People Who Do Noise (2008)
“Noise is a lot more punk than punk is.” -Oscillating Innards
People Who Do Noise is a feature-length documentary on the (then-) burgeoning Portland experimental and noise genre by Adam Cornelius. This a fantastic doc for anyone who has accidentally had their tympanic membrane exposed to Noise while trawling Blogpsot for new tunes, and it should abate your confusion a little.
Noise music is atonal and unstructured, a mix of free jazz, improv, industrial and punk, with punk’s DIY ethic magnified. It’s kind of the last bastion of punk rebellion, as remarked in the film by the artist With Caro: “Build something weird and smash it; make it sound crazy and go nuts.”
The doc features interviews and performances with some of the shadowy figures of this most underground genre, and provides a humanising look on the artists as well as insight into why they seek to make the most defiant music possible. Some of this philosophising on genre-restrictions and unchecked self-expression would come off as pretentious if it weren’t for the fact that most of these atonal music mavens often have a giggle at the ridiculousness of what they’re doing. For music that sounds so desperate and alienating, that reflects the chaos and pain of industrial consumer society, these guys are nihilistically upbeat and celebratory, worshipping immediacy and the vague Possible. They are day-glo Druids summoning perverse aural monsters at coaxial altars. But look again and they are regular men dosed to the gills on hallucinogenics receiving that utterly transparent moment of self-consciousness when all the ridiculousness of being is manifests.
The filming in this hour-and-a-half is sparse and concrete, journeying into the hidden rhythms of city life and the timbre of isolation. The musicians all appear to exists in a messy hinterland underneath regular architecture. The cinematography captures the artists well in featureless rented rooms creating a subhuman racket. Some of the best rehearsal-space footage ever exists in this. Usually hyper-intelligent and haphazardly dressed (although there are no codes applying to noise at all), these mostly one-man bands beat on cyberpunk machines made of guitar pedals, stuffed animals, spilt solder, transistors, anything you might see in Tetsuo: The Iron Man, including Kitty Midwife’s Springtar. They make their own instruments and then destroy them in the process of creation, a la Survival Research Labs on a smaller scale
Interviewed in the film are: Smegma, God, Redglaer, With Caro, Kitty Midwife, Argumentix, Yellow Swans, Sispum Vish, Oscillating Innards and more.
If you are new to Noise, don’t be scared (like don’t be literally terrified as I was the first time I heard Consumer Electronics). Watching this can help with the unease. These are people. They live on the same earth as you. They have the same eardrum configuration as you. They’ve just gone beyond the pale. As legendary Noiser Dr Id says, Noise is about “Learning to listen again”; it’s about destroying the years of accumulated bubblegum pop that has cowed and made complacent the active part of the brain, sacrificing spoonfed melodies to Baal and letting waves of distortion baptise you again.
If your looking for other noise/ avant-garde artists, check out the rosetta stone, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nurse_with_Wound_list