by John Rickman
Noise rock is a genre that’s easy to identify but difficult to describe. Punk-inspired but cryptic in presentation and heavy on abstraction, its practitioners clearly operate in uncharted territory. The ruckus that’s all the rage is also largely a northeastern phenomenon as exemplified by popular purveyors Black Dice, Lightning Bolt, Magik Markers, and Excepter. While vastly influential, the left coast is still the best coast for unearthing the most interesting in neo no-wave noise rock.
Just recently, three of my favorite noise rock bands released amazing new full-lengths practically simultaneously.
Mouthus – The Long Salt
On “The Long Salt,” Brooklyn duo Mouthus swings for the fence with a particularly painful new compendium of distorted disturbances. The guitarist’s feedback attack, which predominates the proceedings, is unrelentingly torturous but also strangely narcotic. The rhythm section pops away like an orchestra of nail guns, transforming the wall of sound into a metal shop soundtrack that crosses over into good, old-fashioned industrial music territory on a couple of occasions.
Mouthus come across more like medicine men then musicians the way their signature, strangled moaning haunts every song from within. Their unique uproar defies convention and is only marginally translatable as music. The rhythms make you want to move, but not to any step that’s recognizable, and the grief-ridden wailing penetrates the soul, but disturbs the mind. Not your parent’s magic carpet ride.
Sightings – End Times
“End Times,” the new full-length by Brooklyn trio Sightings, is a sound spectacle of fright. Their music violently disrupts the air and lashes out menacingly, arousing one’s defenses. The three-piece are presented through the prism of a muffled, in-the-red recording, establishing an aura of dominance and advantage over the listener. It’s a wry move that complements the physicality of their art form and compounds the difficulty in discerning where composition and improvisation diverge within their music.
Mark Morgan slices away at his guitar, cutting razor sharp spikes of sound from it. His maniacal vocalizing expresses a range of reactionary emotion from dread and depression to rage and horror, eliciting nervous laughter from this listener. The bass and drums, also in an unbounded state of excitement, transform the proceedings into a full-fledged, frenzied shit fit. On the last track, the instrumental “Slow Boat,” the band sounds consumed by its own psychic energy and aggression, perhaps reflecting the fact that on this occasion they’ve really outdone themselves.
Mindflayer – Expedition to the Hairier Peaks
The new Mindflayer full-length is another bag of hammers altogether. The duo, which originally hails from Providence, RI, consists of Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale and Forcefield knob-twiddler Matt Brinkman. This is the unit that puts the noise in noise rock. Chippendale, a rhythmic whirlwind on the drums, creates a monolithic din all by himself, and Brinkman’s deep, low-end electronic rumbling swirls the supercharged sounds into thick, cacophonous stew.
This new Mindflayer full-length is denser than usual, contains few vocal outbursts, and features epic-length tracks. If you have the constitution to survive the 11-minute opener, “Rally for a Wind War,” you’ve got what it takes to see the expedition through to the end. This is anti-music that satisfies on a purely gut level.
by John Rickman
As the Iraqi insurgency intensified in early 2004, an elite Special Operations forces unit converted one of Saddam Hussein’s former military bases near Baghdad into a top-secret detention center. There, American soldiers made one of the former Iraqi government’s torture chambers into their own interrogation cell. They named it the Black Room.
In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball. Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq’s most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations.
The Black Room was part of a temporary detention site at Camp Nama, the secret headquarters of a shadowy military unit known as Task Force 6-26. Located at Baghdad International Airport, the camp was the first stop for many insurgents on their way to the Abu Ghraib prison a few miles away.
Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, “NO BLOOD, NO FOUL.” The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: “If you don’t make them bleed, they can’t prosecute for it.” According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. “The reality is, there were no rules there,” another Pentagon official said.
Despite the task force’s access to a wide range of intelligence, its raids were often dry holes, yielding little if any intelligence and alienating ordinary Iraqis, Defense Department personnel said. Prisoners deemed no threat to American troops were often driven deep into the Iraqi desert at night and released, sometimes given $100 or more in American money for their trouble.
Back at Camp Nama, the task force leaders established a ritual for departing personnel who did a good job, Pentagon officials said. The commanders presented them with two unusual mementos: a detainee hood and a souvenir piece of tile from the medical screening room that once held Mr. Hussein.
We are a nation that tortures people.
It just rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?
by Kevin K.
Friday March, 17 2006
What to Do:
by Kevin K.
The much-ballyhooed graphic-novel-turned-film V for Vendetta isn’t the only provocative, politically-charged entertainment opening tonight in NYC. You can also add the Pumpkin Pie Show’s “Junta High” to the list:
Celebrating its tenth year, the Pumpkin Pie Show is a rigorous storytelling session amplified by its own live soundtrack. In junta high, Clay McLeod Chapman, a New New Stuff 2005 favorite, crafts a Sweet Valley-styled high school for terrorists where cheerleaders double as suicide bombers and guidance counselors are taken hostage by the A/V club. Holy causes worth dying for galvanize school spirits, blood is shed on the football field every Friday night and the Hungry March Band fervently plays on.
Original music written and performed live by the Hungry March Band.
Think of it as Elephant X 10 plus tubas.
Performance Space 122
150 First Ave., NYC, 212-477-5288
March 16 – 26
Wednesday-Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
$20 ($10 Members)
RELATED: A look back at Vanity Fair Contributing Editor James Wolcott’s review of V for Vendetta. The film opens tonight at 10PM at several NYC theaters followed by the muffled sounds of wingnuts’ heads exploding throughout the country.
by Kevin K.
The music blog rbally has been on fire since launching in December and the first person to turn a hose on it is a dead man. Jennings recently posted two great live recordings that you can snag for free: Parliament/Funkadelic from 1978 and Blur from 1997.
I think I’m going to name my new hard drive “rbally.”
MORE BOOT FOR YOUR BUCK: Solo Neil Young from ’71 at An Aquarium Drunkard
by Kevin K.
Quasi’s new dense, rock-heavy album When The Going Gets Dark (mixed by the gold-fingered Dave Fridmann) is coming out a week from today (3/21) and their label Touch & Go is streaming the whole album here. T&G has also posted an MP3 of the track “The Rhino” and music blog I Guess I’m Floating has two more for you to enjoy. You can check Quasi out live at two NYC venues in April: Knitting Factory on 4/10 and Northsix on 4/11.
by Kevin K.
In one of the weirder web phenomenons we’ve stumbled upon in a while, a painting called “Bear Surprise” by NYC’s renowned musician/actor/artist John Lurie has picked up a rabid cult following in Russia. The high-traffic blog Preved! features a vast array of Photoshopped versions of the painting and the image of the bear has even made its way onto everything from posters to t-shirts (here, here and here). If anyone out there speaks (or is) Russian and can give us more insight into how in the hell this all started, please leave us an explanation in comments.
(More art by Lurie can be found here.)