Friday, June 6, 2008

JOHN WIESE "Don't Move Your Finger" b/w "Corpse Solo" (Ecstatic Peace!)

A special brand of legitimacy is bestowed upon Noise artists who do not use pseudonyms. They get to do fancy shows funded by arts councils. (Nothing sounds less worthy of the Fine Arts gallery world than a Noise project called Feedback Twerp, or Stab Wound Crap Sack, regardless of how appropriate for the setting the music may be.) "Real name" artists don't have the burden of adhearing to one specific aesthetic the way that a project with a psuedonym must. In the case of John Wiese, I would never suggest that he is undeserving of any of his success, only that he wouldn't have had the same type of success had he called himself something goofy like almost everybody else. The issue is, how do these artists use their "real name" credibility to further their music, or the genre as a whole. Last year, Wiese toured Europe in a lineup featuring some current popular Noise artists, C. Spencer Yeh and the members of D. Yellow Swans, and some old-school English Free Improv musicians like Evan Parker and John Edwards. The shows were billed as "Free Noise" in an uninspired attempt to mashup the two genre names-- as if Noise weren't somehow "free" in the same sense as Free Jazz and Free Improv in the first place. (Or does it mean that they weren't charging a cover at the door?)

The result of this tour, for the rest of Wiese's work, seems to be a renewed excitement about improvisation and the musical aesthetic of Improv. After he returned from tour, Wiese set up the Sissy Spacek 13-tet, a truly abominable Improv performance featuring members of Mika Miko and No Age who, I'm certain if quizzed, could not name any of the original members of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, let alone grasp what Wiese was actually asking them to do in the performance. It was as if only half of the thirteen players (Mitchell Brown and Joseph Hammer specifically) were even aware that Free Improvisation was a musical practice that hundreds of brilliant people have devoted their entire careers to since the mid-1960's-- i.e.: a practice with a rich history to which a player must have some responsibility before they get up in front of a sold-out crowd and start fucking around.

Wiese has been much more successful adapting his newfound interest in old-school Improv to his solo work. The cassette, "Don't Move Your Finger b/w Corpse Solo" is the first document I've heard of a style in which Wiese has been performing occasionally throughout the last year or so. Whether or not the pieces are truly improvised is not the point-- they may be thoroughly composed. The sound borrows heavily from the moment-to moment logic of early European Free Improv (EFI) music. Both sides of the tape (appropriately recorded live in Holland and "somewhere in Europe") use minute slices of audio: Wiese shuffling around with contact mics, hitting drums / table legs, and twanging guitar strings. These sounds are placed among very short silences, and ping-ponged across the stereo spectrum. The feeling is very similar to the later days of EFI when electronics became more common but the compositional logic of the players hadn't yet adapted to their new instruments' strengths. One touchstone may be the music of Furt. This tape, like a Furt album, has a distinctly electronic sound palette, a British sense of fussiness (in a very Derek Bailey / John Stevens kind of way) and a pre-EAI (Electro-Acoustic Improvisation) idea of time and linearity. Wiese is proving here that he could have easily held his own had he appeared on the (so-called) orange CD on Charhizma, but on nothing afterward.

The real strength of this area of Wiese's music is not totally represented on this tape, however. The tape is good-- in fact, really good. But when Weise plays similar material live, it is the influence of his Noise music upbringing that makes this style into something special. He plays it loud. Really fucking loud. Which is not something that Furt do. And really, that volume is what pulls this stuff out of the realm of homage (to EFI, to Evan Parker, to whatever) and into something genuinely new. It sounds stupid to say that something so simple could, so drastically, change the nature of this music, but it is absolutely the case. The actual sounds that Wiese plays are, to my ears, undistorted. It is uncommon to hear clean audio at really high volume, and for it to be as violent and assaulting as Wises makes it. Seriously, I thought my teeth might rattle out of my head in the middle of the concert. The one aspect of EFI that Wiese has done away with entirely is it's politeness. By simply cranking the volume, he's given it quite a bit of attitude. So even though he records and perform under his real name (and not Withered By Her Stare or Autoerotic Nightstick) John Weise can still bring the noise. Even when seduced by other areas of art music (those that are substantially better funded) he choses to retain a degree of the confrontational nature inherent to Noise, learned through a decade of Noise mastery.