With noise is born disorder […] In noise can be read the codes of life, the relations among men. Clamor, Melody, Dissonance, Harmony […] when it becomes sound, noise is the source of purpose and power, of the dream—Music.
Stirring words from the opening chapter of Jacques Attali’s marvellous book Noise: The Political Economy of Music, and noise is the focus of the new 5:4 Mix Tape. As such, i suppose it could be deemed the least accessible of these mixes, although my interpretation of noise here extends beyond fortissimo walls of abrasion; there’s a lot more to noise than just that.
Three of Alva Noto‘s miniature renderings of computer files pepper the mix, blurring the distinction between active and passive compositional intent. To some extent, the same could be said of Richard James’ AFX track ‘Ktpa2’, one of a pair of ferocious static blasts that remain his most brutal music to date. Most of the tracks included here, though, are less single-minded than these, and drag a variety of æsthetic manners into their obstreperous orbits. Three Trapped Tigers (whose first album is one of this year’s most outstanding releases) explore a complex amalgam of math rock and glitch, while Ukranian soundscapists First Human Ferro put noise at the core of their paradoxically radiant dark ambient. Japanese experimentalist Lethe takes hard metallic field recordings in abandoned resonant spaces as his starting point, while Nine Inch Nails do what they do best tucked away deep in the bowels of a studio. Noise is a sine qua non of all music with a hauntological aspect, heard here in the hissy nostalgia of Black Swan and the searing, gritty glitter of The Stranger (in my view, Leyland Kirby’s most riveting persona). My own work the Ceiling stared at me but i beheld only the Stars is a large-scale conflict between noise and pitched material; the excerpt included here is from the centre of the piece, where bell-like pitches first emerge. One could hardly have a noise mix tape without Merzbow; i’ve included part of the opening track from one of his latest albums, a typically kaleidoscopic feast of electronic mayhem. At the end comes a fittingly curt signing-off by Thomas Bangalter, from his soundtrack to Gaspar Noé’s film Irréversible.
Noise doesn’t need to be loud, of course, and numerous tracks explore its quieter side. At Jennie Richie and John Zorn’s Naked City barely rise out of a subsonic miasma, while for his film INLAND EMPIRE, David Lynch uses noise as a rumbling foundation for an assortment of allusive sounds. From a different Lynch film, Mulholland Drive, Angelo Badalamenti creates a horribly unsettling piece for the typically weird diner scene, all the more troubling for its restraint.
But the most impressive and rewarding pieces here are those that embrace noise head-on, subjecting the listener to a no-holds barred act of sonic iconoclasm. Andrew McKenzie’s Hafler Trio work scissors cut arrow is an exhilarating demonstration of sculpted noise, clouds of billowing infrasonics crested by harsh protruding whistles. Mika Vainio initiates his remarkable latest album (which i reviewed on Fluid Radio a while back) with a roiling opening track of white-hot drones, while the great Roland Kayn both encompasses and eclipses pretty much everything else in this mix, in one of his most mesmerising electronic symphonies. Many of the longer tracks have been excerpted, but two i felt unable to tamper with. The 13-minute opening part of Kenji Siratori‘s EP Dead Device may be a devastation too far for some listeners, but i’d encourage tenacity here, as deep in the heart of its effluvial bedlam is a fascinating and sometimes very beautiful electroacoustic anarchy. and at the epicentre of this mix is a track from the collaboration between Bass Communion (Steven Wilson) and Pig, performed live in Mexico City. Its 17-minute span looms very large indeed over the listener, particularly its frankly amazing latter half which—thrown pell-mell into a crucible with ambient and drone elements—comprises some of the most awe-inspiring use of noise you’ll ever hear.
Exactly two hours of pandemonium; here’s the tracklisting in full:
• Alva Noto – entourage (from Unitxt)
• Merzbow – Churning Of The Cosmic Milk Ocean [excerpt] (from Kamadhenu)
• The Hafler Trio – figure [excerpt] (from scissors cut arrow)
• At Jennie Richie – Cold Earth (from Six)
• David Lynch – Metal Bow Suite (from INLAND EMPIRE (Original Motion Picture Score))
• Naked City – Fleurs du Mal (from Absinthe)
• AFX – Ktpa2 (from Smojphace EP)
• Three Trapped Tigers – Creepies (from Route One Or Die)
• Simon Cummings – the Ceiling stared at me but i beheld only the Stars [excerpt] (from the Ceiling stared at me but i beheld only the Stars – free download)
• First Human Ferro – Seek Our Souls/Per Astra (from Stardust)
• Mika Vainio – In Silence a Scream Takes a Heart [excerpt] (from Life (… It Eats You Up))
• Bass Communion / Pig – Live In Mexico City (track 2) (from Live in Mexico City)
• Angelo Badalamenti – Diner (from David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive)
• Lethe – Catastrophe Point #7, Track 2 [excerpt] (from Catastrophe Point #7 and #8)
• Alva Noto – powerpoint (from Unitxt)
• Nine Inch Nails – 23 Ghosts III (from Ghosts I-IV – free download)
• Black Swan – DxSxDxH (from The Quiet Divide)
• Roland Kayn – Electronic Symphony I [excerpt] (from Electronic Symphony I – III)
• The Stranger – Exhumation (from Bleaklow)
• Kenji Siratori – Part 1 (from Dead Device – free download)
• Alva Noto – excel (from Unitxt)
• Thomas Bangalter – The End (from Irréversible – Original Soundtrack From The Motion Picture)