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by Justin Farrar

November 1, 2013

From the Depths: Noise-Beat America

by Justin Farrar  |  November 1, 2013

Welcome to From the Depths, a recurring feature that spotlights deep underground sounds lurking within the Rhapsody catalog.

With excellent new full-lengths now out from Unicorn Hard-On and Vatican Shadow, it's the perfect time for From the Depths to shed light on the thriving intersection of noise/drone experimentation and cutting-edge techno and house. Over the last several years, a unique sound has emerged from the American underground. Saddled with a bevy of labels -- including technoise, noisy techno, noise-beat and basement house -- it's the output of a varied collection of noise and noise-rock musicians who made bold forays into electronic dance music.

Not surprisingly, a good portion of this music is shot through with noise music's obsession with cacophony and obscurity. But there are exceptions. In fact, what's most striking is its penchant for diversity. Rhode Island artist Val Martino (aka Unicorn Hard-On) agilely balances punishing grooves (think T. Raumschmiere jamming with Olneyville Sound System) and radiant synth-hooks rooted in electro, acid and schaffel. While her latest effort, Weird Universe (one of the best albums of 2013), most certainly is heavy and edgy, it's also fun and inviting. Fellow New Englander Ren Schofield negotiates a similar balance between raw rhythmic thrust and compositional refinement on the handful of releases under his Container moniker. Quite often his beats are disruptive and caked in dirty distortion. After repeated spins, however, it becomes clear that he's a shrewd producer in possession of a highly evolved understanding of minimal-techno design. Dominick Fernow's output under the Vatican Shadow alias also should be addressed: More deeply rooted in industrial than either Unicorn Hard-On or Container, he knows how to create dance music that's dark and lurching yet utterly lavish as well.

While most noise-beat musicians have emerged from the American noise/drone scene, there also exists a handful of artists and labels with backgrounds in actual club culture that have made key contributions to the movement. By way of his Silent Servant project, Los Angeles' Juan Mendez has crafted a blend of vintage industrial menace and extremely streamlined techno. (His outstanding Negative Fascination record was unleashed late last year courtesy of Fernow's own Hospital Productions imprint.) Another key player is Brooklyn-based L.I.E.S. (Long Island Electrical Systems). Founded by Ron Morelli, the label's ever-growing roster contains freaky, DIY beat-makers such as Svengalisghost and Torn Hawk.

For my Noise-Beat America playlist I went overboard ... completely! In addition to a track from each and every producer and musician already mentioned, it contains vital cuts from Profligate, Ital, Alberich, Euglossine, German Army, Lazy Magnet, M. Geddes Gengras, Mincemeat or Tenspeed, 100% Silk/Not Not Fun heavies LA Vampires and many more.

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