The Rummage

Tag: Noise

. issue XXIII : vii .

. artist : terminals .
. album : s/t .
. year : 2013
. label : vaald .
. grade : b .


Terminals self-titled release on Vaald embodies the grim, various, crisp beauty of their label. A stunning synthesizer composition running longer than an hour, Terminals draws out its reflective movements with pellucid prowess. This release eloquently balances compositional opposites, sometimes sliding into total silence, at others, occupying the full orchestral zest of a tune-up; sometimes whimsical, with flute or bird chirrups, at others, deep and reedy, with the tenacity of a contrabassoon; sometimes tense and tough in texture, at others, translucent and gelantinous, pealing out mid-range beauty of bells. Terminals is an exceptional, chameleonic work that manages to sustain a coherent but fundamentally evolving thread, and whose high points emerge effortlessly from the hushed, evocative center of each extended track.

by Brittany Tracy


. issue XXIII : v .

. artist : clade .
. album : holonic sadism .
. year : 2013 .
. label : self-released .
. grade : a .


The passage of a single note and its overtones is the trajectory of the unique drone and chanter of Clade’s Holonic Sadism. Here experience of mind and music become an admixture, held steadfast and forward on this focused path. Sadism is characterized by a robust, sustained vitality and a potent linear maturity to nowhere and everywhere — what Clade calls “infinite regress.”

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XXII : vi .

. artist : 156 .
. album : taking a look at a moment lost .
. year : 2013 .
. label : chondritic sound .
. grade : a minus .

Help! Chondritic Sound keeps releasing things I’m scared to listen to in the dark!

This offering recreates a Bedlam, an apothecary shoppe, the cult of the dead in Japanese Buddhism, ossuaries, cenotes of cesious waters, long barrows and vaulted catacombs like unshorn ribs. Worse, it recreates something of the heart-clenching experience, in the fine spirit of autopsy — which literally means “to see for oneself.”

It conjures a place we indeed see for ourselves, except without specification. It could be one of many, and it’s terrifyingly up to the listener’s imagination. But it’s a place of the endless ideas we have about medicine, cult, and the closed spaces in which rituals of life and death are conducted. The pall over Lost is the stench of the dead from a dead time. Though it’s unclear to me if Lost can be understood as a properly cohesive album, that is, a sequence, the listener’s brain can’t help but turn it into foley for a imaginative narrative teetering on the tectonic shifts from burlesque to the particulate heavy scent of incense-laden stale air, from overtone chanting to the total, terrible solitude cata tumbas.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XX : viii .

. artist : anduin .
. album : ww pool mix .
. year : 2013 .
. label : self-released .
. grade : b .


Richmond-based sound artist Anduin refreshes material scraps in this uncanny and resonant mix, the tension between articulated percussion and sustained ambient currents creating a uniquely insecure periphery. This is a temperate ambient stargaze, creeping through its rustic balm and tepid temperature warmed by a verdant flush, and chilled by vigilant drone and saxophone hoopla. Strings and wood wind provide harmonic fibril to enliven the listener, and are more compelling than the strictly-percussion foreground approached used elsewhere. Similarly, tape echo vocals are senselessly nostalgic; sometimes successful, especially when staccato, manipulated to seem performative (“ah hah hah”). The ambience ranges from abyssal to tinny, mechanistic to organic.

WW Pool (who?) seems to be ‘napping’ in some sort of mausoleum doted on by deciduous trees and sundry mosses, in grayscale. It’s not unapt — the listener sinks in with the effortless resignation of just someone locked in the cemetery at night, or better, marooned on an island half-crag and half-foliage. Though it conjures place expertly, remarkably and in spite of the photograph documentation, we don’t know exactly where this sounds like. Perhaps it’s the assortment of material used, Frankensteinian, to propagate the space, but there’s something untethered about WW Pool’s always evoking an uncertainly positive experience. And it is an experience. The dense resin of the space is not always full-bodied, but it always encapsulates, and without affectation, too. Not too arty and not too dark, this mix is just right.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XX : vi .

. artist : marshstepper .
. album : s/t .
. year : 2012 .
. label : chondritic sound .
. grade : b plus .


