Who else loves the NOISE (music) ?

If you know what I’m talking about, you know what it is. Avant-gard/experimental music meeting rock head-on with a scary but delicious crunch and clang; found sound, looped and manipulated tapes, militant percussion and tortured instruments. electronic din combined with pulsations…what was called industrial music before that phrase got co-opted and corrupted to mean electronic dance music with a slightly scary or noisy edge. What the No Other Radio Network show on Berkeley’s KPFA annoyingly refers to as Difficult music. Throbbing Gristle and early PTV; SPK, Allegory Chapel, Crash Worship/ADRV and Human Head Transplant, IAO CORE and Coil and Nurse W/Wound. Abruptum and Lightning Bolt and Negativland and Whitehouse and Blackhouse and Current 93 and The Project and Rubberthroat. And the Japanese practitioners like Merzbow and Masonna (who I don’t much care for personally – their reliance on feedback and radio static doesn’t do a lot for me except cause physical pain and fidgetiness).

This is a rather difficult taste to justify or explain satisfactorily to the non-initiate. You can try explaining it in terms of finding the music in non-musical sonics, or twisted humor and off-the-wall social commentary (in the case of bands like Negativland, for instance), or how it can trigger altered staes of consciousness . You can even invoke high-art avant-gardists. But when push comes to shove and they tell you “That ain’t music – that’s noise”, there’s very little you can respond with besides “Yep, that’s why I love it.” I’ve had some people go as far as to say appreciating the stuff is naught but an artsy-fartsy pose, typical BS for a guy like myself who mostly dresses in black jeans and t-shirts and cuts his hair real funny.

As if you hadn’t already figured this out, I dig the Hell out of the stuff, sometimes more than others. For me, it began as an offshoot of my taste for extreme, noise-prone forms of rock music (along with some other considerations I won’t go into). I was just wondering if anyone else out in Doperland shares my taste for it. What noise does it for you? How’d you get into it in the first place? And what do you say when you end up discussing the stuff with nay-sayers?

I don’t know any of the bands you’re talking about, but some of my tastes in contemporary classical and free jazz sound like the roots of some of the bands you’re into (which I’ll be checking out in the next little while.).

I find myself describing this music to people unfamiliar with it in terms of the energy and exuberance of it, and its unlimited possibilities.

Have you ever read “The Lexicon of Musical Invective” by Nicholas Slonimsky? It is a collection of bad reviews of composers from Beethoven’s time on along with a fascinating essay on the language different critics have used to describe music they disliked. “Noise” is a tag which is often applied.

Among others, I’m very fond of Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra. I’ve been involved in some R. Murray Shafer and Serge Provost. On the classical side of things, I’ve also listened to lots of Stockhausen, Cage, Maderna, Penderecki, Ligeti. Any of your favourites you’d particularly recommend?

Well, classical is an alien galaxy to me; I’m slightly embarassed to confess that out of the names you mention, J. Cage is the only one I’m even vaguely familiar with (the name Stockhausen rings a bell, but a very faint one).

On the jazz end though…John Zorn has done some stuff I like which rides the line between a-g jazz and flat-out noise; I’m thinking mainly of Torture Garden(the album art for which got the guy’s enire ouuvre banned from Pacifica Radio some years back) and Spillane. His work is all over the map though; he’s done everything from the aforementioned platters of sizzling weirdness to a klezmer album or two. Henry Kaiser and Steve Fisk are two other wide-ranging artists whose works sometimes touch on freakish and noisy territories. If you like really dense percussion, Crash Worship did some incredible stuff; chaotic, hallucinatory and ecstatic – but hsving seen them live a few times, I have to say I think they were a lot more performance-oriented than recording-oriented.

Melt Banana,
the guitarist is something else entirely.

cant say I am super into the genre but Melt Banana live is pretty amazing shyte, Nurse with wound and a few others on that list I do recognize though.

I didn’t have a good experience with Melt Banana live at the Tool concert I went to. The lead singer sounded like a Chihuahua!

 I was reading something about Kronos Quartet and one of the guys there recommended Einsturzende Neubauten. For some reason this stuff is catchy. I'm a big fan of The Halber Mensch album. My brother and cousin love it, and it's fun to freak the hell out of my friends when I give them rides to their house.

I’m not a huge fan, but I’ve liked some Coil, SPK, and throbbing gristle. Does Psychic TV count?

I enjoyed early industrial-- again, the usual Genesis P-Orridge bands always get a mention, early Boyd Rice, etc. Still listen to some of it, including the also-aforementioned Einsturzende Neubauten, but I’ve been out of the loop on anything new for around 15 years. At the time I was into it, there was an annoying amount overlap between industrial and goth; I liked the goth look, hated the goth sounds. So, I just kind of randomly bought stuff from record stores.

For whatever reason, Survival Research Laboratories was always beloved in industrial circles, and I dug their “performances” as well. I’ve got a couple of their installations on laserdisc.

For non-industrial noise rock, I liked Pain Teens, Albini’s bands, Guitar Wolf and the Boredoms, but again these were random finds in record bins, not something I knew of through any sort of scene.

YEAH! Guitar Wolf is thermonuclear Godhead made manifest in beer, black leather and six-string feedback. RIP Basswolf (Rev Into Powerdrive).

Being in Japan, and involved with experimental music and contemporary art, I get to listen to a bit of Japanese noise music. One of the best concerts I’ve been at was Yoshihide Otomo’s Anode project. This is an improvisational group of 12 musicians, including 4 full drum sets. The concert was in a large rehearsal hall, and the musicians were placed in a circle around the audience, with drummers in each corners. After a very nice and rather quiet piece, Y. O. explained the rules of the next piece: musicians are to play as loud as possible, without ever taking a rest, and without paying any attention to what others are doing. Audience members are free to walk around. He started the countdown: 3, 2, 1… and then I felt my head explode as 12 maniacs started banging on their instruments all at once. It became quickly obvious that audience members had to walk around. It was some sort of demonic buffet. You’d walk over right next to a musician, and only then could you tell what they were doing from the din. It was pure, total and absolute cacophony but it was a tremendously energetic experience and a truly new way of listening to music.

I always lecture my students about the importance of watching sound levels and protecting your ears. I complain about concerts that are too loud, but this was the exception. I’m happy me and my ears survived the experience, although for safety’s sake, I probably wouldn’t go through it again.

There’s a a video on YouTube but it’s pointless, you really need to be there, walk around and feel your skull crushed by the din.