No-Wave's Newest Wave

A plague of noise bands attacks New York City from deep underground

Bushwick's Dominick Fernow, who performs as Prurient and runs Hospital Productions, has managed to combine arty with evil, focusing on "malefic bands and psychological noise malaise" and terming noise "negative meditation." Fernow relocated from Providence a year ago and provides an insider's outside take on the scene: "New York noise has a range," he says, "but the focus seems to be a little less aggressive and more atmospheric."

Of course, there's always cross-pollination and remapping. Bridging old and new, the co-inventor of UFDs (uncontrollable feedback devices) known as Ryan plays bass in a quartet with guitar general Glenn Branca and tape-based skree in Neg-Fi, his duo with girlfriend Evelyne. Elder statesman Thurston Moore collaborates with Giffoni and sunburned free-jazz drummer Chris Corsano among others, played the inaugural "No Fun," runs the Ecstatic Peace! label, and took the Magik Markers on tour last year. "The new folks of no-wave-ish tendencies—as opposed to straight-up noise like Prurient, Wolf Eyes, etc.—all seem to exist and deliver with one real difference from the old days: The new guys know how to play," says Moore. "Back in the day it was more interesting to me because no one really knew how to play. It was a real epiphany of new language development."

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Dominick Fernow
photo: Dominick Fernow/Hospital Productions
John Fell Ryan, founding member of Excepter and No-Neck Blues Band alumnus, imagines a post-noise situation: "It's not like no-wave where everyone is reducing things to black and white," he says. "The current scene is much more omnivorous and exploratory. Check out the change Black Dice pulled off: straightedge free jazz to LSD orgy music in less than three moves? Indie rock died flat in 1994 and everybody knows that, viscerally. It's not just a New York thing; there are noise scenes everywhere. The entire planet is a noise scene. You don't have to ask why people are making visionary apocalyptic music right now. Drop It Like It's Hot is a noise record!"

"What is the place where all the thinking and interesting ideas happen?" asks Elisa Ambrogio. "F. Scott Fitzgerald told me it was Princeton, Herman Melville told me it was a whaling vessel, Lester Bangs told me it was a record, Graham Greene told me it was in prayer, and Dan Clowes told me it was in a line—what you make alone, angry at the world that lacked all the past promised. College? All I got there was a bunch of unfucked pale girls yammering about the gender binary! No thanks! Whaling's illegaland we fished the cod nearly out of existence! Modern music? Rolling Stone magazine? Getting close to God's not going to get me laid! Let alone drawing pictures alone! I want a bunch of people taking drugs and making art and fucking and posting to the Internet, that's what I want! When any group of people pursue artistic freedom for its own sake without thought of reward or backslapping is when people and a place in time become vital, as pat and cheesed-out as the phrase 'true artistic freedom' is. I like it 'cause it seems true, and I am so fake."

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