lost Light, 2019)
12:50. Vilgoć – “Granice” from Granice (Szara Reneta, 2020)
17:37. Waves of Light – “Time Is the Destroyer” from Time Is the Destroyer / Myths (Absent Erratum, 2018)
22:40. Ushinawareta Tamashi – “Runessansu” from LB_120 (Lurker Bias, 2018)
27:44. arboreal – “deconstruction” from deconstruction (Perpetual Abjection, 2019)
33:04. Kongcorong – “Kongcorong” from Kongcorong (Nature Noise Wall, 2018)
37:32. Nascitari – “Iopregoperluisullaterra.luipregapermenellospazio” from Your Sewer / My Church (Lost Light, 2016)
Though the title of this site doesn’t solely refer to noise music, that genre was the initial step in my personal odyssey into subversive music as a whole, and it’s always nice to hear something that reminds me of the records that first piqued my oh-so-innocent ears (Rocket Shrine, Life in a Peaceful New World, All Live Recording at My Room). In fact, I first thought of this yesterday, when I listened to and reviewed Connive’s debut self-titled cassette, and I suppose the universe saw it fit to deliver a similarly nostalgia-evoking yet nonetheless fresh and excellent noise album with mainly red cover art. EARTHFLESH is a very new project from Switzerland, and since their inception in December 2019 have put out nine digital releases ranging from full-length albums to shorter tracks and remixes. //- is the first to grace a physical format, and though I haven’t heard any of the artist’s prior catalog, it is undoubtedly a worthy choice. Warm roils of analog distortion, sustained feedback shrieks, and other abrasive sonic emissions emerge as EARTHFLESH finds their footing on opening track “113726,” a succinct and well-structured piece that concludes with some hypnotic loop manipulation. Things spread out on the 28-minute “152913,” which eventually settles into a scorching current of textural noise and screeching feedback tones that could honestly go on forever. The following two tracks embark into less familiar territory, with the sub-minute contact mic crescendo of “173653” serving as a brief interlude before “121329” cuts through with a meaty modular synth cell that gradually expands and is wracked by stuttering blasts of distortion. To anyone as young as me who should listen to this or any other noise album and have their world rocked: keep going. This shit will change your life.
Connive’s self-titled cassette begins with the unmistakable sound of a recording slowed to an extremely low playback rate, a dissective yet messy element that is perhaps in line with the strange low-res artwork on the cover (I can’t even tell what medium was used to create it). But Michael Stumpf’s new project (he has previously released cassettes on Reserve Matinee and other labels as Esper Werm and Faithful) doesn’t waste much time before immersing the listener in what we’re all here for: massive waves of churning harsh noise. The way the dense currents spread and unfurl is very much reminiscent of beloved noise band C.C.C.C., whose celestial, psychedelic maelstroms saturate the entirety of whatever venue in which they’re performing; yet something about the distortion on Connive keeps it more grounded than that—in a good way. This is especially apparent once we get to “Senseless Carnage,” which swaps the full-bodied crunch and squall for a skull-rattling low register rumble that constantly seems like it’s about to shake itself apart. And eventually, that’s exactly what it does: the teeth-grinding oscillations top out with broken peaks that sound like a broken PA’s deafening swan song. The relatively brief “Cheek of Sorrow” isn’t the cathartic mess of screeching feedback and contact mic abuse I was expecting from its being described as a “classic Midwest basement banger,” but it is a nice respite before the eclectic insanity of “Contaminated ‘by the barracks and the sacristy’.” This is a promising debut for Stumpf’s new alias, a concise slab of guerrilla noise that basks as much as it blasts.
There’s something to be said for albums that are just interesting, that immediately seem like puzzles to solve or codes to crack, that present or examine beloved genres and tropes in a singular way. Warp Whistle’s enigmatic release 7D80-0C is one of those albums. There’s not much in the way of illuminating information on the Bandcamp page—just some extremely auspicious genre tags and ambiguously numbered track titles—but this unique debut thrives on its own opacity. Partitioned by several interlude tracks (“5-2,” “5-5,” etc.) are a series of considered, deconstructive tech-hardcore jams, played with both ease and grit to create a sound that is at once intellectual and muscular, complex yet easily graspable. The interplay between the spidery tapped guitar leads and slinking bass is magnetic, and when matched against a forceful, plodding drum backing creates a captivatingly sluggish and sludgy atmosphere (the only other case I can think of where a similar sort of thing is achieved is on Inside the Beehive’s “Bio-Feedback”). Warp Whistle’s music speaks for itself; it is clear that the members have incredible musical chemistry, which allows them to play these subtly elaborate songs in such an enrapturing way. Jagged, metallic, and multifaceted, 7D80-0C, in my opinion, is already on its way to modern obscure classic status.
