Dec 2012 28

Boyd Rice / NON - Back to MonoBoyd Rice / NON
Category: Noise
Album: Back to Mono
Stars: 5
Blurb: The marriage of noise and music is taken to a logical next step as one of the progenitors of the genre returns to his roots, making for an atonal and engaging listen.


Years before the advent of samplers, before noise music became recognized as a legitimate form of artistic expression, Boyd Rice was paving a strange and unusual path. Both under his real name and his NON moniker, his innovations with vinyl loops and audio manipulation not only sent people into spastic, even violent bouts of musical fury, but also helped to usher in many of the tropes now inherent to modern industrial and noise music. With Back to Mono, Rice demonstrates that the style he created still has room to expand beyond the limitations imposed by time and familiarity.

As Rice has so often done, “Turn Me On, Dead Man” begins as a bit of a psyche out as a standard three-chord rock progression starts us off, fooling the listener for the first 20 seconds of Back to Mono if the artist has gone soft and adopted the purely “musical” route. Before long, the track descends into a psychedelic wall of steely feedback and oscillating waves of pure noise that is at once jarring and fascinating. Returning for a reprise, the track exudes a more somber, reverent tone as the hum of what could be vocal chants gradually evolve into waves of noise that wax and wane before finally ending with an ambient pulse. The title track, presented in both a studio and live version, assaults the listener with the mechanically gritty and oddly rhythmic juggernaut of distortion from a bass and paint stripper. Unrelenting in its monotone intensity, there are subtle shifts in the ambience of the track to give it a colorful personality that is only accentuated in its live version as the less than pristine recording quality adds a lo-fi dimension of metallic character. With a discordant ascending melody that immediately blasts into a punishing wail, “Obey Your Signal Only” veritably evokes the punishing attitude of a New York City traffic jam, while reverberating shouts hover ghostly yet menacing above a harshly marching rhythm on “Fire Shall Come.”

Rounding out the album are a pair of live recordings from the ‘70s, “Watusi” and “Scream,” which serve to accentuate Rice’s exploratory spirit coming back to its roots with Back to Mono, and while the version of “Warm Leatherette” that concludes the album may seem a strange addition, its repetitive and dissonant tonality and monotonous vocal is indicative of the marriage of noise and music that Rice helped to create. One can’t help but to get lost in the atonal myriad, making for an engaging listen that continues to push the envelope past what is acceptably referred to as music. Featuring collaborations with Z’ev, Bryin Dall, and Wes Eisold, Back to Mono is not only a history lesson but also a tutorial for the modern noisemakers, exhibiting the degrees to which pure sound can be made musical despite itself.
Track list:

  1. Turn Me On, Dead Man
  2. Watusi
  3. Back to Mono
  4. Seven Sermons to the Dead
  5. Obey Your Signal Only
  6. Man Cannot Flatter Fate
  7. Scream
  8. Back to Mono (Live)
  9. Turn Me On, Dead Man (Reprise)
  10. Fire Shall Come
  11. Warm Leatherette

Boyd Rice/NON Website
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Purchase at:
Amazon CD
Amazon MP3
Amazon Vinyl
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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