Freak Scene #12

September 10, 2007

The dozenth Freak Scene travels back in time to grab a pivotal release of early Japanese noise before leaping back to the future for two gifted women and some drone fiends.

When dealing with contemporary noise its important to understand the roots to a certain degree. Two important movements influence today’s “noise” music, predominantly; early U.K. power electronics (Whitehouse, Sutcliffe Jugend) and Japanese noise (Merzbow, Masonna). While power electronics deals with issues of control and dominance, Japanese noise deals more with sounds than with social politics. In the early 90s one of the most significant groups of the Japanese variety was C.C.C.C. The No Fun label, in the interest of making this material available to the new generation, has issued Early Works, a four CD box of the original formation of C.C.C.C. The material here is described in the liner notes as psychedelic noise, which is apt in that the sounds are not severe and cut, the changes not drastic and sharp. Instead what we have is chaotic, evolving sound scrapes, which change and mutate on their own accord. The percussive element, often performed on sheet metal and other non-traditional means, serves to punctuate the undulating electronics and space-bass playing. This is a search for freedom through sound work. The material, while not the most immediately “easy” listen, never uses harshness as a barometer for quality. This music is not made to beat you over the head with violence; its intent is musical transcendence using chaos as a principle. Over the course of these four discs its clear that C.C.C.C. accomplished their goal. Does one need four discs to make this point? Probably not, but for diehards and novices alike it’s indispensable to have this material in one place. For any noise-head, this box is sure to be a classic.

On a completely different tip, we have Drum Sketches by Susie Ibarra released on the Innova label. Ibarra is a world-class percussionist, composer and improviser. When Ibarra is not writing operas, playing trance beats in her duo Electric Kulintang or sitting in with any number of avant greats, she finds time to work on solo compositions. Drum Sketches showcases Ibarra’s skills in several ways. Firstly, Ibarra is an extremely tactile percussionist. At times the sounds of her brushes rubbing over the skins is enough to make her intent felt. On this recording Ibarra further explores her cultural roots of the Philippines by incorporating field recordings from her travels. One is immediately brought to a different place, with Ibarra’s percussion at the center. Ibarra’s music is of a deeply spiritual nature, one can hear echoes of her teacher Milford Graves in her drum pieces if they listen closely. As far as her work with the Kulintang featured here as well (a Kulintang is a traditional Filipino instrument, which is eight gongs played with sticks) it is a sound that echoes ancient melodies. Ibarra utilizes these tones in a way few players have the powers to summon. What’s most impressive to me is her complete control, composing sounds and textures that extend beyond any trappings of convention. One would be hard pressed to find a more unique player in this medium. Moreso Ibarra is able to evoke a strong sense of feeling in her playing, while to some, this may be considered academic music it exists for the spirit first. Ibarra has a joy of her own and it is expressed on Drum Sketches in excess. It’s quite a thing of beauty.

Another woman who is able to express the depths of spiritual existence is Christina Carter, best known as half of the duo Charalambides. Carter has issued a number of solo and group recordings outside of Charalambides and has kept as prolific as anyone in the American underground, especially given her vast discography since the early 90s. Carter sings ghost love songs, her voice adrift in a sea of reverberating guitar. The spectral beauty of her work evokes ritualistic soul baptisms. While certainly gorgeous and ethereal, there is nothing light about her work. Vocally, she has been compared to Patty Waters and Linda Sharrock although I never found her material to be as aggressive, though Carter is equally free. Electrice was originally released on CD on the Kranky label and is issued here on vinyl by Charalambides own Wholly Other imprint. Each LP is hand-painted by Carter. Over the course of four equally long songs, Carter is spellbinding in both her delivery and her playing. The guitar sounds like spectral gauze. Her voice beams out this haunting funeral prayer, both direct and incapacitating. After the balladry of Charalambides last album, Carter here gives us nothing but mystic torch songs and they’re perfectly capable of lighting a dim room.

Robedoor have been popping up all over the place lately, appearing on splits with Yellow Swans and Leslie Keffer among others. The good folks at the Not Not Fun label sent over a package, including the latest CDR from Robedoor entitled Ritual Heirs. The material found here is darker than previous efforts I’ve come across by these drone fiends but the results are no less hypnotic. Over three extended pieces Robedoor chase the dragon of the Skaters down the alleys of the bad part of town. What they find there is something to the effect of falling down a well and never hitting the floor, a zen-like calm amidst the impending knowledge that soon, it will wear off and everything will return to its state of unwell. But who cares when the chemicals are coursing through the veins? Sobriety isn’t the West Coast way anyhow.


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Posted: September 10, 2007
Freak Scene #12