Styles: noise, musique concrète, drone
Others: Merzbow, Prurient, Lasse Marhaug
With each successive release, John Wiese (Bastard Noise, Sissy Spacek) is proving to be America’s closest single champion of noise. His sound is readily identifiable, which is no easy task for noise-makers, and while Japanese noise, for instance, has tended to be marked by a level of gonzo aesthetic gestures -- Masonna and Merzbow have their S&M fetishes fairly documented across several releases, and one need only search the internet to find visual proof of Boredoms frontman Eye driving a bulldozer during a performance -- Wiese seems quietly reserved in comparison.
His music, however, is anything but reserved. After 2007's career-high Soft Punk, the LA-based artist returns with Circle Snare, yet another stunning example of exacting noise construction. While not quite as immediately revelatory as Soft Punk, Wiese still showers the listener with a more fascinating cloud of noise than most other like-minded artists working in his field, taking just over 30 minutes to give your brain a real beating.
The album's title track is divided up into three separate parts. On these tracks, Wiese slowly builds up tension through queasy drones that promptly flatline before erupting into ear-piercing shrapnel. Indeed, gone are the drastic jump-cuts that made his previous album so inexplicably jarring. In their place, Circle Snare constructs narratives made up of textural variants, with low-volume drones butting up against piercing scraps of contact mic noise and ribbons of musique concrète constructed using Max/MSP.
The pacing is masterful: just when you think you can’t quite take much more, Wiese intuitively lets up, resolving the tension with a gestural sweep. There are also elements of musique concrète -- sounds that you won’t be able to identify but fit appropriately in the context of these compositions. The album's fiery finale, “Mystical Finland,” is a concise summation of the elements found in the “Circle Snare” pieces, with the flow intentionally broken to serve as a denouement of sorts. It acts as a nice supplement to the narrative-heavy title tracks.
Sure, it’s taken Wiese awhile to develop his aesthetic, but he's clearly more confident in his sound than ever. If you love it loud and abrasive, then bow down to an artist who not only successfully survived the curious mid-00s embrace of noise, but also hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.
1. Circle Snare (part 1)
2. Circle Snare (part 2)
3. Circle Snare (part 3)
4. Mystical Finland