[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.]
Be careful what you ask for; you just might get it. In this case, it’s heat, humidity, flop sweat, daisy chains of gnats, and everything else that comes along with warm weather in the northeastern United States. Seems like just yesterday that I was complaining, in this space about the endless winter and the drenching spring, all of which seems rather foolhardy now, in retrospect. Everything already feels gritty, sticky, and vaguely feverish in a nightmarish way, and we haven’t even made it past Independence Day yet; the inferno of August awaits us, radiating menace.
Gonna be a long, hot American summer.
Maybe all of this helps explain the sounds I gravitated to this month: grim, grinding black holes of skuzz rock, mind-liquifying drone, shuddering loops that are the wordless underground, spiritual antithesis of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club epic “Stop.” It’s as though the heat encircles and thrives on these particular sounds, amplifying them, getting off on them. Grab yourself a frozen water bottle, turn up the AC, and belly-flop on in.
NYC INDUSTRIAL LP OF THE MONTH: YORK FACTORY COMPLAINT
Here is one of the more strange aspects of aging: you know things, and are in fact sure of these things, but have no real idea how or why you know them, whether the source was an interview you read, or a class you took, maybe some books. Yet you know these things innately, and a little research reveals that these things are actually true, for real. Take, for instance, the concept of “the Spectacle,” for which York Factory Complaint’s Lost In The Spectacle (Accidental Guest Recordings) is titled and explicitly themed. To drastically simplify, the idea of “the Spectacle” has to do with media culture and advertising acting as a means of social control and distraction. Lost In The Spectacle itself boasts a series of song titles that’s very fitting — “Conceived,” “Produced,” “Loved,” “Commodified,” “Bought,” “Forgotten” — even as the band evinces what I like to think of as a sort of streamlined version of Pop. 1280’s bleeding-amp Thunderdome aesthetic. The results are gritted-teeth, dead-eyed, distortion sirens powered by plodding drums and manic high-hats, dense crushes of artificial noise, garbled invective, and a locomotive’s click-clack-crack sense of momentum. This is agit-prop anti-pop that refuses to crack a smile, take a breath, throw you a high-five, or attempt to really explain itself: it just barrels forth, mugging and buzzing acrimoniously, pointing a bony, gnawed finger at you and whatever you just bought from the local luxury mall on credit. At it’s swarm of flies best, The Spectacle sounds like the rapid gathering of a massive, obsidian-black storm cloud just before the sky cracks wide open. Rough stuff – and obviously a much better soundtrack for your 10-year old niece’s Chuck E. Cheese birthday bash than, say, Frozen.
TWO-SIDED NOISE SINGLE OF THE MONTH: MAURIZIO BIANCHI
When an earthquake hits, every rattles and vibrates, creating the hopefully momentary impression that multiples of something or other – a tea cup, a chandelier, a salt shaker – are somehow occupying the same space simultaneously. Amentest (Dais), Maurizio Bianchi’s new 7-inch split single, emanates that same sort of nervous, unsettled energy, like house hurriedly shedding its paint in flakes or a psychotic cicada somehow generating and discarding several shells per minute. Everything second throbs at such an impossibly high frequency that getting a bead on what’s happening is as challenging as turning away from what’s happening.
First track “Amentest” reminded me somewhat of a sewing machine’s needles, pumping up and down like tiny pistons, in the sense that Bianchi’s pistons punch and pummel like miniature, alternately-tuned detonations and that strike swiftly in waves and are replaced by a not-dissimilar series of waves, which are then erased by more such waves. “Testamen” feels like a continuation, but Bianchi tosses a monkey wrench into the rhythmic normalcy, folding in bursts of what sound like drum strikes on sheet metal. These bursts arrive with greater and greater frequency, altering and overwhelming the music’s composition until the listener’s body feels compelled, in one way or another, to react: the textures feel spastic, funked-out, and industrial in a dangerous, mining-accident way. These are eight and a half minutes of the most intensely engaging noise you will experience this year.
