October’s Best Noise Music: Joe Colley, Khaki Blazer, People of the North

As it gets colder out and the trees explode in color, you may find yourself tempted to embrace the avalanche of vintage and modern holiday music. Resist that temptation, friends; resist it with all your being. Studies show that much of our collective dissatisfaction with holidays lies in their failure to live up to fantastical, unrealistic expectations. Decorations, season-specific dishes, and “Let It Snow” are incapable of reliably stirring up genuine feelings of warmth and togetherness; why buy into a lie that experience has repeatedly demonstrated to be false? Those guests at your party may revolt when you transform this column into a playlist, but later — once you’ve defended yourself — they’ll salute your honesty. Well, hopefully they will. Pumpkin pie, anyone?

People of the North—The Caul
On this record, NYC’s People of the North get it both ways: The first half stays in that knotty, scuzz-bop pocket the group owned on last year’s Era of Manifestations, with the other side venturing into new territory. Diffuse initially, the twenty-minute title track quickly snaps into a solar-jazz focus, with Kid Millions’s drum rolls and tight fills struggling to find purchase amid organist Bobby Matador’s all-eclipsing vamp fronts. Elsewhere, “Surfacing” sounds almost like a cotton candy machine, its tones puffed, fluffed, and then drastically misshapen. “A Real Thing You Can Know” posits what would happen in church, if a minister allowed the house band to stretch a purely incidental coda — that pre-pulpit warm up — into something politely epic.

Here, Cloaca reiterate that less is more. Pessimists may hear this EP as half empty; optimists will hear it as half full. I would say that it’s just right, a sort of trailer for what this Sanford, North Carolina, project has to offer. The five cuts, each clocking in at a minute, are exactly enough to stoke appetites, from the undulating cosmic shiver of “Anfractuous” to the glacially deep rupture of “Forsworn” and the blaring “Edict,” which in an alternate context might represent a traditional rock ’n’ roll soundcheck.

Khaki Blazer—Gelatinous Ground
As half of Cleveland’s Moth Cock, Patrick Modugno is no stranger to synthesizer histrionics. In his Khaki Blazer guise, he’s equally eclectic but significantly more buttoned-up as a composer. Side A of Gelatinous Ground coughs up arpeggios that are mild and slightly astringent — a vibe suited to chill-out tents and cocktail lounges alike — before popping a series of expressionist wheelies that stop just short of haywire. Side B, on the other hand, celebrates the glorious possibilities of echoes, laser effects, and drill rap production.

C.H.S.—”One More Element Mass Media 1″
So you click Play, and it’s as though someone threw open some awful Pandora’s box: The void just pours out everywhere, merciless and weird. Wild, raw flute bursts, jumbled voice samples, and television-swiped swatches commingle in tsunami debris from this Holyoke, Massachusetts-based mystery project — mass media, indeed — but it’s the sheer noise, velocity, and weight of the surrounding current that keeps our ears glued to the laptop speakers. Over time,  you begin to hear things that aren’t necessarily even there. It’s a turgid heave of music that recalls the Dead C’s earliest, least coherent sides. Is that a proper band, lost and laboring under the mix? A goblin? Late afternoon traffic? We’ll never know, and that’s just fine.

Joe Colley—No Way In, Side A
Though the entirety of No Way In — Colley’s first solo release in four years — will be available by mid November, its Side A is streaming now. Here the Oakland, California-based musician cobbles together a shape-shifting din that’s dazzling in its shrill relentlessness. It’s natural to feel needled by this music, to sense that one’s very awareness has been cast through several noxious, psychically disastrous landscapes in a brief period of time. It’s also natural to want to re-take this journey immediately after it concludes. Give in to the impulse.

In Other News

If you’re anything like me, international travel is beyond your present financial grasp. Thanks to the magic of the internet, we can engage in a bit of guided electronic noise tourism by diving into Feminoise Latinoamerica.

Save a mint on coffee for at least a week by starting each day with the enervating Demo, from Australia’s Wound Culture.

I’ve also really been enjoying “POTone,” where Greece’s Chris Silver T intriguingly commingles effects that suggest crushed-glass showers and boiling burner spatters.

Perhaps you’d heard that Merzbow had his way with some unreleased Sun Ra material. It’s true; that happened, and Strange City — in somewhat different CD and LP formats — is now something you can buy. Let’s trip out together, shall we?



Watch a Brief History of HEALTH

LA noise nerds HEALTH have been blurring the lines between dance and noise since they climbed out of the “Smell Scene” (the DIY community built around L.A. venues including The Smell and Il Corral) in the mid-aughts. Much of abrasive texture that surrounds their music can be traced to their use of the Zoothorn (a microphone run through effects pedals to a guitar amp).

