Noise acts kept turning heads in 2004. Excepter and Gang Gang Dance both issued breakthrough records, and Black Dice continued on with a strong and bubbly second album, Creature Comforts. And that was just Brooklyn.
If these acts are all about maintaining a groovy psychedelic mindspace where we can all peacefully coexist if we just listen, man, then the West Coast response was to enflame a paradigm shift. Much like Wolf Eyes, whose abrasive impulses were documented with a well-received official debut last year, the Bay Area duo called Yellow Swans — comprised of Peter Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman — infuses improvised experiments with the destructive abandon of a hippo on stilts.
From the opening salvo “Police Eternity,” whose Locust-like screams and industrial shatter-beat is an impressive call-to-arms, the album spirals down into all manner of manic phase fidgeting, paranoid guitar come-downs and spiraling feedback loops that anticipate the current high-security state and its impending upheaval. But the fascinatingly obscene sounds aren’t entirely an end within themselves. Unlike the tediousness of a Merzbow album, there is a feeling a movement and growth. I would call it melodic progression if it weren’t so goddamn noisy.
Even without the volume, Bring the Neon War Home commands rigid attention. A recent Inauguration Day show in Oakland witnessed Yellow Swans lambasting the current state of American politics and pitiful dearth of popular dissent, then cleverly sidestepping a noise curfew by performing acoustically. Duct tape, balloon mouth contortions, broken glass, paper bags and their terrific pterodactyl shrieks were all part of a tiring yet exhilarating twenty-minute show. As intended, it made you want to go out and hurl a rock through a window and then writhe about in the shattered detritus, creating a beautiful and painful racket that culminates in a recording sold exclusively through your friend’s Web site.