Sunday, October 29, 2006


This is Noiseweek's first anniversary, so it's break time - no retro entry this month, and just a quick entry this week concerning Antennacle, a cross-country, mail/internet-working noise trio that includes Eric Wood from the Bastard groups (Man is the Bastard, Bastard Noise, etc.). The band's concept is to deal with sound as part of physical spaces, local or spread out, which I'm not sure I get but I'm definitely intrigued by, so I ordered their three-track Murmur Suite EP from Kitty Play back in March, and after a delightful series of excuse-laden e-mails, finally got it this week (Mr. Play made up for it by sending me a ton of stuff, so no hard feelings, though I'd recommend allowing yourself a six-month lead time and a big sense of humor when ordering from him). I haven't fully digested it all and have to admit I'm not immediately hot on Parts One and Three (both are a little too subdued and kind of inactively repetitive, but I'm guessing I might warm to their cold, stoic approach eventually), but I'm definitely sold on Part Two. Here Antennacle's chilly, quiet drones and filtered beds of hiss morph and evolve much more eventfully, gaining jagged edges and abrasive textures as they slowly multiply and ascend. The solid tonal parts remind me of Mikroknytes (second week in a row!) and the harsher sections aren't too far from Tony Conrad's ear-blastings on Fantastic Glissando, while the clicks and robotic choppiness, especially in the eerie, barren ending stretch, lends the track an Oval-esque inhumanness. I hope Antennacle sticks around - I have no idea if they'll get better/wider/deeper/etc, but I'm definitely interested in finding out if they do...

ANTENNACLE - Part 2 from Murmur Suite

Sunday, October 22, 2006


The soldiers at 804Noise have been keeping Richmond and other parts of non-D.C.-touching Virginia sonically healthy for a while now, and I finally got to check out an edition of their massive annual fest last Sunday. Advanced age has limited my band-viewing tolerance to about six or so before I exhibit temporary narcolespsy and/or arthritis, so I didn't get to the shiny Art Works until about the halfway point of the day's daunting 12-hour slate. Initially distracted by records and handshakes, I'm not really sure who I half-saw at first, though I know I got a satisfying taste of Stephen Vitiello's slices of distortion and weighty tones. The rest of what happened before dinner break is a small, happy blur.

The stretch run that followed, though, was blindingly vivid -- six straight sets of great, eye-focusing noise. Baltimore's acoustic-noise quartet Trockeneis (whose stellar album is free to download at Ehse's site, btw) was total hypnosis - two guys bowing at cymbals and other percussion pieces, Audrey Chen doing mind-bending vocal/facial calisthenics that completely avoided cliche, and Catherine Pancake making piercing, powerful drones with cymbals, bowls, a hot plate, and a chunk of dry ice. The way the four scientists in this group meshed and melted was brain-teasing - a few times I thought Audrey was getting drowned out until I realized that the scraping drone was coming from her lungs, and the same who's-doing-what feeling was true for each sound-maker at some point along the way.

The exact order from there escapes me, but I think Prurient was next. Dom's upcoming Load record is a slight surprise - some melodic and even ambient stuff to go with the harsh noises and metal-hero screams - but this was mostly a patented mix of brutally intense pedal mayhem and muscular vocal workouts. Not much different from what I've seen him do before, but maybe my eyes and ears were just wider open this time - there was an intensity and urgency about Dom's singing and the way it pushed and pulled at the surrounding noise that really ripped me apart. Somehow in that lonely, folding-chair-scattered art space it felt like he was playing to an arena of thousands of screaming kids - which I'm kinda willing to bet might happen some day. Paging Mr. Wilkes-Krier...

Carlos Giffoni, not too far removed from duetting with Merzbow in Japan, played a virtuousic set of bed-of-nails noise, his sounds wizzing through the air like arrows. I love how Carlos's stuff is both oddly serious and absurdly comic, and this time some of the humor came from an unspoken squabble over the P.A. volume; Carlos's deciding final blow of turning the faders way back up provided an instant climax to his taut, dense set. ChefKirk did a welcomely mellow set of laptop (I think? my mind is mush) drone and noise that both provided a nice breather and was sneakliy idea-heavy. Skipping forward, Harm Stryker and Projexorcism closed things with blurring, shattered-glass noise and flying film projection (all from behind a huge pair of bed sheets) that both kept me awake and lulled me into something between sleep and not-sleep.

The best thing besides Trockeneies and Prurient happened right before - a mind-twisting set from Birds in the Meadow, the electro-acoustic noise project of Martin McCavitt. I didn't realize until later this week that this was man responsible for a great disc of Zither improvisations earlier this year on Sockets, and my pal Mark also informed me (I may be remembering this wrong tho) that Martin is also a jazz and/or classical pianist? Anyway, he's clearly a trove of wide-ranging talent and ideas, and his 804 set was awesome - pointillist noises climaxing into solid columns of rubbery drone, accompanied by a snare drum played by some sort of robotic device that slaps the snare in various patterns either randomly or in pre-written chunks, or...shit I don't know, it was cool whatever it/he was doing. The set reminded me of the random improv of Tim Olive / Supernatural Hot Rug and Not Used and the sparser moments of early Mikroknytes, but the incessant string of snare shots set it apart. The Birds track linked below (taken from the free festival 2CD-R which might still be available, ask and see) is on par with his set - snapping snare, tactile small sounds gelling into bigger ones, and a unique sense of timing that perhaps only a Zither improviser and jazz/classical pianist knows how to make...