Their earliest recordings, made during off hours at The Smell, drew critical comparisons to Boredoms and Liars. But with subsequent LPs and remix records, the band slowly refined its identity, as Jacob Duzsik’s androgynous vocals shifted toward a higher register and some of the bands’s rougher melodic edges became smooth hooks.

Ahead of HEALTH’s show this Thursday at Market Hotel, with Yvette and Dreamcrusher (two of Brooklyn’s best noise acts), here’s a chronological guide to how the four-piece has pulled off the tricky combination of harsh and fun — a blend that, obviously, means they’re even better live.

2007: “Girl Attorney”
Before they started writing “Girl Attorney,” HEALTH’s members admitted their biggest influences were rooted in “classic rock,” specifically Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Television. But once they stumbled upon the Zoothorn, their sound took a dramatic shift, and “Girl Attorney” marked a new beginning. “We were fucking around one night and stumbled across it,” former guitarist Jupiter Keyes told an interviewer in 2010. “Jerked ourselves off for like an hour or two jamming, then decided we should build a song around the sounds we were able to find. Really it’s manipulated feedback.”

2008: “CRIMEWAVE (Crystal Castles Remix)” 
Crystal Castles’ debut single was a remix of the fourth track on HEALTH’s self-titled debut LP (the original was arguably the standout moment of the record).  Alice Glass sings the song’s few lyrics through a robot filter as Ethan Kath wraps the original’s rhythmic core with a chiptune sheen. It barely sounds anything like the original, instead becoming a complementary pastiche of Crystal Castles’ Gameboy ennui and Health’s vocal manipulations. As Alice Glass and Ethan Kath’s stars rose, so did HEALTH’s, albeit more slowly.

2009: “Die Slow”
Released as a 7″ in advance of HEALTH’s sophomore LP, Get Color, “Die Slow” washed a pop-song structure in the crunchy textures of the band’s earlier work. Duzsik’s breathy vocals sound more androgynous than ever, and the pedal nerds went nuts trying to figure out how the band got their robot-factory sounds. Get Color takes some of its industrial cues from Nine Inch Nails, who brought HEALTH on as openers for a leg of their tour that year.

2010: “Die Slow (Tobacco Remix)”
Get Color’s breakout track gets the remix treatment no fewer than five times on the bonus-track version of their remix record DISCO2, and the gentle syncopation on the beat of Tobacco’s remix makes it the best. By this point, HEALTH had firmly established themselves as a band whose remix records are at least as good as the originals, as they showed on the original DISCO, which included that “CRIMEWAVE” remix. Despite the chaotic nature of their original compositions, the patterns they use as building blocks seem to persistently inspire other artists and DJs.

2012: Max Payne 3 OST
Scoring a longform visual work like a film or video game is no small feat; doing so when your fan base has been waiting for a new record for three years seems inadvisable. And actually getting those fans to like it? Near impossible. But HEALTH’s score for Rockstar Games’ Max Payne 3 was a success all around, judging by both the response from the game’s fans and the band’s. HEALTH paired Max‘s slow neo-noir not only with abrasive tones but also with some surprisingly delicate, almost classical passages, suppressing their signature chaotic panic-attack aesthetic until moments when the narrative really demanded a blitz. They even got noms from the Spike Video Game Awards for Best Score and Best Song (“Tears”).

2015: “New Coke”
HEALTH’s first proper LP since 2009, last year’s Death Magic, fully realized the industrial disco and pop aesthetics the band had long been headed toward. Some fans were disappointed in the glossy sound, but the shift seemed inevitable, and it largely worked. Early single “New Coke” features a blaring multilayered guitar sample that sounds as if it came from Mad Max: Fury Road’s flamethrower guitarist, and a video that starts out cryptic and ends with some gross-out visuals; as always, HEALTH seem to be having a lot of fun.

HEALTH play Market Hotel on September 29.


August’s Best Noise Music: Starvation Time, Newagehillbilly, YOLOMIC

When our communal and political life begins to resemble a hallucination, the only reasonable response is to turn to hallucinatory music. When that sense of surreality is heightened, our intake of sounds that collapse and expand in unsettling ways should, clearly, increase. Stock up, true believers. After all, by the time you read this column, we’ll still have almost three months to go until election day; that’s a long, long time.

