Category Archives: Noise rock

Pop.1280: The Horror

Pop. 1280: The Horror
Sacred Bones (2012)

Pop. 1280 smell like the Birthday Party but the production is thicker, grainier and scarier. Pop. 1280 also smell like early Butthole Surfers sans hallucinogenics, and the deranged nonsense replaced with a nihilistic awareness of society’s ills and a healthy distrust of mankind. On Bodies in the Dunes Pop. 1280 sound a lot like Sightings without venturing quite as far out as their New York siblings. Sometimes they even smell like fellow newcomers Ice Age, except Pop.1280 take  cues from the No Wave scene of their hometown rather than European Punk and Post Punk. Overall Pop. 1280 smell dirty, sleezy, grumpy, loud, pissed off, obnoxious, noisy, propulsive and bass heavy. It’s a very lovely smell indeed.

New release: Liturgy – Aesthethica

Liturgy: Aaesthethica
Thrill Jockey (2011)

The misanthropic Massive are angry. They’re waging war. Indie labels are releasing black metal records and god-be-damned some of them are shitloads more exciting, raw, emotive and out there than anything recorded on a four-track in a graveyard this year. Ok, except for the new Wolves in the Throne Room, which I’ll bang on about another day.

What sets Liturgy apart is the very thing the corpse-painted hordes are so pissed off about; frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s belief that Black Metal doesn’t have to be nihilistic and grim, that in fact its its otherworldly nature has the capacity to ‘transcend’ natural states in a positive manner. Do some internet research, the blogo-sphere loves a good beef.

Personally this Zen like aspect of Black Metal is exactly what I’ve always loved about it. The way repetitive, buzzing guitars and drums become hypnotic and dare I say supernatural. Liturgy have honed this down to a fine art comprised of spastically fast drum work and intricate, cyclic, soprano guitar patterns that weave about into an astral ride into the ether.

Take True Will, a thick slab of sound, everything enmeshed and gut wrenching like some power electronics monster. Hendrix howls away incoherently deep in the mix. And the hook, if you can call it that, is one atonal note repeated into oblivion after every verse, and then repeated beyond oblivion in the track’s climax. It’s like amphetamine Krautrock; like My Disco and Shellac on steroids. There’s a definite noise-rock element at play here, which might explain why 20 Buck Spin released Liturgy’s debut a few years back.

Meanwhile, Sun of Light spends its first three minutes creating a tapestry of damaged upper fret board guitar work that rides a lazy pulse, and once you’ve drifted away on its awkward clouds it explodes into a zig zagging frenzy of scales and blast beats. You can’t transcend forever.

The instrumental Generation rides a single riff for nigh seven minutes, relying on shifting drum patterns to alter the atmosphere. Generation takes you dangerously close to the edge, poising you for madness and boredom before the beauty of its minimalism takes hold and off you go, losing yourself in the moment. It’s no mistake that the album is peppered with Gregorian chants and miscellaneous religious mantras; the original transcendental music.

Most likely, those with no appreciation for music that sits even remotely close to the realm of Metal will find Liturgy and their schtick hard to take. Aesthethica demands repeat listens before any of its meditative hooks get under your skin. However, the best music is that which rewards you over time and if you’re willing to give up your inhibitions or your ‘true’ Black Metal allegiances, and if you’re willing to get over the fact that Liturgy’s main man goes by the name Hunter Hunt-Hendrix then there’s plenty of treasure in Aesthethica. Go forth and transcend.

New release: HEALTH


HEALTH: Get Color
Love Pump (2009)

When Crystal Castles remixed HEALTH’s Crimewave tune into a droning disco killer, kids everywhere claimed HEALTH as their own without really knowing what the band sounded like. I read an interview with singer Jake Duzsik where he talked about audiences screaming for them to play Crimewave unaware that the band had already played the original, non disco version.

Despite feeling slightly burned by their brush with fame, HEALTH’s sophomore album is a step closer to the very far left of the mainstream. The shambolic nature of their debut has been reigned in and massaged into a more focused, but no less frenetic monster. Get Color is as noisy and ephemeral as its predecessor, but far more interested in juxtaposing sounds and atmospheres into cohesive fragments. Less random bursts of noise, and more slow-burning blow-outs create tension and a more memorable listening experience.

