International Noise Conference Turns Up in Houston

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Featuring the Laundry Room Squelchers, Concrete Violin, Kai/ros, Mephedrone, Peiiste, Electric Sleep
June 10, Notsuoh, Free.

Don’t let the name fool you: There won’t be any PowerPoint; perhaps there will be no laptops at all in evidence tonight at Notsuoh. Die Slow presents the Houston edition of the rambling International Noise Conference, a touring version of the Miami-based underground music shebang organized by and starring the Laundry Room Squelchers, one of the most balletic and chaotic groups in modern music, dance and performance art. They’d never cop to anything so toothless as a role in recognized culture, but Rat Bastard and family have been stitching up an avant-garde greatest-hits revue of the past and for the future. Think back to what you remember about post-WWI Europe, a black-and-white place with Hugo Ball and company in the Cabaret Voltaire, deafeningly declamatory. Think ahead to a future written by H.G. Wells if he had any premonitory visions of Svengali recasting Black Swan in the midst of a demolition derby.

The Houston edition of the INC features a greasy potluck of bayou noise. Veteran pedal-torturist Concrete Violin makes a rare outing with his harsh stuff; Kai/ros, also infrequent performers of late, create rich orchestral soundscapes — often using elaborate, homemade instruments; Adam Ferguson’s Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except works within the vast abyss between Sabbath riffs and performance-art freakouts; Joseph Gates, dba Peiiste, comes on with the cool hand-jive ambient sounds; Mephedrone will drill out whatever loose teeth remain from your skull; Electric Sleep bring a little welcome Skullflower jangle to their guitar drones; and Cop Warmth, acclaimed in some pretty influential journals out there as the Menudo of Houston noise-rock, well, they always delight. 

This is at least the 12th year of the International Noise Conference.  This year, per the official site, it's covering 29 cities and 11,000 miles in 32 days. Which is grueling. To keep the wheels rolling, there are a few basic agreements in place. The show starts promptly at 8 p.m., each artist's set is 20 minutes or less, and everything ends at midnight on the dot. 

In a way it's almost an anti-festival — a spectacle, to be sure, but one that showcases outsider artists and work ethic over trend stars and branded underwriters. It covers the country at a breakneck pace, aiming for maximum coverage and human interaction. The Laundry Room Squelchers themselves have a few rules in place that, in turn, exemplify the vibe of the thing. Performers have to hang out in the venue; they can't hide backstage on such occasions as there is a backstage. Certain noise-making devices or processes are verboten to keep the whole thing lively. The shows are very aggressive, albeit handled with an impossible grace. It's about humanity, the grimy glory of being worked too hard and thereby pushed into new places, fair and foul alike.

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