NOISE TRIAGE is an occasional and ongoing series of prose barfs, drawing attention to all the stuff in my listening pile that didn’t get reviewed but that deserves a wider audience.
Readers will know that it takes a heckuva long time for material to percolate through my brain. NOISE TRIAGE shoves jumpleads into the custard and kickstarts the charred synapses.
Expect neither insight nor depth from NOISE TRIAGE. Please read NOISE TRIAGE in conjunction with existing reviews. NOISE TRIAGE also complements HASHTAG NOIZELIFE – a similar exercise performed on paper by We Need No Swords for the marvellous TQ Zine (subscription recommended).
Veltz: Broken TV Audio Report
“The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel“. Well thanks to Veltz, aka Japanese noise juggler Akira Matsuoka, we can now experience that synaesthetic gristle – it’s the opening of William Gibson’s ‘Neuromancer’, dontcha know – in full audio fidelity. Over the past few years, Matsuoka has amassed a backyard-full of cathode ray tube TVs, which have pretty much been defunct since Japan switched off its analogue broadcasting in 2011 (the UK stopped in 2012). ‘Broken TV Audio Report’ sees Matsuoka unleashing a selection of their barren frequencies in a furious and deadpan electro-mechanical barrage.
‘Broken TV Audio Report’ works brilliantly both as aggressive sound art – put it next to a Spoils and Relics tape or some of Louie Rice’s stuff on Hideous Replica and it wouldn’t seem out of place – and as a poignant disquisition on redundant technology. It’s difficult not to hear the hiccuping scuffs and wiry buzzes of these cuts (Rec. 04 is particularly lovely in this respect) and not think of a burnt-out Max Headroom slumped over a scorched console, his visions of glorious video future scattered in broken remnants around his collapsed rubber cranium. Or Adrian Veidt’s Antarctic control room in ‘Watchmen’, its wall of screens smashed up and useless, the culprits not Doctor Manhattan, Rorschach and the squad, but a faceless swarm of algorithms on the rampage, prepping their digital future of unceasing, eternal surveillance.
Heavy Lifting: Mortal Springs
Despatches from the algorave underground! ‘Mortal Springs’ is five squelched bursts of live-coded sound energy, created using Tidal Cycles, software that enables artists to bash out electronic music in real time, giving them the freedom to improvise or edit tracks on the fly.
Heavy Lifting is a dab hand at this live coding lark, as the sinewy, ever-evolving streams of sonic matter on ‘Mortal Springs’ demonstrate. Gruff swipes give way to lolloping chirrups that gurn in the best acid house tradition. Radio garble mutters across a bed of human beatbox grunts and lawnmower growls. Post-punk melancholy is transported by giddy junglist clatter. At one point, we’re seem to be a tabla lesson, but that’s soon swamped by seeping gurgles of abstract funk.
The joins are sometimes apparent, true, but the rough edges only add to the sense of immediacy, like watching some artisan welder shape lumps of battered steel into rusted panoramas before your very eyes. Really, though, ‘Mortal Springs’ is as fluid and tough as iron coral, blooming in a state of ongoing transformation.
Despite ‘Sonnborner’ being Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff’s 20th album as Nadja, listeners can be assured that the band’s shoegaze-inflected heaviness is as thrilling as ever.
The main event is the title track, ‘ Sonnborner/Aten’, in which Baker and Buckareff deliver a masterclass in longform doom. Sepulchral moans and cautious guitar strums build a sufficiently eerie atmosphere. Stern drum machine stomps and dissonant arcos ramp up the tension, before a wall of molten, sustained fuzz clears all in its path with surgical brutality. Just over half-way through, however, the avalanche dissolves, to be replaced by ravishing sweeps of cello and violin. It’s a thoroughly unexpected and gorgeous move that lifts us from the depths of the abyss to wide-open tundra in a double-quick time.
For those who prefer their shocks shorter and sharper, well, Baker and Buckareff have got that covered, too. ‘Sonnborner’ comes packaged with four blasts of grindcore fury, complete with obliterating drum patterns, charred-lung vocals and tar-coated guitar splurge. Best is the corroded mosh of ‘Sunwell’, whose double-pedal thrust and juddering lead lines combine for maximum high-velocity poison.
