Posts Tagged ‘Harsh Noise Wall’

Dret Skivor – 11th January 2021

I had the pleasure – and it was a pleasure for me, if not necessarily the audience – to perform a couple of times with Legion of Swine. They were noisy, brutal affairs: while Dave Procter’s many musical guises span most shades of noise, with a particular leaning toward all things drone, his work as the lab coat wearing porcine purveyor of aural pain.

The audio on this release is taken from Legion of Swine’s set for the Chapel FM 24-hour Musicathon, which took place on 12th-13th December 2020, which featured forty-five acts in twenty-four hours. Performing at 6:15am on Sunday 13th, the chances are few caught the performance as it aired live, but here, a year on, is an opportunity to bask in the gnarly noise at leisure and a more socially amenable hour. Not that there’s much that’s socially amenable about this: the liner notes explain how ‘It’s “almost” Harsh Noise Wall, but not quite as some random parts of reverb tails interact with others at various stages to create the slight variations.’

So how does that translate as a listening experience? Well, as the title suggests, the noise never abates during this twenty-six-minute blast of electronic abrasion. There are no breaks, no vocals, and next o no sonic variety, although there is some – and it’s heavily textured. In fact, it would be most readily summarised that it sounds like the cover looks: grey, grainy, but woven so as to be not entirely monotone and uniform in shade.

When I find myself listening to HNW – which admittedly, isn’t that often, as I generally prefer the concept to the experience, despite the fact I do very much like my noise to be immersive, not to mention somewhat testing – I find myself hearing subtle shifts in tone and frequency. I suspect it’s the result of some auditory illusion, the aural equivalent of an optical illusion as my receptors strain to find some variety, some detail on which to pin a response of some sort, in the same way a freshly-painted wall will reveal patches that are not as well covered as others the longer you look at it. The beauty – and I use the term with extreme caution here – of this performance is that those patches do exist, and are purposefully brushed into the finish.

This is alternately the sound of a distant swarm of hornets and swimming underwater. The recording doesn’t convey the kind of extreme volume that is an element of a lot of harsh noise, although one suspects that a large proportion of the interplay between sounds is derived from the way that reverberate, resonate, and rub together and against one another, and any comparison to Merzbow is entirely appropriate. But the lack of overt volume only accentuates the sameness – or near-sameness – of the sound, and what’s more that sound is a continuous torrential churning noise that sits in the midrange, and hammers like metal rain, a relentless digital downpour. It’s ultimately oppressive in its relentlessness, and over time seems to fade into the background, as anything with such a lack of dynamics inevitably will. But this is not about stimulating the senses so much as numbing them and challenging the listener to endure. It’s a test alright, and a tough – but good – one.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Much as I think the live stream shows that have become a thing during lockdown are a great way for bands to stay connected with their fans when tours have been cancelled, and artists and fans alike are frustrated and apart, I’ve struggled to get into them as an experience.

Discussing this with a gig-mate, I explained that I’d tried a few guitar bands doing streams from bedrooms , and found the experience of just one or two band members doing acoustic stuff and chatting a fair bit in between may create a certain sense of an intimate setting, but lacks the multisensory aspects, as well as the impact of music at gig volume.

‘I did do a couple early on’, my friend replied, adding ‘It’s not really what I want. I want to go to a gig.’

It struck me that that was it, in a nutshell. A stream is not a gig. TV, radio, YouTube, a live album… is not a gig. It’s like arguing that a Kindle is like a book. It may well be, but it isn’t, and the things it lacks are the reason it will never be a convincing or authentic sensory substitute. When it comes to live music, the cliché ‘you had to be there’ is ineffable. Yes. You do actually have to be there.

Nevertheless, with friends whose music I’m into on tonight’s lineup, I decided to invest a little more in recreating the live experience, starting with a pre-gig pint, which I texted pictures of to various people. Being a warm night, I didn’t put the heating up, but I did draw the blind and shut the door to my office, and put the display full screen (The streaming chat is irritating and detracts from both the music and the visuals, however sparse) and cranked the speakers up, and sat back to witness low rumblings and slow-decaying chimes that marked the start of Möbius’ set. The visuals consist of a dark background and shining points of yellow-white light. Wordless dual vocals ring out and resonate against one another, generating a subtle power, somewhere between Gregorian chanting and Jarboe at her most ethereal. The drones grow denser, louder, the effect of a single note sustained for an eternity increases as time passes: my body hums at the same frequency for a time, before the resonant echoes are gradually swallowed in a swell of distortion. Chances are, if played at the same volume, a recording would have the same effect, but it’s an immersive set nevertheless.

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Möbius

Between-acts, there’s some obscure noise mix streaming, and Plan Pony is up next, blasting out speaker-mangling low-end distortion. If the noise is impressive, it’s matched by polarised visuals. Manipulating blasts of harsh guitar sampled in real-time and thrashed through an immense table fill of effects, the output is a sonic blitzkrieg. The quiet passages don’t translate quite as well, partly because my neighbour’s got a mate round and they’ve got the radio on in her back yard, but some snarled-up samples and snippets of music emerge from the grumbling electronics as he twiddles knobs, before long building again to a shattering wall of harsh noise.

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Plan Pony

Zad Kokar takes things to next-level wtf, with bewilderingly nightmarish visuals that ae probably best described as max Headroom on acid, accompanying a blizzard of audio mashup that’s like early Prodigy in collision with early cabaret Voltaire. Both on acid. Diverting from the in-yer-face mental shit, we’ve got Clean Wipe, a guy in shorts stroking a doorframe while tweaking knobs on effects pedals at a circular kitchen table while the background changes colour constantly. It takes me an age to realise there must be contact mics on the door frame, and I can’t decide if I need more beer or I’ve had too much already.

