April 26th, 2013
My love for noise, where did it come from?
I think it began with Sonic Youth. Years ago, right before college, using summer job money to buy their first three or four records. Those extended collapsing squalls on Daydream Nation, guitar carwrecks that threatened infinite crash until they were rescued by melodic reprise (think “Total Trash” for instance), or by Shelley’s backbeat. My Bloody Valentine figured in there somewhere: Shields’ dense sexy layers of guitar floated over by Bilinda Butcher’s vocals. Debatably I could reach back further to my youngster metal days — we’re talkin well-worn tapes by the likes of Metallica, Anthrax, Maiden, Slayer — since noise was obviously an element in their works. But it wasn’t the same; I didn’t focus on qualities and textures of noise in metal music as a kid, I didn’t derive the same comfort from it. Noise in that context was just a component of a much more important overall anger vector, one directed by lyrics delivered urgently, and by undifferentiated (to my young ears at least) sonic power in the form of 1 fat slab of bass+speed+drums+guitar+vocals+production+VOLUME.
Now? Now I crave noise. Even it alone. That warm acid bath. That corrosive calico halo. The kind of sounds exploded forth by the likes of musicians and sound artists Merzbow, Les Rallizes Denudes, Boris, Nurse With Wound, Swans. Industrial-sized-fan noise, machinery hum noise.
And why? It’s ugly after all, & it hurts. It terrorizes the inner ear, hits you with nausea in the middle of a show, it’ll stun you to bewilderment, it’ll getcha a week-long case of tinnitus. Go to bed, say your prayers, and realize you can’t go to sleep because there’s a thin shrill whine pinging around your skull, and for who knows how long. You’re never alone after an un-earplugged noise show. You’ve got a chirping shrieker crying in your cortex reminded you what you’ve done to yourself.
But oh how that noise keeps world out. It is the beautiful forcefield shield repelling our frantic chattering multitasking everpresent-now, Coltan-fueled button-mashing madrushing world. Fort of static briar & thorn against the horde. Hail & love for artists who know how to deploy crafted noise.
That’s not quite enough for me though. Lovely as it is to sequester myself in the noise bubble, keep the babbling spastic gadgetized world at bay, I quickly find myself wanting more. More than just the promise of escape, seclusion. & so my biggest noiselove goes out to artists who anchor their sculpted noise with melody, rhythm, tenderness, and thereby ground the listener in warmth of simple pattern, of familiarly organized sound. Put simply, noise minus music doesn’t hold me long.
Enter Les Rallizes Dénudés, an endlessly-bootlegged, re-compiled and re-re-released late-70s/early-80s band from Japan. I’ve been more or less chained to their sound for the last three or four years. & O that sound: buzzsaw guitar cyclones grounded by steady primitive cheerful blues-based basslines. Slow, lazy, eight, ten, twenty minute basslines that just saunter along — doo doo, da doo doo, da doo doo forever and ever — big fat hummable lines reminiscent of old R&B songs from the 50s — think “I Will Follow Him” by Peggy March — instantly recognizable chugg-a-lugging basslines of bliss. A basic rhythmic understructure that backbones you, connects you to the mid-20thcentury-and-onward pop musical tradition while the entropic noiseblast does the opposite, hauls you free from historical orbit, decontextualizes you, sets you up in an isolation chamber of womb-roar.
While noisefield pushes *out*, keeping buzzy busy world at bay, the bassline roots you *in*, sits you the fuck down.
& this, dear readers, is why I love noise.
Here’s some LRD to set you free (“Night of the Assassins” from the “Heavier Than a Death in the Family” LP):