[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.]
The buzz of the fan, the mumble of the air conditioner, the numbing hum of central air: no more, no more. That’s over, people. It’s autumn now, and it’s getting cooler. Not cold, mind. When it’s cold there’s the baseboard heat or the plug-in heater to turn to, and those appliances generate some pleasant ambient noise. But for now we’re in between consumer electronic drones, which means we’re in the season where we’re forced to willfully pollute our surroundings. Don’t make that face; as if you weren’t doing that already.
See also: The Best Noise Music in August: Springsteen Shitshower, Bryan Eubanks, Pagan Cops
Reality Dismantled, Then Shattered: Bloodeath
If I’m honest, I don’t place much stock in the promotional salvos that materialize daily in my inbox; too often, disappointment follows once I’ve taken a leap of faith, scanned the bio, clicked the SoundCloud or YouTube link, rolled my eyes. Bloodeath — which involves members of Makr and Slapping Purses, projects I’d never even heard of until now — is a rare exception. Sure, the entirety of Bloodeath’s self-titled EP (Totally Gross National Product) — which is, as of this moment, the band’s sole commercially available release — flashes by in eight minutes. But oh, what a bracing, corrosive eight minutes these are, a miniature hive of distorted tripwires, blown-out voices, and grievous crimes against electronic equipment. “No Way Man” is brusque and soldering-iron rude, with sieved, bile-soaked rants launching from its rolling crushes of shuddering, stuttering noise. “There’s a Bag on Your Head” flash-fuses howls and barbed-wire scree into a dense tangle. “Scabies (In My Flesh)” suggests an unevenly syncopated death by electrocution. “Somebody Took My Teeth,” the longest and most fully formed cut, wanders like a nomad around and through all manner of anti-musical geysers, sometimes raining curses down into them. I don’t know where these guys came from, but I know that I’m game to follow them wherever their journey takes them, especially if it involves them opening for Silk Purse.
A Long, Creasing Scream: Barrier of Broken Leaves
Sometimes there’s nothing like a good, harsh crackle to spark the blood and sharpen the senses, to snap lethargy off at the knees before it can ruin your day. Autumn, as everyone probably knows, can suck, and hard — the weariness of gray skies and cold weather casts a pall that even a triple espresso can’t quite shake, especially when you’ve gotta haul yourself out of bed and get to work. No disrespect to smooth jazz, up-jump 1980s boogie, or National Public Radio, but Spite (Turmeric Magnitudes), from San Francisco’s Barrier of Dark Leaves, is knocking it out of the park lately with some full-tilt, wood-chipper wheeee. Behold 21 minutes of unyielding, dark-crayon scribble noise that rears up and goes for it, unrelenting, like a full-scale firefight just around the next bend or an epic hailstorm or a nightmare loop of someone tearing open a package of LifeSavers. At full volume the ears tend to feel a bit battered, even buried; you audibly observe a multitude of indentions and hairline cracks and almost feel them, as well. Listen long enough and the course of energy will seem reversed: no longer meteors streaking down from space, but a dying home world exploding outward the cosmos — a static-electricity toy writ large.
October NYC sets from Phill Niblock and Tomomi Adachi/Gilles Aubry and a few words from Maria Chavez
Next month, the NYC-based “abstract turntablist” Maria Chavez is curating two avant-garde shows in NYC: a set by noted drone wonder Phill Niblock at a private city residence on Sunday, October 5; and, on Sunday, October 12 at the Chelsea Eyebeam, the latest entry in the Contemporary Temporary Sound Works and Music (CT-SWaM) series, featuring multidisciplinary artist Tomomi Adachi, among others. Please Enjoy Responsibly engaged Chavez in an email chat about these events.
Phill Niblock’s performance at Ende Tymes 2014 was one of the most arresting aspects of that festival; tell me a bit about his set on October 5. Will he be presenting a prepared piece, or an improvisation? Why is it being held at a private residence, rather than a traditional venue?
I was recently in touch with an individual who lives in a loft in Brooklyn, which houses a rare standing Klipschorn Sound System. It’s almost impossible to see a system like this fully intact. When I first knew of the space and these incredible speakers, I told Phill about it, and he expressed an interest in showing something with them. So this has been a careful process to get him the access to play through this system — like, a couple years trying to organize it. He’ll also be presenting a piece with video artist Katherine Liberovskaya; opening the evening is sound artist Carver Audain, plus a special guest whose name will be announced the day of the event.