BIRDS IN THE MEADOW - "Workingman's Solenoid" from 804Noise Richmond Experimental & Noise Festival 2006

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Here are two more noise killers whose trail of aural corpses I'm way behind on. I had hardly heard anything by Burning Star Core before I got my head torn off at the first No Fun Fest by him/them (that show featured main man C. Spencer Yeh ripping his violin and shaking his head and mouth around a mic while backed by some Hair Police, I think). Since then I've been drowned in a couple great BXC discs, but there are still a ton I want/need/am pathetic for not having. I'm even more of a zero with Lambsbread - been hearing about Zac Davis and his Ohio cabal a ton the past few years, but so far no actual audio experience has been logged...chalk it up to 24 hours being way too short of a day...

Time to rectify, and I can't imagine there's a much better intro/update to these guys than this CD-R on Lambsbread's in-house label Maim & Disfigure, lovingly titled Live in St. Louis. It's pretty quick - 2 tracks, 22 minutes - but feels longer in all the right ways. The first track is a 16-minute piece that arises slowly, with Yeh sawing some high violin tones while the Lambsbread stable add squalling feedback, lonely bass plucks, and achingly deadened guitar strokes. Things slowly ascend from there, with washing drums injected eventually, and a blistering battle of sharp guitar jangles and hole-tearing violin that often sounds like a misty bootleg of the V.U. playing a stretched-out version of "European Son." I dig how this track's pulse is unchartable yet undeniable - it seems to incrementally speed up, yet it never really gets "fast" - just increasingly urgent and thick, like a snowball rolling so far down a mountain it eventually swallows it. Whatever it's doing, it's definitely one of the best long group improv tracks I've heard all year, in a league with the Text of Light box and that insanely great Pengo disc from a few weeks back.

Since that track is 3/4ths of the disc, it would be theivery to post it, so instead here's the brief epilogue - a louder, more hectic rip through puncturing violin rage, overloading guitar blasts, and devastating drum anarchy. There's so much happening on this track that the digital audio space can't quite handle it, which only adds to the hypnotic sheen, vaguely like an iced-over pond under which the fish are frantically swimming for some way out. It all adds up to one of those somewhat rare times where two great bands can combine into something even greater (I think - time to get cracking on the rest of their discographies and prove myself wrong...)

BURNING STAR CORE & LAMBSBREAD - (track one) from Live in St. Louis

Saturday, October 07, 2006


It's hard to summarize all the great stuff my pal Jeff Bagato has done for the D.C. avant, noise, and jazz scenes, but suffice to say that his ongoing Electric Possible concert series is a heroic beacon in an otherwise foggy musical region, and his support of tons of other local and national stuff is beyond compare. Jeff also happens to be a musical wizard in his own right, and a few years back - I'm guessing around 1999 or 2000? - he came up with the geniusly simple idea to buy some cheap hacksaws from a dollar store, grab some thriftstore vinyl, stick a mic under the LPs and start sawing away. The result of this vital experiment, conducted under the moniker DJ Panic, was/is pretty mind-blowing. The range of sounds Jeff gets out of his simple set-up (see image to the right), which he usually attacks while sitting down with his head pointed down as if trying to start a fire in the woods with sticks, is really wide and insanely unpredictable. My favorite thing to do when he plays is randomly close my eyes and try to forget where Jeff's sounds are coming from -- something made very easy by his weirdo collection of blurps, cuts, squeaks, and whines that often evoke a violin, a synth, a pedal, or an animal much more than a turntable.

A little while ago Jeff invented a new version of this m.o., which he dubbed Tone Ghosting, though he still goes by the name DJ Panic in things like his avant-noise trio Spaceships Panic Orbit. Tone Ghosting is basically an extension of the DJ Panic approach, now expanded to include effects, loops, dubs, vocals, and other patented audio secrets. The latest Tone Ghosting release, an hour-long "EP" called Castle Changes and subsidized by another DC stalwart, Sockets CDR, is a pretty comprehensive display of the various ideas Jeff is currently exploring. Here we get 9 versions of a single piece called "Castle Changes," starting with a 15-minute, all-over-the-map "Popular III Human Nation Dub" and whittling down to a final 3-minute "Castle Basic" which seems to be just the DJ Panic scratch-line that the piece is based around. Along the way Jeff creates versions that layer and double the scratch-line into weird echoes and ghosts; remixes with little shards of beat and pulse; a "Vox Pop Mix" with an insidiously catchy lyric sung by Jeff in a Mr. Skull-style bellow; and even an a capella version with the lyrics sung alone.

The core of all these fascinating iterations is the sneaky, vicious DJ Panic vinyl destruction - no matter what direction it gets pulled, the powerful scratch-line remains the beating heart of each piece, slicing through the air so virulently that even Jeff's frequent pauses seem to vibrate and echo with his static, bubbling noise. My favorite example is the "Spastic Rev Remix" (linked below), which offers the EP's most spacey, goofy noises right alongside its most violent. I also love the way Jeff uses volume and pace on this one to create little moments of structure and momentum - the timing of some of his pull-backs and push-forwards are just perfect, like an endless string of set-ups and punch lines. Maybe that's the best way to think of Castle Changes' internal clock, like the absurdist jokes in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, divining surreal humor from endless loops and infinite possibilities.

TONE GHOSTING - "Castle Changes (Spastic Rev Remix)" from Castle Changes
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