The Best Noise Music in August: Springsteen Shitshower, Bryan Eubanks, Pagan Cops
[Ed. Note: In Please Enjoy Responsibly, columnist Raymond Cummings tracks down the best noise music of the month, while keeping an eye out for the best of recent months and saluting noise triumphs of yesteryear.]
There's no pleasant way to say this, so I'll just say it: if I didn't know better, I'd swear there's rotting a corpse in the dumpster behind my apartment building. Two likely culprits are to blame - the college kids swarming the 'hood now that school's back in session and the out-of-nowhere high temperatures scorching the small town I live in. Probably not a corpse; probably just raw chicken or something, but when I'm downwind from that dumpster, the stench leaps out and smacks me around a little. Very rude, very brusque, very noise. For some reason I've never invested in stereo speakers. Maybe, now, it's finally time. Here's a taste of some of what I'll blast, once I finally do.
EAR-PIERCING: MICHAEL PISARO & MATTHEW SULLIVAN
The first edition in AdHoc Bánh Mì Verlag's split LP series - featuring Matthew Sullivan, whose work as Earn I remember somewhat, and Michael Pisaro, an artist new to me - scratches two very different itches. On his 20-minute side, Sullivan at first draws attention to drum hits and their reverberations, gradually cutting away at the seeming eternity between each strike. Then we're ushered, unknowingly, into a found-sound daydream - it's as though he's recording himself on a G6 far above the clouds, straining a wild flute, fairly tickling a gong - until gong, flute, and drum strikes congeal into an unalloyed nautical drift. This late part of the track always makes me think of survivors in a downed boat who have enough headroom to breathe in an captain's quarters; they're not sure if they'll survive, but they're somehow made peace with their fate as random pieces of furniture collide with the surrounding metal walls, and the cries of gulls wandering outside on the hull threaten to taunt. Pisaro's side is simultaneously more aggressive and less organic, a four-movement overture of stippling, atmospheric pressure, saturation. It's unusual to feel that a piece of experimental music is actively and intentionally manipulating one's internal weather, but that effect is achieved here, particularly through headphones. At moments it will seem like you're being dissembled by teleportation technology, or hoisted aloft on a thermal updraft, or re-imagined as a television channel deprived of a clear picture, or stranded in a downpour that lasts seconds, or randomly deposited in the bowels of a machine shop, sans ear protection. For a variety of reasons that will make sense once you hear it, I'd recommend spinning this particular circle while home alone.
INTO THE WAYBACK MACHINE: SIGHTINGS' INSCRUTABLE MASTERPIECE
To Google "Sightings" and "End Times" simultaneously is to watch a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, madness, and abject nonsense materialize on your smart phone - with the occasional reference to Sightings' 2006 maelstrom, End Times (Fusetron). This NYC trio - known for blurred, industrial shit-fits that suggest wild, drunken swordfights aluminum-sheet madmen in darkened butcher shops - inhabits its own special, toxic air space, which makes ranking its albums difficult and picking a favorite next to impossible. Sightings albums are not for the uninitiated, or the squeamish. Roughly nineteen times out of twenty, if you show up for a date blasting, say, Michigan Haters, you will be going on that date alone. This is a searing clatter so hard and electrified that the listener is hard-pressed to tell one screech or snap or crash from another, let alone identify the instrument responsible for each one. All of which is to say that End Times is the Sightings' fan's Sightings monolith - a supremely ugly, eminently hard-to-love bit of business so resolutely unembraceable that I'm still trying to comprehend it. End Times lives in a realm separate from ideas like "rhythm" and "moshability" (is that even a word?) and "continuity"; End Times is just a 60-minute detour of bad vibes with nowhere to go, resenting itself and you for even existing. You thought Absolutes was unrelenting? Get the fuck outta here.
Opener "Cotton Sweater" flirts loosely with songcraft but is over in a quick flash of steam and shredded chrome - leaving "Failure of Words" to detonate, again and again, as geysers of lava explode from the underworld, burning singer Mark Morgan is burned alive without deigning to ever kill him. "My Due Portion" sound like an army of lobsters clawing a bolder; "Slow Boat" pops and trembles like a thousand baseboard heats springing to uneasy life. No free lunch to be had, here, and no way out.
MINIMALIST BLISS: BRYAN EUBANKS
Somewhere along the line, I just lost track of Bryan Eubanks. Back in the late Collective Jryk era, countless afternoons were lost luxuriating with CDrs by GOD, Eubanks' duo with Leif Sundstrom, where circuits broke like fractals in non-airtight spaces where incidental found sound (birds chirping brightly, traffic trundling past) both polluted and expanded their artistry. Then the world moved on, serving up distractions, heartbreaks, obsessions, and manias - until a few weeks back, when I stumbled upon a missive about Anamorphosis (Sacred Realism), sampled some excerpts, and decided that the time had come to get re-acquainted.
GOD folded, but Eubanks, now based in NYC, never stopped composing and recording. The three pieces on Anamorphosis find him still very much invested in the power and intensity of quiescence with interruptions; there are dozens of moments here where it's possible to completely lose the plot of the music if you aren't listening intently, or listening in a still space.
