By Dan McQuade
By Brian McManus
By Hilary Hughes
By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
In his mild-mannered day job as a noise-control engineer, Daniel Abatemarco devises ways to, as he puts it, "make development projects quieter." But in his Speak Onion guise, the 26-year-old Queens resident attempts to wrest the maximum possible amount of discordant havoc from distressed samplers and jackhammering drum machines. "People say I have the quintessential New York City attitude: impatient, compulsive, in a hurry," he admits, laughing. "Speak Onion music sounds like that part of me, magnified. Whatever it is about me that is that way, I hear it in the music."
A clutch of kinetic, abrasive releases issued over the past few years—most notably, the caustically schizophrenic studio work Metabolor and an enervating live bootleg informally labeled "Brecht Forum 1-10-09"—bear this out, carving a tinnitus-ravaged space where warped noise, vintage glitch, and busted-PA techno can commingle, collide, and combust. Growing up in Brooklyn and Long Island, Abatemarco cut his teeth on early-'90s digital hardcore, particularly severe German progenitors Atari Teenage Riot. The fledgling genre "was so formative to me—it made me really start to love music in a serious way, and made me wanna make music," he says, chatting over the phone and citing Berlin's experimental Ad Noiseam label and industrial music that "involves a lot of weird sounds" as additional influences.
For his earliest, teenaged attempts at composition, Abatemarco adopted the provocatively brusque handle Tech-NO. "I liked electronic music, but not in the sense of house or dance music," he remembers. His work "was pretty noisy, not because I wanted it to be, but because I didn't know what I was doing."
Now, he does. The two-track Speak Onion full-length Trigger Pusher—released in December via Immigrant Breast Nest, the online label Abatemarco and fellow musician David B. Applegate started in April 2009—behaves like a barely disciplined live recording and hits the ear like an aural dirty bomb. "Only the Floor Is Rotten" may teem with enough nasty, pixilated bass synthesizers and stuttered tripwire breakbeats to satiate a dozen warehouses packed full of revelers, but the relentless waves of twinkling keyboard figures underneath all that havoc come bearing cosmic melodic gifts. "The Last Thing You Remember," meanwhile, pushes the noise-as-bracing-assault envelope with a fuck-you intensity, mashing reams of hyperventilating wavelength chirp together with evil-algorithm, bit-crush malevolence.
"Trigger Pusher is very different from my other material—sort of me thinking about how, when I play shows, it's just these long jams where I'll take these bits of my existing songs and stretch them out," Abatemarco says. "So I just conceived of doing really long tracks that mutate as they go, so it's like four songs in one track."
Like previous Speak Onion releases, Pusher is free to anyone with a computer, an Internet connection, and the urge to get down to the entropic sound of hyperactive total system collapse. "We have a similar approach to music: We just want people to hear it," Abatemarco says of his label cohort. "We're not really worried about people buying it, or what-have-you. I do sell CDs of my music sometimes, at shows. I don't push it hard through mail-order. But if I play a show and I really killed it, some people will buy copies."