architects of the no-audience underground: a working week with miguel pérez

January 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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  • La Mancha Del Pecado – Desde Lo Putrido (ORE 65)
  • La Mancha Del Pecado – Viernes 13 (ORE 67)
  • La Mancha Del Pecado – En el Festival de la Desgracia (Agorafobia 10)
  • La Mancha Del Pecado/Whermacht Lombardo – Devastacion/Debutante (Agorafobia 07)
  • Whermacht Lombardo – Departamento de Despoblacion (ORE 68)
  • The Skull Mask – Casette Dic. 2010 (ORE 73)
  • Enoc Dissonance – Love in Black Shit (ORE 74)

(…plus some untitled La Mancha demos and collaborations and various other examples of metal, jazz, composition and noise from the Mexican underground provided for the education of gringo Rob.)

Ciudad Juárez, which sits opposite El Paso on the US/Mexican border, is a city of some notoriety.  I’m sure its politicians would like the world to focus on its rich history, or the lightly regulated opportunities for lucrative business, but the headlines, alas, have little to do with civic pride.

Instead, as recently as a couple of years ago, this city was the homicide capital of the world due to murderous competition between drug cartels and the enforcement agencies charged with stopping them.  Sometimes this violence had a grisly, Grand Guignol theatricality: severed heads were found in fridges with notes attached warning rivals that they were next (notes!  As if a severed head doesn’t make the point on its own!).  Kidnapping is rife, the threat to the civilian population, especially women, is grave, corruption is endemic.

…and yet life has to go on.  In a city of over one million people not everyone can be a drug baron.  The overwhelming majority of the population are, like everywhere else, just good people trying to earn a living, look after their families and keep out of harm’s way.  As you would expect in a place of that size, a few have turned to artistic endeavour in an attempt to make sense of it all.  For example, it is the kind of town where a noise tape label might choose the name ‘Agorafobia’ not just because the connotations of confinement and paranoia might suit the music but also because, straightforwardly, people are afraid to leave their houses.

The patron of that label is Miguel Pérez.  Miguel has already featured on radiofreemidwich, mainly in connection with releases on Oracle Netlabel which he co-runs with its creator Pablo Mejia of the Dominican Republic.  Over the course of a few months we have struck up a lively and entertaining correspondence.  He has become a cult hero in my office as my work colleagues are amused by the idea that I have a Mexican doppelganger who, like me, slaves at a desk all day only to spend his spare time presenting noise to a tiny audience of followers.

Miguel’s enthusiasm is certainly infectious.  Conversing with him shames me for being lazy and inspires me to get on with my own projects.  However, his boundless enthusiasm and Stakhanovite work rate has caused a hefty pile-up of new releases teetering atop an already daunting back catalogue selection here at RFM Towers.  What is the casual listener to do?  Well, to paraphrase David Simon: “fuck the casual listener”.  I decided to catch up by listening to Miguel’s music on each commute and every lunchtime stroll for a whole week.

So on Monday I kicked-off with the charmingly named ‘Love in Black Shit’ by the exuberantly noisy Enoc Dissonance.  This is a duo of Miguel and his Oracle collaborator Pablo.  Their working method seems to be to pick a theme or idea from the existing cannon of noise music – the last one was about The Haters, this one Power Electronics – and let that loosely inform an hour of destruction.  The first of two lengthy tracks features billowing clouds of distortion pierced with scrapings and hammerings, the second track is a pummelling guitar thrash.  I have an odd connection to this piece as Miguel tells me that…

…while working on a new Enoc Dissonance release doing a big racket with the prepared (with metals, coins, bla, bla) electric guitar at 9:00 at morning … the post man arrives looking at me kind of strangled since it seems he was hearing my noises from the outside for a while since when I got to the door to receive the package he was holding for me he could not stare at my eyes and almost throw it to my hands and took his bicycle and ran away!!!

To my amusement, it turns out that the parcel in question was from me and the track he was working on at the time is the one described above.  This is not an easy listen, obviously, but the nostrils-flaring verve with which it is executed induces a state of hypnosis.  It carried me to and from work effortlessly.

Tuesday was Whermacht Lombardo day.  The Oracle release listed above is, basically, balls-out noise.  The aesthetic is bleak, nihilistic: the title means ‘Department of Depopulation’ and you don’t need Google Translate to figure out a track title like ‘Vasectomia Obligatoria’.  The music is that roaring push with no apparent source.  Is it guitar distortion?  FM radio static?  A heavily over-amped field recording of wind in the trees?  It doesn’t matter.  There are occasional minor changes in texture but mainly this is a warm bath: dip in for a few cleansing minutes or wallow in it for hours depending on your mood.

Interestingly, the Whermacht Lombardo side of the split tape with La Mancha Del Pecado is a moveable feast.  Miguel says:

By the way the split of Whermacht Lombardo can be anything.  Sometimes I use that side and fill it with static, a field recording and yours is filled with odd electronics, vocals and other metallic percussions.

…and strange and compelling it is too.

Wednesday and Thursday were a two day celebration of Miguel’s main solo project: La Mancha del Pecado.  An interesting tape of demos and collaborations charts its development as Miguel’s (heavy) metal drones and thrashed out ragas gradually smear and blur into a Culver-esque growl.  Miguel is a great admirer of Lee Stokoe’s work and it shows in his use of volcanic rumbling and overloaded guitar.  La Mancha, however, is not a mere copy of the monolithic stasis and tunnel vision of Lee’s recent output.  It contains more variation in atmosphere: sometimes the music is meditative, echoing around cyclopean ruins, sometimes it is as sharp and sparkling as shards of broken mirror.  Miguel’s natural enthusiasm grates up against his attempts to be disciplined and this molten magma under the cool, dark surface gives the music a fascinating tension.

And why not end the week with a treat?  Friday was the day for my favourite of Miguel’s projects: The Skull Mask.  I’ll let Miguel explain this one:

The Skull Mask – is my acoustic improvisation project with no one else. This is influenced by Hindustani music, Arab, Jew and free improv. I am taking more and more a minimalistic approach and doing it solo guitar…. is something that I love doing…..will see more releases in the future to come.  This is mostly inspired on my trips to the Sierra de Chihuahua, to the mountains and valleys south Mexico, my visit is to mystic Indians in the desert, etc….is a sort of tribute to the wilderness in Mexico…… good to read that you cared about it!!! No one does!!!!

Well, I care about it a great deal as this is where Miguel’s verve and brio is at its most ego-dissolvingly hypnotic.  These pieces spin and mutate from thrashed riffs through contemplative passages to droning ragas.  For two minutes you think ‘whoo boy, do I really want to listen to 46 minutes of solo guitar?’ then 44 minutes later you come out of your reverie thinking ‘Aww… man, that isn’t long enough!  Again, again!”  This is not slick – Miguel is not trying to be Ry Cooder or Jack Rose – he is just letting fly and the raw energy with which he does so is irresistible.

And that was the week that was.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and will no doubt do it again sometime.  All of this stuff is available for free or for trade so why not check some of it out?  Agorafobia tapes has no web presence and is trade/gift only – contact Miguel directly at lamancha@rocketmail.com for details.  For brand new releases by all these projects your one-stop shop is the Oracle Netlabel site where they are free to download.  For older releases the files are stored at archive.org so click on these links to investigate: La Mancha del Pecado, Enoc Dissonance, Whermacht Lombardo, The Skull Mask.

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