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Beautiful Noise: John Wiese’s sound art will freak you out

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

In the late ’80s, powerviolence emerged as a distinct subcategory of punk, condensing heavy metal with hardcore in songs as short as 20 seconds.

Like the name suggests, bands of the ilk, including Spazz, Insect Warfare and Bastard Noise, violently dismantled the assumptions of the genres that influenced powerviolence, sprinkling their heavy works with noise pieces and jazz-fusion riffs.

This background of sonic breakdown acted as a proving ground for artists like John Wiese and Lance Higdon, part of a free, challenging and outrageously loud bill this Friday at the Dorcol Distilling Company. Higdon, who helped curate the event via his “local creative catchall” Resonant Interval, spoke with the Current about the natural progression from powerviolence to noise. “Where can you go from writing a one-second song?” Higdon asked. “Only vertically. The sounds become instantaneous. Noise is all the parts of an Insect Warfare song playing at once.”

Though noise is conventionally understood as unwanted sound, 20th century artists from John Cage and Lou Harrison to Lou Reed and Sonic Youth folded it into their work. In the field of sound art, noise transforms from unwelcome byproduct to a work’s central focus, using conventional instruments in new contexts or ordinary, nonmusical objects as instruments.

For Higdon, it’s also a logical step in the minimalist process, “the end game of refusing technique. The only things easier than barre chords are no chords.” In his debut performance with Davis Jackson as Felix Et Fur, the pair will play junk metal through the mangled lens of pawnshop guitar pedals in quadrophonic (surround) sound to “approach noise from oblique directions.”

At the top of the bill, sound artist and former member of Bastard Noise and Sunn O))) John Wiese will haunt the Dorcol Distilling Co. with his studies in feedback and digital manipulation. As Sissy Spacek, Wiese released multiple and madly varying recordings by re-splicing the same 20 minutes of material, a think-piece on sound’s mutability.

With his background in powerviolence, Weise provides a unique scope for his sound art. As Higdon said, Weise’s work “isn’t polite gallery music, but it’s not stupid hammer-smashed-face-rippers either. Aesthetes and headbangers are both going to feel a little bit weird at this show, and that’s good—discomfort makes room for growth.”

San Anto artist Justin Boyd also makes an appearance on the bill with his new collaborative project Blacknail. As Mat Roy pounds his drumset, interpreted through Boyd’s modular synthesizer, and the Grasshopper Lies Heavy’s James Woodard tears at his guitar, Blacknail will passionately deconstruct the music each member makes individually. (Full disclosure: Woodard is a Current contributor)

The Austin-based trio SSBT—whose drummer Chris Cogburn has brought the improvised music fest No Idea to SA since 2006—will also present their outward-bound fusion of structured death metal and free improvisation, all with a healthy dose of noise. For audiophiles looking to expand their palate and experience music well outside its conventional box, Dorcol is the place to hear experiments in improvised noise. Just don’t forget the ear protection, as the show takes place in the distillery itself, further amplifying the evening’s avant-gardists.

John Wiese with Felix Et Fur, SSBT and Blacknail

8pm Fri, April 4
Dorćol Distilling Company
1902 S Flores
(210) 229-0607

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