Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Get into: Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock

Noise is something I generally take with a grain of salt. There's excellent noise out there, but there's also a whole lot of terrible noise, and the style of music being what it is it's often difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Of course, I also think the noise scene's constituents are often all too comfortable letting bad noise slide or manufacturing excuses as to why it can't be judged like "normal" music. The result of this overly permissive attitude is a scene that in and of itself can't even decide what's worthwhile, and even if it can, is unable to articulate why it's worthwhile. Merzbow's basically the biggest guy in noise- why? Has anyone articulated why Akita's work is supposed to be so awesome? And why haven't they?

Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock is one of the few very worthwhile noise endeavors out there specifically because it sidesteps a lot of the bullshit that the rest of the noise scene is afflicted with. R&G seems to exist outside and apart from the bulk of the noise scene; you would never lump this project alongside Slogun or what have you. The one-man project (with occasional guests) of a Swiss nuclear-physicist-turned-goat-farmer-turned-something, R&G clearly displays a more articulate sense of musical (and artistic) history than most generic Whitehouse clones manage to cobble together. While stylistically a lot of influence is brought from modern noise and power electronics, spiritually this project's a lot more along the lines of Throbbing Gristle and other dadaist creations of old- interviews with the sole member often feature him talking about the Viennese aktionists, musique concrète, and other such progenitors of modern, provocative art that everyone says they're into but actually know little about.

What makes R&G aren't the recordings (though those are notable in their own right) so much as the live videos of his performances which dot Youtube. The above is what made me fall in love with the project- the performance art aspect is perfectly realized alongside the blasting, grinding, shrieking terror of the noise, tethered together with stretches of dark silence or clipped, desperate-sounding laughter. The perpetual distorted hum of his breath, the wild gesticulations necessary to even create the sounds you're hearing, the sheer animalistic terror of the whole package- my god, it just might be Art.


  1. I haven't listened to too much noise mostly for the reason you mentioned, that the genre is cluttered with poor quality music with more pretense than substance. Merzbow's Venereology, on the other hand, is an entirely different story altogether. It was Akita's take on death metal/grindcore and the atmosphere combined with sheer technical proficiency is absolutely stunning. Another commendable black noise act is Sutekh Hexen, particularly the Luciform LP.

  2. That's pretty neat looking setup he has going on there.

  3. @Noktorn: One quibble. people DO write seriously about Merzbow and other major noise artists. they're just not people from the metal scene. i think metalheads tend to gawk at noise in the same way hipsters gawk at metal, and therefore approach it without any real standards, much less a critical understanding of what is going on in the music. of course, you could argue that the noise scene itself is plagued by low quality control, and you'd probably be right, I just want to make it clear that there are plenty people who take it seriously and analyze it.

    here are some long, thoughtful reviews where people try to articulate why Merzbow is (in their opinions) so good: