[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.]
Three summers spent in Texas are enough to convince anybody that the month of July should be long, brutish, and blistering; that becomes the expectation, as sure as chicken bones deposited in an unsealed trash can will stink-bomb the kitchen. That’s just one of the reasons this July feels so off to me — the climate’s alternated weirdly between cuttingly humid days and unseasonably cool ones in way that feels like a rebuke; it’s constantly cloudy, insects are plentiful and vicious. Elsewhere countries are bombing one another incessantly — and people discussing those countries are trying to stay out of viciously principled arguments on Facebook — while the general cultural mood feels defiantly alarmist, while planes seem to be crashing constantly, while the American political establishment sinks deeper and deeper into its own quagmire. And while all of this has little or nothing to do with noise music directly, it has the effect of informing or being informed by the albums and tracks that got my goat this month: the sense that reality’s teetering on its rails, soon to tumble headlong into a grateful abyss. Let’s turn up the volume now, and make that leap ahead of schedule.
COMEBACK TRAILERS: KHATE & FERALCATSCAN
Chimera (self-released) – a collaboration between Virginia-based experimental-musician couple Khate and FERALCATSCAN — makes for a fine exercise in crepuscular foreboding, with whimsical aspects. How else to even consider the 14-minute “Wolves” — with its pot-boiling-over hissing, tortured gothic choral samples, ponderous molestation of repurposed instruments intended for toddlers, and total disregard for linearity – or the acid-reflux, sucking-lemon “Folie a Deux,” or even “Waltz of the Exterminator,” a brisk, upbeat slurry of skitters, clicks, and clucks that brings to mind millennial-era Matmos?
(The spine-tingling “Pizzano” brings to mind Liberace regaling ghouls in a mausoleum, bagpipes blaring at an Irish wake, Nine Inch Nails ambient, weird sounds in a sewer at 3 A.M. – -and even given that, still feels of a piece with the rest of the album.)
That Chimera resembles an interconnecting series of plummeting moods is hardly a surprise, given Khate’s circa-2000s track record of sample-slushing and frequency-smushing; what’s gratifying is that Chimera, her return to home-studio release work after a several-year absence, is every bit as capable of mindfucking the initiated or unfamiliar as, say, Field Studies or Detritivore were. Get your ears close to those, for sure — but don’t lose out on FERALCATSCAN’s particular brand of menace. Circuit-bending doesn’t get much better than this: swampy, musky, alive with eerie possibility. If this is your jam and you wish for more, consider supporting Khate in her endeavors.
TAPE-DECK FURIES: BRIDGES OF KONIGSBERG and LOT
Organizing music festivals, touring, orchestrating collaborations, minting new bands: Milwaukee’s prolific Peter J. Woods is one busy, busy dude. A package of tapes and vinyl recently arrived here at Please Enjoy Responsibly HQ from FTAM, his label; the two releases that struck me with the most intensity also happened to involve Woods in one capacity or another.
Woods, Scrawl’s Christopher Burns, and David Collins unite as Bridges of Konigsburg, which feeds a variety of strained samples through the experimental music equivalent of shuffling several decks of cards – playing, Tarot, Uno, maybe Oblique Strategies, too – at blinding speeds. Their Fortifications are destined to melt faces, positing dins of alien guitar squeal, ribbed echoes, swollen delay, stretched effects, and a tinny, pressurized tinny-ness that at time that reminded me somewhat of Autechre’s classic, Confield. Sometimes there is the sense that lye is being mashed into the irregular grooves of these improvisations — or are they improvisations? — or that the grooves are self-cannibalizing, or that a robot from the future is intruding. Remember old movies, shown on actual film, and how when before the movies actually started, there would be black screens full of white dashes, scratches, jots, and marks? Fortifications put me in mind of that, in the best possible way.
