Being the figurative thinker I am — if “thinker” is the right word — I like to imagine noise artists’ bodies of work as mythological beasts. Burning Star Core’s discog, then, is best represtented by the gigantic octopus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
C. Spencer Yeh’s canon as BxC is lumbering, deep, deadly, and devastating. It lives and breathes. It wraps its rubbery tentacles around you and squeezes until yr brain pops like a stretch of bubble-wrap and yr genitals crunch. It’s been slowly growing under the sea, unbeknownst to the rest of society. And, like the release lists of so many others simultaneously ruling and crowding the aughts (Nadja/Aidan Baker, Psychedelic Horseshit, Blue Sabbath Black Cheer, Dead Raven Choir/Goatbomb/Wolfmangler, John Wiese, Andy Ortmann, Wolf Eyes/Graveyards/etc., Josh Lay), BxC’s vast empire expands to the size of its environs. To anyone who knows how big octopi can actually get (look it up), that’s either a scary or comforting thought, depending on your proclivity for dark-drone, scratchy noise blasts, dentist-drill effects, samples, loops, sonic leftovers… basically anything that pushes the boundaries, Yeh’s done it.
Where to go from here? At what point does an abstract musician either capitulate to some sort of structure or add so many layers to his cake that the subtleties are rendered meaningless? (It’s like mixing colors — throw too many together and you get brown, right?) How does one, exactly, top Operator Dead … Post Abandoned? Well, Papercuts Theater is a healthy start. It takes all the most salient aspects of your favorite Gangbanging Wizard and builds upon them, leaving only the crowded, cacophonous cream of the crop behind. Don’t ask me how 16 minutes and 27 seconds can fly by so effortlessly, but they do, four times over (give or take). I’ve always marveled at the way Yeh’s music employs percussion, and Papercuts might be his most incisive use of the forgotten (within noise, that is) art of demonic drumming that boasts both reckless abandon and controlled poise.
Just listen to the way “Part II” morphs into a bedraggled, dying butterfly after flailing around like a cut-up caterpillar for its first seven minutes, the drums, helmed by Trevor Tremaine (I presume), instinctively shifting along with the puttering, deflating-balloon composition. Then, after just a minute of Dead C-esque sound-bending, we’re treated to another about-face, the percussive streaks purged in favor of sine-wave diddling and florescent doodling that sounds like visual representations of electrical current. It’s an invigorating jaunt, perhaps Papercuts Theater’s best, but it — figuratively and literally — only tells one-fourth of the story. As one of the few noiseniks who can fill disc after disc to the brim with bubbling, troubling noise broth of top-tier, Yeh demands a full-album listen. Several, actually.
I’m not going to name names — blackballing the indie darlings of today just tires Gumshoe out these days — but Burning Star Core make a lot of modern knob-twiddlers look — short of clown-shoes silly — stationary, like an old man waiting for a bus that’s never going to come. I can’t remember the last time I prepared so thoroughly for an album review, not because I’m a natural-born slacker most of the time, but because Yeh implores as much as he explores; I feel a responsibility to give Papercuts Theater as much attention and care as a writer as Yeh does as a musician/performer/composer/audio war-time strategist, and I can only dream of retaining attention the way he does. (Did I mention PT is culled from 66 live recordings?) And don’t make any mistake — this is a war, waged on false noise with the vigor of a freedom fighter. Get into it; get involved.