The Best Noise Music in May: Diaphragmatic and Josh Millrod/Shingles
[Ed. Note: In Please Enjoy Responsibly, columnist Raymond Cummings tracks down the best noise music of the month, while keeping an eye out for the best of recent months and saluting noise triumphs of yesteryear.]
Earlier this month, I attended the 2014 Ende Tymes Festival in Brooklyn and overdosed on a shitload of noise. I also bought a bunch of CDs and cassettes, most of which were mind-blowing -- and for this month's column, I'll focus on my favorites from those sundry merch-table scores.
See also: Highlights From Ende Tymes Festival 2014
The result is an interesting mix of Ende Tymes 2014 vets and scene forces who weren't on the lineup this year. Indianapolis-based Diaphragmatic was on the Ende Tymes 2013 bill, while the Sick Llama half of Ohio/Michigan concern Stagnant Fluids slew Ende Tymes 2011. The rest killed it on varying levels earlier this month: Shingles and Josh Millrod (each half of Brooklyn's Grasshopper kickin' it Speakerboxx/The Love Below style), Japan's Hiroshi Hasegawa on a split with Sweden's Positive Adjustments, Brooklyn's Megan Moncrief as Lazurite, and NYC-based duo Limax Maximus.
Stagnant Fluids, Laboured Breath (Alien Passengers, 2014)
One side of Laboured Breath (Alien Passengers) plays like its name reads, sort of: it unfolds, uncomfortably, like a slow-motion reenactment of a lung or system collapsing under its own weight with nowhere to go but down, down, down. The earth beneath keeps crumbling; the foundations continue to give way, infinitely. The other side - the sides aren't labeled, for whatever reason - at first suggests an underwater recording of a swordfish slicing through a marina of creaky, barnacle-studded shifts during a light tropical storm, then the above-water experience of that heavy weather, then a frenzied, fractal jabberwocky of electronic mayhem. Overall here, Stagnant Fluid generate what might best be described as an atmosphere of erosion: sometimes virulent and sometimes benign, but always capable of drawing the listener into a specific sphere.
Lazurite, Secular Geometry (Popular Chant, 2011)
"The Moon Reversed," the woozy opening stomp on Lazurite's great Secular Geometry, sends me reeling back to Earth Grid, Zomes' 2010 stone-drone classic. But since Megan Moncrief has a far broader imagination and sense of adventure, Geometry evinces a measured sense of wanderlust: submerged runes at dusk on "Forty Circles, Each Side," kazoo'd-out typewriter blear submitting to mania on "We Don't Have Time For A Hypothesis, Science Is Fleeting," flickering minimalist murmurs for "Li Symmetries." On stage at Ende Tymes 2014, she employed a bow, a ukelin, and a series of other tools to build a sound that was positively macro, but on this tape she was operating on a sub-dermal, cerebral level, wandering the line between folky madrigal and sublimely abstract; there are melodies everywhere here, but they're lovingly smeared and threshed.
Hiroshi Hasegawa/Positive Adjustments, Cryptic Void (41B, 2013)
In my Ende Tymes 2014 write-up, I waxed rhapsodic about Hiroshi Hasegawa's lunar eclipse of a set; it seemed inevitable that the prospect of experiencing the man on record would be a comparative disappointment. Sadly, I was kind of right; the first half of Cryptic Void, Hasegawa's split release with Sweden's Positive Adjustments, can't measure up to the punishing waves of desolation he let loose on a rapt, (mostly) reverent crowd at the Silent Barn a few weeks back. But it comes damned close, and that has to be enough unless I can find a way to pay him to hang out in the kitchen/dining room area of my apartment, rattling the building to its foundations and boldly alienating my neighbors. The playbook for "Cruel Street Goddess" is about what you'd expect: the gingerly composed unleashing of every power electronics squirt, gush, Taze, and alarm known to humanity, with an intensity that the uninitiated will mistake for randomness. "Higher Than Mountain Heaven" opts instead for full-court-press noise saturation; you're less likely to have an eye poked out, but the churn obliterates any and all vestiges of rational thought. Did you happen to catch Days of Future Past? Did you see the fucking Sentinels? This is the sound of dozens of them roasting you alive.
Krister Bergman, who records as Positive Adjustments, takes a more fire and brimstone approach to noise that involves demonic exclamations, the aroused corkscrewing of metallic sounds, dub-like loops you have to strain to detect, liquidy sloshes, massive, sustained fireballs, braces of broiling feedback, and unsettling stretches of quiescence; the effect is not like being teleported, with very short notice, to many different areas in a galaxy in the midst of a Big Bang.