The Best St. Louis Noise/Experimental Concerts: January 2015

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"Noise" has become a blanket term for bands that explore and experiment around the beaten path. The genre, like others, is huge and diverse but not without its share of hangups. 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.

Many artists seemed to freeze in the wake of Ferguson, either shifting their focus to the matter at hand or dealing with the affair in a reclusive way. With news of gear theft and general unrest, 2014 was harsh to local music fans in general -- especially for the smaller niche groups. With continuing series from New Music Circle and the Society For Creative Survival, the theme this month seems to be "moving forward." Nathan Cook's Bruxism returns as well, along with visits from Xerome and Pharmakon.

New Music Circle Presents: Johanna Ballou w/ Stella Markou Saturday, January 17 The 560 Music Center 7 p.m. | $10-$20 Known for her collaborative work within the Welsh film and art scene, Johanna Ballou takes to contemporary classical music with an earnest style that feels calculated but luckily not too careful. Her approach to piano weaves between frantic fingering and patient chords to command a textural diversity. Ballou's blend of clean keys with electronics builds a strong tonal contrast that carries well atop a natural sense of rhythm. As with all New Music Circle events, the price scales from $10 to $20 with the cheaper ticket reserved for struggling artists and students.

Xerome Wednesday, January 21 Blank Space 9 p.m. | $5 w/ Drippy Inputs, Trancers Last year, Jeremy Harris shed his long-time moniker of Lazy Magnet in favor of simplicity: Jerome had emerged a distilled form of warbling synth locked in succinct, static-y dirges. To further complicate his own naming convention, Harris has re-branded again, but really, who can blame him? Jerome isn't exactly Google friendly and Xerome seems to fit the gloomy boom that Harris worked so hard to carve out from years of harsh noise. This is dance music that revels in the journey above the overrated destination (most often referred to as the "bass drop" or the breakdown). The subtle depth here rewards both passive and active listeners alike.

Read on for more noise and experimental shows through January.

Pharmakon w/ Ghost Ice Thursday, January 22 The Luminary 8 p.m. | $10/$12 Margaret Chardiet cut her teeth on the New York noise scene at an early age, releasing her first record at 17. In that same year, she appeared on Pruient's release Worm in the Apple -- a result of hanging around Dominick Fernow's record shop Hospital Productions. She even helped run Red Light Distinct, a seminal house space for noise shows. This work culminates in Pharmakon, Chardiet's on stage persona that works through amplified percussion and strong guttural howls. Amorphous beats squeeze out driven sounds with a static glaze, moving stark feminine shrieks through a funnel of feedback. Chardiet conducts a stringent noise that recalls the most refined of this genreless genre -- fans of experimental music in general should take notice.

The Society for Creative Survival presents the Compositions of David Scott Parker and Greg Mills Thursday, January 22 Tavern of Fine Arts 8 p.m. | free Greg Mills and David Scott Parker's Society for Creative Survival brings a tightly curated night of compositions, including a performance of John Cage's "Lecture on Nothing," specially arranged by Parker. This comes as part of the pair's on-going series at the Tavern of Fine Arts which has also features improvised music by other area artists including Dave Stone, Joshua Weinstein and Tracy Andreotti among others. Also look out for the next installment on February 3 with more of Parker's piano and lyrical work.

Bruxism 7 w/ Mister Ben, Travis Bursik, Ajay Khanna Friday, January 30 Foam Coffee & Beer 9 p.m. | $5 This show comes as a victory lap after a successful year of concerts for Nathan Cook. Bruxism 1-6 brought bi-monthly oddities with free gifts at the door including handmade zines and special cassette releases. These events have always emphasized the subtle approach to subversive sound -- quiet noise, if you will. While Travis Bursik crafts slow-burners, the patient ear will be rewarded with an inward, meditative drone. For contrast, Mister Ben brings a frenetic guitar mess through the careful clawing of his fretboard. As one-half of long-time noise act Brain Transplant, Ajay Khanna crafts sound through the live play of his own audio programs, but on this night he delivers a focused solo act.

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 joseph.hess@riverfronttimes.com

Joseph Hess is the clubs editor for the Riverfront Times. When he's not writing for RFT, he's hosting 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.

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