Another year, another list: noise roars on, freakier and spikier and gnarlier than before, furthering tinnitus cases and confusing loved ones and improving the quality of life for the thousands, or maybe dozens of people for whom pop music doesn’t translate into a satisfying drive to work or night on the town. There are always more cassettes to unwrap, more bandcamp streams to freak out over, more ways to tweak an already tweaked signal to suggest total societal collapse, more ways to make a cracked beat twerk harder than Miley Cyrus on a crystal meth binge; some of our favorite noise cuts of 2013 got that sorted, while others edged into or close to the realm of melody or found solace in swamps. (Speaking of which, has anybody seen Khate lately?) The genre is alive and well, and we hope you’ll celebrate along with us by unplugging from the headphone jack, turning up the volume, and running the risk of getting canned from your dead-end job a couple weeks prior to Christmas.
10. J. Soliday, “Radial Variations” (self-released)
Swipe, switch, stroke, thrum: this is the stock in trade of “Radial Variations,” a long playing exercise in perspective-switching and mood roulette that goes in for metal-on-metal extremes just long enough for its forays into micro-tonal glitch pop with flux-capacitor bass pokes to startle. By the last third of its 40 minute run time, the going gets considerably chopped, and way weirder; you’ll be glad you hung in there.
9. Black Pus, “Word On The Street” (Thrill Jockey)
Half of Lightning Bolt kicks out the jambs with a jack boot, unaware that a color-spectrum Mouth of Madness awaits him (and us) on the other side.
8. Witchbeam, “Shadow Musick, Vol. 1, Side 2” (Tranquility Tapes)
Half of Telecult Powers gets freaky-deaky with synthesizers calibrated to get you mile high even as they make googly eyes at the spiritual underworld. Textures are expanded out like a Slinkee and clusteredinthisclose at intervals in a way so provocative and hypnotic it’s difficult not to feel slightly taken or conned, even though Witchbeam isn’t asking you to fund his voodoo pictograph Kickstarter or anything. The man himself shows up with a PSA at the end, all Max Headroom/Boards of Canada “A Very Important Message” style, direct and inadvertently subversive.
7. Zalhietzli, “Hox” (self-released)
“Hox” has a gong-like timbre about it, as if the listener is being swung steadily towards, and then away from, a rippling, vacillating din, flung hither and yon through a series of black holes en route to God knows where or when.
6. Inappropriate King Live, “What Is Surrounded’s End? Who’s Hands. I Am A Minority. A Ministry. I Segregate Myself.” (Rainbow Bridge)
The ever-prolix Justin Marc Lloyd somehow evokes the experience of attempting and failing to remove a football-field length piece of tape from a severely flatulent rubber-band ball while in outer space, which is both more awesome and less gross than it sounds.
5. Self-Defeating Soundwaves, “The Pink Pentagram” (Black Circle)
“The Pink Pentagram” is wonderfully gestural, feeding one out-of-focus feedback rivulet after another into and back out of view before pulling an about face and tipping over a dump truck full of ball bearings. If you hadn’t heard of James Shearman before, now you have.
4. Sightings, “Bundled” (Dais)
“Bundled” sounds rabid, but it’s a managed sort of rabies, where the snares sound like they’re being struck with an Indiana Jones whip and the guitars are immolating themselves on fence spikes and singer Mark Morgan’s exhortations are more maintaining mantras than true expressions of catharsis.
3. God Pussy, “Purgatório Divino” (Torn Flesh)
If you are doing humanitarian aid work in a domestic or international flood zone, this is exactly the wrong song to blast via PA system in a misguided attempt to buoy anyone’s spirits, because it sounds like a field recording of the largest indoor simulated flood ever. “Purgatorio Divino” gushes for 24 incomprehensible minutes, which is long enough to cop plane tickets to Portugal online, establish a Facebook profile, and microwave and eat leftovers from yesterday’s dinner, even though the banger is so arresting you’re probably not going to do any of that stuff while goosing your heart rate.
2. TAHNZZ, “Hacheta” (Sick Sick Sick Distro)
The speckled-asphalt noise pride of New Mexico winds down her excellent XILA cassette with “Hacheta,” a grim meditation of compromised frequencies that scrabble like a sinkhole consuming an entire town and squall like distant pterodactyls you hear as you tumble, forever, into the widening chasm. Tahnee Udero is an avowed fan of NYC’s own Maria Chavez, and the proof is in the demonic pudding; it’s exceedingly difficult to care about anything else when this thing is playing.
1. Wipe Hour, “Time Canceller, Side B” (Trepanner)
Opening one’s third eye to what Bryan Martin accomplishes as Wipe Hour is a little like waking up hungover in Broodworld: it’s a strange, dangerous place where anything is possible. The vibe is rainforest manic, drones and throbs and expertly orchestrated seltzer-drops conspiring to weave a fantasia of wonder, menace, and hardcore insect swarms laying in wait around every corner, even if those corners are actually chimeras or shadows or Dumpster-sized venus fly traps. Trepanner has one copy of this tape left, and I’m having a very hard time understanding why you don’t already own it.
If the above jams weren’t quite enough, try these 15 on for size:
11. Green Shadow, “green shadow moves through the trees observing you, tracking you, biding her time” (Black Circle)
12. Jason Crumer, “Wellsley’s Philosophy” (Blossoming Noise)
13. Death Grips, “You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it’s your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat” (self-released)
13. The Dead C, “Courage” (BaDaBing!)
14. To The Lovers, Farewell, “Weak Men Flexing What They Can In Groups Of 12, Either A Football Team After Hours Or Your Dad In His Younger Days With His Mates” (Red Venice)
15. Speak Onion, “Makes Breathing Difficult, Stupid, Wet” (Immigrant Breast Nest)
16. Husere Grav, “Red Room” (Crucial Blast)
17. C. Spencer Yeh / Okkyung Lee / Lasse Marhaug, “Hairslide” (Software)
18. Miquel Parera Jaques, “NX003_Score01a-2012-12-09_03_27_46” (No Label)
19. Prurient, “Terracotta Spine” (Blackest Ever Black)
20. Hair Police, “The Scent” (Type)
21. Tim Hecker, “Stab Variation” (Kranky)
22. Fuck Buttons, “Sentients” (ATP Recordings)
23. Body/Head, “Everything Left” (Matador)
24. Pak, “LICENSE, Side B” (Price Tapes)
25. Wolf Eyes, “No Answer” (De Stijl)