Wednesday, February 27, 2008

John Wiese: Soft Punk

I bought John Wiese's Soft Punk -- released on Troubleman Unlimited -- many months ago, though I hadn't a chance to sit down and really listen to it until a few days ago. This would be my first exposure to John Wiese himself; I am familiar with some of the other bands he as worked with, though, I am not familiar with the music he has done with those bands. I bought the record on a whim too, at the recommendation of a friend. I didn't have any expectations.

Listening to the album from start to finish in one sitting was an intense experience. This is the kind of record that requires a lot of endurance from the listener -- you will experience listener fatigue. It's loud, harsh noise for a lot of the album, and it's relentless. There are some breaks in the noisy harshness, though, these breaks are rare. Some of the breaks that I did enjoy most were the when I could make out punk-influenced drum beats and vocals that had been heavily distorted and looped over themselves again and again to create a distinctly new pattern from the original sample. It brought to mind an old punk motto from UK band Discharge -- Noise Not Music. The album is a lot of mood and atmosphere, almost no melody at all, and lots of chaos. I like all these things about the album -- its what I feel to be the best reflection of reality, and it's what generally drew me to noise in the first place.

I like the idea of enduring a record -- I'm not sure why, but I find it appealing. I suppose it's because the necessary endurance makes me focus more closely on what I'm subjecting my ears to. I also really like the chaotic nature of the record, as it's completely unpredictable and without conclusion. Even though it may all blend together into a cacophony of white noise at parts, my endurance-induced close focus will find further patterns of noise within the noise. So, depending on my own focus while listening, the noise can have a different sound upon another listening.

I'd definitely recommend listening with headphones -- you won't be able to get the full experience though speakers. Wiese uses stereo headphones to his advantage by switching different sounds through left/right earphones commonly throughout the entire album. The effect created from this cacophony was physically noticeable -- kind of like how a heavy bass sound feels at a live concert, though, this is forced back and forth between your ears.

Overall, I liked it. I don't think most other people would. It's not the kind of record that you can jump into noise with -- this is more of an end result than a starting point. Those unfamiliar with the genre, I recommend listening to it once at first (and not necessarily the whole thing). I think it's likely that you won't think much of the record, so put it away for awhile. Come back to it months or even years later and I think you'll have a new appreciation for it.

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