by Joseph Hess
Punk rock's outcry at pop culture is played out. Some 30 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 hangups, but that's why we're here. Every month, we supply a short list of sure bets in St. Louis, ranging from needlessly complex to minimalist drone. Connect the weird to your ears.
This season brings shorter days and longer nights, and, as we all know, anything worth a damn is done after dark. Autumn in St. Louis brings an influx of stranger gigs each year, culminating in overblown Halloween shindigs. But before we get to ghouls and ghosts, treat your ears to Marty Ehrlich and his Rites Quartet at the Kranzberg Arts Center on October 4, courtesy of New Music Circle. This month, we'll mostly shy away from the intellectual and soil our noise with a little rock & roll through European heavyweights Nicoffeine and Staer. There's more to see and hear all month, including SCUZZFEST 2013 and the return of Freezerburn Ben's live concert series: NoiSE.
Nicoffeine with Good Luck at the Hog Slaughter at Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center October 12 8 p.m. | $5
Nicoffeine filters German industrial into palpable grooves with booming bass riffs. Sparse yells lend a human voice to an otherwise oppressive wall of static and cymbals. The drumming goes beyond mindless bashing with jazzy emphasis; its pitter-patter comes with careful nuance. Guitarist Soheyl Nassary bounces from stage to showgoer, forcing down the fourth wall in favor of gripping attention. The trio really just parties on stage, reveling in a massive wash of feedback and off-mic screams. Nicoffeine never comes off contrived, and its songs carry heft and several layers. Tasty, salty layers of nasty noise.
Arrive on time for local openers (and recent recipients of Best Band Name in our Best Of St. Louis issue) Good Luck at the Hog Slaughter. Frantic chords over throaty yells make for contemporary punk music that comes charged by mid-'80s emo. Busy drums flutter under the constant whirl of super-melodic guitars. You might recognize members from past and present endeavors, including Falsetto Boy, Forteana, There's a Killer Among Us, Muscle Brain and Airport Elementary School.
Kevin Harris with Kingston Family Singers at BANK Projects October 12 8 p.m. | Free
Not only do modular synthesizers cost roughly the same as a human kidney, the brainwork behind getting those contraptions to work requires a degree in electrical engineering. Kevin Harris does nothing to prove otherwise, expertly merging the audio and visual worlds through careful manipulation. Kingston Family Singers employs projections as well, making use of drones among an amalgam of brainy sounds to form a pure performance of sight and sound. The whole affair is free, but BANK Projects is a small space so arrive on time. First come, first served.
The Conformists with Yowie, Staer (NORWAY), Child Abuse (NY) at Schlafly Tap Room October 17 8 p.m. | Free
After switching lead singers in late 2011, the Conformists mostly went into hiding. From just few shows in 2012 to nearly none this year, the group scaled back and hit the basement. As its members continue to work on a followup to 2010's None Hundred, we get a sneak preview, live and in person. St. Louis math-rock legends Yowie augment the gig with a brain-bending argument of warped guitars behind the sharp percussion of Shawn O'Connor, whom we recently named best drummer in St. Louis.
Really, you should look into attending because there's a noise-rock band coming all the way from NORWAY called Staer. This young trio tears through songs that feel frighteningly dark and complex. Brooklyn's Child Abuse joins Staer on a three-week tour through the States and will round out this bill with its own jangly, angry noise-rock.
Tera Melos with Zorch at The Demo October 20 8 p.m. | $10-12
Tera Melos somehow cornered the market on melodic math-rock through the mid-aughts, blending a total overdose of guitar pedals (see: processors) with haunting melodies. Finger-tapping amid micro-managed polyrhythms mix well with the smooth and sparse use of vocals. The resulting noise apparently captured the hearts of guitar jocks across the nation, because for the last seven or eight years we've seen a total influx of impersonators.
There are certainly worse things to replicate, but by the sound of its latest record, Tera Melos seems fully aware of its influence. The songs somehow reach a middle- round between pop and bizarre math-rock while eschewing the hints of emotional duress from earlier works. Rumor has it that Fang Island will join Tera Melos and Zorch on this St. Louis date. Fingers are firmly crossed.
Scuzzfest 2013 with Acid Kat Zine, Brain Transplant, the Night Grinder, Wamhoda, Dave Stone, Birches, Beauty Pageant at Blank Space October 26 8 p.m. | $10 (admission gets you the Scuzz Report 'zine and DVD combo)
If you've ever wanted a live primer on St. Louis experimental, Scuzzfest provides it with a crossbreeding of the youngest and oldest heads in local noise and free jazz. Exclusively local (with the exception of a rumored DJ Dog Dick appearance), Scuzzfest is a multistage show inside a single building bustling with both academic and punk approaches to harsh sound.
Saxophonist Dave Stone brings a sharp edge to his reed while Brain Transplant twists and warps the neck of a six-string to produce threatening texture. You might recognize Britches, the local trio whose post-rock leaks into needlessly noisy territory, but on this evening they'll be moonlighting as Birches, an even weirder alter-ego. The Night Grinder emerges at its first gig since being named best noise band in St. Louis, so now's your chance to learn why we at RFT would make such an accusation.
Beauty Pageant (featured in the video above) contains the parental unit of Scuzzfest, Mr. Ben. Known throughout the city for his confrontational Freezer Burn 'zine, Ben's collaborative efforts with local videographer Chizmo.TV gave birth to the South City Scuzz Report, an annual zine depicting the dirty underbelly of St. Louis music. Scuzzfest 2013 celebrates the release of a new edition with a hefty helping of noise and live video projections by Chad Eivins and Kevin Harris. The no-rules multimedia event is not to be missed.
Think I left something out? Piss off! No, actually, you're probably right. I usually cap this column at four or five shows. Share what you know in the comments below. For the future, drop me a line any time at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.