We Are Water starts out as a spacey, Euro disco number that’s glittery but uneasy. With the introduction of a snare drum it morphs into post punk territory, while the crystallised synthesisers and treble infused guitars build into a Black Metal wall of noise and blast beats. It stops for a moment, before returning with sedated hip hop rhythm reminiscent of Dalek and then fades away with a gently pulsing kick drum. These manic numbers are interspersed with dreamier tracks such as Before Tigers, which are content to amble along on pulses of reverb drenched noise and cascading drums.

HEALTH are obsessed with production, their manifesto revolves around music that is devoid of sensation or human spirit, and Get Color achieves this with overly effected instruments and studio trickery. Jake’s androgynous vocals are mystifying enough but it’s the prickly guitars and keyboards, like shards of glass shimmering across the floor, that give HEALTH an alien sound all their own. The guitars in particular have the treble cranked so high they make Big Black sound like a bunch of pussies. And when HEALTH allow some bass into their sound on Die Slowly the change in pitch is crushing. All these effects are cleverly offset by BJ’s live, natural drumming; although even he rarely falls into a standard rhythm, preferring to play his kit in a tribal manner similar to that of Liars (an extra set of floor toms are abused by various band members during their live shows).

Get Color is an intense experience. The ups and downs can get tiring and it’s not easy to decipher where HEALTH want to take you. That said, the progression between their debut and this is seriously exciting, and their willingness to push the boundaries of their sound suggests that the band could have a perfect ten album in them yet.

New Release: Wavves

Wavves: Wavvves
Fat Possum Records (2009)

WavvvesSinging about Beach Demons and Surf Goths, while your band/record title is purposely misspelt, suggests that you’re either annoyingly hip, charmingly naive or in need of a break from the spliffs. Based on 22-year-old Nathan Williams’ drugged-out, hot-mess of a performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival earlier this year, it’s easy to assume the latter, but more likely it’s a combination of all three.

Wavvves reeks of acid trips and bong mist. Based in San Diego, Williams’ music wafts out from the smelly bedrooms of lazy blissed-out teenagers living hippy surf/skate- lifestyles. California has bred a host of these bands recently, from Abe Vigoda to No Age. As if the ghosts of Laurel Canyon, sick of vapid celebrities taking over their hood, have wandered into more urban territory to possess the souls of 4-track recorders and channel noise-decayed pop songs through the bodies of young men.

Where No Age stem from the experimental edge of Hardcore, and Abe Vigoda have their Tropicana thing going on, Wavves is a retro beast. Think of 60’s girl groups spewing out of cracked speakers, and guitars that aren’t quite in tune.  The sound is blown out in a Black Metal kinda’ way, but the vocal harmonies needle into your brain and nest there. Like parasites.

The lazy recording techniques and Ramones-esque song titles add a cute naïve schtick to Wavves and his lo-fi pop. Songs like No Hope Kids (“Got no car, got no money…..”) and To the Dregs give predictable two-chord rock songs and apathetic drawls a noisy makeover, so that basic melodies become bulbous and weird. Plenty have used Lo-Fi to this effect before but Wavves has a knack for making his music feel like a warm and hazy memory. Something you want to remember but can’t. It’s probably the pot.

Where Wavvves becomes questionable is when he lets go of the hooks. Killer Punx, Scary Demons throws up twangy drones, organ trills and moaning voices, coming off as a sick joke instead of exciting experiment. And yet somehow it feels like Williams’ is having the last laugh, as he lights another joint, drops another trip and sees how far he can go. Which brings this review round full circle; Wavvves has a naive and playful charm that is a true delight, and who can begrudge Williams’ for indulging in some, ahem, outside inspiration? The problem is his hip, teenage nihilism and ‘I make noise therefore I am’ attitude. Maybe Evol Kween is showing his age but that false apathy gets annoying. And I fucking hate Hipsters.