May’s Best Noise Music: Speak Onion, HHL, and Prurient


Just like that, summer’s stalking us — transforming unwashed dishes into biohazards, inspiring unexpected flop sweats, summoning mirages on long, flat highways. Every action demands that much more effort, so with this in mind, our noise picks for May are all about energy. Here’s hoping these can power you through obligations major and minor alike, up the steepest hills, from the thronged cosmopolis to the postcard-pristine seashore.

Speak Onion — Unanswered
Speak Onion, the core concern of Queens-based musician Daniel Abatemarco, has evolved considerably since 2009’s abrasive Trigger Puller. Atari Teenage Riot remain an influence, but Unanswered (Ohm Resistance) showcases a more skeletal, skittering sound and impressionistic vocals, suggesting EDM’s adrenalized heft but unafraid to dive headlong into bitcrushed whirlpools of distortion. “Refusal” zigs and zags like the yanking of a dimensional ripcord, while the title track is framed as an industrial, musique concrète aria. The drums undergirding “Crossed and Folded” knock like giant fists against a monolith. It’s fun to imagine a rogue club DJ slipping something like “The Viewer” into a tropical-house set; it’s more fun to think about the audience’s response. The mournful “In Blood, Inert” may even remind some listeners of Untouchables, Korn’s 2002 album — a connection I’d never have expected to draw with Speak Onion, though hardly an unwelcome one.

HHL — Thrall
On Thrall (Monorail Trespassing), Angeleno HHL wreaks havoc with a huge, triple-chained sound palette, a steamrolling diorama of clanks, hisses, engines, and general destruction. In its most extreme moments, Thrall suggests total annihilation but introduces enough sonic variation that the crush never risks monotony. It also doesn’t operate at a tinnitus-inducing volume. One can detect a very specific intent here — and sense that a great many tracks were recorded, tweaked, and edited prior to the ultimate sandblasting experience on offer.

Prurient — “Red Poppy Laughter”
I like to joke that real life is what happens when we all aren’t busy struggling to digest the constant onslaught of Dominick Fernow’s anti-musical output. The NYC-based artist has many aliases, but Prurient is his longest-running and most important. For the past few years Prurient material has been pointedly bpm-fueled, for good and ill. If double album Frozen Niagara Falls, from 2015, saw Fernow beginning to shrug off this aesthetic, then Unknown Rains (Hospital Productions) would seem to mark a return of sorts to the project’s snarling, gnashed-tone, mid-’00s glory. “Red Poppy Laughter,” which closes out Rains, spews Day-Glo synth magma like an inexhaustible volcano; the accompanying bass rumble is deep, rich, and awesome. But that rumble also feels invigorating and renewing in a way nothing on LPs like Pleasure Ground and Cocaine Death ever quite managed. The ugliness here haunts but comforts, too. Don’t be shocked if you approach “Red Poppy Laughter” for a rejuvenating single serving only to stick around for several more.

In Other News

Simulation of Another Thingfrom San Diego’s Steve Flato, is the latest in a string of strange, engrossing releases; there’s a slow-burn unease here that’s well worth your attention.

If you will be in or around Ohio come mid-August, you’d do well to lock down tickets for the Amplified Humans Festival in Dayton; the lineup includes Facial Mess, the Rita, and Black Leather Jesus’ Richard Ramirez.

In September, Louisville, Kentucky, will play host to the Cropped Out Festival. While this lineup isn’t especially noisy, it does feature New Zealand’s mighty, zoned-out Dead C, who haven’t played a U.S. show in some time.

On Noise, the too-brief documentary about Aaron Dilloway, is a few years old now but worth revisiting as the former Wolf Eyes member’s amazing body of work continues to grow.