Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 part 2: As Loud As Possible

For some the importance i feel that the publication of As Loud As Possible magazine represents may not be as clear as i'd like until the next post when i bring things closer to home and talk about power violence using some of the framing i'm intending to bring up here.

Going by blog comments, conversations at shows and personal e mails it's clear that The Endless Blockade managed to straddle the worlds of noise and hardcore with some degree of success. Some noise people that liked us saw an approach in us that, despite very different end results, either mirrored their own or at least came from a similar place. We also appeared to be something of a small gateway for people discovering the world of noise in its many forms.

For the people that are still navigating their way through the entirely intimidating noise as a genre via Bastard Noise, The Endless Blockade, Breathing Problem related things and a cursory knowledge of Dominick Fernow and possibly Mikko Aspa, ALAP is an essential purchase.

The importance of Throbbing Gristle is well documented. Like so many other intitially repugnant strains of art TG gained respectability through the passing of time and exposure to the fallout of their ideas. See also punk, black metal, techno, graffiti, yoga and veganism.

Bizarrely Whitehouse appear to have benefitted by being around forever as well; generally respectable music publications will actually acknowledge them now and write off the transgressive aspects of their aesthetic with a cursory mention of "Sadean wit" to get themselves over the initial hump of guilt over enjoying something that is essentially utterly hostile and downright unpleasant.

Even Genocide Organ have managed to find someone that will write that hoary old pile of dog shit pondering if they're merely "a mirror being held up to society" in the liner notes of the reissue of Remember. People need to remember that Mayakovski quote about art and mirrors better...

And let us not forget the exotic sounds of Harsh Japanese Noise like Merzbow and Melt Banana (sic). Like i said in a recent comment on another post on this blog, people who will reference Lords of Chaos in a conversation about black metal can usually be written off immediately as being unknowledgable. The same holds true for people that will bring up the Merzbow/ BMW story when talking about noise. (Read the actual story here and then move on with your life)

Sometimes it feels like noise has become an exotic oddity from the mysterious orient (that no one really likes), with magazine articles reduced to a few paragraphs shoved in between either Philipino and Mexican black metal bands (themselves more exotic oddities to be wondered at) or Hassidic drum and bass DJs and has been modern composers.

It's treated as either a gimmick or a curiousity.

And then there's the highbrow approach, the same one that some heavy metal fans will use to intellectually validate their tastes; some Russian woman can play Carcass songs on a piano, some Finnish dudes can play Metallica songs on cellos, so and so from some boring band is actually more like a classical jazz guitarist than some generic shredder. These things apparently give the veneer of respectability to something that in reality doesn't actually need that repectability bestowing on it.

The noise version of this is to reference people like Russolo, Cage and Xenakis; all of whom are interesting and there is an undeniable importance to their artistic and philosphical contributions, not just to noise but to music as a whole.

But none of this adequately explains the importance of The Rita, Sigillum S, Intrinsic Action, Government Alpha, Richard Ramirez ad infinitum in particulary easy terms.

As Loud As Possible is certainly not the first voice noise has had; there have been several zines, a few books (of varying quality) and some talking heads (also of varying quality). What ALAP does is examine the past and the present of noise using the terms of noise itself without relying on the hackneyed approaches of either exoticism or intellectualism.

Some have questioned the validity of the reviews section; in the micro-releasing world of noise most of these are long sold out by publication time and the reader has little chance to hear the product. This isn't actually important and the reviews function less as a buyers guide and more as a guide to the evolution of both individual artists and the broader scene.

Noise artists frequently release a lot in a short time frame and in limited numbers. ALAP takes snapshots and traces development, documents phases and the entry and exit points of movements and currents. HNW didn't appear over night, it existed before it was given a three letter acronym. Sam McKinlay of The Rita can quite eloquently explain (so feel free to make contact with him to discuss it further) that he sees the birth of HNW as being rooted in an approach that appeared in the mid 90s where a group of quite different artists deliberately moved away from the frenzied and hyper kinetic cut up clean sounds that the Japanese scene at the time epitomised (itself a steroidal push of the ideas Merzbow presented in Noisembryo). McKinlay (in personal conversations) makes no bones about comparing HNW to an art movement and that it needs to be seen in terms of a lengthy process of artists discovering their formula and the constant mutual re-informing and re-envisioning that these movements entail.

