Noise annoys

Compilation of "experimental music" skirts the line between art and nausea

Music does not, of course, mean the same thing to all people. To some, it implies the sweet sounds of acoustic guitars and confessional lyrics or the strains of violins or the foreign rhythms of Africa or the Middle East; to others, the term conjures the blaring catharsis of amplified instruments raging past 10 on the volume meter or a heart poured through a horn or the down-home sounds of despair and drinkin'.

To a select few, "music" does not even possess a meaning; to these folks, it's an abstract devoid of anything so conventional as notes or form or even instruments as such. To these experimental artists who exist on the fringes of the music community, taking their cues from the likes of John Cage or Glenn Branca or Pere Ubu's New Picnic Time, music has evolved (or, perhaps, devolved) into nothing but sheer noise--random electronic patterns repeated till they take on their own rhythms, voices distorted into static-y shadows, squeaks and squalls piled upon each other till they eke out some hypnotic or gut-wrenching semblance of melody.

Such are the sounds found on Of This Men Shall Know Nothing, a 75-minute do-it-yourself cassette featuring 14 artists from Texas (most are from Dallas or Denton), including: The Factory Press, Shiva the Destroyer, Sad Housewives with Acoustic Guitars, 13, DRJ, Fallen Vlods, Lectura, and Mazinga Phaser. The tape, which comes with a booklet secured by two bolts, is the second release on Sean A. Donovan's ernst Recordings label, which, according to its accompanying notes, "exists as a forum for experimental expression...[and] remains open to all forms of divergent musical ideologies and philosophies, and in so doing wants to ensure the quality of musical thought into the 21st century." Which means, basically, Donovan ain't picky about what he releases.

This is probably the only time in your life you could listen to someone else's record (or tape, in this case) and be correct when you utter in disbelief, "I could do this." As one listens to Of This, the artists or song titles become less important (and, frankly, incidental) as it all starts to merge into one trashcan-and-keyboard symphony; if the musicians aren't exactly stretching the limits of the technology itself, they at least make Sonic Youth and John Zorn seem like George Gershwin and Irving Berlin.

Some of what's contained here is quite brilliant--fascinating like an autopsy, as riveting as a car wreck, the true definition of industrial. Donovan's own contribution, "Power of a line," is a mesmerizing--if ultimately numbing--work created merely by recording the squeaks and slams of a door opening and closing. Listen long enough and the door's hinges become like a squalling saxophone; the booms, like thundering bass drums.

Problem is, it's hard to listen to anything long enough on here: most of the selections are intriguing in short bursts but hard to take for protracted periods, and when taken all at once they can have a particularly nauseating affect on the senses. Which may ultimately be the point.

Of This Men Shall Know Nothing is available at VVV Records, Pagan Rhythms, Last Beat, and other area record stores, or directly from ernst Recordings at P.O. Box 752667, Dallas, 75275-2667, for $6.

KNON-entity
Almost six months after the departure of KNON-FM's (90.1) general manager Bobbie Elliott--the man who fired several of the community radio station's best-known jocks and dumped much of its programming--the station still does not have a program director or general manager. And it's likely the Agape board of directors, the group that operates the station and oversees its daily operations, will not hire a new program director. Rather, they will give those duties to the general manager--when, and if, they ever hire one. Until then, the jocks must go to the board with any concerns, and the board has been loath to rehire any of the old jocks or restructure its current R&B-and-jazz-flavored programming during the late morning-early afternoon and nighttime shifts, which Elliott instituted during his brief stint at KNON.

So don't get excited over the reinstatement of Cowhide Cole's "Rockabilly Revue" on Tuesdays from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Rather than a sign that the station is starting to bring back familiar voices, "Rockabilly Revue" is merely replacing another rock show, Melanie's "Sound Asylum," because the host has assumed other duties at the station.

Pearl blankin' Jam
During the January 8 broadcast of Pearl Jam's self-proclaimed "Self-Pollution Radio"--which featured a dazed, almost goofy Eddie Vedder playing DJ and host to a number of artists, including the Fastbacks, Mike Watt, Nirvana's Krist Novoselic (who read an tribute to Jim Nabors' homosexuality), Mudhoney, and Soundgarden--Vedder and his compadres uttered the words "fuck" and "shit" more than 40 times, two of the seven deadly words according to the Federal Communications Commission. Because the program was available to every radio station in the country, three FM stations in Dallas picked up the program (KTXQ-102, KDGE-94.5, and KEGL-97.1), and all but one--the Edge--ran the program unedited.

Q102 ran the four-plus-hour show in its unexpurgated entirety--as did most stations around the country--because, as music director Redbeard explains, "you either go with it and let the chips fall where they may, or you shy away from it and hope you don't miss something cool." Andy Lockridge, the station's program director, says the only complaints the station received were from people who couldn't get Vedder on the Seattle phone number he provided during the broadcast.

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