Various Artists - SILENCE=DEATH [BTNR / Bored Bear Recordings - 2011]On 15th July 2010 a call for submissions went up on the Chondritic Sound forum asking for contributions from “non-heterosexual noisicians” to form a “queer noise” compilation cassette. Come February this year 100 copies of the resultant C100 were released, named Silence=Death after New York’s gay activist group of the late eighties, boasting eighteen artists mainly from USA and Europe.
In the intervening period the forum quickly dealt with moans about prejudice indicating that the tape is merely to prove “non-heterosexuals aren’t all obsessed with Lady Gaga and rainbows!” and to show solidarity in the wake of a removal of a video from an exhibition at The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery on grounds that it was blasphemous while smelling of institutionalised homophobia. And yet despite these brief comments tucked away on the forum very little is made of the tape’s concept elsewhere except through the odd track title. The sounds themselves, however, do a good job of capturing a moment in the international noise scene, succeeding in both highlighting the differences and the similarities in approaches that are here sequenced to jet back and forth across the Atlantic (yet never venturing as far as Asia for some reason).
In the main, side A does the job of revealing a range of different approaches starting with Fire Island, AK’s sonic attack forging war machines out of simple but effective monotones firing and echoing behind a panicked narrator. Later, Canada’s Spectre Circuits casts a dark spell with unstable DIY electronics that bounce and boil into the beyond while EaViL blend elements of musique concrète with noise improv to create a wacky, migraine-inducing childlike mess. At the other end of the side The Raytownian demonstrates the effectiveness of making room in the noise to contrast the qualities in his sound pool that suggests attempts to tune into a science fiction film on a dangerously wired television.
But the rest of the tape helps to highlight these idiosyncrasies seeming to corroborate long-held observations of a general stalling in experimentation in the noise scene. Most of the pieces on side B feel interchangeable as almost all let static feed their distortion circuits at a constant hi-speed once more evoking images of travelling through avalanches and arctic storms on faulty, carbon-cascading engines, while buried fragments of voices imply psychotic rage. One can certainly imagine when this style was first breached it had a strongly confounding effect on those willing to go the distance but with every new release saying nothing more than ‘me too’ its power diminishes. This does, however, benefit the closing track of the compilation from Xiu Xiu that, although merely a minimal anecdote of sparse guitar notes with warehoused reverb, seems so much more powerful and dramatic after enduring the side’s preceding half hour of generic and predictable noise.Russell Cuzner