Due to the fact that this is someone’s home, those wanting to attend must RSVP, or they cannot get in. There is no guest list. You will receive an email the day of the event with the address of the location.
What is the CT-SWaM concert series? How did it originate, and what are its aims? What approaches will Tomomi Adachi and Gilles Aubry be taking in their performances?
CT-SWaM is an event series that emphasizes spatial sound work and focused listening. It was started by Eyebeam alumnus Daniel Neumann as a late Monday evening event centered on spatial sound pieces in the Chelsea warehouse space of Eyebeam. I have worked with him, co-presenting sound events all over NYC the past few years, and decided to join together to present these two celebrated Berlin-based sound artists for one night.
On October 12 we will host Tomomi Adachi, a performer/composer, sound poet, instrument builder, and visual artist. He has performed improvised music and contemporary music/performance works by John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Christian Wolff, Tom Johnson, and others. And Gilles Aubry is a Swiss sound artist. He uses location recordings, sound archives, music, and interviews to create live performances, sound installations, publications, and “movies without pictures” addressing the politics of the audible. I’m so thrilled to be showing these two Berlin-based artists’ works here in NYC at the Fridman Gallery in Lower Manhattan. Iliya Fridman, the gallery director, has been generous enough to offer us his beautiful gallery to present these two artists on October 12.
Beyond this, are there any pieces or projects that you’re personally engaged in right now?
Looking forward to spending time in Mexico City and South America this season — there will be lots of DJing, workshops, performance. All en español!
Wild, Commingled Shouts From the Animal Kingdom: Tucker Martine
The best sonic squalls (or drones, if you like) are complicatedly infinite, capable of submerging and diverting the listener endlessly, propelling him or her in a billion directions. When you detect a different frequency or fractured melody or experience singular synaptic jolts on each outing, you know you’re onto something special. That’s one of several reasons why, almost 40 years on, Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music remains so revered: one shattering portal, countless paths to tread.
Tucker Martine’s Broken-Hearted Dragonflies, a Sublime Frequencies joint that celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is certainly of this fine lineage — except that where Reed’s masterpiece was wrought via the abuse of electric guitars, Dragonflies is all-natural, a mélange of field recordings (taken in Laos, Thailand, and Burma) of high-treble, come-hither whines of dragonflies, cicadas, and other insects. Years of somehow not taking the Sublime Frequencies bait pass before a friend hipped me to this adventure recently; when I directed another friend to it, she responded excitedly, terming it a “definite palate-cleanser.” And it is: one keening, sleeting shriek comprising many that nonetheless pulses and surges like a sector alarm that’s blared for far, far too long. There’s a sort of governing tone that is shriller than the others, and beneath it whirl countless auditory hallucinations: ascending 747s, the hum of electric lights, merry birds (or are they?). Marvelous.
Omni-Pop Mulch: Eric Copeland
On the right day and in the proper frame of mind, I could wander around town all day listening to solo Eric Copeland cuts and never feel bored or disappointed — just buoyant, just foreign to myself, just twisted slightly inside-out. The Black Dice member has an uncanny knack for smelting entire genres into single-song alternative history crash-courses that — like Metal Machine Music, like Broken-Hearted Dragonflies — are mood-ring fickle, so that what’s dripping from your earbuds is never quite the same; some days you’ll like them, some days you’ll love them, some days you’ll be baffled by the idea that you ever fancied this mutant musical strain. The tropical playfulness found on last year’s stellar Joke in the Hole carries over, somewhat, to the new Logo My Ego EP (L.I.E.S.); it certainly suffuses the jittery, madcap “Beat Box” and the Brasilia cyborg bop of “Trophy Nuts.” But Copeland hardly boxes himself in. There’s the windshield-wiper alien house of the title track — the showy little guitar riff sucked through the filter, the impossibly high slide-whistle solo, the sampled loop circling low and drowsy like a tank’s treads — and drugged disco squish of “Uncle Sam’s Blues.” These descriptions don’t do justice to how deeply weird and infectious this material is, to how vocals are sewn through in ways that should be spine-tingling but are instead rousing, empathetic, or ambivalent, to the seamless, precise layering that fuses or baton-trades harmonic threads with a subtlety that will keep you rewinding back, rewinding back, sometimes against your will. Now that’s magic.