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
, 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
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