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Daniel Menche - Guts

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Artist: Daniel Menche

Album: Guts

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Feb. 22, 2012

Noise continues to go through a process of self-analysis, with artists responding to the genre’s increasing exposure in what appears more or less to be three ways:

    1. Carry on as we always have, belting out strident, atonal mulch, hunched over one’s effects pedals in front of moshing crowds of ecstatic fans, punk-style, and releasing countless albums of similar material backed by references to sordid and controversial subjects (and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that).

    2. Re-connect with the avant-garde roots that inhabited noise at its inception. This has been the domain of artists like Joe Colley, Hecker, Helm and Merzbow, who turned to subtle uses of free jazz, found sound and sonic sculpture to engage with noise in ways that rose above the seething mass.

    3. Harsh Wall Noise, a potent sub-genre in which harsh noise is elevated into an impregnable monolith of pure noise, somehow connecting along the way with the “deep listening” minimalism of LaMonte Young or Pauline Oliveros.

These disparities seem to be of little concern to American artist Daniel Menche. In fact, despite the fact that, in terms of cover art and album title, it would appear to be almost literally an album about dissection, Guts is actually pretty much a suite for prepared piano. Admittedly, this piano has been ripped apart and turned into a fearful beast of extreme sonic abuse, but nonetheless, Guts descends as much from the genealogy of John Cage as it does that of Prurient and Controlled Bleeding; it’s no surprise this album came out on Editions Mego. Indeed, at times it feels like Menche has crawled inside the instrument and decided to record whilst jerking and clattering on the strings. The piano is a notoriously difficult instrument to manipulate in a “noise” manner (compared to, say, the guitar or the synth), but Menche pulls it off with considerable brio, accentuating the grand old instrument’s cavernous elegance whilst also toying with its conventions.

But, at its core, Guts feels not too removed from the wall noise of The Rita and Vomir. Perhaps the latter is the best comparative, given that Romain Perrot also took an uncommon instrument in noise — in his case the acoustic guitar — and used it to build his dark, hypnotic walls of sheer noise. Daniel Menche does something similar, for the different movements that make up Guts are deliberately monotonous, with an emphasis on unrelenting texture over brutalist chopping and changing of abrasive sounds. At the same time, this album is unrelenting, with atmospheric moments of near silence giving way to angry abrasion. Simply put, Guts is a violent and gritty listening experience.

It also makes you reconsider your noise preconceptions even as it feeds them to you. Even as Menche toys with the avant-garde (I swear you can hear Morton Feldman in these distorted grooves), Guts suddenly subsumes you in molten distortion. When it seems to be building up a “wall noise” head of steam, Menche suddenly reminds you that he is de-structuring a piano and reinventing it as an instrument of ferocity.

Noise may, as a genre, continue to question itself, but ultimately it is about the physicality of sonic experience. Guts may not be a masterpiece, but Daniel Menche has at least remembered that fact, and he is not fussed about how he achieves it.

By Joseph Burnett

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