The Beauty of Disharmony - A Noise Exposé
We all carry our own personal feelings on the spectrum of musical genres available. Some like to sway along to the latest in pop and stay in that warm and comfy blanket, while others like their music to nearly destroy them. When music fans hear the term “noise” mentioned though, most of the time one has to take a step back and explain themselves. Unlike most other genres, noise is a harder beast to pin down and provide examples of, especially for your average music listener. In the end, explaining your passion will either draw comments of how you listen to hot garbage, or someone confessing to you how the music changed their life too. It’s a dramatic separation, but one I’ve personally faced at times. So, why is this genre so important to people and to the music world? I mean, isn’t it just noise?
I knew I could learn more by turning to some of Augusta’s most ardent supporters of the noise scene, to find out about their feelings toward this unconventional music style. I had the fear that what I would hear would be fairly predictable, along the lines of enjoying that which is on the “fringe of society”. I have to say hat, while I wasn’t completely wrong, the explanation itself was just as varied as the genre. My main question was simple enough, I thought: “Why is noise important, not just for yourself, but for music in general?” I did my best to separate the person from the impact that the music made on them. It was tricky, as is any discussion on music regardless of the focus on style. We want so badly to explain our feeling behind something meaningful to ourselves, and for music this comes naturally. However, I feel that the discussion I had with each person led to a better understanding of how they see music as a whole, and the openness of each perspective left me giddy.
I took a moment with Raymond DeVon Holmes (of Billie Vacation and De-Evolutionaries), someone I knew much about already. Hell, he’s been someone I’ve looked up to in the music community for some time, but I valued his opinion because he has accomplished a great deal with both noise and pop music. He explained how pop songs, unlike noise, carry an implied or defined meaning. One can argue that some pop songs can be ambiguous in meaning, but he pressed his point in suggesting how open noise music is in comparison; that with it you can “listen and see how it makes you feel” rather than having a narrator tell you how to feel.
“It allows you to think, to discern and make your own reality in these sounds”, and with confessed influences such as John Zorn and Marc Ribot, I could see a bit more where he was coming from. Building upon his argument of noise being open-ended, Holmes brought it around to state that “noise is more personal”, as it leads to an individual experience akin to meditation. It’s important for the individual because their soul decides what it means to them. As enlightening as this conversation was, I had to know more about the distinct properties of noise that made it important outside of personal enrichment.
This took me to another area artist, Dylan Josey, who is the lead vocalist of the noisy power-violence band Thismachinethrills. Josey’s perspective is more influenced by harsh noise artists like Merzbow who deviate completely from any sort of tonality. He feels that noise being inaccessible to the masses made it a comforting genre for him to get into. Being something that was the opposite of “music” made it intriguing for him. “It’s always been anti-sound, it’s always been against what’s normal”, and for him noise created a mood, or worked in the background really well. For Josey, I could tell this deeply personal connection to noise was hard to break away from. I found it interesting that this initial attraction to “deviating from the norm” has led to such an appreciation developing in Josey that he wanted to be involved in the genre on a deeper level, constructing his own moods and soundscapes much like the ones he currently enjoys. Now he is striving to be a creator that influences others around him. So noise, for him, is not only about the oddity of the style, but also the fun creative process it provides.
A newcomer to the noise world, but only by performance standards, Clark DeLoache (currently active with both ACHTUNG and Traumgeist) at first had trouble discussing what comes natural to him except in personal terms, but I pressed on, wanting to know what inspired him to start his solo project, Chak Tulix (which will soon make its live debut), and what catalyst spurred him to make his own addition to noise. Surprisingly enough, it was while he was in a Circle K when he heard a squeaky hot dog roller and the murmuring of people in the background. This gave him the impression of something like “urban birdsong”, and it was enough to ignite his curiosity. I laughed a bit at his explanation, but only because I understood his experience all too well. He wondered why everyday sounds are ignored so easily, and this led him to seek out uncomfortable timbres because of the strong emotions they evoke. I had to ask, “Why do you think this uncomfortable part of music is so important though? What makes it attractive to others?” He looked to me and smiled. “I hate to put it so crudely, but some people like the Two-girls-one-cup video, you know what I mean? You can’t really explain why you like shit-eating porn.”
Right. With these interviews digested, I understood that personal feelings play a great deal in one’s love for noise; that a certain need should reside inside you to be involved with this uncouth genre. Still, I wanted another perspective, one that was a bit more analytical perhaps. I turned to my Gloom Cocoon bandmate, Snitch Karma, who has also been grinding out noise in the area for quite a while. His general background has more of a scientific backbone, and between his part in the dark noise project, Sæturnæl Hex, which relies on heavy drums as well as delayed and distorted screaming, and his alternative loop-and-chill project mahā yuga, this, I felt, would be a perspective with a bite. Karma’s interest is not only in noise but anything avant-garde, loud, and especially weird. He explained that noise music “allows people to take a step back and take a look at music as a whole”, that it “breaks down the mechanism of creating a sound or creating a song”, which reminded me quite a bit of Holmes’ outlook on the genre. Karma explained to me that noise can simply be; that you’re no longer exploring this world that’s explained to you, but instead have stepped inside the mind of the artist. He feels that most believers in this genre are people who experience music on a different level, people who are not “satisfied with what is packaged and distributed” through normal music channels.
My conversation with Karma felt like the conclusion I was looking for; that final push that showed how avant-garde, noise, and any unconventional music is not only important, but necessary. By going into this unorthodox genre, you’re removing the boundaries falsely created within the art, much like visionaries such as Dali, Monet, and Jackson Pollock have done in their times. By rejecting convention, you return to established forms a changed person, and reenter with this new perspective on the familiar where one is able to imagine what else could be, rather than being chained to what should be. For some, this is an impossible challenge, as there is not always an easy incentive for them to find enjoyment from noise. Although each person I interviewed had their own personal experience, at different times in their lives it meant something dramatic to them all. The classification of noise is extremely difficult, because most of the time if it’s weird, it’s noise. In this I feel that there are many entry ways for fans to involve themselves, even unwittingly. Pieces classified as “noise” are not all harsh and abrasive compositions, they also may contain trance like ambience and driving beats; even a focus on the absence of sound are all used to make this genre the wonder that it is.
Okay. So I’m biased too, as my story is similar to those above. When I first heard an artist described as noise, I remember being awestruck by it. The fact that someone saw music in this odd way was amazing to me. It was a sharp sting to back of my brain and I had to find how it was done, find who else was doing it, and where the it originated from. While this genre is important because of its ability to break barriers and explore music more deeply, it can also transcend beyond an artist’s intention, into something completely personal. Although, this will only work if the listener willing to open themselves up to it. Whether one enjoys the thrill of finding something unique, or seeks to satisfy an unnamed longing, this genre is rewarding to one with an adventurous spirit willing to reap the benefits of the chaos hidden within.
While I only sat with four members of the local noise clan for this article, there are many other artists that I have connected with over the past couple of years. I have included most in the the "Noise Day 13" compilation albums I publish every Friday the 13th, which can be found at this link. This is an ever growing list of locals, all of whom have their own unique voice for you to hear. Also, please take a moment to explore some of the incredible talent from your own surroundings. There’s probably a lot more than you think you know.