Daniel Menche - Guts [Editions Mego - 2012]
Daniel Menche's abrasive, disruptive sound sculptures are always utterly uncompromising, and deeply, unapologetically difficult. There is rarely any sentimentality or obvious emotion in his music, and he employs a monochromatic, limited range of tone color. With this 70 minute album "Guts", he reaches new levels of unpleasantness, however, employing textures which even fans of noise could find irritating and unlistenable. These are the sounds of "abused and thrashed piano guts", according to the liner notes, and it is a razor sharp cacophany.
Menche's music is usually highly rhythmic, but here he seen fit to create longform, static soundspaces. Instead of the natural rhythms of the collisions, impacts and rippings that doubtlessly produced these source recordings, with these pieces we get that most artificial and surreal of all rhythms, the infinite loop. Stretched over 10 - 20 minutes, it becomes an opaque sheet of texture, and for 70 minutes the listener is enveloped in an ever-enclosing, unfriendly and unfeeling womb of lacerating metallic sounds. Forget about the melodic qualities the piano once had; they are completely absent here.
The worst (though also shortest at 10 minutes) is the opener "Guts 2x4" an impossibly dense, impenetrable mass of metallic junkyard chaos that induces such ear fatigue that I've usually got no energy to ear the rest of the album after it's over. It's so saturated that at low volumes, it sounds like simple white noise, but the fingernails-on-chalkboard sharpness of ripping metal emerges at higher volumes, to quite unpleasant effect. Due to it's completely static nature, it's essentially a harsh noise wall piece. While I can respect it as an idea, it's incredibly painful for me.
Ghosts of the piano as we know it are felt more easily in "Guts One - Three", the other three pieces on the album, all 20 minutes, which are mercifully more spacious than the first. The drone that opens "Guts One" combines a deep, round bass harmonic with an imperfect higher resonance, and has an alien sort of beauty, despite being quite dissonant. The piece dissolves slowly into a crunching metallic mulch, which goes on to comprise most of "Guts Two" as well. Again, I have to turn the volume down. "Guts Three" has thick, droning bass frequencies much like "Guts One", this time identifiable as a grand piano sound. I find myself wishing there were more such drones on the album, as these were the only portions I could immerse myself in without being sliced or cut.
I certainly have respect for any album that creates a strong reaction in me, positive or negative, and I also believe that Menche created each aspect of the album intentionally, as I know he is a meticulous artist. Really, it's useless to criticize a Daniel Menche album for being inaccessible, since all of his previous have also been this way to an extent, and anyone who calls themselves a fan certainly knows what they are getting, and is up to the challenge. "Guts" is an album I may never enjoy, but cannot truly fault.