Starvation Time, House of Dust
This record is the product of a collaboration between San Diego’s Steve Flato and Olympia, WA’s Jeff Williams. Dust is, at root, terse rock’n’roll poking its head out from an undergrowth of Rorschach spatters: an array of effects and filters deployed in almost painterly fashion, a judicious seasoning of samples, throbbing synths, electronic blips, scraped guitar strings, distorted waves. Williams’ vulnerable vocals – spoken, muttered, or whispered – are narration for a journey into industrial hinterlands; guitars grind out rainbow feedback that flatters the melody. The conflict at Dust’s core especially compels: Flato’s dynamic, compositional meticulousness vs. Williams’ gasping, on-the-lam psychosis. At moments, the album’s ambitions put me in mind of Nine Inch Nails’ less-pyrotechnic adventures in anxiety and Deconstruction’s widescreen desperation.

Newagehillbilly, These Are Not The Final Days

One of my regrets about not keeping up with Baltimore’s MT6 Records: I miss the long soaks in the various sonic cesspools of label founder Alex Strama. Newagehillbilly was and remains Strama’s bread’n’butter, a post-post-everything kitchen sink heaping with busted beats, raw feedback, and near-punk. Particularly focused and amiably corroded, These Are Not The Final Days somehow became my favorite of his releases on first listen, and it continues to gain. An indispensable underground release is one that seizes the attention like a terrier worrying a new squeak toy, and each moment of Days delivers on that front. “Nothing Is Sacred” whips up a noisy blizzard that threatens to swallow itself; “Shelter” and the title track trade on machine-shop blues du jour. But “Massive Aggressive” might be the standout cut, ping-ponging and then retarding a denatured vocal sample against a keening din that suggests the Jolly Green Giant preparing to suck Strama and his studio whole into the world’s biggest Hoover.

Cara & Mike Gangloff with the Great American Drone Orchestra, “All of Me”
The question posed here is a noble, novel one: would standards from the Great American Songbook hold up if deconstructed, couched within atypical drumming, and outfitted with drones? “All of Me” – whose past interpreters have included Dinah Washington, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, and João Gilberto – fares best, kick-flipping beyond traditionally saucy or smooth readings into a more literal broken one. Spoken more than sung, Cara Gangloff’s vocals feel poised, pained, and increasingly distressed; they’re perfectly mirrored by the orchestra’s eerie, broiling drones and the furious, soundscaping percussion from MVP Tatsuya Nakatani. It’s the sort of rendition that should be Track 1 on a playlist for someone who just broke your heart.

The Dead C., Trouble
I’ve had this double LP brooding on my iPhone since late June but didn’t quite realize just how smitten I was until around the time Usain Bolt swept the Rio Olympics. It’s a beastly epic: Michael Morley’s vocals are scant and muffled, motifs are ridden hard, the pace is largely glacial. On opener “1,” The Dead C. gamble that near-boredom will pay off, as snarling guitars and a churning bass loop give way to a thumping, effects-pedal fueled blare that’s difficult to connect with and easy to tune out. Then – if you’re playing Trouble on a long walk or drive – the magic happens: the record temporarily loses you, until suddenly, it doesn’t. “2” adopts a martial lope, drifts into anthemic, abstracted ax heroics, then dons a harder, bluesier swagger; “3” transitions from free-form blizzard isolation into something approaching a protracted stoner-metal jam, which “5” solidifies, heavier than granite. By the time “4” arrives – yes, they know the sequence is off – the Dead C. are good and ready to really go gonzo, spazzing out and fucking around in every way they know how, not especially interested in whether we’re invested. But by that point, we most certainly are. It’s the very definition of a grower.

YOLOMIC, “False Promises”

The “quicksand pivot to Hades” is a well-known experimental technique in which a familiar song is at first teased as originally recorded, then effectively gutted. As evidenced via a recent string of one-off bombshells, Mexico City’s enigmatic YOLOMIC has demonstrated a propensity for pressure-cooker rupture. On “False Promises,” the victim is a slice of dusty vinyl Italian opera – decorus, resonant, heartfelt – that’s left scuffed, distorted, and dented as YOLOMIC drags it unceremoniously through subterranean tunnels. Eventually that opera becomes something unrecognizable, tagged relentlessly in scouring scree sprays and decomposed into a grotesque mockery of itself.

In other news…

Tickets are still available for the New Orleans Sound Art Festival, set to explode on Friday, October 21 and Saturday, October 22. Artists from across the nation are slated to perform, including Austin’s Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, NYC’s Compactor, L.A.’s Crowhurst, and hometown anti-heroine Rosemary Malign.

Chicago’s Daniel Whyce offers a soundtrack to the heat-stroked, mid-day catnap you wish you could take with “I Give My Language to More Than History.”

