This is a web-news-video-article thing about “noise” music and a recent show that we (Dodecazurvan) played at the unfortunately soon-closing Bela Dubby along w/ the legendary Robert Turman and police-stunted-yet-still-formidable Fat Worm of Error. While the article is well put together, the editing is nice, and it generally communicates some of what is going on—there is something missing. 

This missing is first seen in the title of the piece, “‘Noise’ is Music That Requires Earplugs.” Before moving forward, all music should require earplugs if you wish to avoid hearing loss later in life. I’d imagine that a teenager going to the latest arena tween show is more at risk for hearing loss than someone enjoying small venue soundscapes. Hearing loss is a serious issue and anyone serious about music should carry (and use when needed) earplugs. More on this on the WIkipedia page for noise-induced hearing loss (and yes, this is a different kind of “noise”). It could be argued (won’t be anymore here) that the average teenager damages their hearing far more than a “noise” fan or musician.

Further onto the tagline, “You could do anything and still get applause.”  This sets a condescending tone and implies that “noise” music is somehow not real music, not a real effort, nor worthy of applause, since “hey, anything could get applause.” This neglects the fact that much non-traditional music is more obviously an artistic and personal construct than the latest Top 40 hit. Applause at non-traditional shows is applause not only for the performance and artists themselves, but for the DIY spirit and the huge amount of effort that bands and artists put into this. Sets are not haphazard, random assortments of noisy sounds (and even when they are, they aren’t) but quite the opposite—an infinite pallet holding swatches of time/space and each carefully attended to by the musicians and artists. This is music by people who are passionate about what they do. This is an inarguable, raw passion that means music is made, records are put out, shows are promoted, and all this goes on for just a small group of likeminds who find something transcendental in the scene they elect to be a part of.

The tone of the article allows Mr. McEwan to keep a distance from less-traditional musics (or “noise” as Mr. McEwan seeks to encompass things). It allows Mr. McEwan and the Lakewood Patch to view non-traditional musics as abrasive and amateurish and thus dismiss these musics as a “trend” for hipsters to “flock to.” To those of us deeply involved in this nameless scene, this strikes as offensive and clearly off-point.

The problem here is that Mr. McEwan isn’t trying to overtly deride the non-traditional music scene in Northeast Ohio, I believe he actually enjoyed the show and found it new/exciting. For lack of a better umbrella Mr. McEwan chooses “noise,” a vague term that barely begins to do justice to the wealth of sonic exploration that takes place at events like these every night all over the world. This is another point completely, terms like “noise” and “experimental” are the new “avant-garde.” Sounds are either so new or specialized that traditional, familiar genres defy and we default to the closest emcompasser. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Many fans will use these vague terms to connect and identify and can thus sort out the endless genre stratification on a personal (often intuitive, languageless) basis. That sorting is more difficult for someone like Mr. McEwan so we can’t blame him when he says “noise” or that “noise is loud.” Or maybe we can. 

It wouldn’t be a false statement if Mr. McEwan visited the Bela Dubby on a night when harsh noise bands were playing. Harsh noise being the furthest extreme of sonic maximalism, where speakers are assaulted at full volume. That music is easy to call noise and easy to call loud. The show that Mr. McEwan visited was a show that featured no “harsh noise” and began w/ a fairly ambient, restrained set and followed with beautiful sound sculpture from Turman. Fat Worm rounded out the night with an epileptic interpretation of the traditional rock band structure, yet still even they were not quite the “noise” that Mr. McEwan describes. Sure the night got loud, but it was also awfully quiet at times and this leads me to wonder if Mr. McEwan was listening. If he was he would have heard a small sampling of the eclectic worldwide community and sounds and musics produced by this community. This is a place where genres become arbitrary signifiers, able to be latched upon when necessary, yet also easily disposable in the pursuit of art, expression, and just taking part in the generation of really cool, completely new sounds.

Review: Ypotryll – Solar Tongues (Sangoplasmo, 2012)

The description of the cassette released by Polish tape label Sangoplasmo Records bears a somewhat cryptic, brief, yet interesting explanation on the name “Ypotryll”:

Ypotryll is the name of a beautiful legendary creature with the tusked head of a boar, the body of a camel, feet of a goat, the tail of a serpent and a huge penis. However, Ypotryll is also a meditative experimental music project of an artist from Brooklyn.

After a brief search, I’ve found a picture. An Ypotryll looks like this:

Looking at the picture of this fantastic creature, it’s not hard to imagine a sort of mysterious, veiled sound that is steeped in nearly dark ambient-like atmospheric and ritualistic drones in the style of Super Minerals’ more unsettling moments – a sort of sound the source of which is hard to pin down, the sound that simply exists, as if it existed for centuries before, the sound that was here long before humans and will probably stay long after the humans are gone. Ypotryll manages to pull it off – the last time I’ve heard drone sound so primeval is the opening track of Loren Chasse’s The Buried Stream (recorded under the moniker Of, that was a huge sound).