Using this lense, noise (and most forms of art and the culture attached to art) is defined equally by what it rejects and what it includes. ALAP acknowledges this and gives voice to the disparate tendencies that make up what is reffered to as noise.

ALAP looks at the past and how it informs and relates to the present; see the articles on Broken Flag, RJF, Interchange and others. And rather than just focusing on the past, which whilst interesting is too easy and ultimately too worthless to look at with no further explanation, it also looks at the present and again uses past reference points to explain how we got here (see Climax Denial, No Fun, Sewer Election and IDES amongst others).

This is the approach we (meaning noise consumers and creators) have rarely had. This is the voice that in a sense validates what we do without being held to account for the same boring questions we get from outsiders over and over again. Why someone would want to attach a contact microphone to a block of glass or why someone would want to release a tape wrapped in electrical tape and thumb tacks that is both difficult to open and difficult to find. These questions are dispensed with because they're unimportant and the answers can be found in other places anyway.

We can see where we've come from; whether it's a reaction to punks lack of real noise, a continuation of transgressive performance art or just teenagers hearing Whitehouse for the first time in the early 1980s who thought "i could have some of that" and starting their own power electronics projects and labels. We can see where we're at now and we can take a good guess at where we might be going.

Punk (and thus hardcore) is generally great at seeing its past but terrible at being able to get to grips with its current forms and by the same token too many noise people think they're reinventing the wheel and have no idea who their musical forefathers actually were.

ALAP is not an apology and it is not entry level. It presupposes a certain amount of knowledge to find meaning within its pages. Which is how is how it should be.

That noise is still viewed like it's the dark continent of music or that it's apologised for in terms of intellectualism is a source of occasional personal irritation. ALAP raises the bar and renders those approaches largely null.


Tanner said...

Nice. I've been hemming and hawing about getting this, so I'll probably bite the bullet now. My noise exposure has usually stemmed from the more electro acoustic and improv realm, and while the two seem to brush up and interstect whether knowingly or not, they remain largely seperate. It seems there's a certain distrust between the two scenes, or at least between fan bases if not musicians. Either Otomo Yoshihide and Keith Rowe are too cerebral or dry, or the Rita or Bizarre Uproar are too bludgeoning or one-note. Oh well. I can dig both, and ALAP will be helpful either way.

Survivalist said...

there are acts that cross barriers and are enjoyed in both realms equally; Organum and Daniel Menche spring to mind

Anonymous said...

I ordered this one a few days ago and am really looking forward to reading it. So far the only noise zine I’ve read is Special Interests, which is pretty okay. Especially the 'Essentials'-column is good for getting to know lots of interesting stuff.
Since you're not doing an ordinary top-10-list, is there any chance you could at least give some 2010 fave albums without any particular order?

Vegas said...

I have this sitting on my desk now thanks to your recommendation, I'll be cracking it open soon

Survivalist said...

Special Interests is great, particularly the Essentials section that you mention.

The reason i didn't mention it in this post though is because i see it as just the newest incarnation of Freak Animal magazine (then Degenerate magazine) with a name change and some other relatively superficial differences.

Regarding top 10s, honestly, just look over my playlists of the last year and pick what you want, that'll do for a top ten list.

The next post about 2010 will mention two releases specifically (a power violence one and a grindcore one) and the post after that will discuss a black metal CD. Those three releases (and ALAP) are in my definitive top ten of things i liked and things i considered important last year.

And i'm quite enjoying the new Death in June release.