School’s back in session in Brooklyn, but this autumn, Brooklyn’s Josh Millrod wants you to chill. Millrod, a member of Grasshopper and Hex Breaker Quintet, puts aside some on his more abrasive tendencies for the mellow, enveloping New Age of Summer Meditations; they come highly recommended.

Whether you’re leaving here to cry, fly, or fry, you could do worse than to ride out on this mid-August Mind Machine, a sweet act of genre-juggling:

See you all next month!


July’s Best Noise Music: Overtone Ensemble, MARTWA NATURA, Ryan Huber

This month’s column was being written from a non-harmonious psychic void, as one national party convention wound down and another ramped up; each was horrifying in its own unique way, and both trump (yes) their 2012 equivalents in terms of hopelessness. It’s been a blessing to escape into the sounds below; their cocooning repulsion is comforting in a way our potential political futures just plain aren’t.

Overtone Ensemble  Overtone Ensemble

It is impossible to listen to the Overtone Ensemble’s eponymous second album without thinking about glass: rattling windowpanes, tuning forks on wine bottles, fingertips excruciatingly circling the rims of countless champagne flutes. Stirring together homemade aluminum instruments, re-tuned glockenspiels, bells, and other sonic ingredients, this Australian quartet kick up dense acoustic clouds of no-tone. The aptly titled “Handbells” clusters chimes, then incrementally disintegrates them into horror-flick drones. “Bowls,” a sprawling void with no discernible endpoint, piles din upon din upon din. Bells and metallic reverberations clash on “Eskiphones,” trailing a distinctly analogue feedback; it’s the opening scene from Back to the Future, where a panoply of vintage clocks sound simultaneously, multiplied and intensified. Overtone Ensemble is among 2016’s finest, most fanciful alternatives to real life as most of us must live it, most of the time.

MARTWA NATURA/Schmitt — Solecka  Stadlmeier  II

It takes a few spins to get your head around II. On the first side, German duo MARTWA NATURA are all glancing blows and incidental whispers: mewled voice, sonar quakes, birdcalls, creaking effects. And even when this stream eventually thickens into a cluster of gargled electronics, there’s always the very real sense that everything could collapse under its own lack of weight; that’s the thrill. MARTWA NATURA vocalist Martyna Solecka, who also performs as a member of Schmitt — Solecka — Stadlmeier, is II‘s connecting thread. The German trio devotes its side to the more abrasive sound of scraped guitars and glowering effects, built up from scraps to a raging pyre by midpoint, then consumed by a disconnected ambiance even better than what preceded it.

Ryan Huber  The need of want

The need of want has undertow in spades; to tune in is to sense this EP insistently tugging you into a steep tunnel drilled down to the earth’s molten core. There’s no time to prepare or catch your breath — it’s as though you’re in motion before you even press Play. Huber, who hails from Dartmouth, Massachusetts, proffers a rapidly metastasizing murk: echoing, monstrous murmurs gather snaps, then flushes. A tactile, clawing percussion coalesces in shadow, the aforementioned murk is recast as a humming choir, and the tempo accelerates. Another dozen shifts lie ahead. Dynamic and head-spinning, The need of want never quite stops evolving, constantly on the hunt for new angles. Twenty-four minutes is nowhere near long enough, and I wish Huber would develop this piece into a smartphone app capable of generating infinite algorithms from these core ideas.

White Mary  “To Owe One Six”

L.A.’s Mary Macker — who records as White Mary — mints scuffed, crusty beat-scapes, then funnels talk-sung vocals through them. It’s a simple but daring approach which, while reliably claustrophobic, is empowering, confrontational, and inspiring. Though it’s among the shortest ramshackle jams on Macker’s Soundcloud page, “To Owe One Six” is tough to shake off, its raspy half-raps and flat, strangulated instrumentation engaging in a hypnotic, hyper-economic round of double Dutch.

In Other News…

New Yorkers looking to beat Saturday’s heat should head to Silent Barn, where the one-day Samfest is primed to explode.

Across an ocean, Hamburg, Germany, hosts the inaugural Primal Uproar festival.

The twentieth — twentieth! — Norcal Noisefest runs September 30 through October 2 in Sacramento, CA. An international array of artists will perform at the three-day event, including Bastard Noise, Filthmilk, Mia Zabekla, Xome, and Gas Station of Love. They could use some monetary support, too.

And to conclude, this spastic, physical Mathias Kristersson live piece from May is fierce both in spirit and titular symbolism; right now, this is a struggle we should all be engaged in.



June’s Best Noise Music: Dysphoric Existence, Pleasure Island, Crown Larks, and More

Practical problems demand practical solutions. Lacking the gas or funds to travel to an ideal vacation spot as summer humidity gets serious? Air conditioning failing or outright dead? Insects crawling and stinging incessantly? Power through all that shit with this month’s column. Yeah, yeah, I know: This is an unworkable, thoroughly unrealistic perspective. But it’s not as if anything about this exhausting, all-around-bullshit year has been realistic, right?

