Highlights From Ende Tymes Festival 2014
Better Than: Inviting strangers to your apartment, cranking the heat, and then cuing up a vintage Merzbow set on YouTube.
Noise music is a huge, ever-expanding tent that -- unlike the GOP, who merely pay lip service to the tent metaphor -- truly contains multiple perspectives. A number of these perspectives were in vociferous evidence for the 2014 Ende Tymes Festival of Noise and Experimental Liberation, staged in Brooklyn from Thursday, May 8th through Sunday, May 11th at the Silent Barn and Outpost Artists Resources. The scene included everything a noise fan could ask for: thrilling floor sets, impromptu mosh pits, fully stocked merch tables, affordable libations, non-scary bathrooms. Oh, and there was also the music itself, Bataranging from pulse-pounding power electronics to sampled-live loop soups to caustic dance rhythms to white dwarf drones to near-punk abandon served up in 10-, 20-, or 30-minute busts of inspiration that sent breathless revelers retreating to the bar or outside smokers' area -- until the next act struck up a blare.
We were only able to attend the first three nights of the festival, and what follows cherry-picks only the highlights. Honorable mentions are due to Worth's avalanche of sawed-off violence, Shredded Nerve's Richter-scale poltergeist, Work/Death's majestic Phantom of the Opera atonality, Grasshopper's bulldozing drones, Being's five to seven minutes of total and utter death, Andrew Coltrane's harsh wall jack-hammering, Sickness/Bastard Noise's cosmically overwhelming tribute to the late Kelly Churko, Dromez's viciously orchestrated noise tangles, Developer's extreme prejudice Etch-A-Sketch, and the Clang Quartet's symbolism-heavy testifying. Really, everyone killed it, in their own ways; there are no losers here.
Day 1 - Thursday, May 8
This NYC-based duo opened the festival with very heavy gloomy tones that swirled, accelerated, then thundered into galloping rhythms and collisions, only to pull back. Everything grew louder and more immersive, until the audience was left with something impossibly intense: tons of heavy low end growl and hard chirping at the high end, with vocal intimations cutting in and out, pumping bass, and beat chopping. By set's end, the sound suggested someone attempting, with great vigor and limited success, to get the engine of the Great Space Coaster to turn over.
Philip White & Chris Pitsiokos
It's very difficult to do justice, using words, to how enervating and annihilating this set was: the spectacle of saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos flailing around in the throes of exorcism, unleashing beast blasts of raw tone, while Philip White danced around a table that appeared to be full of detonators, grabbing and yanking and jerking as though the equipment were swarming with angry, poisonous snakes. Both men seemed to be dancing in time with the resulting havoc of music that was very physical and visceral: wood-splitting electronic farts, virulent sax smears. There was the sense that terrorists had rigged the Silent Barn with complicated explosives and that these two -- and only these two -- comprised Brooklyn's sole defense from total and utter devastation. You had to be there.
NYC's Megan Moncrief -- aka Lazurite -- was the first performer of the festival to go in for what was to become my favorite trend of the weekend: the use of props. Using a mic'd bow, a ukelin, and other objects she stirred and shape-shifted into an elephantine effects blizzard that suggested, at its apex, the vivid perversion of bagpipes.
After the preceding pyrotechnics, Phill Niblock's set acted as a sort of pure-phase palette cleanser: a very long, very deep sunspot drone that shook the room and was the first set to draw the attention of passersby outside of the venue. The sound drifted over time from warm and sunny to ominous. In droll contrast to most other festival performers, his set was largely free of action, as he worked calmly and methodically from a silver MacBook. Niblock later remarked to me that he'd intended to perform a second piece, but encountered some technical difficulties.
Something of a fake out, this set. Guitarist Andy Borsz lit a chunk of incense and walked through the crowd, waving it, then went in for some Eastern cross harmonies for guitar that were very gentle and thoughtful. Then he and drummer Sara Cavic detonated a punk-rock neutron bomb of snarled, bludgeoning chords, annihilating the venue, setting into motion the first serious most pit of the weekend, and effectively owning the first evening of performances. Anyone who caught this set who wasn't a believer before certainly is now.