Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I got to say, I am deeply flattered and humbled to have been written about so eloquently.


The noise underground has been flirting with techno more than ever recently. RA's Justin Farrar introduces some of the essential acts.

Back in January, as part of RA's Breaking through series, I profiled American producer Ren Schofield. His debut full-length under the Container moniker, released via the Spectrum Spools imprint, was one of last year's finest unrefined slabs of leftfield techno. Schofield talked about his roots in the American noise underground, and how the Container aesthetic is shaped by all the static-smeared drone, unruly feedback and broken electronics characterizing past projects. 

Even more intriguing is the revelation that an increasing number of his fellow noise musicians are also taking a keen interest in the manipulation of techno, house and other electronic dance music templates. Like him, they've wandered the outer limits of sound and are now applying the data they've accumulated about texture, timbre, rhythm and form to the production of beats. Many of these artists—Diamond Catalog, Frak, Unicorn Hard-On and Laser Poodle, to name just a few—appear on Fake Sound Routine. This is an ongoing series of cassette compilations Schofield puts out on his I Just Live Here label. Each volume is awfully limited, yet they're a great way to acclimate oneself to these musicians' collective aesthetic: considerably lo-fi, quite often punkish and irreverent, rooted in analog hardware and 110% eccentric. Not surprisingly, these folks tend to operate well outside house and techno's respective (but often overlapping) communities.

Though Schofield acknowledges something is afoot, he refuses to hitch it to the word "trend" (much less its obnoxious little brother "microtrend"). There are two good reasons for this. The first concerns the anarchic streak coursing through modern noise. "Folks who play 'noise' do so because there are no rules, requirements or expectations to always be a certain way," explains Leslie Keffer, a longtime purveyor of noise who began creating technoid weirdness a couple years back. "They will always explore and interpret all genres. It's what makes them and the genre unique." Indeed, curiosity refreshes itself at an accelerated clip for Keffer and her peers. Today, it's techno and house, but six months from now these voracious creatures could very well be mangling an entirely different style of music. 

The second reason revolves around the fact that working with beats isn't necessarily a novel idea, something Schofield is quick to point out. While the current "scene" has witnessed an exciting uptick in the number of newfangled producers, a short list of unsung innovators going back a decade can be compiled. Additionally, there's the larger historical evolution of noise to think about; the music's industrial ancestors (Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, Cabaret Voltaire) were as interested in beats as they were freeform drone and other arrhythmic tactics. Thus, organizing sound around groove is not an emergent trait but rather an old chromosome lurking inside noise's double helix. Sometimes it's dormant, other times wildly active.

This is where this feature comes into play. It's an introduction to a handful of the key producers belonging to thesomething of which Schofield speaks. The list below is by no means exhaustive, yet I believe it's a worthy front door through which the inquisitive are welcome to enter.

Unicorn Hard-on

Unicorn Hard-On

Persian Cats
(Hot Releases / More Records)
If you read my article on Container, then you're familiar with Schofield's partner, as well as key influence, Val Martino. As Unicorn Hard-On, she was one of the earliest of America's 21st-century noise artists to mess around with beats in earnest. Her boldness and audacity cannot be overstated. Several years back, when noise was dominated by aggro boys and pummeling distortion freakouts, she began developing a sound that brings together her love of sheer sonic power and party-time dance jams. Martino's productions are massive, thunderous and out there; at the same time, they're remarkably social and engaging, hurling forth as they do a brain-zap array of neon deliciousness: classic electro, cheerleader moxie, minimal techno, teen pop, glitter rock, Wax Trax!, even schaffel. Moreover, the many ways in which she loops her own voice—oftentimes filtering it through a thick gauze of delay that lends it an "I know something you don't" effect—is subtle and masterful.

Since 2004-'05 Martino has recorded cassettes and CD-Rs for myriad labels, the most recent of which appear on her own Tangled Hares. Late last year Hot Releases and More Records co-released a Unicorn Hard-On/Container split 12-inch. Martino's contributions, "Persian Cats" and the wondrously bizarre "Wildfire Girls," just might be her best tracks yet. Looking to the future, she's due to unload an album on Spectrum Spools—details forthcoming.

Also features Leslie Keffer, FRAK, Laser Poodle, Diamond Catalog, VIKTORIA, and more. 

FUCK YES, read the entire article HERE

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