Dysphoric Existence, Not Like the Other Girls

The debut from Spokane, Washington’s Dysphoric Existence hits like a destructive beam from the other side of the galaxy. I’ve made this point in this space before, but it bears repeating: Harsh wall-noise artifacts are interchangeable and boring unless artists find ways to upend or subvert the genre. Not Like the Other Girls gets it. Side A, “Give Thyself Unto Satan,” swiftly locates and sustains a rhythm within its churning maelstrom: It’s like a lung inflating, deflating, and then inflating again, so that even as the distortion level skyrockets, we never lose sight of the central design. Consuming side B is the title track, which subverts side A’s strictures and revels in the harrowing, bulldozed results; those of you for whom doom metal generally and Skullflower in particular are touchstones should devote some time and attention here. Girls eventually and without ceremony concludes — at which point it’s natural to immediately re-listen to the whole thing.

Pleasure Island, The Nexus

Sick, subtle The Nexus arrives courtesy of Portland, Oregon’s Pleasure Island. The default setting here is a hyperventilated, fanfare-free gear-grind, less cataclysmic end-is-nigh onslaught than a sleepwalking annihilation that seems almost laughably distant. Side A, “Feminine Holy Spirit,” opens upon a null void. A remote throb claws, with field-recorded brio, at a vast, empty space — until a needling parallel drone fades into view. Once a rough, seesawing near-melody and demonic dialogue rise to overwhelm everything that came before, it’s over. Side B, meanwhile, smolders. “Shepherd’s Rod” plays like a slow blister, crumbly bass waveforms beset on all sides by acidic effects and lonesome bells.

Crown Larks, Blood Dancer

Regular readers are aware that this column is not always time-frame-specific. This month, we’re going backpedal a year and change to Blood Dancer, the debut LP from Chicago’s Crown Larks. “Art rock” is the shorthand here, but this band juggles drone noise, jazz improvisation, shoegaze, and postpunk with deftness; the seams don’t show. The impressionist “Fog, Doves” gathers itself up very gradually, building dreamscapes out of instrumental driftwood and wistful vocal turns. “Defector” lures us with florid, crisp krautrock before tumbling into a no-wave chasm; “Gambian Blue Wave” is a concise piece of modern composition pop. Anyone fortunate enough to have seen Sonic Youth live in non-festival settings should understand what “a local Sonic Youth opening act” is: a band that doesn’t sound like Sonic Youth exactly, but eschews musical specificity, lyrical sloganeering, and showboating, for amorphous improv adventure; you rarely remember the set, but you recall how it made you feel, and the disc you buy at the merch table is a minor triumph that few will get to savor. Crown Larks might be the ultimate “local Sonic Youth opening act.” They’re on a brief tour; check their Bandcamp to see if they’ll appear at a venue near you.

Pain Appendix, “Tenderizer”

“Tenderizer,” from South Florida’s Pain Appendix, rewards close listening on headphones. While a mass of disembodied, looped vocals hover in the center, differentiated, effects-fueled squelches assail each channel; they’re the main attraction, and they’re fantastic. Meaty, quizzical stutters, high-pitched whines, and gummed, grinding gears intersect in orchestrated glory, worrying at a scrap of sub-industrial melody like wolves feuding over unclaimed territory.

Scythes, “Kill Your Television”

There’s no noise like live noise. “Kill Your Television,” finds Dead C’s Bruce Russell and Into the Void’s Jason Greig colliding streams of deconstructed guitar with all due majesty. (The performance was part of a set the duo played late last month in their native New Zealand.) This isn’t a duel, just two guitarists wandering lonely, blasted paths that happen to converge. These riffs are coiling, serpentine, and endless, starkly clarified at times and retreating into eclipsing, solipsistic dins at others.


2015’s best compilation, ladyz in noyz 3.5, is finally available as a Bandcamp download; you now have no excuse for abstaining from this international awesomeness.

Louisville, Kentucky’s Tropical Trash celebrate the one-year anniversary of their excellent record UFO Rot with the absorbing “Big Game John Cage.”

Those jonesing for something a bit more kaleidoscopic might dig “Endless Coil,” from Ohio’s Machine Listener.

New Yorkers and people who will be in NYC this weekend, here’s one last reminder that Summer Scum 5  the final Summer Scum — is about to go down at Trans-Pecos. Performers include Burning Star Core, Puce Mary, Humanbeast, Narwhalz of Sound, the aforementioned Pleasure Island, and many, many more.


