As the hubbub of last weekend’s final electro-improv-noise session Hideous Porta slowly faded from earshot, I’ve been reflecting on one of my discoveries from the previous Porta back in September 2014. Michael Speers’ mix of intense, free improv percussion and blurred loops blew my mind, both with its rhythmic precision and its ever-circling intensity.
If his debut tape, released around the same time as that show, lacks some of that urgent originality – with tracks laid down in his bedroom, volume restrictions meaning he had to eschew the drum kit and focus on the loops – it’s still a compelling listen.
Speers’ technique, influenced by William Basinski, is to take digitised tape loops then layer and degrade them until they become pure warm noise, with extra layers of feedback and drone modulating the stew. Think of Speers pushing Baskinski’s technique until it breaks, collapsing under the weight of its continually overdubbed fragments.
The echoing chimes of Dust is the most Basinski-like piece here, but Speers pushes the tape loop overload to its limit, first swamping its call and response motif in warm fuzz and then pushing things even further with full on white noise transforming the track into the sonic equivalent of some molten metal.
The aluminium hiss of Catacombs, meanwhile, is much more noisy, its high-pitched scrapes soon degrade into full-spectrum turbulence, yet some version of that original loop – perhaps a cymbal, sampled from Speers’ absent drum kit – reappears towards the end, scything across the piece like a giant pterodactyl cruising across an ancient, meteorite-scarred landscape.
The physical release sold out a while back but digital copies are available from Speers’ Bandcamp page. Check it out and keep an eye on this lad – he’ll go far.