Jan 26, 2016 A Night of Noise: White Out, Body/Gate/Head, Gabie Strong, Christopher Reid Martin
Non Plus Ultra is located in East Hollywood off Virgil. The venue is totally unmarked, and on a Sunday night the presence of smokers with smart phones loitering outside was the only way I located a long, dark corridor between the warehouse and apartments behind it. The path leads to a table where one could fork over 8 bucks for an evening of noise music. Turning the corner on the other side of a door is an upstairs viewing area, but I went down a steep stairway to a boxlike room with piles of gear everywhere. It was pretty cool going somewhere new and mysterious, checking out a genre of music that I don’t truly understand but appreciate.
Christopher Reid Martin went on first and his setup involved an overhead projector and tall folding ladder. When he dropped nails onto the projector’s surface they made plodding, metallic, echoing, sounds as if Mechagodzilla were tap-dancing. A different type of noise was made when he unsuccessfully (?) tried to hang some tubes on the ceiling, only to let them drop into an amplified clutter before falling himself. Throughout there was a static-ridden loop that approached being a beat but more closely resembled machinery.
My friend Gabie Strong went on next. I’ve seen her play with bands a few times over the last few years but hadn’t seen her play noise in a long time. Arranged on a throw rug was a guitar and series of pedals and effects that tweaked the sound into a loud wash without any hint of chords, riffs, or strokes. (I think there was a microphone but can’t be sure because it was dark.) Gabie and I don’t talk about art when we hang out–usually it’s about family or coffee–but I know she travels often into the desert and other desolate landscapes for art purposes. That’s what her harsh yet tranquil piece reminded me of.
Most people were there to see Body/Gate/Head, which was a late and exciting addition to the bill. It was announced just a week beforehand that Michael Morley (Gate, and also the Dead C) would be joined by Bill Nace and Kim Gordon (Body/Head). The latter, of course, was in Sonic Youth and helped champion the bonds between art, punk, and noise. Their three guitars didn’t build up layers of riffs but added to the thickness of the atmosphere, with occasional clanks and hints of disconnected vocals wandering through the fog. I found it immersive and hypnotic.
The concluding set was by White Out, an experimental band from New York City that has famously collaborated with Sonic Youth members Thurston Moore and Nels Cline. They were the only act that performed with drums, and their brand of noise had a free jazz element that filled a warmth gap left by the others’ colder sounds. It was a mellowing, somewhat comforting, and rather perfect feeling to take out into the cold midnight air…