Noise (particularly North American noise), has in recent years gained a degree of frank mainstream-ness that Hijokaidan circa 1980 or the Whitehouse of that same time would have never been bold enough to imagine. This bursting forth (again, at least in North America) has been driven forward by such looming figures as John Olson, Thurston Moore, and Dominick Fernow, and has signaled its arrival with radiating, screeching beacons left floating in the sea of pop culture (Wolf Eyes releasing records on Sub Pop probably being the exemplar of this). It is this face of noise that gets covered in Rolling Stone, tours with Sonic Youth, and sells for hundreds and hundreds of dollars on eBay. But holding the whole apparatus up there are pillars; cleaning off rusted gears and keeping them moving are pairs of veteran, calloused hands.
Daniel Menche is such a pillar. Menche goes about his business relatively quietly, burying himself within the subterranean machinery that animates the body of contemporary noise and habitually surfacing with a newly mined gem in his fist. Menche has been at his task since the early ’90s and has been as diligent and consistently challenging as anyone else in the scene. On this particular journey, Menche is accompanied by the character of prolific sound artist and protégé of such legends as Iannis Xenakis and Olivier Messiaen, Zbigniew Karkowski. Karkowski, currently living and operating in Tokyo, brings along with him a truck’s worth of experience with the extremes of sound and a type of classical, orchestral sensibility that courses beautifully through Menche’s strangely disciplined chaos.
Unleash, which is essentially a single track partitioned into six untitled fragments, is an absolute ogre. Every bit as nerve-fraying and dish-clattering as the nastiest Dead Machines releases, what makes this album all the more unsettling is the undeniable maturity of the piece. Tonally and texturally, it explores hidden crevices and lingers in dark alleys of sound that are often glossed over or screeched past by many contemporary acts. There is a focus here that serves as a fresh alternative to the temerarious recklessness that is so emblematic of today’s noise.
Menche and Karkowski’s modus operandi is manifold: first, to hone in on a particular pitch or form of resonance, isolate it, and then poke it, prod it, mix it together with various other sonic components, and document the result; second, to occasionally hurl the whole damn thing into the wall and simply pummel away at the listener just because; and third, to pick up the pieces and resume experimentation in earnest, repeating the cycle over again ad infinitum. The result of this process is a neutron star of sound, pumping around feverishly on an axis of tribal drum beats and constantly convulsing, issuing forth prominences of feedback and fierce oscillation. This hyper-dense entity eventually winds itself down to a singularity, puffing out of existence in a piercing fade, amidst a nebula of far-off clicks and rattles.
Menche and Karkowski have presented us here with a document that feels like it was dug out of the long since buried vein in the bedrock of noise dubbed “power electronics,” yet still presents us with fresh modes of investigation and new angles of viewing. One can’t help but feel that perhaps this vein dives deeper than any of us ever thought and, this being the first of two planned releases by the duo, the hard hat lights of Menche and Karkowski hopefully have plenty more illuminating to do.