That’s not music! (Part One) : Noise Not Music

Last year I published an article about music which could loosely be described to the uninitiated ear as mere noise (here). Being an aficionado of extreme and fringe musics, I have decided to broach the topic again and choose a further selection of my favourite LPs which best demonstrate the power, beauty and ultimate listenability of this much misunderstood sub-genre.

Aaron Dilloway – Modern Jester
2012 – Hanson Records

Modern Jester

Dilloway was once a member of arch noise terrorists Wolf Eyes (more later) but began rather prolifically releasing his own material in 1999. This represents my absolute favourite Dilloway LP so far as during the course of its colossal eighty five minute running time, all bases are covered – pure ear troubling noise, found sounds, tape experiments, caustic drones, disjointed loops and quieter, unsettling moments. As a statement of intent it manages to say absolutely everything about the album’s purpose which most of today’s releases – whatever their genre – are incapable of doing so. A powerful listening experience.

Hair Police – Mercurial Rights
2013 – Type

Mercurial Rites

This formidable trio share members with several other denizens of the US noise scene and on this their latest album present a dense stew of feedback, caustic electronics and intermittently screamed vocals. There are quieter sections too which only serve to jar the listener when a full scale assault commences. The band, like many others on the noise circuit are prolific self-releasers of albums, EPs and cassettes and as a consequence can be relatively easy to pick up. Uneasy and unsettling in equal measure.

Mnemonists – Horde
1981 – Dys


The seminal US free improv/experimental collective recorded this fantastically noisy album back in 1981 which I purchased not long after release from my local independently run record shop. I had no idea what to expect apart from a few cryptic reviews I’d read and so I was completely taken aback when I played it for the first time. It was clearly music with discernible instruments – drums, guitars, horns etc – but everything seemed to be constructed around a completely alien time signature. Periods of relative calm appeared in the melee only to be obliterated by jagged eruptions of frenetic noise. I’ve played this record countless times since its purchase thirty three years ago and still occasionally dig it out for an airing even now. It truly does sound as fresh as that first spin back in ’81. Gloriously blurred and confusing sounds.

Evan Parker – The Topography Of The Lungs
1970 – Incus Records

The Topography of the Lungs

The penultimate LP I’ve chosen for part one of this article is by British free improv saxophonist Evan Parker. I know what you might be thinking, this is a jazz record and will probably be full of aimless noodling and interminable solos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Parker’s secret weapon on this LP is guitarist Derek Bailey who approaches his instrument like a man who has never seen a guitar before and has a total of twelve fingers. The two main players feed off each other magnificently, bristling like fireworks before bringing the sound down to a hushed whisper then building into a maelstrom of atonal noise. Drummer Han Bennink also deserves a mention for disregarding all notions of traditional rhythm completely and adding to the sense of extreme disorientation throughout the session. Not merely a jazz record then, this is simply a bona fide noise LP of the highest order.

Wolf Eyes – Human Animal
2006 – Sub Pop

Human Animal

Wolf Eyes are the modern kings of noise in my humble opinion. Prolific to the point of insanity, listings website Discogs catalogues a total of 261 releases since 1998 – that’s the equivalent of issuing around 16 LPs every year but this doesn’t take into account numerous split releases and various collaborations with other bands. I chose this album for inclusion because it’s recorded beautifully, a quality which brings the best out in a noise LP. There’s no let up in the tightly wound array of scorched and blasted sounds here from the metallic clanging of the initial intro to the all out nihilistic assault of last track ’Noise Not Music’, surely the band’s credo. Noise is hard to get right if you want achieve a high replay value but this album has that value in spades. Ferociously uncompromising but strangely hypnotic fare from masters of the genre.


5 thoughts on “That’s not music! (Part One) : Noise Not Music

    • unsubscriber 16/09/2015 / 9:10 pm

      Thanks for the comment Mr Davidsohn, the Wolf Eyes LP is indeed a monster. All the best.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. lcmt 18/09/2015 / 6:29 am

    I really like reading your album reviews, because the stuff you write about has got to be completely opposite to my usual taste in music. Yet it seems like there’s always one album in the bunch I would really like to hear. The Evan Parker album intrigues me. I’m writing that one down on a scrap of paper.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. unsubscriber 18/09/2015 / 6:37 am

    Thanks for your kind words Lin, it’s great to know that my somewhat far out choices inspire a few others to dive in and investigate further. The Evan Parker album is definitely worth tracking down as it’s so out there and as far away from accepted forms of music as you can possibly get using standard instruments to create it. I hope you can grab a copy and then share your thoughts with me after listening to it, if not then feel free to contact me and I’ll DropBox you the files.


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