Last year, the Wooden Octopus Skull Experimental Musick Pfestival, an ambitious and inspired presentation of international experimental music, brought four nights of intense and shiningly inventive sound to Seattle. In this, the festival's precarious sophomore installment, the event's organizers—a coalition of extreme-sound aficionados from the Electric Heavyland shop and PsychForm Records—have intensified the sheer awesomeness of their programming and have divided the wide berth of participating artists into four nights of curatorial design.
The first night of the festival features the touring Japanese New Music Festival, a string of performances by various configurations of three extremely prolific Japanese experimental musicians—Yoshida Tatsuya (Ruins, solo as Ruins Alone), Tsuyama Atsushi (Omoide Hatoba, Acid Mothers Temple), and Kawabata Makoto (AMT). The second night features all female artists, while the third focuses on artists whose work is indelibly tied to occult knowledge, alchemical practice, and all other manner of esoteric discipline. The fourth night dramatically ends things with a roster of some of the greatest "noise bands" working today, including ravenous fest-closers Wolf Eyes, whose second album for Sub Pop, Human Animal, drops September 26.
I put a few questions to one artist from each night, in the interest of allowing their disparate voices to address the issues of the WOS fest's relevance, the communicative focus of their art, and the ubiquitous and virulently trendy "noise" tag.
YOSHIDA TATSUYA OF RUINS ALONE; DIALING IN
Regrettably, a translator could not be reached in time for this article, as Ruins Alone drummer/leader Yoshida Tatsuya has, for the purpose of his intense avant shredding project, conceived and improvised a brand-new musical language. Meanwhile, local degenerative drone artist Dialing In (Reita Piecuch) spent most of our interview time discussing her affection for Rod Stewart.
"I must admit that my opinions of the need for fringe music festivals are purely egocentric. I must live in a universe that is capable of containing not only music of the sort that can augment and sympathize with the inner ear and the cultural sensibilities of the brilliantly insane, but that could also contain the extraordinary will and cohesion to herd [us] cat-like eccentrics into the same space for four days. There is a vast spectrum of artists sculpting sound and psychology in such lucid fashion evolved beyond the pop idiom that unfortunately go unnoticed even by those who are searching for these frequencies.
"[Soriah is] conceptual performance ritual opera utilizing a plethora of ethnic vocal techniques such as Tuvan throat singing, Kirana-style raga, and inspired chants channeled with a modern electronic surrealist quality. As far as how I would have Soriah experienced, I would have the audience unprepared and open to the experience to gain the most benefits from these rituals. They are, after all, merely a means to expand consciousness of the very moment.
"'Noise,' I feel is a useful term in that it tends to alienate those without the stomach for it. I use noise as a tool to evoke powerful fear and to exorcise funk, but I feel that noise is only useful if applied with contrasting elements such as ambience or silence."
PETE SWANSON (OF YELLOW SWANS)
"The term 'noise' is like calling something 'rock'; it doesn't really go very far, as there are so many different approaches. It is really functional, though, to let people know if they'd dislike it instantly; it's a pretty divisive term for music fans and for people who aren't discerning listeners, they won't be able to tell the difference between Hototogisu and Whitehouse.
"Out of all the noise bands, I think we're one of the most rock/pop focused in the fest. Our new stuff is way more guitar based; not as metal- or drum-machine-focused as our previous endeavors. There's more space, more bliss-outs, way more psych burn, and we're being more sparing with the onslaughts. For myself, I'm really interested in using the vocabularies of noise to be expressive in a very musical way, so to some our music may sound like noise; to others it may be pretty and appealing; to others it may sound totally wussy. It's all about the personal history of the listener and the context they're experiencing the sound in."