Inconsistent Beauty

Friday, May 8, 2009

I'm Becoming A BoomBox Monkey Junkie

I got the chance to see local noise artist Boombox Monkey, given name Kyle Maier. He's an Albuquerque resident who is slowly becoming a master at the pedal board. His form is simple - one man with a drum kit and sample box, who dances with his old school baby blue Fender.

His compositions remind me of old jazz standards, in form. They have a head melody section, massive improvisation that begs for widening your normal listening borders, and outros that are varied off the head. His experimentation brought back moments of the first time I heard Sun Ra (1, 2), ...except, you know... electronic.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Veggie Noise

The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra knows about natural sound in a way that can't really be described. They hand make their instruments out of fresh produce before every performance. And the list of ingredients is overwhelming: pepper trumpets, celeriac bongos, carrot recorders, and even something called a cucumberphone. This leader-less group of "self-organized women and men" has been performing since 1988.

I love their categorization, or lack there of, that describes the music. They consider the form to be a mash-up of "contemporary music, beat-oriented House...experimental Electronic, Free Jazz, Noise, Dub, [and] Clicks'n'Cuts". The sense of humour that is implicit with their beats is comforting. They understand that you're going to laugh, at first, and then dig into the serious implications of veggie music. I wonder how they explain their bag contents at the airport.

Just don't ask if their vegetarians (they're not, and they hate being asked).
Photo Credit: Mathias Friedrich

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Favorite Noise(s) Pt 2

Inspired by notquitereality, I decided I'd throw together a google map with samples of my favorite noises. This is an ongoing project and I'll try to put up as many noises of my liking as often as I get around to filming them. Along with the vid, sounds, and locations, I'm including a little blurb about why I've chosen these as my "favorites".

Google decided that the extreme close-up would be the best starting point. Zoom out to see the content here or hit the View Larger Map button below for a smoother presentation. Enjoy.

Kill Your Wrinkles

A good friend of mine is spending her spring (their autumn) in Buenos Aires shopping and strolling after helping oversee the elections in El Salvador. She has been updating me via email and facebook. Since we have regular discussions when she's in the States, it only feels appropriate to attempt the same practice online. Her last email sparked much contemplation about noise and art.

Her adventures took her to a modern art museum where she stumbled across Wrinkle (1968) by argentine artist Liliana Porter (1). It's a series of ten photographs depicting "a still life of a dynamic process" in which Porter systematically crumples a sheet of paper -- and, arguably, flattens it back out.

The photos are interesting but a interview by fellow artist Emmett Williams (1, 2) has been included alongside the prints. I found a blown up photo if you want to read the entire piece. Emmett questions himself in true Ken Wilber (1, 2) fashion (have you ever read A Brief History of Everything? (1, 2)) to dig into a very interesting view of art.

emm: ...wrinkles aren't very nice. wrinkling things up is messy... destructive.
ett: don't moralize, so is god. in nature, whenever anything shrinks or contracts...

I saw Kill Your Idols (1, 2) the other week. Its about the short lived No-Wave scene in New York (1, 2, 3) -- including interviews from great bands like Theoretical Girls, Sonic Youth, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, etc. Arto Lindsay (1, 2, 3) from DNA struck a chord with me (no pun intended) when he discussed why noise was so prevocative at the time. He insisted that what ideas New York No Wave was tussling with were centered around re-construction. Noise music didn't need chords because blues-oriented "punk" bands were covering that. Noise didn't necessarily need rhythm, for that matter, and artists were trying to grapple with redefining the building blocks of music, perhaps by wrinkling it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Favorite Noise

youTube user Not Quite Reality (1) made this quirky little vid about his favorite noise. He's not the most credible source for what good noise should be -- he lists "eating Oreos makes you run faster" under his profile's cheat sheet of 'Fun Facts'. But, he is from Albuquerque, which is undoubtable legitimate.

The video reminded me of why youTube blew up. It's hilarious to see what people will do with a camera in their own homes. It also reminded me of what my favorite noises are. I've been making mental notes of these while walking around town. To answer Not Quite Reality's question, currently my favorite noise is the air intake vent on the west side of Popejoy Hall. I take my smoke breaks there frequently and have become very comfortable with how the air moves into the building. The motion and subsequent noise is almost surreal.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Man Who Makes Pedals Plays Pedals

Oliver Ackermann designs pedals under the flashy Brooklyn-based branding Death By Audio. They make custom pedals for bands like U2 (1) and Wilco (1) says the River Front Times.

Ackermann's also the guitarist/vocalist for "New York City's loudest band" A Place To Bury Strangers (1, 2). They put out a 10 track self-titled L.P. last year that's been receiving incresingly colorful reviews. Pitchfork called it "tinnitus-inducing noise-pop against a tension-wracked Joy Division-meets-Ministry backdrop". Stylus Magazine said the debut was laced with "layers of errant, mystical roars born from man’s relationship between his guitar, a chord, and a speaker". But, all are finding a connection to the Jesus and Mary Chain.