It’s been a strong start, and TCH, on at number 4, take the mood and volume down a bit, but in a good way. The noise is dark and dingy, and reflects the setting in which we see a hooded figured tweaking minimal kit in a small, mildew-stained room. It’s more like watching a documentary on heroin withdrawal than a musical performance.

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TCH

I clock 61 viewers, which is probably about the capacity of CHUNK, and the nights thy host are usually BYOB, so cracking a can of ALDI’s The Hop Stepper that I fetched from downstairs between acts seems consistent with being there.

Petrine Cross is Esmé of Penance Stare doing one-woman black metal at a million decibels. The set’s an ear-shattering mess of noise and distortion and visually, it’s stark, dark and black and white. The sound is overloaded, borderline unlistenable, but that’s likely intentional, and it’s clear some effort’s gone into this. Each song has its title on-screen at the start, there’s a plug for a charity compilation (again, on-screen text means no need for awkward chat) and songs are intercut with footage of the cat. It’s belting. And her room as some nice cornice work.

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Petrine Cross

It’s a distorted dictaphone tape recording – a fractured ranted monologue about life in isolation under lockdown – that provides the material for Duncan Harrison’s set. It captures the mental tension of the moment so well, it’s uncomfortable listening. It’s followed by Energy Destroyer’s barrage of noise accompanied by video footage of him swinging either nunchucks or lengths of rubber in his back garden, and it’s the bodywarmer that makes it.

It’s disorientating watching the back of a performer’s head as they play and seeing them again on the PC monitor before them, with the whole scene framed by leaves and soundtracked by birdsong and incidental rumblings. But this is what we get from Garden Magik, whose set evolves gradually into a digital storm. At some point in the gale-force distortion, I realise my mind isn’t entirely on the set, but then, in a live setting, I would have likely enjoyed the sonic experience but found my mind wandering to maters of work and other stuff – and that’s no criticism. Under lockdown, in my office, it’s even easier to become distracted by text messages and FaceBook.

Content’s ‘If Hard Work Pay Show Me Rich Donkey’ leaps out as a feature of the between-act PA tunage before Sadistic Statistic, who give us more garden footage and a full-on Merzbow blast of obliterative sonic carnage. The images of cats are unrepresentative: the melting digitisations less so: at times, it sounds like it looks: brain-shredding, difficult, and impossible to pin down. Harsh is the new norm here: this is one of those sets that leaves you feeling utterly wrung out by the time the last sparking crackle fades.

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Sadistic Statistic

Stuart Chalmers takes us on a mesmerising tour of a cave, before Otherworld bring gloopy, cracking electronics accompanied by swirling pixelated patterns that aren’t exactly easy on the retinas. It’s low-level noise that’s centred around slow-, hypnotic pulsations. It’s pitch-black in the room now bar the screen and I’m staring fixedly at the shifting shapes as the sound ripple around me, and the experience is quite gig-like until Mrs N returns an extension lead, which isn’t quite the same as being handed a final pint before the train.

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Otherworld

In terms of lineup and performances, this was a hell of a night. It would, unquestionably, have been infinitely better to have witnessed it in person, surrounded by other people also witnessing it in person: atmosphere is interaction, but also an unspoken feeling that passes between people in a room. Virtual claps posted on a chat stream simply cannot replace real time reactions. But, while it’s the best we’ve got, it’ll have to do. What I took from tonight is that some genres seems better equipped to operate differently, and experimental electronic odd shit, with its propensity for visuals and playing in darkness, seems to have less work to do to adapt than conventional rock formats, making this the closest to the live experience I’ve yet witnessed. And yes, I had a blast. And made it home with no problems, too.

Noisequanoise – 1st January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Avery Vickers, aka Death Circuit, isn’t exactly big on info, biographical or otherwise. But, specialising in Harsh Noise, Harsh Noise Wall, and Power Electronics, what more do you really need? Personality and politics are less than nothing in the face of instrumental annihilation.

An Easy Passage To The Mind is noted as having been ‘recorded on 90 minutes of cassette tape’. The medium naturally brings a roughing, analogue feel to the two tracks, which are both exactly 15:03 in duration (90 minutes would surely be unbearable even for the biggest fan of this).

What’s impressive is just how much sound is packed into those thin, magnetic-coated strips. It’s not just harsh, noisy, and a wall – that’s pretty much a given. But the density is more than a towering slab of basalt. And of course, there are no smooth edges here: this is pure abrasion.

On ‘1’, there’s an emphasis on the lower mid-ranges, meaning the experience isn’t cranium-splittingly abrasive. The sound is very much like a cross between a helicopter at close range, and a washing machine on a spin cycle, the air torn and shredded, and rent damaged by the obliterative volume. After the initial shock of the sheer sonic force, it becomes immersive. Not pleasant, but not unpleasant.

The same cannot be said of ‘2’, which may or may not be the same track cranked up to a level of overloading distortion and does actually hurt and fuck with your head even more than your speakers. It simply sounds broken. And after a quarter of an hour of it, I certainly am. It’s torture by frequency, and it’ torture by volume, and it’s torture by dissonant vibration. I feel jaw clenching involuntarily as every muscle in my body get gradually more tense. It’s horrible. And exactly as intended. Harsh.

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