Review: Michael Wall – Four Walls Falling (self-released, Feb 9)

Traditions are not meant to broken, not honored; but, in fact, the most important traditions end up being honored in being broken. Chicago stalwart Michael Knagge knows this as well as anyone. Through his formidably consistent Amateur Electronics imprint he contributes to an ongoing process of simultaneously maintaining and fundamentally altering the standard “noise aesthetic”—both visually and sonically—and his host of solo aliases and side projects both make use of and violate the conventions of genres ranging from black metal and dungeon synth to drone and dark ambient. But my favorite of his work has to be the material he releases as Michael Wall, which so far comprises Two WallsFour Walls, and now Four Walls Falling, a digital version of a track recorded for the first installment of the Banality zine/mixtape series. The single ten-minute wall is an addictive slab of classic analog crunch, with thickly layer torrents of distortion jetting upward and then swirling in an opaque yet ever-shifting mass that completely fills the stereo field. However, as I said, when Knagge is involved there’s some sort of oddness going on, something lurking behind the scenes that changes the music in a fundamental way. Here that manifests as things like the shrill, just-shy-of-tonal ghost electronics that falter and fade in the shadows (Night of the Bloody Tapes, anyone??) and the unique and utterly incredible way in which the piece ends, which I don’t even want to spoil for you. From most other artists a release like this might be a throwaway, or at least an inessential relative to the rest of their work, but Knagge puts his all into every second of noise he lays to tape.

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