In my favourite shows of the year:

Autopsy (MDF), Portal (MDF), Iron Lung (MDF), Disgust (Toronto), Griefer (Victoria), all three times i saw The Rita, all the Nunslaughter shows Slaughter Strike played, Mindless (Austin), Esclavo (Austin), Hatred Surge (Houston), Coffin Worm (Austin), Mad Men (Toronto), Ghast (Montreal), Haggatha (Vancouver), Warzone Womyn (Pittsburgh), Nuclearhammer (Toronto), Swans (Toronto), Defeatist (MDF)

undoubtedly a bunch more.

Ryan Page said...

Interesting point about the intellectual approach to noise. I have a weird dissonance with my approach to the music that I study (cage, xennakis, reich, stockhausen, etc.) and the musical experience I had before that (hardcore, grind, metal, noise, etc.)

Sometimes I do find it helpful to reference ideas in avant garde and experimental music, because it's the only effective language I know to communicate my own process, and also how I feel about other artists.

However, and I think I might have already said this, I don't really think they need be justified in these terms. It's tough because I don't personally have a really great reason for why I like what I like. I don't find many of the explanations ("nice people like harsh music" "mirror of society", etc.) very compelling, but I also don't think I appreciate everything I like on a surface level. For example, most lyrics I find kind of stupid. I'm totally ok with that, but it also makes it hard to articulate what it is that I do find valuable.

I'm sorry to ramble, I just find myself constantly wondering why it is so difficult to honestly talk about music. It seems impossible to escape some level of pretension. Either that or you end up being some drone who rejects what they enjoy because it doesn't fit into a post-rationalization. I tend the to think the latter is worse...

Tanner said...

Ah, yeah, you're right about Menche and Organum. Definitely Kevin Drumm, as well, maybe Mattin. I'm sure there others... I probably overstated the divide, if it really exists. As always, it seems like in real life, things are a little more undefined.

Man, I wish I had seen as many great shows last year. Especially Portal and Autopsy.

Anonymous said...

The Rita and Haggatha at the Rickshaw with Blockade... what a show. Ended up being one of the last Mudlark shows, too. (maybe the last?). One of only 5 shows I went to this year and was easily the best.

As far as ALAP goes. I got a load of copies in for my distro a while back and have only had the time to read the first couple columns and some of the reviews section. Based on that, though, and from a quick flip through, it really feels like a worthwhile endeavour. Especially for someone like me who is interested in noise, but as a very late comer is unaware of a lot of what happened to enable the progression to where noise/related is at today. The quality of it is no doubt upheld by it being above entry-level, like you said in the original post, and it makes me appreciate the knowledge that I do have, while at the same time leading me to other avenues to find out more.d

N E K R A S O V said...

great post A -

Anonymous said...

hey andy,can you give me more info about the alt. pressings of turn illnes. also maybe you have some leftover copys for sale(i wish) ?

Survivalist said...

Turn Illness alt versions:

Mothra image screened onto handmade paper and sold at a show at Adrift skate park (RIP) where Cancer Bats played first. 40ish copies

70 copies with sleeves wrecked in shipping sold on our west coast tour in 2006. We did an emergency slicing of all covers, sprayed the insides black, screened the cover image in bright green on the over the black, numbered them and reversed them so they weren't destroyed covers but magickally became OMG BUY NOW OOP tour versions

Primitive alt versions:

regular cover, clear vinyl, 100 copies, sold on tour, may 2008

Leilah Waddell cover, silver on black, 100 copies, 20 Buck Spin mailorder

Leilah Waddell cover, bronze on black, 7 regular records and 5 test presses, given to people that helped us out

AVFN said...

Nice post. Really sums up the importance of this publication even if its really just a continuation of what the editor says in his introductory piece. Oddly enough I also felt compelled to respond to some of the ideas published, specifically to Sam McKinlay's article. Please check out my blog for some further thoughts on his 'The Politics of HNW' article. Tapadh leat.


Anonymous said...

maaan,sell me your mothra cover lp!!