issue 12 :: July 2007

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REVIEW: Austin Noise Music

Alex Keller “Oleander (three augusts)” CD (Mimeograph)

Alex Keller
Keller, known for his work in the Seattle collaberation Rebreather with Christopher DeLaurenti, moved to Austin in 2003 and has established himself as an electro-acoustic performer and installation artist in a town sorely lacking in installation art. He has mainly worked solo, but has performed with various ensembles of Rick Reed (now eschrewing the Abrasion Ensemble name) and participating in Austin New Music Co-Op events. The three Augusts in the title refer to three pieces performed or recorded in the Augusts of 2004, 2005 and 2006. August 2004 found Keller diffusing the ultra minimal “bonneville” to Bill Thompson and Brent Fariss’s Loft concert series. Three repeated elements -- low tones, a digital sample of a waverly chord, and a faint, high-pitched crackle -- cycle through an unknown pattren, hypnotic and meditative. The denser “Comes Marching” -- debuted at the AMODA performance series in 2005 -- employs extreme time-streching techniques to create layers of ghostly tones. “oleander (foreign)” completes the tryptich with a quiet droney opening that abruptly tranisitons to a grittier, crumbling ending. All three pieces exhibit a restrained approach to sound, almost if the sounds are meant to slowly creep through an architectual space. Or nervous system.
Venison Whirled “Deaf Sponge” CD (Curor)

Lisa Cameron, the long time drummer for the psych/prog/punk rock band ST 37, has been performing solo noise performances as Venison Whirled, a pun on an Austin meat processing store called Venison World (yes, you bring in your own deer and they cut it up for you. Welcome to Texas). The Venison Whirled approach is simple and direct: an object-- a snare drum, a bowl, a metal coat rack--is subjected to intense amplification and feedback with simple processing. Simplicity provides a rough, visceral noise music that is generally lacking in Austin, as the harsh noise here (and the rest of Texas) is usually heavily processed, so what you hear is the effects and the sound source is unimportant. Venison Whirled always leaves a hint, an aura of the physical object. The first track, “Six” assaults with intense low buzzes and interference patterns, methodically explored. In “Body of Light,” the buzz returns, warbling in pitch, with feeback tones swelling in the background. One can hear the cymbal (the sound source, I presume) being gently manipulated. “Rising of the Plains” uses less distortion, its layers of drones undulating water-like (hence the title?) through high-pitched feedback solos to deep, rumbly scapes, joyous and rewarding.
Book of Shadows “Mantis” CD (Ethedrone)
Book of Shadows was formed by Carlton Crutcher when he left ST-37 to pursue less structured and more experimental approaches. Using a simple synthesizer to generate pulsing drones which bind the other musicians (on this record Douglas Ferguson and Lori Varga) in a weave of drones. Sharon Crutcher then wordlessly sings over the reverb and echo drones. Each of the seven tracks follows a similar psychedelic and dreamy path, never trying to be structured, always blending in together, synthesizer, theremin and guitar + electronics. The bloopy and droning space music reminds me of when Voice of Eye would perform in Austin.
More information about creative musicians in Austin and the rest of Texas can be found at the Austinnitus site.
reviews and photos by Josh Ronsen


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Josh Ronsen
joshronsen (ate) yahoo (dote) com
2001 Brentwood
Austin, Texas 78757 USA