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V/A - An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music Volume 3

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Artist: V/A

Album: An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music Volume 3

Label: Sub Rosa

Review date: Apr. 13, 2005

Noise, everywhere noise, non-stop. Construction, superfluous car alarms, leaky faucets, a coffee mug shattering in a neighbor’s apartment. You’re not getting away from it. There’s always enough, and often too much, enough to make your eardrums bleed. Even if you haven’t got the patience for John Cage’s academic shellac or Negativland’s geeky submission, hearing the post-industrial landscape as a complex, shifting symphony (to wit, as amusement) helps prevent psychological overload.

Advances in entertainment technology have perhaps made it easier, not harder, to drown out the chaos. Whatever signals jam your eyes and ears on your daily commute, a quick Google search can turn up something like the lulling comics of John Porcellino (a Zenned-out alternative to the daily paper, if you’d rather dig in than keep up) or the Kranky Records website (if that label hasn’t yet inked a deal with someone’s rusty tea kettle, it’s beyond me). Padding eyes, ears and skull from the urban crossfire has never been easier. Nevertheless, eventually batteries crap out and tote bags get left on the bus, and you return to the mercy of the noise, which has little.

If these shadows remain unchanged, putting a creative spin on your unsolicited auditory environment will prove more and more essential, as survival mechanisms go.

Sub Rosa’s anthologies of electronic dissonance and unanchored clatter don’t pretend to serve as comprehensive overviews. They host a good few of the composers who, from the mid-1900s on, have divorced “music” from traditional notions of rhythm and melody, thus coaxing it closer to the random bangs, cries and chimes of the great outdoors, but, of course, a lot gets left out. They’re best digested as tutorials on how to divine compelling art from seemingly random patterns of sonic cues. Make these tracks welcome in your own head – make your own sense of them – and you may prepare yourself to boogie to the no-cover “noise” show that awaits at every downtown crosswalk.

Disc 1 plays with the sort of blips, stings and whirrs that grace corporate bullpens after hours, when most everyone’s gone but screensavers still bounce around unseen. It’s the backdrop that keeps clicking and fluttering during the day, partially drowned out by human input but still audible if the people drive you so nuts you’d rather listen to the machines. It’s what we now talk about when we talk about roomtone.

Ilhan Mimaroglu’s “The Last Largo” is one of the disc’s most minimal and most musical selections – it bottles the loneliness a sound effect might feel when realizing it’s not part of a bigger composition. Hundreds of little clicks and beeps take turns begging for attention, and seem to ache like gnats trapped in light fixtures. Justin Bennet’s “Ovipool” approaches and skirts overload inside three-and-a-half minutes. Hang on, hold your breath and figure out how to be thrilled, and noise can’t hurt you anymore. So crank that shit.

The downtown concerto has had to adapt, with greater and greater tenacity, to beaten station wagons idling outside currency exchanges, blaring repetitive beats and hooks. Pop music has crashed environmental noise’s party, and environmental noise has wrapped around it like kudzu. Disc 2 takes that shift into account, with selections from Michael Rother, Faust, To Rococo Rot and other new electronic pioneers who neither deny or deconstruct digital beat science. They give it its place in the background, and improvise over it, without letting it dominate their work.

By Emerson Dameron

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