Review Summary: death of the artist / death of the computer
Most people don’t listen to noise music, often for sound reasons. This is nice for them, but it has the rather enjoyable side-effect that the genre’s public image is defined less by the observations of an engaging audience and more by the reservations of those who would voluntarily seal themselves inside a separate universe. Thus for ‘most people’, noise isn’t not so much a concrete set of conventions and tropes (other than, well, noise
), but rather a blurred shape scarcely visible within the orbit of comfortable, familiar arguments sceptical of its legitimacy as, say, actual music. From my experience, the reality is neither so mysterious nor so controversial, but since those arguments are out and about and very much handy (not to mention occasionally accurate), we might as well start there. Today this one is my favourite:
This sounds like no effort has been put into it whatsoever. Anyone could make music like this in like 5 minutes.
or something of that kind. You know the one. Music is precious because it’s the fruit of craft and intention; if we can’t sense intelligent design behind its every facet, surely it can’t be worth much. This line of thinking skirts the unique quality of live noise performances, but it does have a certain application to digitalised or generative sounds, the kind of thing that started in analogue as tape experiments but has long since mutated and crossed to DAW fuckery of the most dissociated order. With the power to phone in, generate, modulate, loop or structure sounds with a few mouse clicks, it’s easier than ever for your contemporary noise musician to unleash hell without having to engage with the inconveniences of quality control or realtime playback.
Enter Yukiga Futte Uresii, a noise project equal parts prolific and obscure, both to extremes. It reeks of digital bedroom space like nothing you’ve ever heard, and the bedroom in question has its shelves creaking under the weight of almost innumerable archival releases. This album, Chuusuu no Romero
is ...Uresii’s 30th full-length release of 2021 and 407th since 2009. Give that a moment to sink in. Those numbers are already big enough to border on meaninglessness. Does Yukiga Futte Uresii’s presumed insistence on mass of output over individual quality have much impact on this release specifically? Well, uh, unsurprisingly enough, there are many, many points where Chuusuu no Romero
falls victim to straightforward laziness, but at its best it has just enough going for it to challenge the necessity of an actively involved, meticulous curator. Some things simply don’t need the effort and input of a controlling human hand.
Let’s get the palette down: we’re looking at an anxiety-inducing computerised wasteland here. The album runs for just under an hour, over the course of which there is not one scrap of melody and no individual sequence of glitches is ever allowed to develop as a sustainable rhythm. It’s like a Gameboy killing itself over dial-up internet; sometimes it’s fascinatingly jumbled, sometimes it’s dull as sin. Middle track “Chuusuu no Naka” is the clearest example of the latter, a 5-minute non-event both homogenous and repetitive enough that I can practically visualise its makeup as a sparse set of loops, none of which amount to anything in particular. It’s a nothing-track, dangerous to the image of noise overhead because it coincides so perfectly with all its most banal qualities. A boring showcase of boring tones: delete.
The gargantuan sprawls either side are a different matter; ...Uresii opts for a glitch ethos on these, using each moment as an interruption to the one before and outright refusing to repeat anything throughout a song’s progression. These pieces aren’t just ‘unstructured’, they’re actively discontinuous, doubtless the product of algorithms that would wish only to put themselves out of their own misery were they ever brought to sentience. This doesn’t always lead to better things: final piece “Chuusuu no Kururu” is disappointingly subdued, stuck on the same dynamic wavelength and tones as “Chuusuu no Naka” even if its contents are more active in reinventing themselves. It’s ‘random’ in the sense of Theremin or turntable onanism, and scarcely more interesting.
However, the half-hour opener “Chuusuu no Romero” is easily the success story here. By far the most abrasive, chaotic and – above all – varied cut, it also makes the strongest impression. Its stream of digital noise is contorted, relentless and unpredictable enough to sound distinctly generative, yet there’s something so arresting in the dysfunctional interrelation of its layers and the abruptness of its shifts of intensity, particularly in the violence of its first few minutes, that at the very least it sounds like any generative content has been carefully curated. The piece is thoroughly, aggressively random, each detail desynchronised with the last with the exception of a few jarring rhythmic punctuations clearly designed to break the track up. It’s intricate without being nuanced, too chaotic, too mindlessly detailed to have come purely from the control and mediation of a practiced human creator, and there’s something deeply, impersonally cracked about this that scans as both intensely oppressive and oddly engaging. Is this valuable? It’s compelling enough that I can’t say no.
But not so fast! Does that make the album good
beyond dysfunctional novelty? Uh. That’s a dirty loaded question and you should know better than to ask. What can, quite significantly, be said is that this music isn’t ‘useless’. Whether or not you find any personal value in a solid hour of antisocial computermelt, it’s easy to place it in a number of non-musical contexts. This is the kind of thing sound designers of various briefs would do well to clock on onto; don’t underestimate how hard decent interference soundscapes can be to come by. Sample it within your own music, use it to score your apocalyptic home movie, simulate a computer virus or just change it to your answer phone to flip people off. This is the kind of sound you could very conceivably make something out of, and the glint of its Creative Commons licence only seems to confirm this. It’s evocative and malleable and it wouldn’t be the same if there was just one breath of self-evident humanity in any of its garbled progressions. Intelligent design and self-evident effort do not always go hand in hand with creative potential, it would seem.
But does that amount to a good album
? Not at all, but there’s more to be scavenged here than the thrill of hearing a digital workspace tear itself to pieces. Just don’t expect to come out of it any less burnt out than the musical vocabulary in question: Chuusuu no Romero
concludes with a single persistent chiptune blip pitch-shifted up and down as though reason and inspiration alike have exhausted themselves. So too, in due course, does the blip, and in its wake a disconcertingly soothing silence invites all kinds of questions about whether to be frustrated or relieved, whether you’ll commit in advance to the next Yukiga Futte Uresii release and how necessary any of this was. Yeah. Don’t answer those.