LOT consists of Woods and Dan Schierl, and their team-up is the more succinct and visceral of the two tapes, a scouring, scowling brace of power electronics and scrambled signals that burns white hot for 12 incandescent minutes. (Did I mention the vinegary anti-vocals and whoops baked into the mix? I should’ve mentioned those; they’re great.) There’s a car salesmen motif attached to this release that works if you imagine, on Side A, that these guys just sold you a clanking, smoking lemon that you can barely drive off the lot – get it? see what they did, there? – and they’re laughing, hollering, and high-fiving one another as you merge uneasily into traffic while Googling a lawyer on your iPhone. Side B is when you realize that there are demons haunting the car, and that this haunting is very highly communicable, indeed.
X-ACTO CRUSADING: GOOD AREA
Close to the end of Pronunciation (Hanson), an odd thing happens: Ohio-based duo Good Area start rattling off gear. “One silver-framed coronet, one Roland CR-5000, one Roland Space Echo, one Electro-Harmonix frequency-analyzer beatbox,” Allen Mozak recites, through a scrim of static and exploded piano chords that yowl like strangled cats, going on to name cables and cassettes and Radio Shack – the polar opposite of an ascendant rapper shouting out friends and family to close a major-label debut. On a less arresting cassette, this would feel condescending and smug in a Shellac-liner-notes sort of way, it would reek of arrogance, it would ruin everything. But by this juncture of Mozak and Gabi Losoncy have more than earned our good will. Years ago, I read a great interview on www.rockcritics.org – can’t locate it now – where the interviewee made the assertion that music writers are perpetually in search for sounds that will “rewire the circuits in their brains.” It isn’t easy to find albums like that, but Pronunciation is undeniably one of them, a wild, wry rock slide of out-jazz, welding-torch noise, laconic metronomic beats, and cut-up tape brush-stroked by Mozak’s unobtrusive stretches of spoken word that don’t so much tell one story as imply a multitude of ideas.
One imagines that the making of this cassette must have been similar to shooting a movie: untold hours of effort for 30 indelible minutes after a fastidious eternity of editing, arranging, and disposing of beloved bits that perhaps didn’t quite fit the puzzling puzzle Mozak and Losoncy set out to arrange, perhaps not even aware of what they were going for. Voices are rudely undercut other voices or are Chipmunk’d by fast-forward buttons or reel unknowingly out of phase, colors and phrases are dogpiled to nausea; synthesizers hum to themselves; that coronet warbles and squeals like a drowning pig; distortion reigns supreme. Half the fun of returning back into Pronunciation‘s topsy-turvy orbit is trying to understand what Good Area are even doing, even as you know you’ll never quite grasp it, because it’s not like you were in the same room where this thing came into being – or even, like, the same fucking universe. But at least they fill us in on the tools they used to make what reminds me, in a spiritual if not a literal sense, of a long-forgotten Storm & Stress album.
ADVENTURES IN MUSIQUE CONCRETE: SHAUN ROBERT
Mindstrope opens upon a cusp of madness entitled “Steeple”: the last bits of a beverage slurped through a straw superimposed upon a diamond-bladed knife in the act of slicing up bells in an evocative, concurrent loop; halfway through, someone’s maybe riffling through a dumpster, perhaps lightly tapping a cymbal at impossible speeds, probably gouging an ornate music box with a screwdriver. All conjecture, of course, as Bath, England sound artist Shaun Roberts is the only bloke who knows for sure how this recording came into being – but there’s no denying that he what he has to offer is a treat for the ears and the imagination alike. Elsewhere, “Envelop” marries a cawing crow, a loose array of suitably sciatica-inspiring sounds, and the world’s saddest trumpeter, while “Tribulus” slides from sleepy drone into a hypnotic, exhaled threshing and “Nihil” luxuriates on a sea of understated sine waves.
Not that you needed a reminder, but don’t sleep on Yellow Tears’ Golden Showers May Bring Flowers. And – important – please feel free to rep any and all noise wonders you’ve come across this month (or before) in the comments. We’d love to hear them, and they may even find their way into this column in future months.