June’s Best Noise Music: Talibam!, Blue Chemise, ‘Midwest Harshfest 1 Compilation’


Conventional wisdom holds that we should hope for the least from our seasons, with “mild” as a watchword. By any standard of measure you care to name, this has been one punk-ass summer from a meteorological perspective. With broiling days largely outnumbered by pleasant, overcast, or stormy ones, Summer 2015 feels more like the Spring That Wouldn’t End, even as Supreme Court opinions and Confederate flag confabs heat up the internet. This month, let’s focus on noise that’s as harsh and unfocused as I wish the weather were by now.


The Midwest Harshfest 1 Compilation is the rare comp that actually improves the further into it one advances, with the disfiguring dissonance of Rochester, New York’s Waves Crashing Piano Chords and the bug-eyed, Boredoms-inspired blurt of Ontario’s Disleksick setting the tone for what’s to come. Then — then — the back end serves up a startling series of sucker-punches that’ll send you scouring the bands’ respective Bandcamp pages for more. Check it: cratering static from Lima, Ohio’s Citizen 213; choppy, Emergency Broadcast System annihilation courtesy of Chicago’s Pregnant Spore; the harrowing, soul-entombing churn of Detroit’s Obiekt 172; how Sumpter, Michigan’s RedSK jump-cuts from cymbal-smothering post-hardcore to intimately bizarre, synth-powered monologues in what seems like no time at all. A potent reminder that the world of noise comps is a vast one, and we’d all do well to spend much more time there.


NYC duo Talibam! are perpetually out and about, with a prolific catalog to prove it. (So much noise, so little time.) On new cassette Free World (Korper/Leib), Matt Mottel and Kevin Shea seem to have turned up their insanity several notches. The experience of listening along at home can be likened to having the world’s most tumultuous alarm clock jolt you awake. Talibam! paint a tortured, expansive canvas of half-digested vocals, rampaging-Valkyrie keyboard vamps, short-circuiting noise swipes, prog-pop spatters, impossibly manic drum solos, melted banjo plunks, ganked samples, and all manner of endearing calamities that add up to something overwhelming; it’s as though the duo endeavors to simultaneously remix and mash-up reality, turning all preconceived notions of perception on their heads. Or, conversely, it may seem like the universe is projectile-vomiting all over you. Fans of Eric Copeland, John Zorn, and Barkley’s Barnyard Critters will find much to savor here; the sharp-eared among you may recognize bits and pieces of radio staples, some of them warped and vividly accelerated. If you weren’t sure you were actually alive before experiencing Free World, you sure as fuck will know you are afterwards.


Few pleasures in life can rival stumbling upon odd, rare, and sickly sounds, and for the present moment, Blue Chemise fit the bill. “Abstract Gaze,” from what appears to be this project’s self-titled debut on Greedy Ventilator, sounds more the product of a mad scientist’s laboratory than a studio (even a bedroom studio). While there are a lot of elements at play here — sweeps of field recording, swaths of noise, an effect that suggests marbles and Alka-Seltzer dropping into a tall, cool glass of freon — the prime movers are a handful of synthesizer chords that sound like they’re coming across through a bad transatlantic phone line. Everything scrapes and swerves forward, somehow holding together even when full structural collapse seems imminent — as though the track is simultaneously tripping on acid and double-fisting expressions to afford itself the wherewithal necessary to successfully hail a cab home. No clue where this band hails from or who’s involved, but I’d love to know.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 1, 2015


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