January's Best Noise Music: Delphic Vapours, Steeplechase, Lachesist
Photo by Alex Hornsby
The randomness that categorizes modern winter weather — blizzard-level one day, then nearly balmy, then damp and viciously cold the next — also applies nicely to noise, with its semi-fractal vicissitudes and mood shifts. Unless you're in a coma, you're probably aware that most of the time, society feels as though it's on the brink of collapse. When everything falls apart, will you be ready? Condition yourself for the suck by tuning in to the jams below.
TWIN INFINITIES: Delphic Vapours
At first, Fatuous Romance scans as a cantankerous guitar duel, with U.K.-based ax-men Owen Tromans and Seb Hunter idly crossing streams. Then, while you're inhaling their drift and half paying attention, this collaboration turns awesome and eases through the stratosphere and out into open space, burying the melodic lede under waves of feedback and distortion so crushing and confronting that it effectively becomes a different album. While "Untitled C625Xb" doubles as a guitar-only cocoon that never stops morphing, "For Lou" deals cymbal wallops into the mix as it pursues a more volcanic course of action. Like most noise fans, I do love material that keeps me guessing as to what the ingredients include and whether or not they could be separated, but there's certainly something special to be said for the brand of knotty, no-bullshit directness that Tromans and Hunter bring to bear here. It reminds me somewhat of the Dead C. and that group's related offshoots and projects.
Brian Slaughter and Mike Garza are Steeplechase, an emerging Houston, Texas, noise duo with a jones for fucking shit up in a long-form, intelligible fashion. This is usually the point in the column where I'll discuss an EP; the intention was to spotlight one of the three joints this band posted to SoundCloud in January, but they're so strong that I'm inclined to feature them all. "Electronics" are the name of the game here. If you're only half-listening along at home, Steeplechase sounds like a mess, an over-determined flood of laptop-engineered chaos. Really tune in to the Slaughter/Garza frequency, though, and it's the difference between considering a leaf, and considering a leaf through a microscope. Yes, "Hard Ice Appears" sounds like a liftoff at Cape Canaveral, but that sonic slurry reveals itself to be no more than fused voices. Yes, "Safe in the Desert" is imposingly industrial, but it's predicated on a certain inherent pragmatism, with three or four elements struggling to maintain a tense coexistence in the mix; when the detente fails, the result is a sort of sick, accidental pogo-funk. Yes, "Vale Spirit" basically mimics an arctic blizzard, but well-simulated arctic blizzards are awesome, and there's something rhythmically compelling simmering several layers beneath the surface of this one. Keep an ear on these dudes.
PURE ADRENALINE BOOM: Lachesist
Here, Chicago-based Zach Lona goes in for eight minutes of full-bore psychic warfare, with a brand of power electronics that feels grounded in live performance; the drums slam, the guitars glower, the gear spasms, the fanged vocals secrete bile. And, happily, "Bolingbrook Is a Town Where the Cops Hate Power Electronics" and "Bolingbrook Is a Town Where the Cops Hate Power Electronics (Alternate Version)" are totally different songs. The former is a nihilistic sermon that I wish I could program as my wake-up ringtone; it's the noise equivalent of giant dragons incinerating cities in Reign of Fire. The latter doesn't seem that far removed from the millennium-era Tool, albeit with a greater degree of reverb and echo baked in. It's unusual for a release of this size to establish a zone and successfully seize the listener with such effectiveness. (The initial "Bolingbrook," by the way, originally surfaced on this compilation.)
Short Takes: The straightforwardly titled Big Tennessee Noise Compilation is bracing and rude and is at its best and gnarliest in the middle; Argentina's Fsh commune fantastically with the natural world on their latest EP; Seattle's Uneasy Chairs are back to end you with a new full-length; and the U.K.-based Foldhead would like to influence how you think about the calendar week. See you next month!
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