Touted as the “second attempt at melding the genres of noise and drone”, Slow Motion Warfare’s Error: 02 is lumbering and abrasive, and yet peaceful. While the album fails overall in its endeavor to amalgamate noise and drone, it does strike a pleasant balance of minimalism and structural evolution, tempered by carefully reined distortion. And while minimal, attention to spatial details was not spared, offering dizzying stereo effects for the headphone listening experience.
Given the subjective nature of most genre definitions, and especially those of less mainstream styles, I’m willing to concede that the artist’s interpretation of drone or noise may differ from my own; therefore I am not considering intent in my final review summation. However, I am considering the listening experience, which I found to be “ideal for trying to digest the tribulations of a strange day”, precisely as advertised.
Noise Research Institute, the latest project from Spike Vincent, longtime fiend and all-around perpetrator of crimes against humanity, makes no subtle entry with this initial effort, Domestic Nuclear Shelters. The album opens with the inconspicuous grace of a drunken football hooligan, likewise blasting eardrums and expectations without apology or concern. It is an abuse of sound, depraved and vile; like an electric razor chewing through Fabergé eggs. An abuse so far beyond the pale that it daunts all but the initiated: who are sure to revel in the debasement and affront to common decency.
The appropriate mood established, the album navigates through familiar noise territory as if guided by some preternatural force, sweeping through rumbling lows and piercing highs. Tortured organic wails wash walls of crashing sound against electronic backdrops both soothingly harsh and brutally serene. Massive, monolithic towers of sheer noise rise precariously above the fray, threatening to topple under the weight of their aural might, burying the listener in an avalanche of atonal rubble. Just as the Good Lord™ intended.
Perhaps the most impressive feat of this release is in its depth. Many newcomers launch themselves into the genre with little appreciation of its subtleties and little understanding of how noise can, and should, carry emotional weight; how it evolves both sonically and symbolically. Though lacking in some of the detail that more seasoned artists may have applied, the album has a solid foundation and demonstrates a firm grasp of the fundamentals that define the style.
Domestic Nuclear Shelters is proof positive that an old dog can learn new tricks. And I hope to be around to hear a few more of these new tricks.
Some musical discoveries and brief thoughts on each.
It’s DEVO meets Chrome meets McLusky, only Japanese. The DEVO influence is uncontested, to the point of being almost an homage, but they’ve taken the poppy elements of popular-era DEVO and infused it with the aggression of earlier DEVO and the aggro brutality of modern noise rock. Super catchy; super noisy; super good.
(Typically the chick doesn’t sing, but this is a great song nonetheless)
I don’t listen to much industrial music anymore, but these guys do dancefloor industrial really, really well. Since most of the bands that I listened to in high school have petered-out or been on a run of releasing really shitty albums, it was nice to discover something relatively new that captures what I enjoyed about the genre in the first place. Also, they get special mention for having the best band name I’ve heard in quite some time.
Two white guys tackle electro funk with an adeptness that makes Daft Punk look clinical and soulless. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear something like this alongside Zapp & Roger in an early 80s disco. It certainly occupies that space in any playlist I create. This shit makes me dancey.
Built To Spill
Specifically Perfect From Now On. The vocalist tends to annoy me, but everything is set right by two simple words: wah pedal. Seriously, I don’t know why more post rock bands don’t make use of the wah pedal, but these guys exploit that niche in such a way that it has forced me to consider dusting off my wah pedal for old time’s sake.
Duran Duran – All You Need Is Now
Duran Duran just released a new album that’s being touted as the aesthetic follow-up to Rio. Don’t believe the hype. It’s good. It’s a damn sight better than their last album, but it’s no Rio. If I had to force it into their old catalog, I would say that it more readily follows Seven & The Ragged Tiger, at least more logically than Notorious does. They definitely dredge up some of the aesthetics of that era, but very rarely does it come together the way it did in their heyday. They do manage to pull all the elements together on a few tracks, the best of which is “Girl Panic” – and it’s the first track on the album where they bother to remind you that John Taylor is back on bass guitar. His bass work was such a signature of their early material, and so shamefully downplayed on this album.
And, as a bonus, here is a great track from Maryanne Faithfull’s Broken English album. The lyrics shocked even me. And the guitar stuff is awesome.
“Why’d you spit on my snatch? Are we out of love now, or is it just a bad patch?”
It’s that time of the month again. No. The other that time of the month. The day after the seventh, which means that we have a slew of new releases from Just Not Normal – and if rumors are true, this will be the last new batch for quite some time.
In lieu of my standard reviewing process, I thought I would listen through a few of the releases today and post some quick thoughts. This is partly because I actually have things to do this week, and partly because I’m feeling too lazy to think of 37 different ways to creatively describe noise.
Krabatof – Sea of Trees – The opening track to this album is deceptively minimal, and by minimal I mean REALLY minimal, but don’t let this put you off from the rest of the album, which, while largely minimal, has moments of pure genius in the form of some of the creepiest sounds I’ve heard outside of haunted house sound effect collections.
Buben vs. Anton Mobin – On The Different Side of the Object – A collaborative effort between these artists resulted in two sets of tracks. This album represents the more “experimental” tracks. We end up with a collection of well-produced noise tracks, culling influence from all corners of the genre – some minimal, a touch of drone, cacophonous electroacoustic and synth noodlings, all occasionally punctuated with walls of harsh noise.
Altocumulus – Household Apocalypse – Of today’s batch, this album definitely has the best title. Comprised mostly of field recordings – some manipulated, others clean – accentuated with minimal synth accompaniment, this album is remarkably restrained. Where a lesser artist may have overindulged, Altocumulus pulls together a disparate array of found sounds in a tastefully textured manner that often flirts with cacophony, without ever committing to the chaos.
If indeed Darkness Grows In Empty Places, then this release is possibly as dark as they come. A bleak soundscape ekes out of a backdrop so sparse that it ceases being minimal and borders on non-existent. This great, empty sound drones with a melancholy that is simultaneously dismal and rich, like a tortured wail drifting across a foggy meadow at night; unseen in the hazy moonlight, yet frighteningly real nonetheless.
A near perfect example of minimal, dark ambient, that could only have been served better if it had been served longer: a jaunt too short for the depth of feeling that it evokes.