Friday, November 24, 2006


The always-reliable Holy Mountain (now based in Portland after a buncha years in S.F.) is not exactly a noise label, but one of the many great things about their impeccable selection of psych-rock, stoner-rock, and sun-baked-folk is that it almost always comes with an outer lining of noise. My favorite recent example is Residual Echoes, whose jammy psych frequently pushes into destructive red levels, but historically speaking, no one on HM has made rock outta noise and vice versa like the god-like Steven Wray Lobdell and his Davis Redford Triad. So many of the tripped-out, long-chorded DRT CDs blur the cracked line between rock and noise, to the point where Lobdell's best moments split the difference perfectly between Hendrix and Haino. He's been a bit dormant of late but I'm sure he's still out there grinding away, at least in his mind; hopefully he'll do so in mine too soon enough...

All of this has little to do with British improv outfit Aufgehoben, except for the crucial fact that their fourth record, Messidor, is their first for Holy Mountain, and as such represents the label's farthest swing toward the noise banks of the rock-noise river. Not that Aufgehoben don't display a lot of rock elements, at least in abstract: crunchy distortion detonations that sometimes resemble guitar riffs, shimmering high-end sheens that sometimes sound like distended cymbals, pounding time-cutters that often sound like imploding drums. But, whether it's due to sheer volume, logic-testing recording techniques, or the way these guys rework their own improvised recordings before committing them to final tape, the noise side of noise-improv-rock is well-attended on these seven super-forceful tracks, and the result is pretty cranium-reshaping. I can't quite get my finger on what makes this so mammoth-sounding - the band has this massive crunch and skeleton-shaking, air-depressing sonic footprint that feels like it's pushing hard against your chest, kind of like what I imagined when I heard Peter Brotzmann had a guitar-playing son (not that Caspar isn't great himself, but his stuff doesn't quite have the force of Aufgehoben's clanging dissonance).

Anyway, I'll spare you the rest of my internal fumbling to figure out what makes Messidor so inhumanly strong, and just tell you that it is. I especially the dig the way it has a slight Euro free-improv feel too; the drums especially are semi-jazz-ish in their loose, rolling quality, but the scorching noise makes them sound like they're on fire, kind of simultaneously metallic and digital (not far from the guitar-drum battles of Ascension, but with more crunch). Mostly I'm floored by the way Aufgehoben can both unleash and contain their sound - there's certainly no holding back here, yet everything is totally viewable and unblurred, as if the extreme distortion actually clarifies the pummel, kind of the way that Sightings' insistence on pushing the limits of their recording equipment paradoxically shapes and defines their noise instead of squashing it. HM's press kit mentions New Directions Unit, Throbbing Gristle, and This Heat, and while I can't argue with any of those, I love the way Messidor feels grimier and more basement-worthy than those hautier precedents. Sure, a Wire writer and a well-established improv type are involved, but still this album sounds like it'd fit better on American Tapes than Emanem.

There's lots of great stuff to choose from here (and a few sampled on the band's own page), but if I can have only one, I'll take the album-ender, "Ends of Er": a great example of Aufgehoben's ability to make silence sound loud and loudness sound subtle. About halfway through is the noise sweet spot, but every section here offers some sonic liquid nitrogen to dip your head firmly into.

AUFGEHOBEN - "Ends of Er" from Messidor

Monday, November 20, 2006


The circumstances I referred to last week are still extenuatin' along, but I've found enough time to do a quick blab about Mexo-American sound-soldier Loy Fankbonner, whose excellent El Pabellon is the first release on the promising new NYC label Azul Discografica, in which apparently Mr. F has some financial interest in (the label's second release is a rather tossed-off Mattin album, which can be forgiven just based on his great past work, and either way I'm still pretty psyched about a future Azul installment from California drone-twisters Starving Weirdos). El Pabellon is made soley out of the sounds that have come wafting through Fankbonner's Manhattan apartment window (which he then heavily processes, edits, and rearranges) - the embedded reporters at perennial web fave Bagatellen can give you the full scoop, but I just want to do a quick rundown of my favorite piece, "vecindario" (linked below).

