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John Wiese - Teenage Hallucinations: 1992-1999

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Artist: John Wiese

Album: Teenage Hallucinations: 1992-1999

Label: Troniks

Review date: Apr. 21, 2006

A famously incorrect biological theory of the 19th century posited that as animals develop pre-partum, they recapitulate the body plans of all the lower animals, in order. Thus, chick embryos were thought to go through fish and salamander stages before birth, and humans were said to progress from fish to frog, then onto bird and finally monkey. Though this turns out to have been wrong, it remains a helpful (and perhaps still fallacious) way to think about the place of an individual within a progressing population.

In the aesthetic world, the path from realism through modernism to abstraction took centuries, just as the evolution of higher animals from their predecessors took eons. However, people absorbing the arts today experience the products of the entire path during one lifetime, and often in order. Thus, expected musical development features classical music in the womb, the Beatles in elementary school, a punk phase in adolescence, and avant-garde improvisation through one’s 20s

When people break this mold, we call them precocious, and the precociousness of John Wiese making noise music in 1992 – when he was 14 – is off the charts. Noise is the eschatological end of musical development, the color fields we painted before we collectively fell over the edge into postmodernism, and it still seems like music for grown-ups (regardless of Thurston Moore’s claims that noise is the new punk), as if experiencing and recapitulating the course of aesthetic history is natural, as if that history were naturally linear in the first place.

So yes, Wiese’s youth when he recorded this music is shocking, and if he didn’t want us to be shocked by it, he would have named the record something else; his friends who wrote the liner notes, T. Mikawa and Seymour Glass, clearly find it just as shocking; and shockinger still, the music is awfully good, dense, diverse, and swirling. He is not simply “throwing well – FOR A GIRL,” as it were.

The record begins in 1999 and goes in reverse chronological order, so naturally one wants to listen to it backward. The last two pieces are those recorded in ’92. “Untitled CS ’92-A” is gluey, viscous bubbles of medium-low static punctured by muffled shouting; part B is similar in density, its bubbles less defined. T. Mikawa asserts in the liner notes that “Even just one time listening to these (tracks from ’92) will immediately let you understand that what he has been doing is quite consistent from the very starting point,” which seems like a compliment to the 14-year-old Wiese, but its suggestion that this is a homogenous disc isn’t true. Wiese was sculpting spacey feedback into the sounds of percussive summer lawnmowing in 1994, and the calmly reflective “Static Whale,” from ’95 or ’96, reflects its title. ’96 is popcorn-brutal, like the icky groan of a needle hitting a record too hard.

“90 Chop,” also from this time period, owes a lot to stoner metal – its long, slow chords of static may be what Mikawa has in mind when stating, “His works come from the deepest point of the universe and let us see everything.” Many of the tracks from 1997 onward have a contemporary, texture-focused style – the sound is thicker, perhaps made from a greater number of overlaid tracks, but there is less inflection. Whorls of screechy, staccato static abound.

These unreleased tapes and early vinyl track Wiese’s growing mastery of composition but he seems not to have yet discovered the deep, visceral tones that define his sound in 2006. As one friend noted about a recent Wiese performance, “I could feel it in my balls!” Not so the Hallucinations.

By Josie Clowney

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