18 July 2010

Is There A Noise Continuum? Part 12 - Noise From the Antipodean

This vanity series of mine is back again... basically I am uploading some of the parts from my recent Noise Conference which I presented in Manchester. This entry focuses on the New Zealander Noise scene.

The rise of Noise in the 1990s can be attributed to a few key theorists and chief operatives and one of them is New Zealand’s Bruce Russell. The self-styled sound/Noise/underground magus operated two of the most legendary labels of the late 1980s and 1990s out of a small city from the southern most country in the world and has influenced and affected thousands of music fans around the world: Xpressway and more relevant to Noise, Corpus Hermeticum. Not restricting themselves to releasing Noise records, the labels epitomize the spirit of adventurism of the acts and the label owners in anything sonically exciting across genres but more often than not, one can discern a particular allegiance to the Noise aesthetics of improvisation, dissonance and ignorance of musical conventions. The now-seminal classic compilation of New Zealander noise/assorted scene, ‘Le Jazz Non’ is now hailed as the ‘No New York’ of the country’s vibrant underground. It even sprouted the release of another relative fringe scene thousands of miles over the other side of the world in Norway with a compilation of the same name also featuring the key Noise/noise-related acts in the country previously known for its infernal rock institution of Black Metal and the middlebrow jazz/modern classical label of ECM.

Bruce Russell also plays in one of the most inventive/influential out-rock/Noise rock trio, the Dead C. The almost formless song structure and their penchant for free form, untutored improvisation allow the music of the group to push and pull the form in and out of the traditional boundaries of rock and often making one wade through a thick fog of miasma of dissolved guitar tones, percussive swirls and bass ululations. The band is definitely one of the main prime movers of the Noise/Noise Rock/Out-Rock milieu of the past two decades. The other side projects of the members of the Dead C like A Handful Of Dust and Gate mine slightly different sonic fields but are all crucial to the international development of Noise. Russell’s Corpus Hermeticum also released key underground Noise artefacts (in the identifiable cardboard fold-in envelopes for most of the items in its catalogue) like outsider one-man operative Omit, whose Quad triple CD box set filled with terminally out-there sonic drifts and cocktails of weird electronic etudes, is another holy grail on the wanted list of noise freaks and underground music heads.

Another key Noise act of note would be Campbell Kneale, who goes under various monikers of which Birchville Cat Motel would be the most well-known. One of his key albums, ‘We Count These Prayers…’, was released on Corpus Hermeticum as well. Frequently starting off with one or two sounds and gradually building the track up to a multiple-layered noise bliss towards the end, Kneale’s style of Noise can be seen as a continuation of the more rock-moment AMM, the psychedelic build-up of the first few Ash Ra Tempel albums and the black tarred sonic density of extreme Metal (Metal, and of course Black Metal, is a vital musical influence on him). He also runs his own label, Celebrate.Psi.Phenomenon, which releases his various projects as well as other like-minded acts focusing on Noise and Avant Metal.

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