Swelling well beyond the shy, field recordings-laden opening minutes, the music on side A’s “Sun” reaches (as the name of the track suggests) sunlit rainforest canopies in a series of bucolic synthesizer cascades echoing both the solo efforts of Daren Ho under his Driphouse moniker and wildlife sound-galore New Age of Ariel Kalma. There’s a deep sense of spirituality and connection with nature in Ypotryll’s sound and the fact that the person responsible for this project comes from one of the most dense urban areas in the world makes it even more impressive. Because Ypotryll’s drones sound like the result of constantly being very close to nature. Solar Tongues might be the soundtrack to non-human sounds that will ring out in Manhattan overgrown with a jungle – like in those many “post-human” drawings that give us the sights of modern skyscrapers leaning slowly toward collapse, water flowing down the subway tunnels and streets, forming natural lakes and rivers, moss overgrowing art deco and modernist details, buildings gradually crumbling and forming a sort of a man-made mountain range. And the circle would be over – everything will be reclaimed by nature.

Brian Eno once stated that he created his Ambient albums to get people prepared for death. This is also what Solar Tongues managed to do – it seems to say: “it’s okay if you die, it’s completely natural, don’t fight it, welcome death with open arms – but remember to do it in a beautiful place”. Like a rainforest.

Listen to the sample and buy the tape from Sangoplasmo Records!

Review: Andy C. Jenkins – Matsubara Conical (Sunshine Ltd, 2012)

It is not just mere coincidence that for a cover of his cassette, released by up-and-coming ambient Floridian label Sunshine Ltd. the American sound experimentalist Andy C. Jenkins used a photo of an installation of Japanese visual artist Shinya Aota. Just like Aota places ordinary, everyday objects (a bottle of detergent, a piece of pipe, a mosquito coil) in surprising configurations leading to their re-birth as works of art, Jenkins takes usual, everyday, sometimes even unwanted sounds and places them in new context, removing the status of “accidental sound” and bringing it to the more organized – musical – levels.

The music on the tape is an ever-changing and fluctuating kaleidoscope of sounds; by combining pulsing synthesizer drones, seemingly random guitar noodling, field recordings and found sounds Jenkins walks the path somewhere between cluttered electroacoustic improvisations and down-to-earth ambient music. The opening “Tone Poem” is a drifting, lethargic drone miniature that slowly delves into a GY!BE/Tim Hecker sort of distorted police radio/CB radio blabber, only to explode in sudden, brief yet intense, blast of guitar violence. Things kick off from there, with the deconstructed math folk of “Going to Gurgaon”, which sounds like a big Sunburned Hand of the Man jam that can never really take off, wasting its energy on a series of false starts.

One thing that is very distinctive about Matsubara Conical (and the releases of Sunshine Ltd in general) is how “lowercase” it sounds: the sound is never heavy nor bombast, it doesn’t impose itself on the listener, rather, it invites the listener to listen closely to the microscopic structures that constitute the tracks, the short, warped guitar/synth compositions that require (and reward) a heavily focused and repeated listening. With each listening there is more to be discovered: the j-card lists an impressive (and international) list of places, where various field recordings were taken from and cites a few tracks, from which the samples were taken. Once one gets deep into Matsubara Conical there comes a realization that there is so much more to it than just some simple, distorted guitar scales or a pulsing synthesizer patch. There’s always more sounds lurking in the background: modified, re-shaped, often muted or playing on the very barrier of hearing. Andy C. Jenkins rewards those who listen – those who listen instead of just hear.

Listen and buy Matsubara Conical from Sunshine Ltd.

Review: Mother Ganga – Pineal Soup (Instructional Media, 2012)

Glasgow’s Lewis Cook might be more known as a part of a heavy stoner/psych rock ensemble The Cosmic Dead, where he plays noodling, labirynthine synthesizer passages. Under his Mother Ganga moniker he reveals a much softer, pop-oriented side of electronic psychedelia, offering a twisted, chillwavey take on 80’s synth pop music, complete with deformed vocals and infectious hooks.Pineal Soup is a strong, compelling debut tape released from Cook’s own label Instructional Media.

The opening “Do I?” (well, not really opening, but I’m not counting the short, noisy intro) is a head-first dive into the world of fun and fresh retrodelica in the vein of Ford & Lopatin, except less heavy on MIDI sound effects. What might appear to be a prime-time radio-friendly hit song is suddenly cut short by a few seconds of silence; a deed that might mean suicide for all aspiring radio songs, but we’re not aiming for the mainstream popularity here – the song comes back after that short break, sprinkled by delicious glitches and distortions, intentionaly hitting the wrong notes at times while retaining the easy-going mood, like a parody of “perfect life” songs, showing small cracks under the polished surface.