Llull Machines: Insect Angel
‘Insect Angel’ is a hypnotic audiovisual production by Grundik Kasyansky (who handles the sounds) and Danil Gertman (responsible for the arresting image that forms the release’s cover art). I’ve come across Kasyansky before, as part of kosmische improv collective Staraya Derevnya, whose avant-trippy investigations were a mesmerising highlight of last year’s TUSK festival. Here, Kasyansky explores a similar sonic world – it’s something to do with a synth-based feedback process, as I understand it – but, away from the overlapping activities characterising that group setting, the subtleties and focus of his approach are rendered in stark clarity.
Over 40 minutes, Kasyansky ushers a growling, morphing drone into being, one that initially resembles a drunken wasp veering around your kitchen on a hot afternoon, but that soon inserts itself into your frontal lobes for maximum addiction. Precise modulations gradually reveal themselves, propelled by an irregular, muffled kick-drum, their variations like catnip for your ears and brain. The requisite fugue state is achieved, but beatific meditation transformed into frozen trauma by the starkness of Gertman’s accompanying image, his winged figure a looming imago from the shadow realm, presaging pure psychic torment.
Mark Browne and Chris Whitehead: A History of Breath
Like ‘Insect Angel’, Mark Browne and Chris Whitehead’s ‘A History of Breath’ explores the potential of extended, shifting drones. But if Kasyansky narrows his field to ensure rigorous focus on the pulsations he’s generating, this pair open things up, their sustained tones acting as undulating backdrop for a range of noise-making actions.
The bedrock is formed from the wheezes of a harmonium, once owned by Lol Coxhill and now in Browne’s care, its blowsy harshness balanced by soft and brassy gong beats. But the foreground is where it’s really all happening. Deft switches of scale see micro-level no-input scratches and scurries contrasted with the airy chirrups of birds and the widescreen splash of waves on the beach. It’s surreal and confusing, as if the mechanics of the Matrix are intruding on the simulation’s glossy realism. By the time the brassy rattles and white noise of the closing minutes kick in, we know we’re glitched out and heading for a hard reboot.
Oficina Errante: Recorder! Ricorda
Richard Sanderson’s brilliantly eccentric Linear Obsessional label has finally entered the cassette age, with this collage of mutated found sounds and home recordings its first release. Linear Obsessional has always eschewed orthodoxy and prevailing trends, focusing instead on the quirky outliers scattered across the experimental music scene, and ‘Recorder! Ricorda’ is no different. Soothing, unsettling and meandering in turn, it is a bonkers odyssey through a meticulously-constructed universe, where itchy clockwork funk segues into pastoral piano interludes and spooky musique-concrete thunks resolve themselves into greasy electronic pools.
If side A takes a scrapbook approach, stitching together its source material to engaging effect while retaining much of its original character, side B is where things get weird. Hefty slabs of drone shift and grumble in such a way to evoke images of huge standing stones in a slo-mo quadrille. Querulous silvery beams float out into darkness, as if borne by invisible moths, then get moulded into sheets of quivering titanium by giant, invisible hands. We’re well down the rabbit hole now, people.
David Birchall / Andrew Cheetham / Alan Wilkinson: Live at Islington Mill
This all-out jazz-noise summit is heavier than a gridlocked city. Back in 2017, veteran reeds geezer Alan Wikinson pitched up in Salford for a take-no-prisoners session with northern stalwarts Cheetham and Birchall. The results have proved essential for those whose tastes run to the untrammelled and fiery.
Salford’s Islington Mill is a fitting venue for such sonic misbehaviour, being an epicentre for Manchester’s free music underground. Drone rock gurus GNOD have a base here and many more out-there players orbit it like planetoids circling a dark sun. So it’s fitting that this recording is a heaving, bleating bastard of a set, its warty machinations twisting the trio’s stubborn fury into a righteous and ecstatic yodel.
Wilkinson, canny blighter that he is, comes prepared with alto, baritone and bass clarinet. Strained yowls alternate with low-end burps, with some soaring, soulful blues a surprise move late on. Generally, though, Birchall and Cheetham are equal to the task, the former chopping out fat bass-string licks then spraying webs of gluey matter like everyone’s friendly neighbourhood improvisor, while the latter’s neat-limbed dexterity effortlessly parlays humungous cacophony into sleek, brutal ferocity.