Friday, December 30, 2005


Hive Mind is the searing creation of a Michigan resident named Greh, who also runs the stellar Chondritic Sound label. There have been 30 to 40 Hive Mind releases since 2003, mostly ultra-limited cassettes and CD-R's, the biggest exceptions being 2004's dark, 38-minute single-track Sand Beasts on PacRec/Chondritic and this year's Death Tone on Hanson, whose overhwelming attack even convinced digi-phobes B.Coley and T.Moore to briefly relax their anti-CD regimen.

The closest parallel to Hive Mind's thunder is the thick drones of Double Leopards, but where that Brooklyn quartet stays mostly murky and blurred, Greh lets thinner sounds and clearer textures emerge from his cavernous mix. I've spent the last week glued to Metallic Thaumaturgy, a Chondritic CD-R culled from a 4-cassette box set of 2004 live recordings, and after about 25 listens, it remains awesomely tough to pin down. There's practically a cinematic progression here, as Greh's ideas gradually multiply and expand for 80 minutes like ballons that can procreate, but there's something else happening that words can't imprison. Parts are echoey and actually scary, circling ears like a hurricane's eye; other sections are finely granular, with sandpaper-like texture and infinite detail. On the final two tracks, Greh mercilessly scalpels his diligent drones using bumpy glitches and warped loops that sound like blindfolded robots marching into a fire.

Hive Mind will play on the middle day of the 3rd No Fun Fest, whose lineup is now totally set. Way too many great things this year to choose from, but I'm especially peeled for White Rock (Mouthus + Double Leopards), Fat Worm of Error, Shackamaxon (Double Leps + Son Of Earth + Pete Nolan), and the ultra-rare apperance of the legendary Smegma...

HIVE MIND - sixth track from Metallic Thaumaturgy

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Sean Meehan is an NYC-based abstract drummer, and his mind-bending double-CD Sectors (For Constant) recalls the late-80's days of the anti-record, best documented by the great Bananafish. Anti-records were generally unplayable objects - records with out holes, blocks of unpressed vinyl, silent or broken CDs, album sleeves filled with dirt, CDs only available inside a car stereo, etc. "Sectors (For Constant)" discs aren't unplayable, but they come sealed inside two rough pieces of white paper that you have to rip open. Like others, it took me a little while to a) figure out I had to rip the paper to get the discs, and b) have the heart to demolish the beautiful package. Still, as with the crumbling, destructive aspect of most anti-records, there was something really satisfying about tearing through the skin of "Sectors (For Constant)."

The packaging matches the discs' anti-sound, which Meehan constructed using only cymbals and snare drum. Each CD has a single track, one 51:26 long, the other 48:44, and both have insanely long stretches of Cagean silence, the kind that make the quietude of something like Tom Carter's "Monument" (my favorite minimalist epic of recent years) seem hyperactively busy. Check out the graphic waveform of the 51:26 disc below (click on the image for a bigger version) and you'll get an idea of how little is objectively "happening" here.

In between all the white aural blankness, Meehan's alien noises rarely sound like drums. Test-tone ringing, scraping drones, and miniscule rumbles all approach from far off and run quickly back into the darkness. The sound is so distant and uninterested in begging for the listener's attention that it sorta calls into question the idea that "listening to music" is any different from being awake and not being deaf. Experiencing this is more like sifting for lost contact lenses in a deep shag rug than passively listening to a record.

My favorite part of "Sectors (For Constant)" is the end of the 51:26 disc (excerpted below), whose intermittent stretches of piercing tone and subconscious groan are like abstract electronics without the digital sharpness. Meehan's work is admittedly more interesting live - I saw him as part of the Tim Barnes Live Listening tour at True Vine, and the darkness of the room and near-frozen stillness of the peformers made each sound, move, and tiny reflection of light seem like massive events. Maybe Meehan's work is too "academic" to fit alongside grimier noise, but that's context, not content. In terms of the latter, "Sectors (For Constant)" is fascinating tactile art that digs into my spine as much as anything called "noise."

SEAN MEEHAN - "Sectors (For Constant) [excerpt]"

Friday, December 16, 2005


Lost of great subterranean noise happening in D.C. now as always, but my fave current practitioners are the revolving collective known variously as Facemat, Tape Rape, Power Bottom Orchestra, CUNTree, Saladbar, Baby Shakers, and more. Victor Salazar and his pals have popped up in a ton of places lately - I've caught Facemat at DC Nine and 611 Florida, Tape Rape at Warehouse, and Power Bottom Orchestra at Electric Possible. Never seen anything less than good from them, and lots of it great - Power Bottom played a massive wall of grime w/Victor raising his busted guitar over his head like a sledgehammer, Tape Rape had reel to reel tape passing through four different players, and the last Facemat gig I saw had a thuggish looking guest singer whose blunt political chants ("911! Katrina! Abu Ghirab!") fit perfectly in the group's blurting din.

The various CD-R's, all available from Victor at (no web presence as of yet), are all interesting and pretty insanely varied. Facemat's Broken Clown is the most diverse, a wavy mix of thick drones and broken beats, at times nearing the deadened cave of Mouthus, or even the noodly rattle of Black Dice. Power Bottom Orchestra's BRC Sessions offers three tracks based around bombastic beats and shifting noise, with the huge, echoing drums of the first track (linked below) reminding me of a Glenn Branca symphony with most of the guitars erased after the fact. CUNTree's self-titled CD-R is purer noise, full of piercing whines and cutting static. Saladbar (Victor's solo thing) has a great, one-track, 20-minute 3" CD-R called All You Can, made of massive, layered, airplane-engine noise. It drifts toward Fennesz or Hecker territory in places, but much heavier, darker, and head-wrenching.

Hopefully all these guys can venture outside D.C. more, and maybe find some alter-label action (Heresee, Hanson, Chondritic Sound, etc. would all be great), but I also dig their totally self-sufficient m.o.

FACEMAT - "Mahogany Colored Wang" from Broken Clown
POWER BOTTOM ORCHESTRA - (track one) from BRC Sessions

Thursday, December 08, 2005


So the band name is actually spelled Xeaxx Xeaxx but pronounced "Heavy Seals" (I prefer the spelling "Heavy Seals" myself, though if this is a Caroliner-style conceit where you can fill in the blanks randomly - e.g. Death Peace or Teach Meals or Deals Peach - I'll take it), it's a duo of noise master John Wiese and erstwhile Gossip member (?) Brace Paine, and their album Jazz Bust is on the increasingly great Troniks and/or Pacrec (not sure what the difference is) label. 11 tracks of purist noise in 15 minutes, full of metallic clang, speaker-breaking distortion, filtered scuzz, and pretty much every other type of abrasive ear attack. Closest referent is the wire-cutting splatter of Nautical Almanac's most fractured stuff (i.e. not their latest, which is itself great in a much wider, weirder way), though most of the stuff here is more, uh, present - louder, closer, more puncturing, with almost no murkiness or layers - all of this penetrates the skull immediately. The thing I like about noise this good, unpredictable, and insanely busy is how you can listen on two levels at the same time - you can enjoy imagining what the hell kind of physical actions could've created these surgically destructive noises, and at the same time you can easily drool to all the brain-slicing racket like a baby watching its own hand.

XEAXX XEAXX - "You Must Eat" from Jazz Bust
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