Midwest Radiator Sessions marks Chicago musician Joe Cavaliere’s 25th release as Springboard, and yet the vast majority of his work does not get anywhere near the amount of recognition it deserves, which is why I don’t mind writing this even after covering “The Coward” a few months ago. In almost direct contrast to that album’s eclectic array of disparate sound sources and hyperactive, impatient pacing, this new tape from Structures Without Purpose is an entrancing series of moody, grime-smeared industrial phantasmagorias. Even behind the fuliginous curtains that shroud most of the pieces, Midwest Radiator Sessions often seems to be above all else a search for textural sublimity within that which is stubbornly unmusical in its pragmatism—something it achieves quite frequently, whether it’s the pestilential ambience like a squelching symphony of microscopic decomposers on “Rustler” or the humming mechanical monotony of the following “Boiler.” Much of the lumbering assemblages end up somewhere between the material-detail experiments of Small Cruel Party and the indiscriminate manual chaos of classic Haters, both beautiful and crude in an entirely unassuming, almost completely neutral manner. The sluggish “Conductor” offers a change of pace in the form some good ol’ melted-junk noise that sounds like it was extracted from tape buried under ten feet of earth, and “Dweller” wraps things up with a mildewy whirl of gouged frequencies and hisses of decay. By the end I’m not sure whether I want to go urban exploring or curl up in a dark corner.
In noise music, well-executed tributes, whether explicitly identified or arbitrarily ascribed, tend to be applauded and appreciated at a much higher rate, perhaps higher than any other genre with a similar breadth of history. From my view there’s an easy explanation for this: because the tradition is so distinct from conventional and even other unconventional musical approaches in its stripped-down, confrontational viscerality, it often flips the usual script of sound 🡲 emotion, supplanting the instantaneous impact of its extreme volume, presence, and timbre over any other more complex point of analysis one might make—thus creating the very immediate “you like it or you don’t” quality. This happens occasionally with specific songs or albums in any genre, but it’s significantly more consistent in noise, and allows for fans new and old to hear recent acts like Wolf Creek or Berserk and be swept in right away, heads nodding and eyes scrunched up before any thoughts of “hey, this is definitely in the vein of older stuff,” and by that time one is ready to finish that sentence with “…and that’s okay.” This discussion is quite relevant to Yamagata artist Ugogg’s new release 涛涛 (pronounced tao tao), which not only takes plenty of cues from classic Japanese pedal stalwarts in the music itself but is also tagged with the “japanoise” descriptor. Much of the succinct release has that merciless high end that seems to grind and screech at the same time as masses of electronics flash, flicker, and fracture in the lower ranges. “壺壺” starts out violently loud and only grows more intense as massive sonic caverns open below the caustic crackle, shifting with tremendous weight like tectonic plates made of dark matter; “線線” is like the searing metallic squeal when the dentist goes overboard with the drill (and the pain that comes along with it); “礬礬” and “拷拷” both feature ruthless virtuosity and buried vocals that make me want to hear it blaring at an unhealthy volume from speakers in some cramped back room and with my own eyes watch this merciless mangler bring silence to its knees.
Besides the initial serendipity of their sharing a name with one of the greatest unsung hardcore punk bands of all time, Croatian quintet Wasteland first caught my undivided attention with the bestial power of vocalist Morgoth’s screams, which combine the hoarse, raked-across-a-razor rasping of old with a fresh fervor as clear as a mountain spring, often double-tracked and layered in a way that makes them resonate even more. Mora, from both an instrumental and lyrical standpoint, is uncompromisingly pagan, not in the neologized sense of simply incorporating folk flavors and an appreciation for the natural world, but rather the original definition, which from a Slavic perspective harkens back to pre-Christianization when the spread of western religion led many European groups, notably the Narentines in southern Croatia, to become even more obstinate and zealous in their nature-centric and polytheistic belief systems. This historical atmosphere comes through most saliently in the words of the incendiary opening track “Ledene Duše,” an intensely apocalyptic and anti-Christian disaster story, and “Pokolj,” which embodies the fearful but ultimately courageous Nordic forces that fought off their evangelist invaders. Throughout these vivid evocations runs an unyielding current of superbly executed black metal bells and whistles, from percussion that seems to shift between programmed and live kit drums (or, perhaps, programmed and better-programmed) to memorable melodic guitar licks and well-placed In the Nightside Eclipse synths, all of which come together on magnificent closer “Zvijer II.” With all of the nauseating, fascist nationalistic ignorance so deeply embedded in this genre’s chronology and culture, it’s always immensely refreshing to find and enjoy something that understands what we should actually love about our “nations”: the awe-inspiring, terrible beauty of the land itself.
