I was just listening to Arvo Zylo’s self released album of harsh electronic noise ‘Saint Street,’ and was thinking to myself “huh, there seems to be an unusual ground layer here I hadn’t noticed before,” so I took off my headphones to switch to the pair I normally use when I realized my roommate was vacuuming! I am not sure what the house cleaning ambience adds to the effect of Arvo Zylo‘s noise, but the aleatory juxtaposition put a smile on my face during the unhappy jump into the hinterlands I take when listening to this one.
Nearly all the tracks on ‘Saint Street’ are in the harsh noise wall style. Large swathes of grey static and bolts of black noise with Morse code blips and nasty little bits of distorted voices repeating themselves ad nauseum until they lose whatever their original context carried and disappear into the anxieties and fears of the listener. The impenetrable style and harsh delirium of Zylo’s music echoes the offensive arrogance and incongruent honesty displayed by Zylo in his interviews. He speaks of running power tools until they break in his apartment late at night despite protests from his neighbors in a recent interview with Chain D.L.K.! Though abrasive, this collection of songs (compiled from recordings made between 2003 and 2010) is rather subdued compared to the average power electronics release. The volume levels are softer than the norm, layering less dense and a coherent rhythmic structure or melodic line is often apparent. This results in a toned down or muted approach to harsh noise, the music not characterized by its shocking power to alienate with sheer volume and harsh textures but by the subtle ability to pull the listener in so they can explore the complex graded structure and find their own reason why the music is so unsettling.
The twelve minute long ‘Undula’ feels like driving some post apocalypse survival vehicle across the endless immensity of a flash frozen ocean. I hear ice being dug into and scattered by metal treads while my body rises and falls as I traverse the glaciated waves. A characteristic of the best harsh noise is the capability for it to distort time perception. A quarter hour’s worth of brutal void transmission and scathing walls of distortion can have the ability to transport the listener into another world entirely, I think this effect is partially created by alienating them from the outside world, the music creating a barrier that tells outsiders to either enter in or move away. ‘Arachnid Orchid’ is another highlight on the album. This one has a skin crawling mania of tiny high pitches screaming unrelenting from every direction, pummeling the ears, trying to work their way inside the brain and make it sick. My favorite though, is ‘Freudian Scrape,’ clocking in at five seconds shy of eighteen minutes, this epic slice of power noise is almost dancefloor friendly (in my mind that is.) Out of the whole album, this is the track that rouses me from sleep. It makes the rest of the pieces here seem soft and ambient in comparison, instead of channeling a mood or abstract frame of mind, this one carries the feeling of action, of making progress. It seems less bleak. Funny that I think of abortion every time I read the title of the only piece on here that seems alive.
This is a great collection from one of the heavier hitters in the new wave of harsh noise and well worth seeking out for those who can find primality in abrasive textures and appreciate how they can move us into new places if only we open ourselves to crossing their forbidding barriers.
Written by: Bryan Babylon
Label: Self-released / Format: CS/CDr
01 Upheaval (Version 3)
02 Blackened Bath
05 Sexual Transmissions
06 Cave Prong
07 Arachnid Orchid
09 Freudian Scrape