Rounding up sound 

"It's very easy for people who don't find the aesthetic rewards in noise to criticize it," says Greg Baise, the talent buyer for the Majestic Theatre Center and a longtime enthusiast of noise music. "But you know, that's not that preposterous." Baise recognizes that there's an erratic, unsteady fault line at the center of the genre. Is it genius or shit? Unbridled creativity or utterly unlistenable trash? "Maybe an outside person would say, 'It's all horrible noise.' But it's not, you know? The root of it is musicians having these tastes that run from Norwegian death metal, avant-garde jazz, and primitive no-wave to stupid kids' records with Christian ventriloquist dolls and recordings of snake charmers in New Delhi that they made themselves."

In the noise scene, one person's junk really is another's sonic treasure. And with that in mind, here are my four completely subjective picks for which local noise outfits are making the biggest and best racket.

Dead Machines — John Olson's side project with his wife Tovah Olson. Primitive soundscape stuff meshes with bouts of jarring noise and loads of purposely mysterious instrumentation. Is that a trumpet or a piece of sheet metal? You decide. Check out: Futures (Troubleman Unlimited, at

Villa Valley — Half-Crypt favorites whose sound brings new meaning to the descriptors "formless" and "punishing." Trying to comprehend this duo's output causes cramps; maybe it's better just to enjoy the loud fuzz. Check out: Massive Amounts of Deadness CD-R (Crucial Bliss,

Metal Dungeon — Davin Brainard and Wade Kergan's ongoing thinker vs. thinker project that seems to get smarter with each performance. It's sort of like watching an onstage retelling of David Cronenberg's Scanners, only without the exploding heads. (Er, at least not yet.) Check out: Metal Dungeon (Time Stereo,

Odd Clouds/Cotton Museum — More organic and probably not officially noise, if there was an officially governing body that handed down such rulings. Still, the music of both groups, as led by Chris Pottinger, does embody the same twisted sense of play at the center of most noise and experimental recordings. Check out:

Johnny Loftus is the music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to

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