Summer Scum Offers the Noise Scene a Family Reunion

Justin Lakes has some advice for people who don’t get to see the music they love. “If you live in a place where the stuff you like [isn’t] represented, take things into your own hands,” he says. That’s what he did, anyway, when he got tired of the lack of an experimental noise scene in Buffalo, where he lived at the time. So in 2012 he started Summer Scum, a festival he hoped would kick-start a local community around the genre.

By year three, Lakes was struggling to break even and planned to leave the festival behind when he moved to Brooklyn. But friends he’d connected with along the way encouraged him to try again here, and in 2015 he did, at Ridgewood’s Trans-Pecos. The venue, which showcases left-of-center experimental musicians on state-of-the-art sound equipment, plays host again this year. It’s quite a change from the abandoned building in Buffalo that hosted Summer Scum in 2013 — which had no running water. “It was a real marathon gantlet of, like, how much can people take,” remembers Lakes of those earlier years. “But everyone was really in a good mood in spite of it.”

Even with running water amply available, the music itself is still something of a gantlet. Noise artists employ homemade instruments, unintelligible howls (if there are vocals at all), and a tangle of electronics to create unpredictable, highly abrasive compositions. There’s not much to look at, either — usually it’s a single person hunched over a table of gear. But noise continues to appeal to an enthusiastic niche audience; similar events like Burning Fleshtival in the Rockaways and Carlos Giffoni’s legendary No Fun Fest proved that years ago, and paved the way for Summer Scum.

The lineup this year includes sixty bands. Pharmakon’s confrontational industrial soundscapes represent Brooklyn; there’s the dirtier, bleaker “No Coast” sounds of Midwest acts like Paranoid Time, Evenings, and Magia Nuda; and, for the first year ever, a handful of acts from Europe. Lakes is fitting them all in by limiting their sets to fifteen minutes or less, a typical length for the genre. What audiences look forward to most are the unpredictable, unrehearsed collaborations, like one combining the slower, bass-heavy drudge of Minneapolis-based Gnawed and the spastic, controlled blur of Chicago-based Deterge.

Performers are happy to travel the distance to pummel audiences for such a short burst because the relationships they’ve built by enduring and embracing the cacophony are fast and genuine — the glue that holds the musical chaos together. Roman Leyva, who’s played every edition of the festival and appears this year as Plague Mother, says Lakes himself is also part of the draw. “Justin has always had a very deep sense of commitment to the noise community…to protect, foster, and grow it. I would go pretty much anywhere [he] asked me to.” Leyva’s set this year explores “uncomfortable sounds” drawn from field recordings, junk-metal abuse, and feedback.

This is the last time Lakes will ask his friends to play the festival, though: After this weekend, Summer Scum is over. Though he’s enlisted a collaborator, Christopher Hansell, to help with logistics and booking, it’s still a lot for Lakes to pull off with only modest crowdfunding to supplement his own finances. “I get a stomachache for the two months leading up to it,” he says. “I’m a bartender. I don’t have a lot of money as a cushion; if for some reason nobody showed up, it would be devastating.”

Though willing to leave the stress behind, Lakes is proud of what Summer Scum has accomplished. He programmed the final year to be a grand send-off, paying out of pocket to fly in bands like Alleypisser, Puce Mary, Lettera 22, and Mercury Hall from Denmark and Italy, and inviting artists he felt presented a perfect cross-section of the scene he loves so much. “We really tried to go all out, getting people to come from all over [for] a roster [that’s] a definitive picture of this time in American noise.”

This snapshot will be memorialized on tape and released online as a free Bandcamp compilation, something Lakes has done for every year of the festival’s existence. Noise is rooted in the visceral improvisation of live performance, but tapes — which never went out of style in the scene — are the trading cards of this tight-knit community. The releases are a way to commemorate a great show and sometimes get reincorporated as samples in future sets.

Although the end of Summer Scum marks the loss of something special, it hardly spells ruin or a lack of interest in the scene. Noise artists — many of them fans themselves — will keep experimenting for as long as they have access to a power outlet. “I think noise is pretty inaccessible for the most part — by design. And that’s OK,” says Leyva, of Plague Mother. “But the possibilities are endless. You can do pretty much anything, and at least one other person will dig it.”


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.



Keeping It Weird: The Best of Times at Ende Tymes Festival

In early 2011, a friend of experimental composer Bob Bellerue told him that, considering how long he’d been around New York’s noise scene, he should start a festival of his own. And then, later that week, so did another friend, and another one. Two weeks later, he caved. “I wrote to a dozen people, and every single one of them said, ‘Fuck yeah!’ ” he tells the Voice by phone.

