Sunday, February 26, 2006


Like most noise dolts, I have a prediliction for all-out blast, but I'm rapidly growing a second soft spot for minimalist noise, or what if I was still in school I guess I'd call reductionism. I know just a few current practitioners, and only through Tim Barnes, who's played with Mark Wastell, Sean Meehan, Jeph Jerman, Mattin, etc., all of whom have fascinating takes on miniature sound and the spaces in between. This kind of low-volume audio art can get a little museum-ish, if only because you have to be almost motionless to appreciate or even hear it. But a lot of minimal noise has the same effect as meditation: the near-total lack of what overstimulated daily life calls "something happening" has a paradoxically visceral effect. I.E. the best minimal noise hits the gut as hard as a power drone or feedback screech, maybe even harder, since the responding movement is all internal.

Tim Olive is a Canadian-born guitarist living in Japan whose stuff qualifies as minimalist noise. At least his latest CD does - it's a pretty amazing untitled collaboration with Japanese guitarist Nisikawa Buhnsho, who I think runs the Gule label that this release inaugurates. Apparently Olive plays one-string bass here, and Buhnsho plays guitar and "broken record player," but as with all good noise, figuring out who's doing what is both impossible and pointless. Four tracks of ascending length (3, 7, 11, and 19 minutes), and an infinite amount of tiny, textured noises clustered into patches of restrained detail. Some of it, like the track that I'm posting below, is actually pretty busy, but elsewhere there are tons of quiet stretches and pin-prick points of nano-sound, and even the most active parts have an enticing distance and careful subtlety that totally rake the spine.

I usually tell people resistant to free-jazz that you've gotta see it performed and then decide, cause the physical feats in the playing are pretty hypnotizing. Same thing goes for minimal noise - I can listen to this stuff all day, but watching it is even more fascinating. Instead of someone pushing the limits of their energy, you get the opposite: the performer actually has to fight the impulse to fill the silence, and trust that even the smallest sounds are worth leaving alone. The resulting tension makes the tiniest moves and briefest sounds seem huge, and time slows so much that you can feel the inside of each second like a barely-perceptible breeze. I think all of that is true of Olive and Buhnsho's CD too, but I'd love to see them perform - apparently Tim is planning a US trip for May or so, so keep your eyes and ears sharply peeled...

TIM OLIVE & NISIKAWA BUHNSHO - "iKA/Bunt is My Profession" from (untitled)

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Recently got the first package ever addressed to Noiseweek, so its contents get a free pass to the top of the pile. With a name this non-funny / non-catchy / just-plain-horrible, D.C. duo The Cutest Puppy in the World has a lot to overcome, but that could be the point - a self-imposed musical challenge to make us forget the nearly-irredeemable moniker. If so, it was a wise move, because the amazingly wide Sockets CD-R FINFOLK would sound great even if Bryan Rhodes and Layne Garrett called themselves George and Bush. Taken from two shows (one on Radio CPR, the other at Warehouse Next Door), the songs here flow from near-silent minimalism to all-out din, equally capable of heart-breaking turns and ear-ripping destruction.

The first two (and longest) tracks display the band's gaping range: "Sordomutics" weaves dark, Eyes Wide Shut-ish piano dirge thru stretched horn (clarinet maybe?) and unidentified glimmer; maybe because of the D.C. association, it reminds me of the frozen chill of EBSK. "Yugen Gracehopper," by contrast, winds through bright-colored drones and air-pushing blasts, yet retains the same stark, woods-in-winter feel of its predecessor. From there, things get both noisier ("gem-de-lovely" sounds like someone sawing through the Tin Man's body to get at his heart) and subtler ("nangen cuts the cat in two"'s solemn bell-ring evokes a japanese temple at dawn), and boredom takes a hike for the entirety. I'm pretty blurry-brained due too much verbiage lately, so I apologize if I'm not fully depicting TCPITW's stellar mix of ambience, abrasion, and the tension in between. But trust me, it's better than any words (or names) could ever convey.

I should post one of FINFOLK's harshest tracks to show the extremes this pair can reach (and spare some bandwidth), but I'm too into the track below not to offer it up. Its minimalist piano and detuned guitar (I think?) hold a few cacophonous peaks, but mostly deliver truly moving sound that some silent film needs to use, and soon.


Saturday, February 11, 2006


So here's a new, uh, "feature": once a month I'll pull out a few old noise recs from my dusty pile and reassess. One recurring objection to noise is that it doesn't "hold up" - i.e. why listen to any noise rec more than once? I've never thought "repeated listenability" was necessary to make something good, but regardless, this monthly exercise could be a way to prove that complaint wrong (or right, who knows/cares...)

