Sasha Frere-Jones’ Latest Column Details Mainstreaming of ‘Noise’ Music:
“It’s tempting to attribute the prevalence of noise bands to musical precedent. Generations of bands have now employed looping samplers and computers: cut, paste, repeat, and you’ve got five minutes of music, regardless of tunes or melody. Additionally, digital technology makes it easy to bring audio samples of two-stroke engines or blade sharpeners onstage. But there is now also a layering in the sound of many bands which mimics the simultaneity of daily life—windows popping up on an open laptop, conversations slipping from the screen to the air while music (or is it noise?) plays in the background. A song that moves over a tidy bridge from verse to chorus and back is a historical artifact, no more or less natural than toe shoes or villanelles. The songs of HEALTH and Sightings may be closer to music as it has been performed since the start of rock and roll, and the distressed signals of Yellow Swans may be somewhere between modern classical music and forgotten answering-machine messages, but there is increasingly room for all of it in venues that were once defined by traditional staged performances. To many people now, noise isn’t necessarily an aggressive or alienating element; it sounds more like nature than nature does.”
Leave it to Mr. Frere-Jones to use his weekly pedestal at The New Yorker to unpack the growing acceptance of an obtuse genre under the banner of a column entitled, “Pop Music.” I love this character of his work, how he convincingly facilitates a conversation between hardly known artists and labels — for one, he refers to the “sublime Type label” (whose artists have been covered here before) — and the traditional rock landscape.
Contrary to so much music writing these days, Frere-Jones inspires in his measured, deliberate approach by capturing the larger imperatives within a hurried, trendy marketing environment. On second thought, marketing seems to have no impact on the content he chooses to lend his perspective to, which is beyond refreshing.