by Joseph Hess
Deliberately shrill and mostly dense, "noise" has become a blanket term for bands that 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.
"I want to do my fucking noise music and punk for until die," says Hide of Japan's Ultra Bidé (see the video below). The best thing about being a fan of so-called "noise" is the openness of the genre. Ultra Bidé, performing at Fubar Saint Louis on February 8, could be classified as a punk-rock band. Spacey effects and wild feedback take the group off the beaten path of punk and into stranger territory. Like most cases, the band identifies itself as "noise" because it fits nowhere else.
Throughout the month of February, St. Louis will host a wealth of shows that zero in on what it means to be "experimental." From the Ultra Bidé gig (a group with a mostly punk-rock background) to the latest installment in the Lemp Arts Center's Quiet Concert series, the St. Louis scene has never felt so varied.
As always, we'll provide the time and place while you supply the ears and eyes. If you think we've left out a vital gig or you'd like to plug a show we might not know about, contribute to the comments below.
Ultra Bidé with The Conformists, Drop A Grand and Hell Night Saturday, February 8 Fubar Saint Louis (3108 Locust) 7 p.m. | $10-12 | All Ages
Ultra Bidé comes from Kyoto, Japan, and declares itself a "noise" band. These two facts make for good qualifiers on their own, but Ultra Bidé crafts harsh rock at quick tempos, using a wild range of sounds to complement each song. The band makes use of two bass guitars, eschewing the overused six-string for extra low-end crunch. The drums feel like typical punk fare, but they wander off into odd territory and feel consistent with the band's overall direction.
The Conformists lead a great opening line-up including Drop A Grand and Hell Night. If you're unfamiliar, check out either one of The Conformists' albums recorded with legendary engineer Steve Albini.
MILD POWER show series featuring Heatsick with Black James and Raglani Thursday, February 13 Kerr Foundation Building (21 O'Fallon Street) 8 p.m. | $10 | All Ages
Heatsick travels from Berlin to deliver distinctive dance music. By locking rhythms onto noisy loops, Heatsick explores tight percussive sound with sharp melody. Opener Black James matches Heatsick well by merging uptempo pieces with sultry ambient work. Often delving into trance-like parts, Black James blends the songs together in a live mix and often keeps an upbeat feel throughout.
Raglani rounds out the cast with sweeping modular synth, building a complex web of tones and textures into atmospheric songs. The focus on crossing experimental with accessible electronic music provides a solid entry point for curious showgoers. Live feeds of each performer will be projected in the show space, and the use of video feedback will allow for an unpredictable but stimulating visual element.
This gig narrowly misses Valentine's Day, but the intimate show space and ambient nature of each performer makes the gig a sure bet for any couple interested in exploring new electronic music together.
Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center is turning twenty this year, and the Quiet Concert series is a new, exciting addition to the venue's programming. Hot off of last November's Noisefest X, the staff behind LNAC formed a bimonthly series focused on the subtlies of sound in noise music. The careful approach to low volume and space comes influenced by American composer Morton Feldman.
The most common assumption about noise is that it's meant to be loud or abrasive, and LNAC's Quiet Concert seeks to eschew that notion by doing the very opposite. On Valentine's Day, test your partner who always claims how "open-minded" they are: Take them them to LNAC for a keen, intimate evening of experimental sound. Oh, and come on time. The show is called "Quiet Concert" after all -- meaning there's no admission during the performances.
Greg Farough will perform a 45-minute piece entitled "Fawn." Mark Sarich will collaborate with local musicians Rush Dorcett and Grant Riew to premiere Sarich's piece "Book of Songs."
Think I left something out? Piss off! No, actually, you're probably right. I usually cap this column at three or four 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.