As each new Yellow Swans record has been released the band has drifted away from their extreme noise roots to embrace the more avant garde end of drone. Their recent career closer, Going Places, is a testament to just how good the band became in riding the whole beauty/nasty axis. This collaboration between two giants of noise, was released by Wiese’s Helicopter label last year. There are enough other reviews out there is you want a blow by blow description of the tracks (the first one is noisy, the second droney with silence etc) but my overwhelming impression with this record is one of extreme sadness. The thing I never expected about noise when I first started listening a few years ago is the depth of emotion that some of these records contain. A record label blurb described Yellow Swans Live During War Crimes as 42 black minutes of creepy soundscapes painting a depressive picture of a world going down in dust and ashes. Portable Dunes is what remains after the dust settles. Essential.
Archive for the John Wiese Category
I was asked the other day what is noise and why do I like it. I was fucking stumped to tell you the truth. If I had my time again I would have said that he pleasure that I get from noise is in those thrills of the unexpected, that transcendent isolationism you get when you hear it through headphones and the sheer power of it all. But alas I was not that quick and I responded with something like “It’s great”, which you know, is lame. But I tell you this rather boring anecdote because although I’m not keen to over intellectualise my love of noise, many are. In the liner notes of Teenage Hallucination, T. Mikawa of Incapacitants writes this: .. the strongest sound of all is noise. Pure noise encompasses all of time and space. This is my definition. As a definition I think its a bit limited but you know, good on him for having a go. The purity of noise of which he speaks is certainly in evidence on this retrospective of John Wiese’s earlier recordings. This is dense unrelenting electronic bastardry. Particularly the later stuff which indicates the blueprint of the manic hyperactivity of Soft Punk for instance. Those looking for the spacial glitch and click of his awesome Circle Snare might have to look elsewhere. The real treat for Wiese fans and there are some of us out there,the final cuts which actually stem from his time as a 14 year old. The idea of Wiese as the harsh noise version of Miley Cyrus kills me but the tracks, despite the dreadful production have some great noise ideas which I haven’t heard in some time. The backwards noise loop stuff was particularly fun. If you like Wiese then this will certainly not disappoint.
One of my favourite noise artists going around right now has to be John Wiese. Whether he is collaborating with Yeh or Merzbow, doing his thing as Sissy Spacek or releasing stuff under his own name, Wiese doesn’t seem comfortable in doing the same thing twice. Wiese is turning into one of the most prolific and talented noise artists of right now and Circle Snare, his latest release on Carlos Giffoni’s No Fun Productions, shows just how good he can be. This record was recorded whilst on his European tour last year. He used his basic set up and reinterpreted what it produces to make a sound that I’ve only heard hints of in some of his Sissy Spacek records. Gone are the Merzbow-esque power electronics of Black Magic Pond so too the hyperactive, cut and paste of Soft Punk. Now I really liked Soft Punk but my experience with it was almost physical. Soft Punk was a record that simply overwhelmed me. I have never been able to listen to it in one sitting. When I try to, I can usually get to Track 4 before my brain feels like it is no longer capable of independent thought and if my experience is anything to go by, the US could use repeated listens at volume as an enhanced interrogation. Circle Snare is a very different beast. For one thing it is a much more minimal affair and in some ways also one of his more powerful works. The noise itself seems to be produced on two separate planes in much the same way Giffoni does and Merzbow can produce in his best works. Yet in saying this Wiese has produced something completely unique. Sometimes less is more and if you have any interest in Wiese I recommend you pick this up.
I’m trying to end the year on a high note and do my best to focus on records released in 2008 because if you are a regular reader of this site you probably are a bit like me and need to write lists of CD’s for family to get you just in case you end up with that new Bloc Party record. The problem with French Record is that it mightbe a bit hard to find in your local chain record shop so it may be best just to ask for the cash this Xmas. If I look back at the 150 or so CD’s I’ve bought this year the focus has been away from pure (harsh) noise CD’s (although there have been a few exceptions) and towards stunning drone CD’s by Daniel Menche and the sheer joyous sound of anything released on Rune Grammofon. There’s been a lot less Merzbow and a greater focus on expanding my horizons in relation to music that at least attempts to breath some life into rock during the long terminal illness that has afflicted it during the past few years. Some records are kind of what I expected or match comparisons to what I had read but few records have genuinely blown me away this year more than French Record.
I think it may be time to acknowledge John Wiese as the new generation noise pioneer. His solo work on Soft Punk was extraodinary but challenging. In fact I have never sat through Soft Punk all the way through in one sitting. It’s something which if played all at once becomes just too overstimulating and may be the first record that should come with an epilepsy warning. French Record takes the sound collage approach that he perfected on Soft Punk but instead of chucking all of the ideas together, he allows some of them to grow and through repetition (something any Wiese fan know has never been high on his agenda) create something both challenging but extremely listenable. The first Sissy Spacek record I bought had 77 tracks none were longer than 90 seconds and some were only 4 seconds. French Record is much more conservative. It still has short vignettes of noise (like the sound of glass being smashed filtered through some studio fuckery) but the crowning achievement is the longer tracks of pure noise genius. I can’t do justice to what he produces on French Record but I will say that the opener, Scorpion Whip, his take on heavy metal, can be added to the small sub-genre of fun noise tracks. If your having trouble tracking this down you can order it straight from the Dualplover website and I recommend you do that as a matter of urgency. In a genre that suffers from small print runs and limited editions you just can’t afford to fuck about. I won’t go out on a limb and say that it is the best noise record released this year, the collaboration he did with C. Spencer Yeh is absolutely mindblowing and Burning Star Core’s Challenger happens to be the most played record on my ipod, but good lord it just might be.
Really into the Haters
I picked this up from a couple of months ago. John Wiese himself, from time to time, sells copies of his CD’s on ebay. I took the opportunity to buy this, Black Magic Pond and the split CD Wiese did with C. Spencer Yeh. Out of those three records the spit with Yeh is my favourite but Multiplication for some reason is the one I seem to have played the most. I think the reason for the number of plays it’s received is me attempting to define exactly what this record sounds like. I was searching for something recognisable that would make sense in a written review. Merzbow put this record together when John Wiese sent his contribution by mail. What has been created is a blistering document of extreme noise. There are no beats or relief from the relentless cluster fuck of noise this record unleashes. Ever now and then there is a small pause before the two the two sides of the noise smash into each other again. The cover at to this record is very appropriate. To me it looks like a tear in the very fabric of the Earth and this record is so relentless that’s it’s hard to disagree with that interpretation. I wonder how many times I’ll end up playing this again. I like my Wiese and Merzbow a couple of notches back from what they produce on Multiplication. If your new to your noise and just dabbling there are way better Wiese and Merzbow records to start with. I’d give ths one a wide berth unless you know what you are getting yourself in for.
As an aside Misanthropic Agenda has a great website and online store. It has plenty on Menche, Jazzkammer and Merzbow at really cheap prices and the postage is very reasonable. It’s well worth checking out before you make your next purchase. I’ve added their sight to the links on the top righthand of this blog.