THURSTON MOORE - Please Just Leave Me (My Paul Desmond) CD
(Pure, 1996)
I misremembered this as a more rock-y kinda solo gtr rec, expecting TM to stick some chords and notes inside the noise, but it's actually way more, uh, pure than that, and really good. One half-hour track full of test-tone-like scree, echoey ringing that's nearly Jandek-ian in its eerie all-alone-ness, plus a bonus track-ending sample of smooth jazz and TM drawling in the background: overall, a pretty extreme trip through TM's fertile mind. I can't think of another TM rec as abstract and unadorned - it'd make a great bonus track on the forthcoming Psychic Hearts reissue, just to show his inhuman range. I also dig the poem TM scrawled on the CD: "You can take everything there / It's cool I don't care / Yeh I need room / I'm sick of all those fuckin records man / Just take em yeh you know but / if you can please / just leave me / my Paul Desmond."

- (untitled) C60
(American Tapes, 1996)
This isn't noise per se - future Wolf Eye John Olson played drums and sax for this trio, and this tape is more psych-rock and guitar-jam than noise (though the longer I do this blog, the more such meaningless distinctions are gonna blur, I promise) - whatever, it's really fucking good. Touches of Dead C. heaviness, Bardo Pond smoke, and, mostly, the fuzzy extensions of the way-underrated Marble Sheep and the Run Down Sun's Children. I remember wanting after one listen to write the band and beg them to let me put this out on CD, but by the time I woke up and remembered to think about doing that, Wolf Eyes were huge and I was thrilled that John even remembered my name. Anyway, I'm too old/tired now, but someone needs to make this digital. Until then, I'll hang onto my copy (numbered 2 of 20!) regardless of what it might fetch on eBay.

WRONG - in the WRONG 2CD
(Betley/Climax/Freedom From/Ignivomous/SunShip, 1999)
Yikes, what a monster. 33 tracks over 2 CDs by a rolling group of 22 musicians taken from 16 performances and co-released by 5 labels. Wrong were (are?) primarily John Vance and Emil Hagstrom, fixtures of the 90's Minneapolis noise scene. Their basic m.o. here is random free-improv-ish guitar + a little percussion + a ton of sprinkled-in, unidentified noise. I'm surprised by how free-improv this is - for some reason I remembered Wrong as more noise-wall-ish, but some stuff here comes pretty close to Derek Bailey territory, and stands up well to the comparison. In Opprobrium, Nick Cain noted that this is suprisingly homogenous given the participant/format variety, but still pretty good anyway, and he was right on both counts. Shortwave, theremin, and electronics eventually battle the guitars to a draw (Carly Ptak even pops up on one quick, blasting track), but it's all charged with the anticipation of improv possibility. Plus it starts with a killer piece of string-bending noise (taken from a show at NYC's The Cooler (RIP)), thus winning it a place as this entry's mp3 pick, see below...

WRONG - "Broken IN" from in the WRONG

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Missed last week due to insanity, so two posts to come this week. Today's entry concerns two of the world's absolute noise gods, Japanese ultra-sound legend Masami Akita aka Merzbow and Californian dominatron John Wiese. It's hard to think of two more towering noise figures - of course Merzbow's infinite discography puts him in a separate noise-generating stratosphere (the 50-CD, $500 Merzbox is apparently still in print by the way, I dare you to buy one), but Wiese is pretty insanely prolific himself, and, as evidenced by his recent 52-track retrospective Teenage Hallucination: 1992-1999, has been making awesome noise since before he could drive. (BTW, try googling "Wiese" and "Teenage" like I did when seeking a good link to post, and check out what comes up...)

Multiplication (released by Misanthropic Agenda) is the pair's first collaboration (not counting Weise's contributions to two Merbow remix sets), and it's crammed, soaked, and bleeding with 70 minutes of typically inventive, physically altering sound. Everything was done via mail; the first six tracks are five-to-ten minute blasts produced by Weise, while the last is a 27-minute maelstrom produced by Merzbow. All kinds of tearing, obliterating noises speed by, with some like the grinding, pin-pointed "Luxor Skyship" devoted to pure drilling, and others like the waving, echoey "Spell" forging a soothing drone despite frequent jolts of assaulting spew.

There's a million things that make Multiplication highest-quality noise, but my personal fave is the album's sub-particle sense of two-man communication. You could blindfold someone and tell them this was made by just Merzbow or just Wiese and it'd be no shock, but still, there's a boggling interaction in the shooting, sifting sounds here. Bursts of hiss and darts of screech seem aware of each other, bouncing back and forth in a hall of mirrors drenched in flames. This wordless dialogue is most clear on the long final track, which starts slowly with filtered air and reverby ping-pong, but eventually travels the entire spectrum of non-note sound: fuzzy rumbles, grinding stabs, metallic whines, etc, all seeming to talk to each other and quickly respond. Multiplication might "just" be visceral, pulse-enhancing noise, but hold your head in Merzbow and Wiese's fire for a while, and you can see a stunning sub-galaxy of smoldering sound-molecules continually melt together. (Calendar check: Wiese plays Day Three of this year's No Fun Fest on Sunday, March 19th in Brooklyn...)

MERZBOW & JOHN WIESE - "Spell" from Multiplication
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