When noise began to co-opt my listening preferences a decade ago, my primary complaints with the genre mirrored my primary complaints with hip-hop: a dearth of promos and advance notice, and a general reticence on the part of label chieftains to keep lines of communication open with the music press.
A decade later, the game has changed; noise is literally everywhere, and how much of it a listener absorbs is dependent on one’s free time, hard drive space, and tolerance for prolonged exposure to ear-spraining scree. (Ditto with rap: heads don’t even need a credit card to vibe all year long anymore. Everywhere, mix tapes!) The scene is doggedly international, multi-gender, and temporally omnivorous — which means that questers can get down with as much Infected Signal, REACHING., or How I Quit Crack, as they please — or browse into eternally via interactive treasure troves like the Free Music Archive or the Tabs Out podcast series — but, at the same time, resources like Noise Arch allow for gnarly Way-Back Machine journeys that demonstrate that fucking shit up beyond all rational measure with a recording device rolling is as timeless a pursuit as any other.
There’s simply so much diversified mayhem on offer right now that it’s difficult to get too bent out of shape about the handful of well-meaning yet recalcitrant purists who confine everything to cassette or vinyl. What follows are SOTC’s favorite 10 noise cuts of 2012, along with some honorable mentions. Inevitably, of course, this list will be completely irrelevant in a year, as Soundcloud rabbit-hole diving and Bandcamp raiding unearth noxious gems — gems that are typically issued single-file, rather than in album-grouped clumps — that 20 clued-in revelers are wilding out to as I type.
10. Aaron Dilloway “Eight Cut Scars (For Robert Turman)” (Hanson) One more reason to move to Ohio. Everyone’s favorite ex-Wolf Eyes member has his mesmerizing, loop-drunk way with tones of uncertain providence, dog-piling and distending and chain-yanking and retarding them until it’s almost impossible to say which way is up, much less remember your own name or where you left your copy of Chain Shot.
9. OPPONENTS “Lucid Dreams” The Lost Highway of hair-raising electro-noise anthems, more or less: sort of like hanging your head out the window of a bullet train moving at full speed through Tokyo at night, laughing madly at the folly of everything and anything, losing feeling and barely missing it. This trio reside in NYC, and you have no excuse not to attend their every show.
8. Peter J. Woods feat. Joe Smith “Moment Creation” (FTAM) “Vault” is that rare noise keeper where discernible narration lives at the top of the mix and doesn’t succumb to the surrounding madness. Here the music is kept at arm’s length to help drive home the message the individualistic poetry is trying to get across, and the strategy works beautifully, providing a rare and thoughtful reprieve from the Brooklyn trio’s usual hardcore steamrolling. “Moment Creation,” from Wisconsin’s Woods, manages something similar, if more cryptic and ultimately assaultive.
7. White Suns “Flesh Vault” (Load)
6. Natural Snow Buildings “Kadja Bosou” (Ba Da Bing) There are covens’ caldrons in Transylvania that are less haunted and forbidding than “Kadja Bosou” is. All amorphous tendrils, bad ju-ju, Thinsulated synthesizers, and wayward woodwinds, it’s the sound of this French duo communing with one of the natural world’s seamier side and – just maybe – crossing over altogether. And who could blame them? The waters they’re wading on Night Coercion In the Company of Witches are as alluring as they are potentially dangerous.
5. Mike Shiflet “Feeble Breaths” (Type) A potent, mesmerizing argument for the aesthetic value of manicured static from a noise artist whose artistic breadth seems to expand with each successive half-year, “Breaths” insidiously gear shifts from fractured chunks of distortion to a cross between whirling helicopter blades and whippet-hit dissociation.
4. Marta Zapparoli “Turbulence of the Soul” (Zeromoon) A torrid nuclear hailstorm of satanic fury from Italy’s Zapparoli that’s so viciously intense that it threatens to escape from your PC’s speakers and randomly rearrange your den — so watch out.
3. Sharlyn Evertsz “Flush” (Haltapes) Consciousness-compressing brain damage straight outta Miami, Florida that conjures visions of paper shredders, frying eggs, hiccuping samplers, and rampaging trash-compactors – sometimes all at the same time.
2. Lantern “Pupa” (self-released) New Yorkers Bryce Brushnefski and Joseph Henaghan feed codeine to their de-tuned guitars and stage a prolonged death match so epic, unrelenting, and crude that it’ll help you get over the lack of Dead C product this year. These dudes make tons of noise in a slew of other bands and projects that are worth exploring, if this sort of thing is your jeweled chalice of lye.
1. Penny Royale “La-Bar-Tu” (Sleepy Hollow Editions) “La-Bar-Tu” — from noise-priestess Kyle Kessler’s current solo alias — might best be described as a machine tearing itself apart, or aluminum cans trying to free themselves from an active clothes dryer. No noisome squeak or crunch or ping is left unwrought or un-hyperventilated here, one following immediately upon the heels of the one before. No quarter asked or given, but those nine minutes seem to fly by in a flash. My German shepherd was not amused.
HONORABLE MENTIONS 11. Lightning Bolt, “Fly Fucker Fly” (Load) 12. The DDN, “STRONG (the almighty gays at Christmas in America mix” (Black Circle) 13. Pacific 231, “Scuffle” (Nostalgie da la Boue) 14. Infected Signal, “P-162” (Red Venice) 15. Plums, “Nixon’s Mess, Side 1” (Prison Art) 16. Noxroy, “Atlas/Wings: Infinity” (Rest + Noise) 17. Whiff, “Red Flash Warnings” (Ehse) 18. IED IUD, “Harvesting” (MT6) 19. Bird Paradigma, “Found Poem” (self-released) 20. Elizabeth Veldon, “Pine Trees in the Wind” (self-released) 21. Neptune, “Luminous Skull” (Northern Spy) 22. Marcia Bassett & Samara Lubelski, “Energy Amiss” (Brah/Ocropolis) 23. Grasshopper, “Recreational Liposuction” (Sic Sic) 24. Diablo, “Twins, Side A” (Sleepy Hollow Editions) 25. Swans, “The Seer” (Young God) 26. Locrian, “The Clearing” (Fan Death)