Macronympha – Sex and Death review | And a short essay about Noise and the prevalent use of sexual themes in the genre.

sex and death

“More like a mirror we reflect society, some things you might not ordinarily look at. A dark and perversely twisted photo-journalism. Freaks and other like-minded individuals aren’t the only people who can look past “-isms” and “-ologies” to find a relevant voice. NOISE is as old as millions of years of volcanic eruption and mountain erosion. The modern industry of metal and machines added more to this mix. All we do is use everything at our disposal to record the true power that had been filling the airwaves since the beginning of time.”
Joseph Roemer

Macronympha is an American noise band formed in 1990, by Joseph Roemer and Rodger Stella. They are quite a prolific band, having released lots of material and quite a few collaborations with other high-profile noise artists and bands, like Prurient, Incapacitants, and Grey Wolves.

Sex and Death also features Dominick Fernow, and the record is overall an excellent harsh noise record. The sound of Macronympha’s 7″, Sex and Death, is pretty standard harsh distorted sounds, samples of household appliances and other “stuff-not-made-to-act-as-instruments”, but they use quite often explicit pornographic themes in their music and cover art, granted, this is quite common in the noise scene but it is not a staple or a must of the genre.

You know what it is time for?

Time for some discussion about sex, death, misanthropy, noise, and the validity or redundancy of the possible term “porn-noise”!

The music genre “noise” wasn’t always about breaking the social norm and rigid musical laws, forms, and norms. One of the first and best example of what we today think of as “noise” was introduced by the Italian futurist Luigi Russolo. He created the manifesto The Art of Noises, in 1913, in which he proposed that the human hearing has become accustomed by the speed, energy, and noise of the urban industrialized soundscape. Because of this new sonic pallet, and the form of the new industrialized society, we, as humans, require a new approach to musical instrumentation and composition.

He argues that, because of how the widespread industrialization of the urban society changed the way we live and our landscape and soundscape, we should also change our ways of creating, and thinking about music. We no longer live in a soundscape consisting of the “traditional” sounds that our urban cites consisted of, such as melodious birdsongs and rustling of trees in the wind. The soundscape of the modern urban city is loud rhythmic pounding of industries, bustling streets filled with cars and traffic. Despite this drastic change in many aspects of the way life, not much changed regarding our standing about music.

Despite his manifesto and few live preformances of his vision and his noise creating creation “Intonarumori”, the public did not react positively, rather the opposite, with disdain and violence. Luigi predicted this and his newly created movement remained as a underground network of futurists. Shot down, but not forgotten, this form of “alternative music” got a new breath of life in the 40’s and 50’s, thanks to the avant-garde music compositors, such as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

They focused more on working with concrete sounds, unorthodox methods of creating music, and more experimental compositions. For example, John Cage’s composition 4’33”, consists of a player on stage with a piano, but rather than playing on it, the composition is the quiet ambiance of the scene and the confused and expectant audience.

These forms of more playful and avant-garde compositions became more accepted by the art-loving crowd, and the more open minded music lovers. While the music is not strictly “noise”, some of the pieces consists of many different types of unstructured sounds and noises, put in to a organized form of music. These pioneers of experimental and avant-garde music helped inspire and birth many of new artists.

But it wasn’t only the new and more open minded people who started this whole new form of creating music; the rapid evolution of our technology created many new forms of creating sound and music. Such as the synthesizer and more sophisticated sound recorders, mixers, and the ability of distorting recorded sounds. Through the new advanced music studios, a new musical movement was born, and it was called Musique Concrète, where Pierre Schaeffer was one of the most notable pioneers. This movement was based on the notion that thanks to the sophisticated equipment, the musicians became able to speed up, slow down, flip, and otherwise tinker with recorded sounds, so they became  entirely new sounds. They used all sorts of sounds, like, banging on tin cans, pouring gravel on metal, tapping on lampshades, and they took all these sounds, played with them in the studio and they could make a symphony out of nothing but modified junk.

But, you may ask, what does all these movements and avant-garde artists have to do with noise and its use of offensive themes? Well, this was to point out that the idea and original thought behind “noise” music wasn’t about provoking “the system” or to give a sound to the primal urges of the human nature. It was, partly, a natural evolution of the human curiosity, nature, and society, but for some reason, the general people rejected this form of adaption and kept the traditional values of music. But then, along came the punk, and the general displeasure of the government.