Marshstepper make swamp disco of dated drum machines, urgent vocals made to stutter, and unearthly tides fuzzy and cold. On this self-titled effort, courtesy of the notorious Chondritic Sound label, Marshstepper manage to be brusquely communicative even in their murkiness, alternately guzzling down samples and regurgitating them through a foghorn. It’s indeed like sinking in up to your knees, and it doesn’t take long to become fully submersed.

With two sides at 15:58 each, Marshstepper is like being held under the particulate, burning water of a noxious fen for half an hour, the rat-a-tats and dum-dum-dah of the 80’s pitter patter platter bobbing occasionally into view. Other highlights include the shriek of a siren and particularly nebulous stutters: “wake up wake up wake up wake up wake wake wake wake,” and so on with the even more ill-applied “are you are you?” ad nauseam. The entire cauldron forms the distortion of percolating peat tongues dripping with the rustling, nervous pants of a pack of dogs, hoary psychedelic rays of warbly guitar through ashen stained glass, and the restive, unceremonious urgency of the Jonestown suicide sermon.

Why only a b plus? Because this self-titled cassette seems like sweet buns, puppies and whole milk next to the fervor and the putridity of their latest score for Ascetic Houses’ ‘reel’ terror, on film, complete with the loud texture of retrace lines.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XIX : iii .

. artist : geometric shapes .
. album : dknphew concerto .
. year : 2013 .
. label : self-released .
. grade : mountain range .


Playing a show with Sacred Teachers, before the recent Nile remodel, a duo’s full presence lit up that second dim building without an element producing light visually (that outletted track lighting barroom causing nice chiaroscuro). A venue is an empty space, and a show usually requires a vaulted rise to command the attention of the viewer and provide psychological safety for the performer. Any stage show for any band, not only from the sight onstage, but what’s doing with the band onstage aside from sound, is often overlooked (not to say it isn’t etched in a momentary monument, that it isn’t a experienced array). A show can extend to the specific details of date, tales of tape at times, and with lineup changes, even personality perforation: showing the ensemble of a group in circumstances of living. This public persona also serves as a rule or guideline for the group and each member, in this mission statement, binds a uniform not different than Epstein ties. The clothing, the ideology, a crisp outer crease to the inner alchemy lining of purpose; the Voltron impact, summing the body of action, lies in a different individual than the body of thought, strives for unison. Archetype populare of a rock band has a lead singer who may attempt charisma, but a reservation and control subdues the personal to the possible gnarl sludge or grunge reverberation in a more nostalgic venerable memoir: a lot of Keith crag posing fitting a Cobain restrain, no Jagger swagger speedometer which stays as archetypical pop (read: dance record capable of being used from the club scene and stapling the mobile dj karaoke requests add ons). Geometric Shapes (Robert Shropshire & Johnny Dutch), tho’, has run my gamut of identification by being two different and mesmerizing acts to watch, or listen. The Nile papered, handed out worksheets of mystery, harnessing crumpled and crushed red, yellow and orange streamers risen from a large rigged fan, in puppetry-styled magma, emitting from a waist deep cardboard volcano, contributing to the distortion they rowed to ripple through in roosts of calm and washing tone tides.

The worship aspect of Geometric Shape’s newest offering, DKnphew, is a predatory strike. “Intro” encounter shaves shapes and states of space midair, folding music over, if not detaching the articulate arm itself for a diagram instaframe without rupture or true trauma. The geometric shape here represents the grid of eternity shown in turn of the century animations (CONNOR SEZS: You’re talking about that Simpson’s Halloween episode where he goes all 3d. I know it), the endless possibilities have been drawn, or set down rather, and explored.

While “Are Hearts Pray For the Future” dirges, “People Like Dat” punctuates steel. These offerings are the poppier aspects of the release, staying within a tighter time length. While the longer pieces are able to traverse, these stick to a schedule. Innate understanding and interpretation abounds as these disparate dimensions multiverse parallel bars, swiftly swirling in wind, streamers of lava shooting from recycled rock. The metronome bends in favor of the unexplored sound natural, ambience as a genre attempts to a formatting of white noise, a chakra bowl hum pitch ended on a single harmonic, flat or sharp, but one pitch, neat nest weave. Physiological philosophic harmonics — CONNOR SEZS: Wait, that’s…THE WORLD: Background Sound: Volume 77. Wait, what was that?