Obnoxious error noises, flash game improvisations, useless pseudo-remixes, server innards, connection, solitude… these are a few of my favorite things.
00:00. Hyperlink – “504: gateway time-out” from Web Timeout (Nmesh, 2016)
00:49. RINGEX PLASTER – excerpts from “Let’s play Super Mario Bros to save Mushroom Princess right now!!! The Mushroom Princess is being held captive by the evil Koopa tribe of turtles. Super Mario Bros. NEW! Hot! Pac-man.. Start Game. … Super Mario World: Peach Blast. NEW! Hot! Mario Forever. NEW! Hot! Mario …” from Super Mario Brothers: New Super Mario Flash Online Game (self-released, 2020)
03:36. Youtube: Naliboki Woods – Dial Up (5 Feb 2021)
07:08. Ketchup Johns – “Bejewelled Frisbee” from Life Simulator (self-released, 2017)
08:56. Network Glass – “5.52 [Minecraft]” from Twitch (Salon, 2020)
14:48. food item – “It’s Actually an Energy Drink, but Who Cares.” from Yeah! Food Item Transmission. (7Form, 2020)
15:25. Windows 98の – BLUE SCREEN 002 [excerpt] (Pizza Beast, 2016)
20:23. Youtube: panicking at the wrong disco – “mr. brightside” but you’re crying in a bathroom at a party because your crush brought a date… (18 Nov 2020)
24:10. Ned Paige – A side [excerpt] of Ad Tape (Podunk, 2019)
28:04. XoArK – “ghted Bid Pric8 $26.es Weighted Bid” from CR061-1. 5ThLi cf 3 44lsy. 6/9-Z CY. 230. 30Z- c-,`. 414/5y Scp. IlenOMMIND. SrRvc-l’akt–. 11-5. 5-6 … cLe)( d’AfX1 1/z,ci70 .)(it 40 “/r) 1’1. WhAf. … English. TON. 5/2013 – 5/2014. Unit price quantity breakouts. Unit Price Statistics. Min Quantity. (7Form, 2020)
30:29. ~~~ – “:;:” from ~~:;:~~ (Absolute Trash Media, 2021)
32:42. RINGEX CLASSIC – Live @ Roblox Mall V.6.0 Apr 22nd 2020 (self-released, 2020)
It’s been less than a month since I last wrote about something from Flower Ark, and yet I am already compelled to do so again for Seep. There’s always something more appealing about harsh noise artists and labels that don’t make a big deal out of their material or aesthetic but still take themselves seriously enough that one is actually inclined to listen; Fishing Boat and the other acts I’ve come across via the Melbourne web imprint fit that description perfectly, presenting very little aside from the music itself. There are no clues as to how literal a role the aquatic/maritime imagery plays other than a release-specific “electroacoustic” tag, which may indicate a primitive concrète approach to water-related or even undersea site recordings a la Thousands of Dead Gods or David Gatten’s film What the Water Said. Identifying the true source of whatever sounds lurk beneath the barbaric processing on these three tracks would be an impossible task, however, because much of Seep, especially opener “Wildlife Water Source,” is an uncompromising Charybdis of no-fi pedal crunch, crammed into glorious, punishing mostly-mono for maximum baptism efficiency. Like all good tracks in this style, the 17-minute introduction is at once distant and oppressive, a sustained slab of roiling distortion that constantly breaks and reforms itself. I would’ve been happy with another one of those to complete the album, but Fishing Boat guarantees I’ll be on the lookout for their name in the future with “Powerline,” a breathtaking junk-glitch masterpiece that summons a razor-edged psychedelia with a cauldron of piercing electronic pulses and fractured frequency serrations. And while you’re still reeling from that, “Failed Dam” combines the two in a heaving mass of broken, stuttering static that seems to permeate every inch of one’s head. Pick this up and experience the overwhelming terror of open water in the warm, dry, leviathan-less (I hope) comfort of your own home.
