February’s Best Noise Music: Tattered Syntax, See Through Buildings, Naughty


Within most of us, the month of February induces spasms of denial. We want – no, we need – to believe that the worst of winter is over, that the weather can’t and won’t get worse, that slicing winds and sudden snowfalls and frozen sidewalks are a distant, unpleasant memory. This February was happy to nurture and encourage such beliefs, to dole out moderately warm days and tease flowers towards bloom – only to jerk any hints of spring away and plunge the temperatures back down into the teens or twenties on a dime (to say nothing of the arctic tundra that was the 13th). Winter isn’t completely over yet, no matter how much any of us want to believe it. Since throwing temper tantrums in the face of nature is futile and self-defeating, we may as well give ourselves over to the full-bore catharsis noise music can offer us.


Alone Gone (Oxen) compiles unreleased and previously released material that William Hutson (Clipping.) created between 2005 and 2009. In his liners, Hutson notes that an extraordinary amount of editing work went into these compositions, and that “by the time I decided I had become decent at making this kind of noise, this style had fallen out of favor.” Nonetheless, this is a phenomenal collection which, at its best, is terrifyingly three-dimensional, as though it were documentation of the sky giving way to some sort of jagged, power-electronics Armageddon. The noise here feels relentlessly cleansing in a deeply tornadic sense, if tornadoes were capable of piercing iron walls and rearranging collective psyches; tracks strike, annihilate, recede, contemplate, and then out of nowhere are dismantling the ground on which you stand listening, wide-eyed, trying to comprehend what’s happening around you. For the first dozen listens or so I was reminded of the the hit-and-run nature of John Wiese’s seminal Teenage Hallucination, but Hutson is operating on a different, less comic frequency; more is at play, with the shrillest tones displayed, swallowed, then bazooka-barfed out as sprays of gravel, and very serious intimations of planetary destruction.

(On a side note, Oxen also issued a heavy disc featuring K2, Constrain, and Fenian last year that deserves a wide airing; my neighbors probably hate me now (if they didn’t already). Sample a bit of it here.)

A GRIPPING HNW RIPTIDE: See Through Buildings

See Through Buildings is the primary project of Garrden Grove, California’s Ben Rehling. His latest, I’ll Waive the Cover Charge (Lost Light Records), is solid entry in the Harsh Noise Wall (HNW) sub-genre. My biggest gripe with HNW over the years has been that at its very worst, the music presents an undistinguished front of oblivion, a snarling, invariable, personality-absent blare representing a dead-inside entropy and not much else. “Anti-music” is not necessarily a pejorative notion, but lame HNW nearly renders it as such. And while Rehling embraces overload, flooding the mix with geysers of feedback and distortion, he also takes care to bi-layer his cacophony, stutter the flow, hint at samples struggling to breathe underneath that never-ending avalanche of noise. The moments when the distortion sharpens and leaps out, emerging as something viscerally distinct from the surrounding rubble, are where Waive reveals itself as special.


Rome’s great Signora Ward tape imprint, home to the amazing Power Monster among other projects, is taking its bow; Nylon Insomnia, from Rome’s Naughty, is one of the label’s last releases. I’m most partial to Side B, “You Won’t Sleep,” where Kevin Elliot Ford’s sweeping, sprained distortion shifts into steamroller mode, blood-red and confrontational, dozens of thorns and thistles shoving past one another, deeper and deeper into your eardrums. A fine bookend to the beginning or ending of a day: any day.

Short Takes: Hesse Press recently issued Nihil Ad Rem, a provocative monograph from GX Jupitter-Larsen, with whom you may be familiar from dozens of noise projects and collaborations over the years. The 33-page book features perception-confounding paintings, and live-performance photography that somehow combine aspects of Mexican wrestling, outsider art, and the concealment implicit in terrorist communiques. Austin’s No More Gun Violence organization returns with another compilation in an ongoing series, and No More Gun Violence, Vol. 4 is an scabrous, ponderous dozy; proceeds benefit the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Last but not least, Pittsburgh’s digitally-inclined outfit Cloning has connections to the until-recently-on-pause White Suns,; they’re prolific and abrasive, in a sometimes minimalist way.