By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
By Ray Cummings
By Nicholas Pell
Wolf Eyes: adjective, noun. Hair Police: adjective, noun. Lately there are tons of adjective-noun band names in every genre, but noise boasts some of the best two-word monsters: Double Leopards, Lightning Bolt, Nautical Almanac, Magik Markers, etc. Maybe noise itself is two-word, its vocabulary split between long, continuous drone (heavy, defined noun) and harsh, abrupt blast (cutting, modifying adjective). Check the song titles on Burned Mind and Obedience Cuts: "Open Body," "Black Vomit," "Skull Mold," "Urine Burn." They're full of the standard bodily references that have been around since gristle first throbbed decades ago, sure, but more interestingly, 12 of the two albums' 18 cuts have adjective-noun titles. And the music rhymes with them: Crunch, blare. Squeak, moan. Adjective, noun. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Michigan's Wolf Eyes might be the current apex of binaural noise. Each track on Burned Mind is a layered variation on two basic sound-attacks: flurries mixed with jolts, streams sliced with rocks, massages spiked with punches. Live, the trio themselves are adjectives, jerking through seizured calisthenics that punctuate their massive wall of noun. Spazzing over vats of electronics like construction workers drilling holes with their minds, Nate Young, Aaron Dilloway, and the permanently sleeveless John Olson form a team of advanced gorillas, angry that the computer program they're writing has yet to yield a banana.
On record, without that three-ring circus, the band's physical exclamation points still thrust through. Devoid of visual pulse, the album still shakes the floor with deafening thump, still ripples pants with air-flexing noise. As this is the trio's Sub Pop debut after over 50 mostly self-released offerings, actual songs emerge: "Stabbed in the Face" lurches through a hypnotic plod and an oscillating Young scream, like a Ramones tune slowed to stoner-time, while "Village Oblivia," the album's biggest fist pump, even has a verse (clunk-clunk-clunk) and a chorus (clank-clank-clank). But every track is a pure battle, with searing bursts of abrasion chopping at lava flows of insane density.
As much of a pulsing, hairy mess as Burned Mind can be, it's also embalmed in an enticing numbness. Most of the band's chilly, robotic loops sag with the weight of inevitability, like an assembly-line conveyor belt whose off-switch expired long ago (it's no shock that one of Olson's side projects is called Dead Machines). By the time the distant fireworks of "Ancient Delay" and the gray decay of "Black Vomit" finally cremate the record, the ghosts have abandoned the machine, leaving behind dissolving gears that grind themselves into a powdery black hole.
But the deadening charge of Burned Mind is somehow bested by the dripping, echoey cave of Obedience Cuts. Ohio's Hair Police are a trio whose nouns and adjectives are harder to scan, as their slashes and burns (some of which emanate from an actual drum kit, an element Wolf Eyes lack) bleed into a foggier foreign language, evoking the clanging din of Einstürzende Neubauten, the custodial swing of Pussy Galore, and even the pre-cognitive stink of New York City's old ESP-Disk Godz. At last spring's No Fun Fest in Brooklyn, the band's punkish stage presence sparked a moshpit, but the thick, far-reaching sludge of Obedience Cuts seems more likely to inspire rapt sitting and staring than blind pushing and shoving.
More free and less concerned with time-keeping than Wolf Eyes, Hair Police are content to let any necessary beat be provided by the listener's quickened pulse. Obedience Cuts starts as an elongated car crash, with the opening "Let's See Who's Here and Who's Not" and the pure brain-burst "Bee Scrape" slathering steep mounds of high-calorie screech over a base of siren-like drilling. An army of shadows fades in halfway through, as the album's best track, "Boneless," builds a blurry nightmare out of raped electricity and the rib-rattling violin of guest C. Spencer Yeh (who also sometimes performs as Burning Star Core). The rest of the record maintains that level of sonic supremacy, a fantastic slice of hemorrhaging sound that nouns and adjectives might roughly represent, but will never fully contain.