He’s still going strong. From June 2–5, fans with an ear for the strange and exciting can head to the Ende Tymes Festival of Noise and Experimental Liberation, which brings together over three dozen artists who work in weird, awesome ways. It’s a unique event, and that makes it easy to sustain. “I’m not having to hound people, or call agents, or write contracts,” Bellerue explains. “[Last year] everyone was saying that it was like a family reunion. They were there because they wanted to see their friends, and they wanted to perform for their friends.”

The community is both international and omni-generational. Artists featured on this year’s bill include L.A.-based noise lifer Hive Mind, whose fifteen-plus-year catalog ranges from the eerily crepuscular to the wildly out of control; Swiss outsider art collective 5chimpfluch Grupp3; and the chameleonic Maine sound sculptor Jason Lescalleet. “Usually there’s one person I haven’t met,” says Bellerue of the lineups, “but this time there’s a handful. Keeps it weird.” It’s not uncommon, he adds, for surprise sets to spontaneously arise at the end of the night; attendees are likely to get more than they’re paying for (in a good way).

Live music sets happen at Silent Barn, where a blend of Ende Tymes regulars and newcomers fill the bright space with disparate sounds. Telecult Powers, composed of Witchbeam and Mister Matthews, have appeared at Ende Tymes in various permutations over the years, interrogating homemade electronics to produce buzzing drones that can feel physically affecting; this year marks the first time they’ll play in this setup. “We haven’t had an opportunity to perform together since last December, which makes the Ende Tymes Festival even more exciting,” says Witchbeam. “We’re looking forward to turning the Silent Barn into a flying saucer one more time, and entering the pleroma.”

On the newcomer side is Spiteful Womb, the project of NYC-based artist Nora Luisa. Her sets tend toward the cryptic and murky, immersing vocals and voice samples in grinding, blackened-synth sound streams. “Ashes, an urn, knives, processed vocals, and tape loops created from old cylinder recordings” will figure in her late-Sunday performance, she says, while a visual accompaniment will draw from the “traditions of gothic and body horror and pure wound worship.”

Ende Tymes also includes an installation component, which has expanded this year to span seven pieces at Knockdown Center in Ridgewood. The presentation is co-curated by experimental turntablist Maria Chavez and co-presented with Downtown Brooklyn performance space Issue Project Room. Included are pieces by Rhode Island’s Scott Reber, whose installations include pianos and coffee cans turned into speakers. “He also has scores he might hang on the wall, and a durational performance [where] he’s going to play for four hours straight,” says Bellerue. Argentina’s Cecilia Lopez, meanwhile, has created a web of speaker wire and contact mics that will hang from the ceiling, creating continuous airborne feedback.

Last year, Brooklyn’s Julia Santoli offered a choral installation piece, and this year, she says, she’s following it up with “a nonprescriptive theme, an improvisation that is kind of like research for a new piece” inspired by the story of Judith and Holofernes from the contested biblical Book of Judith. “Festivals are amazing for the energy and collective feeling of the space,” Santoli continues. “The energy allows you, as a performer, to be really loose and spontaneous. It’s an inspiring atmosphere, an incredible opportunity to become introduced to so many new artists and sounds.”

Bellerue thinks that newness and excitement is what makes Ende Tymes special, and he doesn’t ever want to lose that sense of discovery. “I don’t like to think about the festival being established or anything,” he says. “I don’t want to think about it being significant; I think about it as being a really good goddamn time.”

The Ende Tymes Festival runs June 2–5 at Silent Barn and Knockdown Center. Head to the Ende Tymes site for details. 


April’s Best Noise Music: Bergegas Mati, Christian Mirande, Theo Nugraha

Sometimes what we want from noise is a total absence of nuance; just get to the point, we beg. Blow the doors off! Detonate the bomb, already! This month’s featured selections lunge for the jugular in different ways, giving us some satisfaction in this torturous interval in between spring and summer. Let’s get fried, shall we?

Bergegas Mati – Pop Neraka

Bergegas Mati is the work of Ari CK and Pandu, two cryptic musicians from Malang, Indonesia, and Pop Neraka is quite a record. It reminds us that, fantastic and valuable as so many experimental creations are, most of them aren’t willfully abrupt on a John Zorn or Boredoms level. They don’t exist in that batshit paradigm where your nerve endings tingle dangerously from start to finish because you have absolutely no idea what’s coming up next.

