Digging: Daniel Menche – Eye on the Steel

Daniel Menche: Eye on the Steel
Substractif (2004)

Why haven’t I written about Daniel Menche before? He’s easily the most diverse and interesting noise guy out there and Eye on the Steel has cemented his place among my favourite artists. Each of his records offers up something different to the last, he’s incredibly creative and never seems to run out of ideas.

I caught up with a friend last night that I hadn’t seen in person for a couple of years. She’s been living in Berlin and touring around Europe playing Cello in an experimental theatre company. We got talking about some of the experimental/sound art shows that she’s witnessed in basements and random venues around Berlin. She can’t wrap her head around the idea that people are interested in listening to ‘noise’. Which is interesting because she has a fondness for contemporary classical composers who throw convention right out the window.

It got me thinking about what it is that makes a noise artist interesting. The answer, of course, is subjective but attention to composition (dynamics, texture, some sense of narrative) never goes astray. Anyone can place a contact mic on a razor blade and scrape it along a length of wood to make ‘noise’, and I have to assume that it’s this sort of amateurism that my friend has been exposed to.

I’m not saying noise needs a formula, but the genre itself is at its most powerful when ‘noise’ is harnessed and sculpted into a journey that each individual experiences on his or her own.

Menche does that. Whether he’s sampling waterfalls, body parts or his own voice he’s as concerned with where each piece is going as he is with the ‘noise’ itself. It doesn’t feel like much is left to chance, although I’m sure that’s not the case. He knows how to grab your attention, where he wants to take you and how he’s going to get you there. He wants noise to affect the psyche the way that conventional music does.

If you’re new to Mr Menche, then Eye on the Steel is fantastic place for you to start. These 11 short pieces offer up the full gamut of his ouvre from Gregorian drones to layered field recordings to pulsating rhythms. An excellent entry point to his lengthier, more demanding works. This just became one of my favourite noise records, ever.

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