Any band would be hard pressed to successfully follow up the short, slamming dose of thrashcore fury that was the Connecticut four-piece’s 2020 demo, but Kidnapped is hardly “any band.” Either they’re ingenious prodigies or they listen to even more hardcore than I do (or both) because there are countless moments throughout Nowhere Is Sterile that briefly remind me of other fantastic bands—Iron Lung in the way the blurring blasts and elastic tempo changes of opening track “Bled” feel at once boneheadedly brutal and artfully intricate; Aerosols in the strangely infectious harsh-vocal motifs and gunked-up gallops; even (at the risk of making your ears bleed from hearing about them too damn much lately) Gulch in how basic power chord plods are used in a manner somewhat analogous to breakdowns—but even as I’m writing the comparisons down they feel somewhat tenuous, because Kidnapped’s style is not just entirely their own, but also tightly bound into a seamless package of musical aggression, allowing them to pull off things like the vicious, chugging 7-time coda of “Circling the Drain” or light-speed cacophony of bite-sized closer “Unwound” without fraying at the edges. I might be imagining things, but the drums seem to have markedly improved for this first full-length effort, mapping the serpentine skeleton of the dizzying riff arrangements on “Pedestal” and pulling together “Herd” for a thrashing close that I’m surprised hasn’t resulted in any holes in my wall (yet). The whole thing is over in barely ten minutes—but it will remain ricocheting around your skull long after that. Best hope you don’t have too much brain for it to tear up.
The music found on Sketches isn’t the flesh-and-blood creature that slithers out of that ominous archway set into the rock, but rather the reality-bending mass of cold, grey ones and zeroes that seeps into your vulnerable brain when you look at the image on an electronic screen. It has just enough tangibility and uneasy familiarity to pass itself off as homemade clutter-concrète, but much heavier processing in the form of gelatinous synth slaps, damaged artifacts from extremely low sample rates, and silicon-sheened frequency extracts is pervasive, poisoning even the most earthbound tracks like the queasily ritualistic “Spinal Drop” with skin-crawling artificiality and necrotizing bit rot. An odd optimism emerges on “49,” which contrasts bleak, faltering text-to-speech laments with conventional, if slightly chilly harmonic ambience, yet any true resolution is again unseated by stubborn imperfections: chopped-and-stitched creaks spread like a digitized rainstorm, cloying currents of spectral decay. The careless, largely uninteresting percussion experimenting of “Mechanomics” is an unfortunate low point, but the singular appeal Shotty Jon introduces without full commitment returns with the closing track, a moody collage of dross, doldrum, and distance whose pairing of piano elegy with muffled murk and domestic abstraction echoes the addictive melancholia of trans-Atlantic colleagues barn sour. Won’t you crawl on in with me?
It seems intuitive that the more one writes about, assesses, or analyzes some sort of esoteric object that innately tends to defy description, the more language itself will start to fail, its limitations exposing the gaps in linguistic representation between two things that are clearly different yet don’t appear to be “on paper.” But it turns out it’s the opposite; one doesn’t just discover new words and syntactical structures that provide more outlets for accurate conveyance, but also previously concealed nuances and implicit currents that lurk and work well below the sentence level, which can often only be deployed instinctively via a deep, holistic personal appreciation for the topic at hand. I refer, of course, to wall noise, a genre with which I’ve come a long way in terms of satisfying review coverage—hell, these days it’s frequently the only thing I can seem to bring myself to write about, or even find new material in the first place. Several years ago I certainly would not have had the capacity to communicate what precisely I enjoy about Suffering to Sovereignty, the first full-length digital release from Massachusetts duo Fuct as Punk; it is, ostensibly, “typical” near-stagnant harsh noise fare, for the most part just crunchy analogue pedal distortion doing its thing. But what really prevent these two tracks from being at all forgettable are their consistent anchor points, spots of palpably physical interaction by the musicians that affect the noise somehow: briefly halt it, strip it down to an isolated frequency, force it in a new direction. The approach is such that the thick electronic squall is not dynamic, exactly, but not static either, rather a brutal, deadlocked battle of incremental assaults between an unyielding pile of screaming junk and its makers (who, appropriately, are never quite satisfied with what that screaming sounds like). Grounded by these tangible exchanges of blows, Fuct as Punk’s walls climb to the sooty heavens in an escalating feedback loop of violence, culminating in spectacular messes such as the hyperactive delay pedal glitching in the title track. Both exhilarating and exhausting, Suffering to Sovereignty is not the most conceptually compelling wall noise release we’ve seen this year, but there’s always a place for crude sonic annihilation, especially the sort that gives rise to things within ourselves that we’d rather stay buried.
