Arrhythmia Wave Burst and Panner Crash
Magic Crystal Blah Volume 2
I first got slugged in the head by John Wiese's dirty pillows when he threw his ghost in the subterranean Hell-growl gumbo of the last Sunn O))) collaboration Black One, but its on his own curious excursions on his Helicopter label that you begin to discover what kind of searing mayhem he's all about - blistering disjointed mayhem. Its like that time you were really high, and were musing about what if each little neutron in each atom was in fact world unto itself populated with people and life and tragedy and war, and you were suddenly made cognizant of all of them at one. And they were having in intergalactic/intermolecular space war. In your brain. Forever. Did I just blow your mind? I think I blew your mind. That's what John Weise's take on the noise genre is like. No faux Teutonic beats parading disco as revolution, no set-the oscillators a-spinning and leave the room for an hour aural exercises, its is living, breathing harsh recombinant cosmic fallout.
But I am here to tell you, noise IS music. Its just not playing the same reindeer games that music is. There is still emotion and flow and logic and parts sounding right and parts sounding wrong and not just arbitrary noodlings. Noise often gets played off as purely masturbatory exercises masquerading as art, but tell me that doesn't also apply to your average singer-songwriter?
His 3" CD, Arrhythmia Wave Burst and Panner Crash contains four tracks of lethal weaponry denoted primarily by time and place performed, but really, they kind of feed into each other, since his herky jerky feedback bursts are often interrupted by very sharp stops. It goes from synthetic beeps directly into ear-shredding white swath of fuzz, to laser blasts, to shortwave sine permutations and back again. Its the kind of stuff that separates the men from the boys with avant garde music. Some folks think they like the rough stuff until you haul this out, where the only semblance it has to other music is that it is coming out of speakers. In little jets, its even kinda pretty, like the latter half of track two, where the feedback makes a simmering frozen methane lake in the air. Track three comes off like dueling air compressors vying for the love of a good woman, breaking windows and pulling the wires from the walls, imploding and sucking everything in until the whole place dissolves into a single pulse. Track 4 follows a similar tack but is even more destructive, its lulls coming when the invaders pause to recharge their weapons.
The more you listen to it, the more it begins to make sense and start to take over. I've heard that if you listen to the entire "24 Hours" box set by punk-noise grandparents Throbbing Gristle in succession, it changes your perceptions. Things start to look fake and it takes a couple days before you can listen to "normal" music again, and I can see this happening here again. I was a big fan of noise in the late 80's when it was a vital thing, being ridiculously called The New Jazz by some critics with even bigger egos than mine, but fell away from it for these very reasons: it got my listening habits so obtuse that I soon couldn't relate to anyone else, and there is only so much sitting alone in ones apartment, nodding away to Merzbow before you start to feel like a loser. But the taste never leaves you once you go there for a while, and when some good solid noise like this comes your way, its like a spring breeze.
His alter ego Sissy Spacek on the EP Scissors (or collectively, Sississpsskssissrs as it is also listed) is a more varied affair than the first. "Hair Control" volleyes back and forth between frenetic free pots-and-pans drumming and white-out snowstorm howl of hiss, punctuated by silences sharp enough to eject you from the ride, while "Incredible Fluorescent Ghost Funk" is like a chase scene interrupted by signal jamming from a pack of rogue elephants, maybe. This stuff is a challenge to describe: its turbulent, doesn't sit still, harsh. but kind of soothing in a weird not-usually-soothing way. Its like its ironing out the kinks. The final track "Please Don't Sleep While We Explain" takes on a definitely more tranquil pace, but I think its really a matter of volume, since it seems that the same sort of racket and ratcheting is happening just a the hearing threshold, reminding me that volume can be a compositional element, not just a fact that can be adjusted by the listener. In some ways, its even more turbulent than its louder sisters, like how Rothko proclaimed his solid near-monochromatic paintings were much more violent than Pollock's supernovae (and he was probably right if comparing how the two left this mortal coil tells you anything)
Finally there is Magic Crystal Blah Volume 2, which is a remix album of his previous Magic Crystal Blah Volume 1. To me it doesn't hold the same consistent psychoactive water as the other two releases but then, it is a remix album - reinterpretations and redefinitions of previous work. In fact, all these intrepid explorers can do to Wiese's enfants terribles is try to actually impose order on them, creating some "Music" out of the noise. Christian Renou probably does the best job here, mating the metal scrapes and nuclear meltdowns with and old u-boat sonar machine, to create a menacing, trotting orbit around your head with the material. Mike Shiflet extracts some high hums and crickets out of the works, and Raionbashi and Freiband both press it into near non existence, and there are tons of interesting things being done to the sounds here. But playful as it is, it just doesn't hit as hard as Wiese's own punch. it might be a gateway drug into the harder stuff, but I like my noise blazing hot and pure and leaving me stranded back in my head like the good ole days.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com
about Alex V. Cook »»
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