Thursday, September 29, 2016

Chris Goudreau - SELF - OMEI

Chris Goudreau - Ultranegative
Elm Recordings. RLM-11
C40 100 copies.

Chris Goudreau - Odd Monsters
Kitty Play Records. KPR23
C24 100 copies.

SELF/OMEI - It Never Ends Well
Circle of Shit. C.O.S.28
2 x C34, 5 x business cards, 1” button badge, sew on patch & sticker in hessian bag.

I don’t suppose its easy being a noise artist. With very few exceptions making a living from it is virtually impossible and even if you’re Mr. Shit Hot shifting those units is a hard work. Release something new every month and even your most ardent fans become jaded, release something once a year and you’re hardly doing your profile any favours. Gigging involves lots of travel and plenty of discomfort with little in the way of recompense and there’s always the possibility that putting your equipment on the airline check-in scale could be the last you ever see of it. And then mixer guy starts pulling faces because he thinks its too loud and the turnout’s in the low twenties.

At a gig in Birmingham I once saw Chris Goudreau take to the stage, outside, in November at around one in the morning to perform before a small group of mainly drunk people who by that time would have struggled to notice the difference between Whitehouse and Sparks. For this he had traveled on a transatlantic flight, with all his equipment and all the hassle that comes with trailing through airports for approximately ten minutes of noise making. That those ten minutes were of the highest quality was no doubt lost on that small group of inebriated merry makers but for those who had braved the cold and had managed to stay clear of the John Barleycorn the results were nothing short of visceral bliss. To his credit Goudreau did his duty with the utmost magnanimity and where others might have stomped about complaining about their being brown M&M’s in the bowl or the lack of fluffy white bath towels in the dressing room, he just got on with it. Even though he’d traveled thousands of miles, even though it was bollock freezing, even though the crowd had dwindled to the drunks and the intrigued and those few who knew they were in for a rare treat.

Its why I’ve always had a lot of time for what Goudreau creates. He takes what he does seriously. He’s a serious noise artists. He’s seriously good too. First with Sickness, a solo noise project that saw him explore the frailties of health and later with his side project Omei where he gets to explore the quieter side of things. Like other noise artists before him Goudreau has now begun to release music under his own name and like other noise artists before him this has resulted in a maturing of output. Out go the full blown noise sets and in comes a more measured, less frenetic response.

The two live tracks on Odd Monsters, both clocking in at around eleven minutes, are Goudreau in hunched over modular synth mode creating a juddering sequence of juxtaposed growls, pops, stops, starts, sustained drones, snatched samples of panicked conversation, message dings and with it wild fluctuations in volume that make you wonder if the next three seconds are either Contemporary Composition or the full blown roar of a noise artist getting in to the swing of it. Brevity plays its part and its to Goudreau’s credit that he can pack such a considerable punch in such a brief space of time. Oblique and somewhat troubling liner notes lead me to believe that this is the break off release for Goudreau and that his future lies more in this direction and less in that of Sickness.

The title track on Ultranegative carries on in the same vein with plenty of glass being chewed between back molars for that full on granular feeling whilst its neighbour ‘After Image’ contains as much silence as noise. On the flip we find ‘Piano Sonata For The Untalented’ and a side long noise drone feedback work which I struggled to fully engage with. The troughs and peaks it goes through work fine enough appeared at times to be meandering and in need of sharper focus.

Anyone who’s ever been to a Goudreau/Sickness show will no doubt have bumped into [quite literary] John Balistreri. With his nihilistic Power Electronics project Slogun he’s as often as not down the front reveling in the fact that there’s a small crowd of people intent on knocking the shit out of each other and whoever happens to be standing within in elbows reach. It comes as some surprise then to discover Balistreri has a side project called SELF that delivers the kind of ultimate muscle relaxant ambience that you thought only Brian Eno was capable of.

‘It Never Ends Well’ really has been a revelation of a release with both artists delivering two sides of pure ambient drone bliss. SELF with a looping two chord wheeze through which are scattered the echoes of cars passing through tunnels and then a lo-fi drone roar with machine hum, the clanging of elevator cables, a heavy smoker struggling for breath, distant conversations and a send off that appears at the sound of solemnly struck plague bell, OMEI with two slowly moving, cycling drones and a steel mill forge hammer for balance. A truly haunting and beautiful release.

Those five business cards give further clues as to the direction these two are working towards here; images of self harm, blood from cuts and photographs of peeling and torn bill posters and decay as taken by Balistreri. These releases go deep but that makes getting lost in them all the more pleasurable.

ELM Recordings

Kitty Play

Slogun/Circle of Shit

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