The Best Noise Tracks of 2013
Another year, another list: noise roars on, freakier and spikier and gnarlier than before, furthering tinnitus cases and confusing loved ones and improving the quality of life for the thousands, or maybe dozens of people for whom pop music doesn't translate into a satisfying drive to work or night on the town. There are always more cassettes to unwrap, more bandcamp streams to freak out over, more ways to tweak an already tweaked signal to suggest total societal collapse, more ways to make a cracked beat twerk harder than Miley Cyrus on a crystal meth binge; some of our favorite noise cuts of 2013 got that sorted, while others edged into or close to the realm of melody or found solace in swamps. (Speaking of which, has anybody seen Khate lately?) The genre is alive and well, and we hope you'll celebrate along with us by unplugging from the headphone jack, turning up the volume, and running the risk of getting canned from your dead-end job a couple weeks prior to Christmas.
10. J. Soliday, "Radial Variations" (self-released)
Swipe, switch, stroke, thrum: this is the stock in trade of "Radial Variations," a long playing exercise in perspective-switching and mood roulette that goes in for metal-on-metal extremes just long enough for its forays into micro-tonal glitch pop with flux-capacitor bass pokes to startle. By the last third of its 40 minute run time, the going gets considerably chopped, and way weirder; you'll be glad you hung in there.
9. Black Pus, "Word On The Street" (Thrill Jockey)
Half of Lightning Bolt kicks out the jambs with a jack boot, unaware that a color-spectrum Mouth of Madness awaits him (and us) on the other side.
8. Witchbeam, "Shadow Musick, Vol. 1, Side 2" (Tranquility Tapes)
Half of Telecult Powers gets freaky-deaky with synthesizers calibrated to get you mile high even as they make googly eyes at the spiritual underworld. Textures are expanded out like a Slinkee and clusteredinthisclose at intervals in a way so provocative and hypnotic it's difficult not to feel slightly taken or conned, even though Witchbeam isn't asking you to fund his voodoo pictograph Kickstarter or anything. The man himself shows up with a PSA at the end, all Max Headroom/Boards of Canada "A Very Important Message" style, direct and inadvertently subversive.
7. Zalhietzli, "Hox" (self-released)
"Hox" has a gong-like timbre about it, as if the listener is being swung steadily towards, and then away from, a rippling, vacillating din, flung hither and yon through a series of black holes en route to God knows where or when.
6. Inappropriate King Live, "What Is Surrounded's End? Who's Hands. I Am A Minority. A Ministry. I Segregate Myself." (Rainbow Bridge)
The ever-prolix Justin Marc Lloyd somehow evokes the experience of attempting and failing to remove a football-field length piece of tape from a severely flatulent rubber-band ball while in outer space, which is both more awesome and less gross than it sounds.