John Weise: Seven of Wands
Mr Weise is an amazingly diverse noise artist. From the scatter-shot madness of Soft Punk to the all out war of Black Magic Pond, from the skronk of his collaboration with Evan Parker to the subtle beauty of Circle Snare, the latter of which informs this record here Seven of Wands.
How did I miss this last year? Weise’s skill at knitting together seemingly arbitrary field recordings – crackles, bumps, scrapes, miscellaneous percussion and other aural detritus – makes him a true sound artist. There’s something very conceptual about his approach to noise; by focusing on incidental sounds he forces the listener to think about humans’ place in the natural order of things, how we interfere with and interact with our surroundings.
Whoa whoa whoa, let’s back up a bit here. Things are getting bit too deep.
Seven of Wands is a moody bastard which is what I love about it. Smearing his intricate tapestries with atonal drones and dissonant squeals Weise conjures an otherworldly atmosphere. The walls between dimensions are breaking down and time is turning in on itself. I find myself imagining inanimate objects taking on lives of their own and shuffling about the room, hovering above table tops and clanking back down again, knocking into each other but never smashing, some other force in total control of their being. Weise builds these collages into a swarm but there’s never any real pay off, he taunts the listener, laughs at us.
This is masterful stuff. Thoughtful, engaging, haunting and sometimes funny. Just like the sleeve photo of Weise lying on the floor with a woman’s stiletto heel about to burst a balloon next to his head. I was stupid not to catch him live when he was out here late last year.
The Haters: In the Shae of Fire
Hanson records (2009)
One of my favourite tracks on Sissy Spacek’s French Record is a piece based on the sounds of smashing glass called Really into The Haters. I’m slightly embarrassed, but man enough, to admit that I had not heard of The Haters until recently and therefore had no idea Really into The Haters was a sample based homage to a couple of US noise pioneers active since 1979.
I’m not sure how I missed these guys until now, they’re associated with both Merzbow and Maurizio Bianchi, but whatever. I’m here now and this record is great. What’s exciting about The Haters – besides the conceptual-performance aspect of their schtick which appeals to the art school kid in me – is that their sound is produced via the smashing, banging, clanging, rubbing and grating of everyday objects which produces a lush and ultimately warm tone despite the abrasive surface.
The jagged sound of smashed glass is a recurring motif that tantalises as much as it makes your skin crawl. Elsewhere they conjure the distant drone of thunder or perhaps a freight train, and I’m sure at one point the sound of scissors cutting through card board becomes a hypnotic rhythm. You can actually hear objects making contact with microphones which provides a human and organic base for the completely abstract nature of what they’re doing. I find the attention to texture on In the Shade of Fire incredibly appealing, and also refreshing when so much of the noise I hear at the moment is digitally driven, monotone and static.
This is a 2009 re-issue of their 1986 LP and I can’t recommend enough that you source a copy. I’m discovering The Haters have created a whole mythology around themselves and take a very conceptual approach to their live performances, which is something I’m intrigued by and keen to read more about. How did I ever miss these guys? I’ll be delving into their back catalogue for sure.
John Weise: Bubble Pulse
Kissy Records (2003)
Something about this record makes my skin crawl, which is unusual for Weise because he’s not prone to mood or atmosphere. He’s far more interested in sound itself. Listening to Bubble Pulse makes me think about insects, lots of insects. Ever seen Creepshow? The last story in that collection of creepy tales involves a Howard Hughes type character that bursts cockroaches, and the sound of their little feet scurrying about is eerily similar to the ticks, taps, scratches and scrapes that Weise pieces together in various parades throughout this record.
Bubble Pulse is less frenetic than the Weise I’m familiar with. Instead of fritting about from sample to sample, individual noises are looped and allowed to reveal themselves at a medium place. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t spurts of disarray, because there most definitely are but overall this is a much more subtle, quiet and introspective collection of sound collages from one of the more exciting acts in the genre. Buy this.
Andy Ortmann / John Wiese: Recorder out of Tune
Nihilist Records (2006)
A distant drone is overtaken by the rumble of a motorcycle idling lazily in a dusty driveway somewhere. It’s warm and bubbly, a familiar noise motif made from an everyday sound. Then another motorbike takes off and begins hurtling down a freeway over the top of the first rumbling machine. It builds in intensity until flashing chrome blisters and splays across the highway in a piercing scree.
And that’s only the first track on this weirdo collaboration between two of the noise scene’s well known maestros.
The other three tracks on Recorder out of Tune are slightly less dense but no less enjoyable. They traverse collaged madness (a la John Wiese), moody ambience, and wobbly soundscapes (a la Andy Ortmann). The record veers between loud and soft in a playful manner that constantly surprises. Pandemonium starts with some miscellaneous debris before a lamb begins to bleet over a floating synth and lazy violin, a moment that calls to mind the weirder points of Set Fire to Flames. The tension then eases with a delicate drone before concluding with a blast of feedback.
Each of the four tracks is like that; beginning in one place before turning an unexpected corner. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, and most of all at 21 minutes long this sucker (an ep really) doesn’t outstay its welcome. John Wiese has done some amazing stuff on his own (Soft Punk and Circle Snare), but in my opinion he truly shines when he teams up with another madman. Recorder out of Tune is a prime example of this.