Because it taps into this great, underused tradition, Pop Neraka never feels static. One minute someone has assembled a blazing guitar solo from multiple takes; the next, a maniacal drum set clinic is in progress; in another, hardcore is reinvented with maracas. The cumulative effect is anarchic and dizzying; several of these seventeen tracks clock in at less than a minute, while one stretches past the ten-minute mark. Sure, Ari CK and Pandu (mercifully) pepper their whiplash with plateaus: “5LilinMerahMelingkarDiantaraBintang” (try saying it five times fast) sinkholes the album with four minutes of poltergeist droning. But most of the time we’re left gaping at their audacity, like the primal scream therapy of “Nilai E Dipelajaran Seni Musik,” or how swiftly “Fuck U DJ!” becomes unlistenable, or the willingness of no-fi blues dirge “Fallen Omar Salazar” to retrain from completely dismantling itself.

Christian Mirande – Foxbat

There are many qualities that I look for in a quality experimental recording, but two leap to mind at this moment: the ability to continually engage me as a listener, and the impression that whatever is happening within the music is also happening to me. It is no exaggeration to say that Foxbat (No Rent Records), a new tape from Philadelphia’s Christian Mirande, embodies the second quality so fully that the first becomes a moot point. These sonic molecules are unstable, and hopelessly so. It sounds as though Mirande has programmed his electronics to invent, then perfect, the AI equivalent of a game of jacks.

It’s impossible to turn away from something which, as it plays, seems part and parcel of one’s own physiology; there is absolutely no escape. Side A, “Comfortable With GLONASS,” suggests sedan chassis autopsies crossed with a pair of rear tires kicking up irradiated gravel sprays. Side B, “Comfortable With TsAGI,” takes on a sludgier cast, massaging and stretching its predecessor’s range of effects like saltwater taffy; even when the sound dips low, diseased, and dusty-stylus scratchy, the effect is invigorating. This is a landmark release.

Theo Nugraha – “Rembulan”

“Rembulan” — Indonesian for “moon” — is a thick, suffocating blast of recent noise from Borneo’s Theo Nugraha, who’s spent the past couple of years establishing himself as a noise evangelist. There’s no prelude or preamble here: We’re plunged, immediately, into a sort of concentrated, bifurcated disorder. Whether at three minutes or thirty, there’s always a risk of this brand of harsh noise-wall wearing out its welcome too quickly. “Rembulan” overcomes this obstacle by placing a sustained, annihilating drone and a distorted, cratering crumble in direct opposition to each other; sometimes one element or the other is permitted to pendulum to the forefront, or a piercing whine slices through the confusion to incinerate every item on your mental to-do list. The spigot explodes; the furnace erupts; the valley is burned and poisoned. Hang on tight.

And some odds & ends…

Speculative Realism, a collaboration between Druuna Jaguar (Portugal) and Phantasm Nocturnes (U.S.), is one of the darker, more hair-raising team-ups I’ve stumbled upon recently.

This year’s edition of the always fantastic NorCal Noisefest is set to take place in Sacramento, California, from Friday, September 30, through Sunday, October 2; no lineup as of yet, but keep checking for details, as they’re sure to emerge soon.

Regardless of where you happen to stand on Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s candidacy, I think we can all agree that this is probably the best fake U.S. presidential campaign advertisement in recent times. Frog Piss, folks! Get hip.


Xiu Xiu Bring ‘Twin Peaks’ Back to Life at the Kitchen

On Saturday night at the Kitchen, Xiu Xiu covered selections from the show’s iconic score by Angelo Badalamenti, and it evoked that uncanny experience of watching an episode of Twin Peaks: The music was familiar, but the way it was played was not, and Xiu Xiu didn’t play any of their own music. Like the titular town of Twin Peaks, the stage was a bubble that we, the audience, were both privileged and perverse enough to stare into. Save for one song played so bombastically it was impossible not to applaud afterward, the only time we revealed ourselves was when the band bowed at the end. To do otherwise would have been to break a spell.

They opened with “Laura Palmer’s Theme” and played straight through their recent record Plays the Music of Twin Peaks. Shayna Dunkelman’s vibraphone anchored that first song, and many of the rest. I’ve never seen anyone perform vibraphone before, but Dunkelman made it into a dance, skimming her arms over the instrument as if she were casting spells, all the while shooting sultry glances at her bandmates (Twin Peaks character reference: Audrey Horne). As “Laura Palmer’s Theme” reached its syrupy climax, Jamie Stewart, seated behind a drum set, unleashed a single, furious pound onto his crash cymbal, and his bandmates unleashed torrents of noise. They took a piece of incidental music that sounds a little silly and made it into a real song you might want to actually listen to on your own time. Zoe Leverant

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Xiu Xiu Reinvent the Music of ‘Twin Peaks’ at the Kitchen