Punk rock's outcry at pop culture is played out. Thirty some-odd years later, we're in the future and we're bored. Some still ball their spite for pop in other ways. Deliberately shrill and mostly dense, noise has become a blanket term for bands who explore and experiment around the beaten path. The genre, like others, isn't without its share of hang-ups, but that's why we're here. Every month, we supply the short list of sure bets in St. Louis, ranging from needlessly complex to minimalist drone. Connect the weird to your ears.
The schizophrenic weather feels all too apt. This month, witness blazing synth gurus Bitchin Bajas or St. Louis legend Ghost Ice. We've peppered in punk bands as well, especially ones with a healthy helping of feedback and static. Mixed bills are the spice of sounds this September. As usual, we'll go ahead and say these are your best bets, but they're not the only bets. Try as we might, RFT is not an all-seeing eye. Drop knowledge in the comments below, but keep it clean - the NSA is watching.
Bitchin Bajas with Raglani, Burlin Mud and Trancers at Apop Records. September 10 8 PM | $5
Coming from the brain of Chicago's Cooper Crain, known best for CAVE, Bitchin Bajas locks neo-hippy soundscape into beats. Parts drone on in loops while a stray woodwind fights against murky keys. The whole affair repeats, building unto a ritual of dense noise. Keys populate the sound, adding tonal guidance to a spacey group who manages, just barely, to stay grounded here on Earth. Once a solo endeavor, Bitchin Bajas now works through a trio, indulging with deep psychedelia. Luckily these hippies eschew the drum circle, or any sort of percussion really, allowing for focused tones from tape machines and time-warped electronics.
Bitchin Bajas might very well be bitchin' enough to make the show, but St. Louis is no louse. Modular synth-guru Raglani plays with the trippy Trancers and Rick Wilson's Burlin Mud. These are all exceptional reasons to get weird. Really weird.
No Age with Ghost Ice and Trauma Harness at The Billiken Club. September 16 8 PM | $5 (for non-students only)
The SLU-based Billiken Club often hosted musical miscreants in years' past. This relaunch is a return to form with a full pile of noise. No Age from L.A. cruises through on its latest LP, An Object, out on Sub Pop Records. The still-born child of many '90s ne'er-do-wells, No Age takes what old heads used to call "indie rock" and crams it through a woodchipper. The result compacts guitar into fierce rhythmic boxes while throaty croons chug along. The guitar here manages to fill in any craving for bass or keys, and does so through a pile of footswitch tricks. There's a fulcrum between rock and full-on feedback squalor; No Age occupies that space with succinct sound, calling on a focused, minimalist approach.
Ghost Ice hits noise with control, pushing a feral ambiance through two towering speakers. Truly in stereo, white-washed walls of static race around. Perceptions of synthetic versus organic sounds become challenged. Don't bother seeking audio or video online. With over ten years of shows, Ghost Ice remains for one purpose - the performance. Even if one were to find a crummy video online, no handycam can capture his live sense of spatial confusion. Trauma Harness bridges whatever gap remains between noise and post-punk.
Although Billiken Club shows were (generously) free, budget cuts force a new approach. More sounds per pound are offered if you're into double dipping. Catch No Age on the 16th, and freeload right into Lapalux (from Essex) the next night. Save your ticket stub, though. That's how you get in.
Already Dead Tapes Showcase at Apop Records. September 18 8 PM | $7
Seven bands for seven dollars. Before you moan at the impending marathon and click elsewhere, there's a subtle detail these shows tend to share with hardcore or punk. Sets last roughly 15-20 minutes. The A.D.D. laden population should rest easy. After all, isn't a schizophrenic jamming of genres more in line with American society than say, an easy to follow, repetitive pop hit? One would think. Britches, featured above, gives a sampling of the gig's particular flavor, but don't dismiss one for the other. Already Dead, the tape label from Chicago, brings bands from GERMANY, Chicago and Atlanta. Gawk at this list:
TEENAGE TASTELESS (Berlin)
PROBLEMS THAT FIX THEMSELVES (Chicago)
BILL TUCKER (Chicago)
ELECTRIC NATURE (Atlanta)
OU OÙ (St. Louis)
BRITCHES (St. Louis)
JAKE LEECH (St. Louis)
Tree Blood with Mancontrol, What We Won't See, The Funs and Eric Hall at Blank Space. September 25 8 PM | $5
Tree Blood might be my favorite band name of all time. Their songs are fairly straight ahead structurally, but the swampy guitar and its tendency to spazz over moaning punk vocals digs deep hooks. This five band bill might be September's best cluster, with Mancontrol from Memphis, who builds sound from photo-optic cells, playing next to the fuzzy freak-out of The Funs.
Where Eric Hall grinds through loops using thick tones, his sounds often form grooves. What We Won't See is exceptionally solid, building angsty noise rock through a locked drum machine. Chris Smentowski, the brains behind Brain Transplant, performs six-string surgery in What We Won't See, lending unhinged edges to every song.
Each act shares droning, repetitive rhythm with walls of noise piled on top. The whole affair reeks of odd-dancing and probably shifty eyes, unsure if the awkward ass-shakes are socially acceptable. Blank Space's usually dim enough to allow for acting out.
Think I left something out? Piss off! No, actually, you're probably right. Share what you know in the comments below. For the future, drop me a line any time at email@example.com
Joseph Hess is the Editorial Coordinator for the Riverfront Times. When he's not, you know, coordinating, he is the DJ of the experimental rock show Wrong Division over at KDHX (88.1 FM). Visit his personal blog here for more on this city's DIY and experimental music. Or stalk him on Twitter.