Playfulness is something in which we all should indulge from time to time. Releases like Abstract Musette illustrate that it’s a welcome presence even in musics traditionally thought of as erudite or academic. The gleeful, irreverent sampling and the sprightly musette influence don’t at all detract from the considered improvisational interactions between turntablist Joke Lanz and accordion player Jonas Kocher—they only enhance them. Lanz’s jarring swipes and scratches are often purely textural, occasionally humorous or serendipitous, but always engaging; together with the familiar waltzing slices of the accordion the two musicians’ creations take the form of wobbly, unpredictable cascades and tumbles, almost like a chopped-up field recording of a particularly odd carnival attraction. The short track lengths complement the music well, yet “Rêve de Clarinette,” the longest piece on the album, is undoubtedly its centerpiece, a roiling cornucopia of fleeting horn samples, record crackle loops, pitched-down vocal extracts, and breathtaking extended techniques. The instruments Lanz and Kocher use, historically speaking, obviously have very different levels of involvement with improvised music in general, but the record nonetheless showcases a pair of revolutionary unconventional approaches that are fascinating enough on their own—and even more so amidst the infectious stylistic territory achieved on Abstract Musette.
“IF I WAS A TINY FASHION DOG I WOULD PISS EVERYWHERE IN CONSTANT RAGE AT THE EUGENICS PROGRAM THAT STOPPED ME FROM BEING A WOLF!” screams UK poet, improviser, and musician Yol on “Fashion Dog,” but it takes them quite a long time to arrive at that lucid of a sentence. The opening track on Hideous Response, the artist’s new tape release for Cardboard Club, is everything abstract lingual performance should be: humorous, confusing, harrowing, unsettling, fun. Yol stumbles and sputters over the bizarre hypothetical with the shuddering inconsistency of someone wracked with tears and (appropriately) the anger of a tiny fashion dog who wasn’t allowed to be a wolf, forcing out words and phrases out of order, repeating things incorrectly, shouting until the limitations of their own body cuts them off. One might think there’s no way this maniacal intensity can be maintained for the album’s full duration—and one would be very, very wrong. The bewildering vocal utterances are absent on “Flooring,” but the high volumes and overall abrasiveness are still very much present throughout the nearly five minute snare drum improvisation, recorded at such a close distance that the impacts and hits are nothing short of deafening. The curiously ethereal instrumentals and lunatic babbling of “Updated Fairground Ride” gives off barn sour vibes, “Shutting Up” whips up screeching object clatter into punishing harsh noise–scapes, words die battered and bloody in the artist’s throat on “Sanding Off” despite being surrounded by a tranquil outdoor environment. This is an uncompromising study of sound and a human’s role in its production, manifested as the ramblings and discarded litter of a complete madman. Try not having nightmares after hearing the title track. I dare you.
I have a modestly sized list of music-related key words that, should I see them in any tags or blurbs for a release, guarantee that I’ll at least try to listen to something. One of the first of these that comes to mind, as well as the one that applies to this particular album, is “cut-up”; while the phrase has become far more nuanced as a stylistic descriptor since its coining by William S. Burroughs (at least for auditory/musical purposes) in the late 50’s, its association to a wide range of artists who are all personal favorites of mine—John Wiese, Developer, Chlorgeschlect, Kazumoto Endo, Andrea Pensado, Facialmess, Otomo Yoshihide, etc.—validates its buzzword status. Appliancide’s new tape lowest common denominator, which also appears to be the Fargo project’s debut full-length release, immediately cements its worthiness of the “cut-up” label with the opening title track: a restless, hyperactive frenzy of high-speed noise collaging, shattered industrial rhythms, and a ridiculously eclectic array of auxiliary samples. Appliancide’s approach is instantly magnetic, and maintains its frenetic pace over the course of the eight minute track with ease. Things slow down a bit when we get to “purity balls deep,” a more subdued patchwork of dated speech extracts and context-scooped conversations, while “The Rectal Escalator” offers up a splintered racket of tactile concrete sounds. At its heart, lowest common denominator is a noise album, but the pleasingly indiscriminate sample use and surrealist sensibilities will also appeal to fans of LAFMS dada choppers like Joseph Hammer or forgotten oddball classics such as Mind / Body / Split’s If It’s Not On It’s Not On. This tape is not only the best thing I’ve heard from Black Ring Rituals; it’s also the best cut-up noise I’ve heard in recent memory.
Vitaly Maklakov’s static noise on his new untitled release for Perpetual Abjection (as Light Collapse) is lo-fi, dirty, crusted, like urban grime collected on the undercarriage of an old taxi or the nameless coagulant between the seams of ancient cobblestones. No, this five-track CD does not possess the same enrapturing clarity and immersive channel arrangement as, say, Vilgoć’s recent release Granice, but that doesn’t make it any less captivating. The first piece is the longest at 16 mins (the others hover around the 8 min mark) and sets the stage for Maklakov’s minimal, earthy palette with a subdued stretch of muffled crumble. It bores into your head with a subtle but deliberate force, and will begin to eat away at your sense of time until you end up at the other end without much memory of how you got there. The coarse, unrefined nature is further constructed by the transition into the second track, which begins unassumingly with what appears to be a slow fade-in of hiss and crackle, but those slight sounds are immediately smothered by the central drone: a throaty, bassy hum that evokes a strangely detached sense of claustrophobia. The following pieces are even more unstable, loping into existence with barely any force or drive, unstable nocturnal soundscapes devoid of much for the listener to hold on to at all. PA015 is artfully anemic, challenging not our patience but instead our desire, our need for substance and weight by refusing it entirely. Wall noise broken and fatigued on a mud-encrusted sickbed.