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Thursday, October 07, 2004
OK, so it's only the intro to a Pitchfork review, but it highlights a problem I have with the contemporary noise scene, I do:

Ignoring most of musical tenets of time and structure, this October 2000
performance harkens back to Sonic Youth's noisome early days as rogue
freelancers in no-wave icon Glenn Branca's guitar-based orchestras.
Look, the point about Branca--one of the things that makes him so good, and so pleasurable to listen to--is that he does work within pretty standard parameters for time and structure. What's weird about him is the tonality and the overall form. But there's still a drummer there beating out roughly familiar stuff. (If thrilling, but you know.) It was radical at the time because of where he was coming from: art music and jazz, where such rockisms as a steady beat were unusual. Put him in a pop context and we can thankfully overlook the difference for the quality. Sonic Youth's stuff has borne this out: coming from a similar place, they, like Branca, come up with stuff that sounds familiar, if still unusual. (If I was being unkind, I would say that the difference between SY and Branca is that Branca can write a singular thing that's fairly long that'll hold us rapt, whereas our Sonic friends need to break things up into sons. I would be kind of interested to hear what it would sound like, though, if Branca orchestrated "Teenage Riot," say, and extended and varied all the lines for more parts. Could be cool. Could suck. Anyway.)

But people who want to sound like Sonic Youth, or want to be "experimental," don't seem to get this. Because they come from a rock (often punk-rock) background, they think flowing tempo or time signature changes within a piece are experimental, whereas any high school orchestra student worth his or her salt considers it as a matter of course. And so we get these sort of frentic jabs swinging against slower stuff, fairly inelegantly, and unwilling to explore tonality in the same way Branca has. It just strikes me as odd, is all. I've never understood the refusal to pursue the ecstatic and the beautiful; experimentation seems valid to me only as far as it produces new sources of beauty. But maybe that's me.