At any rate, the band has been a perfect demonstration ground for showing off Ackermann's pretty little noise boxes. And with catchy names like Octave Clang, Interstellar Overdriver, or Supersonic Fuzz Gun, I think my wishlist will soon be dominated by Death By Audio creations.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Life Instruction #1: Have Fun

I've been thinking a lot about George Brecht after watching a hilarious performance of his work "Drip Music". He is tuned into the humor in what people consider art. If you don't know much about Brecht, he was a participant in Maciunas' festivals from the early stages of the Fluxus community. He would write these mass produced packages called 'Fluxkits' (1, 2) that would include instructions for fast D.I.Y. Fluxus art activities. Brecht wrote this one:

Consider an object. Call what is not the object "other". Add to the object, from the "other", another object, to form a new object and a new "other". Repeat until there is no more "other". Take a part from the object and add it to the "other", to form a new object and a new "other". Repeat until there is no more object.
-"2 exercises" from Water Yam
I've become increasingly aware of public instructions lately -- the colors of the streetlights, the annoying automated woman that sells me my groceries. I like the play of them. The transaction.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Two Radio Station Reviews

1. offers a large collaboration of artists (visual, audio, and other) that mainly prime radio as a medium. Its a non profit and I hear through the grapevine that one of the founders is from the University of New Mexico. They feature great avante gaurde jazz and noise musicians and are streaming free all day on one of their two stations. They have this pretty dynamic looking pop-out player that, while non-intrusive, has little to no functionability (at least, when I was listening). Beyond that, they have some great DJs and I've have yet to hear a terrible set. They also promote musicians through community events and concerts, as well as the extensive profiles and external links on their website.

2. I don't know much behind the inner working of NOIZ-AETHERICA but I have this station set as one of my go-to's on live 365. If you want your ears to truly bleed, U.K.-er bulkmodulus (who also runs a 'roots dub noise' podcast) is the one who can find the tracks to do it. He plays a lot of breakcore, IDM, and jungle house music.

Deciphering Noise

Here's a list I've compiled of noise music genres. I'm still trying to figure out the histories behind all of these forms, but I feel a list of definitions is the best start. These are the various titles that the noise directory uses to categorize artists. (The noise directory is becoming proficient in recent months, keep checking back to it).

1. Heavy Industrial - This is supposedly a combination of industrial and heavy metal music. Classic band Throbbing Gristle (who are still touring, suprisingly) (1, 2) is claimed as an originator of the genre. Now, it's been reduced to describing musicians like Rob Zombie. Artists have even started to include hip-hop sensibilities, creating wild sounding groups like Kevin Martin's Techno Animal (1, 2).

2. Rhythmic Noise - A.K.A. Power Noise is where noise meets dance. Its been described as post-industrial, but since I'm still not sure what industrial music is or means I don't subscribe to that designation. Combichrist (1, 2, 3) and germans Dulce Liquido (1, 2) are credited as the prime crafters of this form now. Wiki says they use "militaristic 4/4 beats." Mostly, an old modded Roland ( like this pretty one) and a distortion pedal is all you need for this form.

3. Noisecore- I get this confused with mathrock/proggressive/industrial/noise... whathaveyou. This is one of those genres that feels like an SAT prompt. "Alternative is to Rock, as Noisecore is to Experemental."

4. Breakcore- This style is huge and growing in popularity by the second. If you don't take my word for it, ask the guys over at Jungle artists, hardcore fans, and general fast tempo loving dance junkies are jumping on board. My favorite example is the classical music mashing and blippy Venetian Snares (1, 2).

5. IDM- Intelligent Dance Music, that's what the acronymn spells. This was born out the 90's British rave scene. There are a lot of well known artists here, (I know, right? Well known noise musicians? They exist?) Aphex Twin (1) being the most popular in the states. I love machinedrum, given name Travis Stewart (1). He finds the wildest little samples to work into the beats. Who doesn't want to dance to wolves howling?

Bent Not Broken

Bent not broken is a great documentary I ran across this week. Its about why noise musicians tinker around in the circuitry of "instruments" and electronics. Exploring deeper into the ideologies behind the music, most of these musicians can seem out of their minds; but, I'm beginning to see some common threads in their creative processes.

I really love the idea of chaos that these musicians seem to cling to. Music is the production of sound, and these guys are producing intriguing vocabularies of noise. Casey Clark gets to the root of circuit bending from some interesting fellows in Chicago (by the by, if you want to know some of the local Chicago traditions and culture check this out). Clark has made a multitude of documentaries, most of which with music at the core. (1, 2).

Repetition seems to be the key to all the great noise musicians. The tinkering with an oscillation until you've satisfied yourself of the possibilities that exist in that particular short circuit. So, to end on, I went through a bunch of flickr photos and image searches to see if there were any great post-dada or fluxus artists that try to highlight repetition in their visual art. The whole idea behind fluxus is community. Finding those overlapping groups (like fluxus people) of visual artists that have taken to the internet to share their ideas has been satiating. Here's a new one that goenetix has posted. It reminds me greatly of how the repetition in music transforms as it evolves. The snow melting and falling is subtle but the mood alters itself well.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Preparing Pianos

I wandered across this great vid of David Greilsammer (1 2) preparing a tack piano. Screwing into a piano used to seem so savage to me, now its one of my favorite noises.

It defines the tinkering behind noise music. I started to think that the prepared piano was the first circuit board to look for noise. But, I suppose, no one ever did it better than Cage.

The Archive has a great stream of a 1973 KPFA interview with Charles Amirkhanian (1 2) explaining why / how you go about the prepared piano. He plays a few crazy tunes, too. You can check it out here.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

World in Flux DVD

Semiconductor films is selling a wonderful 13 film collection of flux imagery and sound. It's a molecular web, magnetic field, time shifting, ear peaking good time. Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt take a good look at natural noise. 'Brilliant noise' (the opening track) is, simply, that -- stark black and white dancing sun spots and flares all brimming with oscillating audio excellence.

They've posted some exerpts, like this one, on Vimeo.
The DVD is available here:
Semiconductor talks about their work and other projects on their homepage: