Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Scream is a Noise and Not Music

Noise: is the general word for any loud, unmusical or disagreeable sound

The old axiom says that if you sit a monkey in front of a typewriter, eventually he will produce a novel. It would also reason that if a human being tweaks knobs on a shitload of electrical gizmos and gadgets, after a while he may coax something that resembles music from them. Many of us were first exposed to noise as music by the caterwauling of Yoko Ono. Who not only killed off the Beatles, but tried to do the same to music in general. However, time the avenger has been kind to Yoko, music historians have revised their views and now heap praise on her.

Lou Reed was the first artist on a major label to purposely pose the question: "Is this music or is it just noise?" The release of Metal Machine Music in 1975 left many fans scratching their heads and holding their noses. Some people even tried returning the album thinking the vinyl was defective. As a member of Columbia House, I got the album as punishment for not mailing back "the card." I wrote back (no e-mail in those days) "I'm not paying for this, it's not even music!"  By then it had started to grow on me, but I wasn't fooled. Reed in order to get out of his contract with RCA, had dumped this turd on the paying public. Fuck you Lou!, he did however inspire an entire generation of noise aficionados.

Dude! play that drone with the funky break

This is an underground scene, and experimination is its calling card. It's not pop or rock music, in fact it's hardly music at all. Mostly what you get is a droning stream of  monotonous hiss and hum accented by feedback or static. It could hardly be classified as  entertainment, not that it's meant to entertain in the traditional sense. The mavens of sound art, sit or squat on the floor and diddle about like they're playing with an etch-a-sketch. In some cases  like The Haters (you don't hate them...they hate you) they lurch around while swinging or stroking suitcases. There is a random variable at work, which can change the outcome of each performance. The indeterminacy of composition allows the artists to constantly create music sound rather than relying on a catalog of rehearsed musical works.

The underground noise/ electronica scene is a response to the herd mentality of commercial music fans and major labels. It's the deconstruction of the pop idiom, however The Residents and the No Wave movement have already done this, with more creativity and better results. If the idea is to create something that will shock 'n awe the squares, it fails to do so. Maybe you have to be hip to get this... I'm not hip and I don't get it, but then I'm a conventional guy. I want my music to be discernible and my thoughts free of pretension. Take me to the edge, assault my eyes and ears, just don't fucking bore me.  

The no fuss and no tears formula

Baby Shampoo are not boring anyone, Peyote Tapes describes them as "New Mexico's crustiest (and only) all girl noise unit" They build around the sound of an electric guitar laid out on the floor, which is manipulated with pedals and switches. The drones and distortion move along at a languid pace while maintaining some semblance of a "rock sound"  Which is what separates them from other noise acts, by comparisson they're downright listener friendly. 

Baby Shampoo is Malinda Monster (no relation to Gila) Nico Nice and DJ Tahnee. Live @ muykind the sole track posted on their MySpace Music page rocks out unexpectedly. It sounds like someone recorded Jimi Hendrix, passed out with his guitar still plugged into a live amp and his teeth clenched onto the strings. There's also a link on their page to a website where you can stream or download their entire set from Titwrench 2010. Which I would recommend, it's an efficient performance that cooly walks the fine line between chaos and control.

MySpace Music is one of my favorite research tools. Which makes me a music archaeologist, digging through the remnants of a people that mysteriously vanished. Though gone with the wind, they left us their band info, photos and music. For all I know Baby Shampoo could be defunct... if they are it's a cryin' shame. It's hard to keep your finger on the pulse when exiled to outer reaches of the territory. I live in the desert and lately it's been hot as hell.

The enlightened blog Things in Light recently posted an 8-track podcast that includes Baby Shampoo performing at Titwrench and some other really nifty cutting edge Albuquerque music.