Name: Christopher SIENKO
On the front line: since 1991
Activities: Associate Editor, “As Loud As Possible” magazine.
My ‘date’ receives anonymous 6 compositions picked by me at random. He/She is supposed to discuss their artistic merits, including strengths and weaknesses of applied means of bruitist expression, structure and composing techniques.
1. SHEIK HI-FI I Like To Touch
from V/A: NOVAYA SCENA (UNDERGROUND FROM UKRAINE) (What’s So Funny About 1993) CD
On first listen, with just the guitars raking, I thought, “Oh Christ…save me from ‘free rock.'” Freeform rock has a hell of a time maintaining my interest. But that’s a subject for a different date. The tom-heavy drums arrive and the guitar scraping starts to organize around the beat, it turns into a compelling, stumbling bit of songwriting. Once the French vocal arrives, I’ve pretty well signed on, and after the two vocals make an attempt to harmonize, or at least sing different parts, I’m fully invested. (I wish more rock acts [however loosely you wish to use that term] would attempt *any* form of vocal harmony, or at least dueling shrieks.) This was a surprising selection for this project. I was expecting all noise and industrial and power electronics fare. But this was good. A preemptive palette cleanser.
2. DARUIN Scum ‘N’ Database
from “Fake Professor Of Japanese Pipe” (The Locus Of Assemblage 2004) mCD-R
Wonderful composition, this one. The sounds are expertly arranged and layered. If this were an abstract painting, I’d say it has “great lines.” All the motion in this piece moves your ears toward specific focal points. It’s using a wide sound palette and, amazingly, doesn’t repeat its tricks that often, which is paradoxically harder to do when you have more sound elements rather than fewer. Because of the thick, syrupy digital delay, it doesn’t score high on the “sharp edges” register. It sounds to me like a modern, digital example of what people like RLW, Lionel Marchetti, or Christian Renou (Brume) do…it keeps one foot planted in classical musique concrete terrain, with its predetermined constructions and environmental cul de sacs, while still showing its claws like more modern noise music. It has a very specific atmosphere, which is impressive considering how much digital delay there is. Digital delay tends to make everything sound like digital delay.
3. LAUHKEAT LAMPAAT Teepii
from “Sylissäin Oot” (Qbico 2005) LP
I’m going to guess that this in nmperign. I love nmperign. I’ve seen them live at least a half-dozen times. Joel St. Germain recommended them to me as “like Runzenstirn & Gurgelstock, but with instruments,” which even after 15 years of evolution and refinement of sound still describes them pretty well. Just as R&G have honed and refined their sound, becoming more R&G than ever, so has nmperign. Both groups understand the impact of silence to contrast the brute force. The range of sounds the two have discovered in “conventional” instruments, and their ability to play against one another without stepping on the other’s good ideas is pretty mind-boggling. A performance by nmperign with Jason Lescalleet (Neon Marshmallow Fest, Chicago) was one of the five best experimental/noise performances I’ve ever seen, combining elements of AMM, Borbetomagus, and Hermann Nitsch. Dave Phillips and Neil Campbell were there too, and at the end of that 30 minutes, we all assisted each other in collecting our jaws from the floor. (There’s a video of the performance on Vimeo, but it doesn’t convey the impact of the live experience.)
4. John EVERALL / Mick HARRIS Mesmeric Enabling Device Part 1
from “Mesmeric Enabling Device” (Soleilmoon 1999) CD
This sounds to me like mid-period Crawl Unit, maybe a part from Vs. Silence or something. This does something I wish more noise/experimental music had the will to do: remain still. I mean, it does change throughout…there’s an ebb and flow, and the discrete pieces come and go and slightly different times, like planets criss-crossing in three different-sized orbits. But the piece has confidence in its minimal materials. It doesn’t introduce anything new during its long duration. It has chosen its palette, its three primary colors, and remains loyal to them the entire time. When you have confidence in your materials, and the pieces are set into motion audaciously, there’s little need to tinker. I’ve heard too many long-form pieces that, midway through, suddenly lost their nerve and felt the need to add new elements, or escalate the intensity, bringing the piece to a shattering, unnecessary climax. A piece like this, held in a focused, tight middle area of tension and (slight) release, can be so much more satisfying when done well than the usual march off the highest cliff.
5. The HAFLER TRIO Untitled
from “Fuck” (Touch 1992) CD
This sounds to me like Altar of Flies, specifically circa The Permanent Cavity. This might even be the final track from The Permanent Cavity. I’ve been on a massive Altar of Flies kick lately. It’s a project that has shown me a new way through the wilderness, tying together noise intensity/orthodoxy with more classical musique concrete techniques. I like that the track can stop to change gears in the middle while not drastically altering the mood or ruining the momentum. Subtle details are mixed farther back in the mix; it’s nice to see people who know not to foreground every single sound. Even when nearly all of the elements are pushed to the back, with just a few squeaks and ghostly voices punctuating the rhythmic BOOMs, the piece never loses its drama. Whoever this is, I was held rapt throughout.
6. Alvin LUCIER Music For Solo Performer
from “Music For Solo Performer” (Lovely Music 1982) LP
This is another style that I can’t get enough of — a piece that sounds like it was built out of several repetitive (but unrelated) sounds, giving the impression that we’re listening to the inner workings of some giant, incomprehensible machine, like Picabia’s paintings of devices that would grind themselves to death if they were ever activated. The sound of useless machines. As AMM said, “What is there in uselessness to cause you distress?” This sounds like it could have been created by an algorithm that was created to generate these endlessly asymmetric lines, a product of futurist automation rather than performers kicking out non-associative ruckus via an exacting score. It has that alchemy that’s very hard to explain to non-believers: there are no repeating patterns, it doesn’t progress, it doesn’t resolve, and it goes on for a very long time. And yet, I wouldn’t change a thing.