"Double Portrait" transitions between field recording swathes, minimalist drone, and low, sour saxophone tones that register like something just short of warnings, as if it were the soundtrack to a grainy cell-phone video shot by a secret admirer who's been stalking you for weeks. "Spectral Pattern" centers on a pattern of small, insistent pulses occasionally beset by string sections and voices, and eventually obliterated by what sounds like a small outboard motor; it's a tense, almost theatrical experience. But "Enclosed Space Phenomena," where Eubanks looses what he describes in the liners as "generative sinewave tones" for almost 19 glorious, chiming minutes, is the only track you can really imagine transformed into a score and performed by a troupe of prepared-xylophone players at Carnegie Hall, in a concentrated Music for 19 Musicians or Deep Listening Band style. Somehow, with "Phenomena," he's figured out a means to trick his audience into believing three things: 1) that their gray matter is made of pure glass, 2) that only he is capable of gingerly and poly-rhythmically tapping that glass, and 3) that having your pure glass brain tapped gingerly and poly-rhythmically for extended periods of time, in a seemingly endless number of permutations, is more stupendous than snow on Christmas Morning.
BAITIN' TH' BOSS: SPRINGSTEEN SHITSHOWER
On their Porn in the USA EP, the Baltimore-based duo of Jason Crumer and Randall Dunn enjoy some subversive fun at the Boss's expense. The "Porn in the USA (vocals only)" consists of an a cappella, underwater performance of "Born in the U.S.A.," while "Born to Runs" literally feeds scraps of "Born to Run" into a maw of jackhammering, sewing-machine drums and feedback, with porn-star moans splooged in for good measure. "Skeets of Philadelphia," meanwhile, incorporates ideas from the first two songs into hive thrumming with effects and manic synthesizers; it suggests someone puking into a toilet at a club where Dan Deacon is performing. The rest of the release further deconstructs, obliquely, concepts of idolatry, fawning, self-satisfaction, and - it could be argued - the corrosive cultural results of those forces have on audiences, rapt or less so. The biggest chuckle, for me, is the thought of someone compiling a CD-80 of Bruce deep cuts with this EP buried mid-way through or somewhere late in the tracklist, like a Trojan Horse. I can only dream.
THE FATAL FIVE: TELECULT POWERS, MYTH MAGIC, PAGAN COPS, MATMOS, KLINIKAL SKUM
Helpfully, the Soundcloud of Pagan Cops gives the project's location as "United States." But the lunging "Swat Blood" is focused, driven, and coldly succinct enough - like a centrifuge grinding slowly and unevenly as the surrounding factory burns down around it - that the aforementioned fact barely registers, or matters. Reminded me, somehow, of this.
Pour some out for L.A.'s Klinikal Skum, whose unusually spelled name should automatically qualify it as a late 1990s rap-rock mainstay. Negativ Psykotelepathi Surveillanz (Chondritic Sound) - quick, spell that three times fast - has earned some burn here at the Please Enjoy Responsibly hacienda; there's a grainy, night-vision-goggle mojo about it, as if someone poised you with arsenic before forcing you to listen to a minimalist deep house record. I was particularly smitten by "Murderband Skanner," where side mirror clichés like "Objects Seen In Mirror May Be Larger That They Appear" scan like prophecies and you get a fuller sense of what it might be like to die in an active chute furnace.
"Weed World," the new cut Baltimore's Matmos released to help promote Fields Festival set - which I couldn't frickin' attend because I already had a vacation planned in a far distant corner of Maryland - is a wonder of merry tinkering and free-swim play: headwinds of watery effects running riot over pan flutes, a bass line that's up for rough trade, pummeling drums, loads more - an messy watercolor set Adventure Time for the un-tethered mind. The momentum cuts out midway through, but then the duo drifts down a new, more deliriously hard-bop avenue.
Still working Black Meditations, the new slab from Cleveland/NYC's Telecult Powers, into my consciousness; the thing about getting older - i.e. early middle-aged - is that this process can take some time. What's for sure: I'm a sap for "A Wish For Ouisch," one of those killer zone-outs that sounds like a cross between a water-pump, a lava lamp, and a 9-month amniotic soak. Puts me in mind of the Pharmakustik/Tanner Garza collaboration I mentioned a few columns back, except more streamlined and with a choir of angels descending on the way out. Undeniably Telecult, but at the same time, evolving in a new direction.
Last - but hardly least - there is Myth Magic, a.k.a Austin, Texas' Sammy Satic and Rebecca Ramirez; this dynamic duo traffics in disorienting electronic mysteries - vocals imploding in irreconcilable head rushes, tripping-balls beat configurations panning from speaker to speaker, sound waves cresting out of and back into nowhere - represented by a variety of untranslatable symbols. I'm not even gonna deign to recommend a particular track, because to do so seems antithetical to what's happening on the group's Soundcloud; not to get overly Lego Movie, but everything is awesome. Maybe just pour yourself a cool glass of water, turn down the lights, plug in the headphones, and feel your form slowly levitate from your easy chair. No worries.
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