Punk is heavily rooted in the D.I.Y.-aesthetics, where the bands often recorded, produced, and published their own records, since their music was far too harsh and critical for the big and conservative music labels to carry. Punk is as you all know very critical and displeased of the way society and the government behaves and structures, to some point, the peoples lives. That’s why punk often uses harsh and abrasive music, filled with provoking themes and lyrics. Some thought , at the time punk emerged and became widespread,  that is was one of the most harsh and provoking music styles and subculture, however, there was one even more filthy, provoking, and violent music genre that evolved beneath the punk movement.

The criteria for punk music fits nicely together with the noise genre, yet noise forgoes even the slightest form of structure and harmony, and it goes even further to provoke the public by attacking not only the government and society but the the whole of mankind. Early noise artists as Whitehouse,  dealt much with human war atrocities and the perverted human psyche, by dedicating one of their albums to a serial killer. One of the most controversial subject in the western society, and because of that frequently used by noise musicians, is the subject of the human sexuality. Besides religion, sex is one of the topics that gets the most livid and upsetting reactions of the society, because of this, it is no wonder why the worst music genre in the world so frequently uses pornography, and especially fetishes, in their themes to provoke the more sensitive general public. It’s true that some punk bands use this topic to some degree, but they more often lean towards the grindcore/porngrind scene. Since it is so uncommon for punk bands to use this topic in their music, there have become a separate subgenre for it, while there exist no such subgenre in the noise culture.

In the noise genre, artists that make a very personal artistic creation share the same label as artists that uses it to provoke people through their own displeasure of society and misanthropy. This, I find, is pretty unique for a music genre, it has a place for passive introspection and harsh abrasiveness without having segregated the scene through arbitrary labels.

What started out as a futurists manifest about how the logical change in music creation should correlate to the development of the society, became the avant-garde artists plaything, to ultimately the harsh, no-holds-bar outlet of disgruntled, perverted,  and misanthropic punks.

I. Pussy is my Soul
II. The Doom Pussy (Is Coming)

Discogs/Label

93 93/93

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2 Comments

Filed under Avant-Garde, Electronic, Essay, Experimental, Harsh Noise, Macronympha, Noise, Power Electronics, Soundscape

2 responses to “Macronympha – Sex and Death review | And a short essay about Noise and the prevalent use of sexual themes in the genre.

  1. Thanks for this post – informative & interesting stuff. I’ve seen this quote from Roemer before, and I don’t see see how the poetry of his words actually relates to his sounds (which may simply be a case of me not knowing enough about his work!). I would have thought the sound of volcanoes was an occasional sonic boom interspersed by long periods of silence. And the sounds of an eroding mountain would be silent unless you were lucky enough to experience a landslide; the main sound of an eroding mountain would be the gentle trickle of a stream carrying sediment from higher ground to lower ground. So beyond the immediate appeal of his poetic imagery I really don’t see how his metaphors relate to his sounds? Earlier artists you refer to – Russolo, Cage, Stockhausen – were able to weave silence as well as loud abrasive volumes into their work, and the original soundscape artists were inspired by nature to explore silence rather than noise. This punk inspired version of noise comes across to me as the unrelenting thrust of the thrill of self-manifested power, a kind of liberation from the controlling forces of industrial machinery by reappropriating it to their own violent ends. Not the creation of soundscapes with similarities to the complexity and diversity of the natural sounds Roemer alludes to.

    • Thank you for your reply, I appreciate it!

      Perhaps that wasn’t the best quote of Roemer, and it you want to know more about his thoughts and views on the subject of music and noise, you should read his manifesto, it is very interesting and gives a personal perspective on the genre.

      I agree that the term “noise-music” have more shifted to refer to the self-empowering and abrasive musicians, rather than the compositors we now refer to as experimental, avant-garde soundscape artists. I think that this new division is more fitting, but it can still be difficult to categorize some artists how exclusively uses non-instruments, and sounds/noise to create a new and doctored soundscape that don’t share the ideology of Russolo, nor the anti-convention manifest of “noise”. As such, couldn’t, or shouldn’t, “wall noise” be considered as a soundscape?

      /The Elitist

      93 93/93

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