“Cyber Sauna” feels like a sensory deprivation chamber; the swishing of background water gives way to the snowy static of electricity, as the sounds mingle and bleed into other tempos and temporal lobe activity, in a grand rising of the tides. “Core”’s dark sludgy water gives us some clear vocals, close incantation and that religious wasteland abyss of atmosphere that haunts Geometric Shapes sounds. “Serendipshitty” hollers a casiotone beat poetry. “Dingo Nibs” sandstorm tornados reverb and pitch in a speedy spark.

As a note, I love this dissonance: discord is important in my chambers and hollows, and the controlled tracking of such to meet up for a few blissful harmonics in sync is the pay off. Lending itself to bebop and other improvisational bedrocks, this wind storm guides the very dust particles away from the stiffened hairs of irritation, to lead whatever seeming dissonant elements had populated the song to a safe bedding smooth skin (CONNOR SEZS: Mathematicians said it best, ending that New Orleans v Chicago : Jazz v Bebop early ‘fifties feud. The relative errors are accuracy, because the harmony, however infrequent, always erases absolute error from the equation). For measures at a time, this relief roots rhythmic perfection, sonic samadhi, and all harmonics halo glowing (CONNOR SEZS: ROUNDING THIRD) before juggling the instruments away, anticipating possibilities potion or poison, and subtly settling them in another loomed landmark of pleasing pattern.

(CONNOR SEZS: Geometric Shapes describes themselves on a website as ‘free form musical improvisational rapid collection of abstractions of part covers part universal shapes of sound having a break down.’ They did this waaaaaaayyyyy more concise. Brevity, chap chip c.h.i.p. s.)

The closer, “Nibiru,” listens as a shoegaze classic. Stairway guitar bleeding off a faraway vinyl sets up a silent stage, then a oingo boingo synth and percussive ball pit fills the menagerie of sound stampedes. (CONNOR SEZS: The panflute always leads me toward Xavier Renegade Angel association than subway corridor buskers. Magma meditations not reflecting ripple pool temperates.)

Okay, okay, back to the difference in the time span of the Nile remodel. Geometric Shapes, at a recent show with Ultra Bide and Mutawawa (Strange Matter) brought the forefront of my consciousness into a righted rowboat, from the floor of the space and not the three feet high of the stage. The show, not as props heavy as my trip on the Nile, was a tableau of curated purpose and a solid smooth finding of spotlight. A calm masterful banter between songs dislocated the dissonance in the snap of a world ocean, attempting definition in measure, but infinity in connection and loop without end. Coasts viewed were simultaneous in distance, as all elements brought into being were then formed, evolved, and set to task by two musicians holding only a few instruments, and themselves, accountable for a singular experience and not a setlist. Residency of an artist implies (to me) that someone is home in the inner working, even when the physical and mental selves are allowed complete freedom, to conform to cartoon physics without making a coyote misstep, to lack the judgement of the ever-present universe. Check out this fresh organic experience without a chilly choking frost veneer, before they blast out of your reach and into the stars. I’m sure they’ll still transmit, but you know how much time those years take, in light, without the speed. (CONNOR SEZS: Also, as a close, how did I predict that Reggie Jason thing? Another empty victory of gordon sumner synchronicity. I’d like to send this one out for Lou and Rachel, and all the kids, and P.S. 192, Springfield Estates, Franconia Elementary.)

by Perkus Tooth

. issue XVIII : vi .

. artist : water torture .
. album : shellfire! .
. year : 2012 .
. label : diseased audio .
. grade : b .


Very-very ’89-meets-‘94 duo Water Torture offer acerbic grindcore in SHELLFIRE!, a work stolid — rather than frenetic — and oh-so-post-hardcore. But the grind aesthetic governs timely, if not sonic, constraints. Only 4 of these 11 songs are longer than a minute, which means … ‘now we’re talking.’ Remarkably, one piece is a mere 4 seconds long; “Medicate,” the by-the-thread appendage to “Self Preserve,” piggybacks on the consummate riff to rail off last words as though they were not only related (they’re not), but the cinch of emphatic closure.