It's hard to fathom exactly how Fankbonner went from sticking a mic in his window to ending up with this rattling piece of randomized percussion - most of the tracks on the album feel pretty documentary and/or outdoor-ish, but this one is a purely musical creation, and a pretty hypnotic one at that. The key is Fankbonner's timing - the twisted ebb and flow of his clicks, stomps, and crackles sometimes hews to patterns, other times deliberately dodges its own metronome, and most of the time lands in a hypnotic sweet spot in between. Early on some of the whirring sheen he lays on top of all the rattling is a little inconsequential, but eventually it builds into something thicker, and from about the six-minute mark everything starts to slice through the air like poisoned blades. Listeing to this in the car late last night during a creeping chill, it felt like each aural event was cutting an immediate hole through my gut, each note tucked into an enevelope of grating edge that's like a dentist's drill stuck in your ear. Hearing it again now, it doesn't have quite the same visceral effect, which only makes the piece more attractive - it slays you to whatever degree your current ear status allows it, which means it's truly part of the atmosphere. As with the rest of this excellent set of molecular compositions, Fankbonner has flipped a sneakily circuar trick, turning the air outside his apartment into the air pouring in and out of your ears.

LOY FANKBONNER - "vecindario" from El Pabellon

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Due to extenuating circumstances, Noiseweek is closed this week. We hope to return next week, and thank every Noiseweek fan for their patience, interest, and dedication to killing the world's ears with Noise. During our hiatus, we highly recommend visits to Noiseblog, Siltblog, and Outerspace Gamelan, as well as donating your well-earned patronage to Fusetron, Eclipse, Volcanic Tongue, Aquarius, Squidco, and the rest of the fine establishments listed to the right. See you soon.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


So maybe it's a bit pointless to write about something that everyone who reads this knows about and will seek out regardless of my blather...but I'm just too psyched about the Fun From None: Live from the No Fun Fest 2004 & 2005 DVD (a two-disc set with a disc dedicated to each year) not to drool about it here. We can all agree that Carlos Giffoni's No Fun Fest has been an unmeasurably immense stimulant in all things noise over the past few years. I was only able to attend the first one, which was just about perfect (my only complaint would be too much moshing for my achingly old frame to endure, but I'm not gonna stand in the way of any adrenalized/testoterized youth so into noise - considering all the horrid stuff that their peers are into, I can forgive them for shoving me if it means they might become noise lifers).

As burned into my brain as all the great sets there is the image of Chris Habib stalking around the stage, aiming his jealousy-inducing Panasonic AG-DVX100 at every act. I've always been curious to see what Chris would make of his shooting, especially once I got an DVX100 of my own and realized how limited it is in rock-club low-light (still an amazing cam though) - whether he'd get overly gimmicky or just leave in all the whip pans and disorienting bounces as he changed positions, etc. The answer is that he solved all those problems really fucking well. Each 10 or so minute segment uses simple solutions, like freeze frames, modest digital effects, and off-sync editing, to basically remember, rather than replicate, the performances. I especially dig how Habib didn't fuck much with the color, instead letting the off-key, faded-pastel look of the high-gain mode persist, a nice reverse-psych counterpart to the music. If I had to find something to criticize, I'd say I'm not totally enamored of the drably b&w Hair Police segment, which I think plays a little too dramatic, but then I thought that of their set too (which sounded amazing regardless). But otherwise, Habib has nailed every segment.

My faves are the Nautical Almanac section, which captures their groping, awkward-pause-loving live set really well; the Wolf Eyes segment, which is pretty straight up and similar to the band's own Covered in Bugs DVD; the To Live and Shave in L.A. section, for which Habib's strobing slideshow perfectly captures Tom Smith's striated exhales, which even in person seem like stop-motion freeze frames; and, the Giffoni-Nyoukis duo, which is kind of a mini-miracle - I wouldn't have guessed Habib could truly capture the power of that great set, but exclt editing and a stark visual effect which makes Giffoni and Nyoukis bleed electronically into fuzzy white do the trick.

I haven't even made it to the 2005 disc yet - too much great stuff to watch and re-watch on Disc One. I can say that the titles and transitions are amazing (glitchy rotation of faded-xerox looking slates), and the bonus mp3's and iPod videos of every segment are also quite choice. Habib talks in his liner notes about wishing he could include more groups (no Sightings, Pita, Burning Star Core, Massimo, Fe-Mail, etc - just not enough room), and I wish he could've too, but there's enough in this package to spend a lifetime sitting still and staring at.

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