by Joseph Hess
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.
Earlier this week, we here at RFT Music gave a thorough rundown of prominent noise and experimental acts in St. Louis. There were a few omissions of course, as we're not perfect, but reactions to the list invoked a heated discussion as to whether or not the bands listed should even be considered musicians. Do you have an opinion? Check out The 13 Best St. Louis Noise/Experimental Bands in 2013 and chime in on the comments below.
November is here with shopping season in full effect. Curb your consumerism with ambient works and world-class pianists. New Music Circle continues its stellar 55th season with an audio-visual showcase while the Schlafly Tap Room shows off new renovations to its show room. If you're one of the many who can't resist Black Friday sales, take solace in the few shows this month with free admission but don't forget to tip your bartender, or your sound artist. Let's drown out those awful X-Mas tunes with eerie electronics, together.
Kevin Harris and Kingston Family Singers at BANK Projects Saturday, November 9 8 p.m. | free
From a wall of boutique synth boxes brimming with countless inputs, bright orange patch cables protrude every which way, like a series of veins pumping blood through a robot. Experimental artist Kevin Harris coordinates this network of patches to generate a set of modular sounds to manipulate during his performances, which notably feature live, psychedelic video synthesis. At this show, expect video projections and panned quadrophonic sound from both Harris and the Kingston Family Singers. The latter is a Belleville collective of experimental sight and sound that utilizes everything from drone and harsh electronic noise to found sound and video. The artists will completely envelop onlookers with this enclosed installation, so prepare for a surreal experience.
Ant'lrd with Isidro and Eric Hall Sunday, November 10 8 p.m. | $5 | all ages
Ant'lrd prefers to soak its slow synth-driven beats in deep reverb, but this isn't to mask a lack of melody or any other deficiency. Rather, Ant'lrd accentuates simple, driving songs with processed embellishments, and the resulting wash of sound is both relaxing and engaging. Isidro and Eric Hall are proper heads to open the show, as both artists approach electronic music from different perspectives. All three acts feel deeply meditative, as they use subtle pieces that gradually build into grand songs. The Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center might be the most ideal venue for this kind of performance, with its keen acoustics and ample supply of couches for comfortable seating.
Little Howlin' Wolf with N Colyar P and N.N.N. Cook at Foam Thursday, November 14 9 p.m. | $5 | all ages
No no no, this isn't the Howlin' Wolf you know, this is Little Howlin' Wolf. Completely different. If you are, in fact, educated on the differences between the little and regular howlin' wolves, then Little's inclusion on this list might make a little more sense. Little Howlin' Wolf churns out quality blues, and does so with a penchant for comedy and free-improvisation. By experimenting with abstract sounds to augment a beloved genre, the man blows apart expectations of what blues should be. Chicago's N Colyar P eschews the blues and travels a little further "out there" than Little Howlin' Wolf, bringing a feedback-driven jam to the lineup.
N.N.N. Cook, one of the few artists we criminally omitted from The 13 Best St. Louis Noise/Experimental Bands in 2013 list, will open the night with his subtle soundscapes. Actually, with an artist like N.N.N. Cook, one can't be too sure what will be brought to the table. This artist often emits sound with an awfully sharp focus on dynamics. Known for his work with the local experimental music label Close/Far, N.N.N. Cook is an absolute asset to St. Louis and a wondrous performer to witness live.
Olivia Block with Luis Recoder and Sandra Gibson at Contemporary Art Museum Friday, November 15 7 PM | $10-20
New Music Circle brought Olivia Block to St. Louis in May 2012, where she performed a quadrophonic (that's right, four speakers) piece. This time Block returns with two experimental filmmakers in tow. Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder are a film duo who use projectors to supply light, and manipulate shown images with glass, lens and fog. The two operate, in unison, separate devices to produce a vision that warps and evolves in real-time. Block will generate a live sound art collage from electronics and field recordings in response to Gibson and Recoder's abstract visuals - "sensory overload" hardly describes the experience. This performance comes from both NMC and the St. Louis International Film Festival, a collaboration which should literally open eyes and ears to this show.
If the $20 admission feels a bit too steep, know that New Music Circle always offers a "struggling music fan" discount. Half that will technically get you in the door, but be careful not to splurge too much on alcohol after you've admitted to "struggling."
See also: Interview with Olivia Block (2012)
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 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.