Wolf Eyes, Burned Mind
(SUB POP RECORDS, CD)
Ann Arbor, Michigan-based noise terrorists Wolf Eyes eschew nearly every aspect of popular songcraft. There are no discernable melodies, and anything that could pass for an "arrangement" is subverted in a hailstorm of post-industrial aggression. The trio's latest disc -- their first for renowned indie label Sub Pop -- is called Burned Mind. It's an apt title, considering the music's punishing volatility.
Wolf Eyes carry on a long tradition of experimental noise. The genre underwent a difficult birth in 1975 with Lou Reed's still-controversial Metal Machine Music. That album boasted more than an hour's worth of looping feedback designed to annoy Reed's record label bosses. Well, times certainly have changed. While Wolf Eyes' howling fury is sure to offend the casual music fan, the band has cultivated a hipster following that revels in this very kind of aural anguish.
Despite the seeming randomness of their creations, there is a method to Wolf Eyes' madness. Through the deliberate use of abrasive tonalities, the group forces the listener to deal with the aesthetics of sound without distraction. Even beats are largely absent, replaced by subsonic synth gurgles and intermittent clanging.
Burned Mind's title track approximates the sound of street noise, with shrieking feedback emulating ambulance sirens. "Urine Burn" opens with bursts of static drifting across the stereo field, before being overtaken by a wash of cymbals. A bare-bones offering, the track proves that noise isn't just about volume and density.
"Reaper's Song" is a squelching beast of a number, featuring mosquito-like electronic tones going head-to-head with a menacing digital rumble. On this cut, sound is stretched to the breaking point, before snapping back like a rubber band. "Village Oblivia" is one of the only tunes on Burned Mind with vocals. The track's thudding kick drum and tortured screams recall the work of seminal industrial group Throbbing Gristle, albeit without the political bent and sense of humor.
Whether all this noise amounts to much more than caustic chicanery is up to the listener to decide. Regardless of the verdict, it's obvious the group takes its music seriously. Obsessed with chaos and disorder, the band channels the violent beauty of modern existence. Good luck finding a song-based group with a similar acumen.
You can hear Wolf Eyes Monday, September 19, at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge with doom-metal overlords Khanate.