Pineal Soup keeps the balance between the more abstract, vocal-less moments (like the beatific, beat-laden crystal New Age-isms of “Ganges Riverboat Disco”) or the deformed, mutant pop of “Patterns of Subsistence”, which feels like an analog version of The Knife or the guitar driven lo-fi summer anthem of “Trip to Samye Ling”, which might as well be an outtake from Rangers’ Suburban Tours. As Mother Ganga, Lewis Cook manages to show the wide spectrum of his abilities as a composer – he is an example that no matter how wild or psychedelic one can goes with synthesizer, there is always that more peaceful, pop-oriented side. Because there is a bit of pop in all of us.

Buy Pineal Soup from Instructional Media website!

Review: Soundings / Shapers / Verma – Split (Paramita, 2011)

This entirely Chicago-based split cassette by the fresh, yet ass kicking label Paramita Recordings, finds three weirdo bunches sharing and comparing their penchant for psychedelia filtered through three different prisms: be it the chugging stoner-kraut of Verma, noisy post-hardcore of Soundings and the cold electronic abandon of Shapers.

Chicagoan psychedelic rockers from Verma are already known the readers of Weed Temple, with their ecstatic, lengthy jams infused with the always-alive spirit of motorik and stonery riffs recalling the giants of the genre. It can be said they contributed the most to this split cassette and are known the “most”. Their first track, “Space is Open”, starts with a nearly trademark drawn-out buildup, touching the more meditative, almost ambient atmospheres with sporadic, quiet lysergic guitar licks among the droning desert landscape. Suddenly, the kick it off, in truely garage lo-fi fashion, with the distorted thunderous bass guitar, relentlessly propelling their dirty jam forward, in the unholy West Germany-Southwest US union. Verma also finishes the tape with “Not Even Time”, a much slower and timid psychedelic effort, which sounds like an afterparty and a rest from the crazy, uncontrolled jam of the first track.

The mysterious entity called Shapers comes next, providing a rapid change from the hippie noodling of Verma with their industrial, pulsing, and purely electronic soundtracks, which disorient and alienate the listener rather than put him into bliss. Which is not a bad thing – the sudden jump from a stoned jam to a noisy, abstract synthesis which sounds as if it was ready to cut you in half is a bold and adventurous move. Shapers then go one step further on “Bitch Veins”, which might be understood as a tribute to Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop”, down to the otherworldly, inhuman shrieks. The following “Samus Garant” is the only track that might be considered “peaceful”, at least by Shapers’ standards- it is a quiet prog electronic meditation which still retains the unsettling, morose power of the preceeding tracks.

Last, but not least come Soundings, another rock band and a comeback to guitars and drums after surviving the industrial synthesizer apocalypse. Despite their noisy, psychedelic explosions, the main inspirations of the band appear to be less psychedelic than expected – parts of “Jets Under Bridges” or “Tiny Little Laws” recall the 90’s post-hardcore and early, raw post-rock bands such as Unwound or Shipping News. What is fascinating about Soundings is their inability to stay in one place over the course of one track – while Verma could lock into a groove and jam the same riff for 10 or so minutes, these dudes make sudden changes in mood, pitch, rhythm, one time signature replaces the other, their tracks are constantly transforming, likening them to a collage version of rock music, trying to cite as many various inflences as possible rather than agreeing to the pre-determined rules of psych rock.

The tapes are still available on Paramita Recordings!

Bitter Fictions – Percolator Glitch

Bitter Fictions is the solo project of Calgary-based music journalist, record store clerk and radio host Devin Friesen. HisPercolator GlitchEP is a series of electric guitar improvisations processed through Max/MSP. While some people, when thinking about “Max/MSP + guitar” association might come up with the polished soundscapes of Christian Fennesz, Bitter Fictions’ sound is much more raw, often unsettling, interrupted by sometimes brutal glitches and repetitions and well… more improvised. It’s much closer to noise rock than ambient, but never fully entering any of those areas. Instead it stays somewhere in the middle, sudden guitar blasts punctured by constant clicks’n’cuts.

Bitter Fictions – Percolator Glitch

For a slightly more traditional, lo-fi alt/indie rock approach, check out Looper Pedal Blues!

Eagle Chalice – Infinite Altitude

More bedroom drifting synth goodness straight outta “backyard time portal”, as Mr Eagle Chalice himself states on his Bandcamp page. Walking the fine line between the more serious, inner-gazing moments and the more tongue-in-cheek electronics (the term “glue age” is a good indication), with titles like “Dolphins On the Dancefloor”. Slow beats and spacey synthesizer pads, this is a healthy dose of zoned out bliss. Originally released on cassette on Digitalis Ltd, physical copies are still available from the album’s BC page. Also, be sure to check out more free goodness from Eagle Chalice, like Hot Glue!

Eagle Chalice – Infinite Altitude