Terminal Evolution & Insect Context
This article should be read at full blast with the lights turned off
By: Andrew Lyman

The trouble with the fray is that sooner or later, it gets woven into the cultural fabric. The unconventional becomes conventionalized, augmented, serialized, diluted. The edges get sanded down and attain that nice predictable polish. It took 30 years, but this is finally beginning to happen to one of the most aggressively inaccessible forms of music to have existed. Tastes change, senses become dulled, the kids walking the line between the in-there and the out-there begin to listen elsewhere for their musical kicks. The extreme always gets further away. This innate element of progress has de-clawed the once proud and culturally destructive beast called noise music. Noise music is dead. Just like Art, Black Metal, Punk, and God before it, something that used to upset the sensible (although God is still quite upsetting to common sense), has now become “interesting.” What a cruel curse to be laid upon a once vibrant and menacing mode of destruction.

Whereas Punk broke (so they say) when the Pistols (what a sham that was) broke up, and Black Metal was being sold on the steps of the courthouses of Norway during the days of Varg Vilkernes’ trial, noise took decades to tame. But here she is in her make-up and pretty dress, ready to be taken out on a date to the contemporary art museum, or the hip new coffee shop down the street. In fact, noise is particularly presentable at the moment because it’s been so recently tamed. It’s the hip new thing to tout about town. Noise is everyone’s crazy new friend who no one is allowed to admit they don’t really like because he’s obnoxious, boring, and stupid. Noise is in the awkward position of being so hip, and still so out there (to the common taste) that you have no choice but to like it if you desire to maintain coolness. To voice disapproval of something so “weird” and “different” is scenester suicide. I would like to take this moment, having established this correlation, to proclaim loud and clear that I, Andrew Lyman, hate noise music! More accurately, I hate what it has become and I hate how casually it is now being presented. This stuff used to be able to make people pass out and go into convulsions. This stuff is supposed to be dangerous!

From the greasiest, most pimpled snot nosed brat to ever pick up a delay pedal and hit something metal with something else, to the cleanest haircut-sportin’ist, avant-rocker (should we even be allowed to use that term anymore? The avant-garde is in the grave, too) to loop a tape for an hour and a half; we have to like it. We have to accept how fucking interesting it is. We have to like it all because it’s all noise! And it’s all just fine. You can’t say that you prefer that kid slugging the hell out of a guitar with a clarinet over that guy and that girl who loop their whispers and throw nails at a trash can. It would be like going outside at different hours of the day and criticizing the roar and hum of the city. It’s ludicrous! We already established long ago that sound had value on its own. Anyone ever hear of John Cage? Marcel Duchamp? Bob Moog? Raymond Scott? Throbbing Gristle? Cabaret Voltaire? 23 Skiddoo? Coil? Current 93? Nurse with Wound? Whitehouse? Hal Russell? Albert Ayler? Cluster? This Heat? Sutcliffe Jugend? Non? Peter Brontzman? Yes? No? Maybe? Well, hear about them. Some of this stuff goes back as far as the 1920s. Way older if you really want to get into it and make the simple leap from Tibetan chants, which come complete with the same atmospheric bangs and thumps as stuff that is being passed off as noise music today. All that noise has been done! It has been done better, too. A ton of that “old” stuff is fucking mind-blowing. It doesn’t get better than that. It works as music. It works conceptually. It’s threatening, it’s bizarre, it’s “interesting” and it’s fucking old! There was so much more force and intrigue and experimentation back then, damn it, because they weren’t making NOISE! They were playing! There were no words or categories for what they were doing. They were just destroying everything. They tore down every barrier they came upon. They obliterated every single convention, only to have people conventionalize that. Now kids are happy to just loop some different sounds together and call it a fascinating night. There used to be motivation behind noise. They used to be wreckers of civilization.

But this isn’t just a lament for the richness of noise past. Nor is it a call for the cessation of new noise. It is a celebration. I for one think that it’s wonderful that kids are tinkering around, building their own synthesizers, noisemakers, circuit benders, and loop boxes; that they are getting into weird music, weird sounds, and how far they can be pushed; that they are having a blast making this shit. I just want everyone to understand that noise is now a category. It is a classification. It is a convention. It has been a convention since the 1980s. What began as completely disparate attempts to play, experiment, and dismantle music piece by piece, record by record, has devolved (or evolved) into a plain old genre. It may still be a far cry from pop, but hey, it’s Sub-Pop now, so it’s at least getting there. We need to realize it as such. Take these new conventions, identify their limitations, and either make compelling “pop” music within the noise format (just as there were hundreds of absolutely compelling punk bands after that genre had allegedly died) or venture back into the dark, uncharted abysses of music. Find new limits, and fucking kick, push, stab, caress, and tear at them until they give way and spill out into a whole new area that we will again have to escape from.

To prove how big an asshole I am, I have included a pop tune of my own (under the moniker LF). I actually am, myself, a maker of noise, and believe me, I’m looking for a way out.


"Dead Things"


All opinions expressed by Andrew Lyman are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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