NYC NOISE ALBUM OF THE MONTH: LONG-DISTANCE POISON
A briny, brittle bass broil animates Feorh‘s (Tusco/Embassy) nearly 40 minutes. Side A presents a trembling slur of drones that revolve separately then mass, Voltron-like, to overwhelm in golden, soaring immensity. To listen with great acuity is to get a little freaked out; to listen in a detached way is to allow the subconscious mind transport into whatever pocket dimension Long-Distance Poison is colonizing for its own purposes. As Feorh progresses, its golds give way to golden browns, the treated textures ever deepening, more filmic and probing, until there is the sense of tumbling slowly down into a bottomless chasm, towards death, magic, the bends. Embedding high, pealing tones – singly at first, then in schools – only underscores how far we’ve fallen. Side B is decidedly more Mountains in nature, offering a beefy column of swirling pulsations that crescendo into a howling, effects-soaked cataclysm which, nearer to its denouement, develops into a rampaging, high-RPM pulse that threatens to flatten your domicile and your livestock.
“NON-NYC” NOISE ALBUM OF THE MONTH: OREN AMBARCHI, STEPHEN O’MALLEY, & RANDALL DUNN
It’s said that “there’s no accounting for taste,” which is the only way I can rationalize the idea of spurning Shade Themes from Kairos (Drag City), a title that suggests a hackneyed 1970s sci-fi paperback but is in actuality the expanded score of a short, creepy film by Belgian director Alexis Destoop and one of the better recent entries in the experimental instrumental rock canon. The players conjure up a thick, hypnotizing rue that’s undeniably oceanic and jazz-indebted, alternating between sinuous session soft-shoe, driving Metal physicality, gauzy Eastern ooze, crepuscular majesty, and a tastefully orchestrated flood of tablas and effects. Kairos’ sole misstep arrives when the crew opts to fold singer Ai Aso’s wordless coos into “Sometimes” – a tangent that upends the established ambiance and feels beamed in from another project.
NOISE CUT OF THE MONTH: EARTHLING SOCIETY & FNU CLONE
On “Journey Into Satchidananda,” the first cut loosed from the forthcoming England Have My Bones LP, you’ve gotta feel for drummer Jon Blacow, at least at first: dude’s got his head down, nailing down a jazzily insistent foundation, but Fred Laird’s erect, pedals-enabled guitar and Neil Whitehead’s oscillating machines are furiously vacuuming all of the air out of the room, with the result being percussive timekeeping that sounds like it’s being piped in from a neighboring hamlet. Subsequently, though, you come to realize that this is as it should be. After all, none of us throw a Bardo Pond or White Hills album on the turntable with visions of subtlety or tranquility dancing in our heads; we crave transcendence, distraction, a sort of psychic annihilation – which is why we need bands like England’s Earthling Society. I won’t pretend that I’m not a newcomer to this particular tea party, though I’m blanking on how I stumbled my way into “Satchidananda”‘s wigged out embrace. A lot of resin is packed into 15 minutes that feel like 15 hours spent blazing kind bud in a loft without Central Air, fretting about when the dealer will arrive and then forgetting that the dealer was even coming: it’s easy to get lost in fiery, Icarian fretwork that grooves like a Sterno, in dead-ending sunspots of feedback, in the random, coruscating effects that spool out of and are retracted back into whatever electronic black boxes are at play here. And while it’s hardly surprising how this particular trip concludes, it’s impossible not to be charmed by the band’s madrigal, beardo comedown – as if, 13 minutes in, Earthling Society totally lost sight of their krautrock/space blooz bona fides and locked into New Age freak folk earnestness. A perfect soundtrack for 3 AM runs to – and from – your local bodega, after everyone else conned or guilted you into making the trip, again.
“The Shit,” from FNU Clone – some relation to FNC Ronnies – literally turned up just as this column was being put to bed: three static-strafed minutes of mesmerizingly weird, wrecked toasting yoked to a follow-the-bouncing-severed-head synthesizer figure, widescreen distortion, and enough bad will to fuel an entire season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Recommended for anyone presently suffering Gary Wrong Group withdrawal, and a reminder of the semi-forgotten glory that as 2012’s Saddle Up (Load).
SO YEAH, ONE LAST THING
Anyone seeking a respite from the inevitable July 4th outpouring of red, white, and blue is urged to report to Babycastles on Saturday, July 5th to catch Goddess Eris (Joshua Slusher), Bastard Noise + Anthony Saunders, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, Kyle Clyde throwing down with Nathan Young (not the Wolf Eyes bro), and – an act I missed at Ende Tymes 2014 – Bob Bellerue as Blessed Thistle. Find out more here, and show up, because, like, what else are you gonna do – smash bottles in the street?