On Wednesday night, the concert “Nothing Changes: Raw Sound Transgression” at the Output studio featured a star-studded lineup of underground noise and avant gard musicians including Prurient, Genesis P-Orridge, and Merzbow. Despite all falling into the broadly named genre of “noise music,” each set was distinct and an apt showcase of some of the biggest names in the genre.
It was a late show, and I showed up during Prurient’s set. Prurient is Madison, Wisconsin artist Dominick Fernow who crafts acoustic landscapes of sound to couch black metal screams of anguish. Walking into the room was a trip in and of itself. Prurient was playing the entirety of his 2006 record Pleasure Ground, which has four different tracks over the course of 45 minutes. Prurient’s had a busy week, having just released his latest LP Frozen Niagra Falls this past Tuesday (5/12).
Fernow stood behind his table hidden by fog, with a microphone in hand, flailing, seemingly possessed. The audience swayed with the music, occasionally breaking into small fits of violent outbursts of moshing when a particular screams and bursts of noise puncturing through static and ambience.
Next up was Genesis P-Orridge, a legendary figure in the industrial and noise community. S/he was the singer for seminal avant gard band of the 70s and 80s, Throbbing Gristle and fronts his/her band Psychic TV. S/he grew up in England but is now based locally in Brooklyn, and plays out a couple of times every year, and Psychic TV had their latest album Snakes come out last December.
For this show s/he was doing the Psychic TV 1994 album Electric Newspaper and was joined by Aaron Dilloway from the band Wolf Eyes. P-Orridge was in good humor, joking with the audience and leading everyone in singing happy birthday to Dilloway. Dilloway sat behind an array of pedals and DJ equipment while P-Orridge read a mesmerizing poem about being consumed by different things, and appropriately, the music seemed absorbing, relying on repetitious phrases slowly changed with the music. Behind, there was a slide show of images, including P-Orridge and his/her deceased life partner Lady Jayne.
The headliner, Japan’s Merzbow, is a rare treat for the city; the last time I can find a show in NY was in 2011. Merzbow is Masami Akita’s moniker and a pioneer for the genre of noise. He’s released over 400 recordings since 1979, and collaborated with dozens of artists including the metal band Boris, the aforementioned Genesis P-Orridge, and Faith No More’s Mike Patton.
Akita cut a surreal figure on stage, with his hair across his face and features distorted by fog. What started as a low rumble, turned into drone, and then a wave of noise. The waves continued coming, and soon enough wave after wave of noise abrasively pummeled the audience. That pummeling swelled and subsided with every expertly added layer, and, like P-Orridge’s poem discussed earlier that night, felt consuming, engaging, and emotional.
Some people around me were dancing, but most were just hypnotically following along with every dynamic shift. On the moments when Merzbow would change it up or add something unexpected, cheers could be heard coming from all corners of the room, with a couple flash in the pan moments of people thrashing around. However, by the end of the set, almost everyone seemed subdued, with eyes down, unmoving. It wasn’t for lack of enjoyment; it was out of respectful resign to the physical power of the music, and I left feeling both satisfied and exhausted. One of the coolest shows I’ve seen all year.
Article: Steven Klett