Death by Audio, that most evocatively named of Brooklyn show spaces, lived up to its full potential this weekend. Out of the drear and drizzle and inclemency of a Saturday that saw the Monster Island block party moved indoors and the East Village Radio music festival forced back a day, DBA cut a bold swath of sizzling circuits and thrumming sub-drones in its very own Noisefest. Put together by Danny Moore of New Haven psych-soundscape tapestry weavers, Heaven People, the fest featured a full 14 acts in brisk sequence, spanning a fine range of the noise specimens from minimal pulsar signals to ear-eviscerating feedback shrapnel-clouds.
One risk of any noise show is monotony. In the absence of more familiar musical embellishments, like say melody or rhythm or words, how does one hold audience attention? A 14 band bill would seem especially to run a critical risk of merging into a single wave of white noise by its finish. Not so with the noisefest! Sharp curation and a marked self-restraint on the parts of the performers (even in their most indiscriminately sound-spewing performances) kept things quickly moving and interesting. Many acts gave a sense of packing as many tricks as they could into a single gripping piece, then retiring gracefully from the stage before the audience was even done digesting what was happening. This was aided by the startling lack of laptops among the performers — almost everything was coming out electronics bedecked luggage and towering circuit racks via directly observable manipulations. See those finger fly over the nobs as the sounds spike and unravel! Hear the jet-intake roar of that pedal engaging! Revel in the warping hiss as plug X moves from socket Y to explosively-charged socket Z! And then, in less than six minutes, done, case packed, gone, audience left breathless and rapt, yelling “one more” on shrewdly deaf ears. It’s telling that one of the bands that stuck closest to familiar forms (rhythm! melody! vocals! intelligible song divisions!) was also the one that, by playing by far the longest set I caught that night, the one that found itself playing to the most diminished audience by the end, as first attention, then feet, began to wander.
I could go into more detail. I could describe the metal- and bone-shearing concussion that was Cathode Terror Secretion. Or the home-brewed technological wizardry of Casper Electronics. Or the seamless guitar-as-weapon double-set arranged by the Julie Mittens and Slasher Risk. Or Hyakutataki’s athletic drum solo freakout. I could discuss in great detail the centerpiece performance by Heaven People, a bottomless well of reverb-laden thumb pianos, gliding strings, static slurpskritch with the ornate detailing of a Faberge egg. But these sorts of sounds defy clear corralling no matter how many sentences I construct around them. Much better to experience them. Something which will be made eaiser if Moore ets his way and makes this the start of a series.
Yes, Death by Audio lived up to its name this weekend, but also to the names of hypothetical venues “Submergence in Sound” and “Magic in Circuitry”. Which, until the Silent Barn Mime Hoedown gets going (or the Dead Herring, um, never mind) may be best venue/performance accord we can hope for.