Face Reveal Face Reveal

[Basement Corner Emissions; 2019]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: noï-Z
Others: Bigfoot, Stark’s Vacuum Museum

The child’s face, converted by a few strokes, had vanished but in the notched teeth and gaping orbits, large enough to hold a car, we could still see an echo of its infant features. The spectre moved past us, the spectators frowning at this weeping skull whose rain fell upon their faces.

Whatever its connotation or context — and as harsh as the individual sounds may be — “noise” is more accessible than most assume, or at least less challenging than pretensions would allow. For most of us, noise is omnipresent, all around us. But that hardly makes “noise,” the music, any easier to evaluate. The lack of an easy conclusion or precise musical taxonomy is partly what makes noise music so divisive of a subject. Genera vary widely, from harsh digital to the more experimental strains of Are Ay Double-U Kay. So how does noise manage to reveal itself in any straightforward, coherent fashion? We draw patterns in our minds. “How human it is to see a thing in something else.”

Face Reveal, the latest from the Portland-area label formerly known as kv&gr/recs, dances on the thin line separating noise from noise-pattern, eschewing mimesis, timbre, and rhythm for a sound that is, ironically, easily imitable. The fact that no two harsh noise tracks sound alike is not lost here; it’s the resultant pattern-making that remains the same. There are no breaks to follow; this is pure unadulterated white noise. An anonymous project, the completely flippant title is something of a bait-and-switch; it’s an encouraging welcome to a world where there are no nominal rules. And though “freely improvised,” the tracks all consist of the same cosmic energy, a grey mishmash of digital dirge. There are only glimmers of musicality; there is no real expression, save for a punishing blandness that strikes, alternately, as smug or glum.

In 1972, musician Eugene Chadbourne infamously described Miles Davis’s 1972 noise-funk-inflected opus On the Corner as “pure arrogance.” But On the Corner was ahead of its moment, and time has been relatively kind to it. Less, however, can be said for the exponents drawn from its existence and influence. This is music that really does strike as crassly condescending.

Unlike Davis, though, I highly doubt the goal of noise-makers is for their work to be remembered. This music is more of an ephemeral expression, a reflection of the present moment, something to be listened to once and maybe even forgotten. Forty-seven years from now, insha’Allah, I don’t think I will remember Face Reveal any more than the scores of noise releases I’ve already listened to or will listen to. More than being a good or bad thing, it’s a simple fact of its existence. It hardly rewards participation.

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