It’s a mordant, adventurously well-rounded album from a duo with a unique approach: raucous noise splayed out in rich, tortuous retro, slabs and finely-minced riffs of bass, a hailstorm of drums. Water Torture are Matt Goodrich (b-g and noise) and Thomas Leyh (d and vox), and SHELLFIRE! has all its wits about it and then some. The talented Leyh’s punk sensibility (no shrill convulsions here) yells, “Waste of space, waste of skin, waste of life,” “Thanks! For nothing! Thanks! For nothing!” and “Resistant to reformation!” “For Nothing” creeps in misleadingly with the wavy dissonance of a noise field deconvoling over a sulking, never-quite-concomitant bass, accumulating arrhythmic kick drum before launching into the unpleasant sneer of vocals and a righteous riff on bass. Similarly, “Resistant” winds down into a dance floor shambles: tinkles on keys, Sun Ra with the shakes amid strathes of feedback.

Water Torture seem to be angry at unauthentic human constructions; they might call their music “power violence,” but it seems directed against ‘puppetry’ — which is hard not to appreciate in 2013 after the long run and general validity of the punk tradition; Leyh is more decrying “a living lie” than he is threatening to “eliminate the waste” — still, it’s a rude and mordant album.

“Complete Collapse,” SHELLFIRE!’s second longest (at 2:06) and far-and-away standout, has the perspicuity to begin with the shriek–and-warble of feedback, crunching into a gravelly basso profundo. Slowing again and again in tiring plateaus, using the nuance of a noise tendril to delineate portions of a song, punctuating with a syllabic onslaught (“complete collapse, this world will end”), “Collapse” offers a sampling of what Water Torture can do with noise, tempo, syncopation, timbre, and composition in this solid and authentic effort.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XVIII : ii .

. artist : aaron dilloway .
. album : opened door .
. year : 2013 .
. label : chondritic sound .
. grade : b plus .

opened door

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a charismatic and eerie cassette from sound artist Aaron Dilloway. Opened Door presents sounds that emerge as a result of the natural currents of place — creaking swings, slapping shutters — but that we aren’t always able to write off as contingent on physical forces; instead, the vigilant human mind can’t help but hear rhythm, therefore, method, and thus, attribute sentience.

It’s a very Chondritic release, whose cover (in the label’s grim documentary style) doesn’t just happen to evoke the subdued, character-driven pensive-in-tweed sophistication of Victorian horror. Dilloway himself, in dark suit and Beardsley pose, sits next to a frocked but headless manikin.

But what begins as kitsch — the cover, the titular ‘opening’ screak — becomes obviously sincere after a minute or so. It turns out that Opened Door isn’t ‘spooky’ — it’s a serious project of merit. On the A side, doors or swings groan and meow over the low-level grumbles and appropriated murmurs of conversation. Stuttering swathes of noise rumble their strata; cackling laughter is diffused by static; Midwestern downpours submerge the axle rod prattle of the wagon’s weathering; a Theremin ghost warbles soprano. Then, harrowing windstorms; ball-and-chain hobbles; stomping suits of armor; keening cats or babies; and wind whistles: locomotor at full speed.

Side B explores air as a tool for appraising the topography of spatial environs. We enjoy ghastly hollows, dispersed foliage, and tight crevices in this minimal but goosebump-inducing piece. Are the resonances manifesting ‘from thin air’ (not so — there’s a source of production in a space) inorganic or organic, ephemeral or concrete? How to tell? (You can’t.) Motion of wind is also explored, a crushing dynamo winds (har) up this ethereal music box in a early winter squall. Also present germane are comparisons between organic and inorganic ‘physiognomy,’ as when a rockwall whistle and the howls of wolves bring to mind how the crevice mirrors the throat, and with the recognizably human aspects inherent in the wind: faltering cracks and regular exercise (hold, let go go go go) invoking the inflation, suspension and relaxation of the diaphragm. A burgeoning metallic tape sound approaches the close, and coming to possess and encapsulate, is a solid, game-changing final moment of suspense — before stopping short.

by Brittany Tracy