AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE – Vol. 1

BOOKS: AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE – Vol. 1

As Loud As Possible is a dense, perfect-bound UK-based magazine that debuted in late fall of 2010 to explore Noise music and culture with articles, interviews and reviews with both seminal and newly emerging sound artists that specialize in atonal sonic brutality. With ear-splitting frequencies and crumbling avalanches of layered sound, harsh noise is a provocative brand of sound art that frequently fascinates as much as it alienates. But in defence of this raging racket, I will say that Noise is one of the most conceptually rich forms of ‘music’, although it has none of the typical trappings or pretensions of music, except that it uses sound to create an emotional response.

The genre connections of noise are less tenuous than one might think: horror and harsh noise intersect in The Rita, the sound art project of Vancouverite Sam McKinlay, who contributed an article on the roots of Harsh Wall Noise for this first issue of ALAP, running through a concise history that starts with the Futurists  to Philip Corner’s 1962 ‘Black Hole’ to the minimalism of LaMonte Young to the immersive blindfolded soundscapes of contemporary sound artist Francisco Lopez. While many of these artists have been the subject of academic inquiry, no less pivotal are those artists whose experimentation started to percolate in the late 70s and through the 80s and 90s and  appealed, perhaps unexpectedly,  to transgressive punks and exploratory metalheads. Namely artists like Merzbow, the Incapacitants, The Haters and Hijokaidan.

The term ‘Americanoise’ is used as a blanket term for 90s noise, but according to McKinlay, its genesis lies in the distortion-heavy sonic violence of the Mother Savage Noise Productions cassette compilation in 1995. The artists categorized as Americanoise – Black Leather Jesus, Skin Crime, Macronympha, Taint and others – were heavily influenced by the Japanese noise artists, and have a visual and aural aesthetic similar in ways to McKinlay’s own –all gravitate towards crushing, crackling noise flanked by images and often embedded with samples ripped from obscure horror and exploitation films.

The magazine kicks off with an article on early Vancouver-based noise group Tunnel Canary (recently the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Eric Lohrenz), written by none other than GX Jupitter-Larsen of equally seminal band The Haters. Tunnel Canary foreshadowed the transition between early 80s industrial and late 80s noise, in what Larsen refers to as proto-power electronics (noise with vocals) – even though they were referred to as no wave at the time. “The idea that distortion illustrates transformation has become central for many pioneering noisicians,” writes Jupitter Larsen. “When distortion becomes a fetish for sound, noise is the result.”

The mag also contains a review of the obscure Black Phlegm LP “Muzak for Abbatoirs”; a brief overview Michigan-based Christian label Pathway Records courtesy of John Olson from Wolf Eyes (“makes the Shaggs sound like Negative FX”); an article on the prolific Swedish cassette scene; interviews with Romain Perrot of VOMIR, Jean-Luc Angles (aka Zone Nord) and Scandinavian artist Dan Johansson of Sewer Election and Dog Holocaust; and reviews galore include a rave for Japanese noise babe Masonna’s 1995 tape “The Passion of Rubbers”.

The writers definitely expect the reader to be familiar with noise culture going in, which can make some of the terminology alienating for daytrippers like me, but those with a natural curiosity about sound and the avant garde can’t help but be drawn in by the minutiae of this well-defined subculture. Considering how transient many of these recordings are, documentation like this is incredibly important.

GX Jupitter-Larsen’s first person article “30 Years of the Haters” is surprisingly and disappointingly brief, but it does clarify that the project’s initial intent was not sound-based, but performance-based. While sound was used as a ‘pragmatic cue’ for the beginning and ending of each performance, it wasn’t until over the 100th performance that sound became a deliberate, integral part of The Haters. Jupitter-Larsen also talks about the influence of wrestling: “the purest form of theatre of the absurd, one of non-confrontational violence where stereotypes are exaggerated beyond all recognition.”

Steve Underwood writes about the Messthetics cassette scene, Patrick Barber of Apraxia Records talks about signature noise packaging and Carlos Giffoni of New York’s NO FUN Festival gives a rather self-congratulatory interview (admittedly, with a noise festival that sells out every show in a 600+ capacity venue, he has reason to boast), but the real showpieces are a 30+ page history of the legendary 80s Broken Flag label founded by Gary Mundi of Ramleh (which put out work by Sutcliffe Jügend, Maurizio Bianchi, New Blockaders, Con-Dom and more), and Alice Kemp’s dense philosophical treatise on the transgressive performative art of Rudolf Eb.er with an abrupt piecemeal  structure that does justice to its extreme subject. Weaving Eb.er’s own work and obsessions (including domestic violence, trauma and the use of human and animal body parts as musical instruments and amplifiers) through the historical filter of the Surrealists, Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, the Vienna Actionists and the writings of Susan Sontag, Kemp’s piece encapsulates what I take to be the greater goal of the magazine as a whole, which is to offer a fascinating picture of an often marginalized art form by showing how its tendrils reach out into so many other elements of art history that to simply call it music is a reductive disservice.

This is only the first issue of As Loud as Possible and there is enough here to chew on for months – not to mention the mag’s likely fate as a valued resource for future reference – and another 200+ page issue is due out in the fall. Stay tuned.

- Kier-La Janisse

About the author:

Kier-La Janisse

Kier-La Janisse is a film writer and programmer, Owner/Artistic Director of Spectacular Optical Publications and founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, co-founded Montreal microcinema Blue Sunshine, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival (1999-2005) in Vancouver, was the Festival Director of Monster Fest in Melbourne, Australia and was the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (2005). She is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012) and contributed to Destroy All Movies!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (Fantagraphics, 2011), Recovering 1940s Horror: Traces of a Lost Decade (Lexington, 2014) The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul (University of Toronto Press, 2015) and We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale (PS Press, 2017). She co-edited and published the anthology books KID POWER! (Spectacular Optical, 2014), Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s (Spectacular Optical, 2015) and Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin (2017), and is co-editing Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television for release in late 2017. She is currently writing A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time: Children’s Programming and the Counterculture, 1965-1985, monographs about Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter and Patricia Birch’s Grease 2, and is in development on a TV series based on her book House of Psychotic Women with Rook Films.

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