Every time I try to sit down and write this review with Pulsations in my ears I barely make it a few sentences in before falling back into the tape’s powerful hypnosis. There is something so remarkably special about this release from Dino, who, despite being apparently a “seminal figure” in the Taipei noise scene and having won awards for his film sound effects work, I have somehow never heard of. It turns out that’s not entirely my fault, because before this he’s only put out one other tape under this alias, and that was just a few years ago in 2018, so it appears that his “seminal” status has been achieved entirely through the reputation of his live performances, which seems an exceedingly likely explanation given the strength of the “outdoor guerilla gig” recordings collected here. Dino’s approach lies somewhere between traditional scavenged-electronics harsh noise and more texturally nuanced electroacoustic improvisation, with countless other bizarre yet quite fitting tinctures that imbue the music with magnetic intrigue: mangled loops of Fisher-Price jingles and circuit chirps; twinges of skittering psychedelia; yawning expanses of empty space under even the loudest, harshest churns. The tracks are ambiguously referred to as “the first 4 of Dino’s live recording[s]” (they could be the first ever or the first of that series of sets) so I’m not sure whether they were recorded two decades ago or last month, but it doesn’t really matter, because while the outdoor environment plays an important and sometimes highly audible role in the unique listening experience that is Pulsations, it’s not something that distracts or is simply auxiliary. Piercing, often painfully caustic scrap-scrabble shrieking into the muffling endlessness of the air—I won’t be forgetting these sounds anytime soon.
I once read an excellent pseudo-topological analysis of Beckett’s Malone Dies and The Unnamable that focused on the renowned author’s linguistic construction of narrative selves as “vessels,” specifically a Klein bottle, a “container-contained” object that defies conventional concepts of inside and outside (Dukes, Hunter. “Beckett’s Vessels and the Animation of Containers.” Journal of Modern Literature 40.4 (Summer 2017): 75–89). In The Lost Ones, a later and lesser-known but no less essential work, the geometric figure of interest is a cylinder—“fifty metres round and sixteen high for the sake of harmony” (202)—in which mobile bodies absent of any recognizable humanness act out a bleak semblance of existence. The first and title piece on accomplished sound artist Paul Ramage’s new tape Détours de Manège (Carousel Detour) is influenced by this setting, and in collaboration with choreographer Flora Gaudin aims to “stage the desperate quest for an outcome that we all know does not exist within our hearts”—some Beckett shit for sure. The dense, kinetic music seems rhythmic in the absolute loosest sense of the word; it appropriately “throbs with constant unchanging beat and fast but not so fast that the pulse is no longer felt,” cascading tendrils of burbling electronics, crystalline concrète, and dizzying stereo sweeps “brush[ing],” like the cylinder-bound entities, “together with a rustle of dry leaves” (Beckett 203, 213). To see this piece performed in full would most likely be awe-inspiring with an undercurrent of profound dread (sound familiar?). After a brief interlude, “Changement de cap” (“Change of course”) takes a similar approach to abstract dance scoring, this time highly allusive to “traditional” forms and genres even as its haunting, loop-stitched, near-formless soundscape pulls further and further away from familiarity. All in all a brief but deceptively difficult release that succeeds in connecting the nigh-unconnectable.