I recently went with a friend of mine to see HTRK play a live show. They were supporting Mika Vainio, whom I was also excited to see. My friend has only a little experience with the world of noise and experimental music, and while she bravely dealt with Vainio’s incredible onslaught of electronic debauchery, she turned to me at one point and asked, “When would you actually listen to this ‘music’?” I was embarrassed to say that I often listen to noise as a way to help me sleep. I can happily listen to noise records while I’m working, too. I find it has an amazing capacity for helping me distill my thoughts. I can reach a zen like focus when ‘music’ lacks form, lyrics and melody.
Why am I talking about this and not Lasse Marhaug? Because her question got me thinking about how quiet the noise scene has been of late. Pardon the pun. Even Merzbow isn’t releasing his usual amount of material. Many artists are using their abstract techniques to warp more conventional genres. Marhaug’s work with the Cellist Okkyung Lee being one example. Even Mika Vainio’s recent records have pursued dub-infused creepiness rather than the jagged explosions of sound he played live the other night. So, I’ve found myself digging into the past for my noise fixes. And currently I’m dabbling in It’s Not the End of the World.
Originally released on CDr in 2006, I picked up a second hand copy of this 2007 reissue for a few of bucks at Ditch Records in Victoria B.C during a work trip to Canada last month. It’s a perfect example of how exciting noise was nearly ten years ago. For a while I thought that perhaps I’d outgrown the genre, that I’d grown accustomed to its sound and now it was just another musical genre. But listening to records like It’s not the End of the World I realise that’s not entirely the case. The artists themselves might be more interested in pushing their boundaries these days – with success, I might add – but I still find these early records exciting. Vibrant. Weird and alive.
Marhaug is uber playful on this record. The tracks are short and prone to ADD unlike the focused walls of noise he has released on later records like The Quiet North. He flits about from Merzbow-ian swirls, to feedback drenched chaos akin to Prurient, to the menacing chugg of Kevin Drumm. The strongest moments come when he seizes on an idea and rides it into a repetitive rhythm that eventually starts to sound almost like a melody, or riff.
There’s a restless humour on this record, nicely reflected in the Dada influenced cover that features a collaged cow with a trombone for a head. Marhaug is acutely aware of the noise scene’s origins, and the exciting role that chance plays when slamming disparate sounds into each other. Dada’s interest in chaos and irrationality are ever present in the world of noise. And, I’m sure for many people the idea of listening to this record, and actually enjoying it might seem a tad irrational. And that’s totally OK.