The music is Brian Eno's start sound for Window 95 slowed down 23 times. The video is a commercial for Windows 95 played at .23x speed.
To celebrate the reissue of the band's cult 1981 self-titled album we chat with original members Frankie Ennui and Chuck Roast.
By Sam Eckhardt Oct 22 2015, 2:00am
The post-1970s Los Angeles new wave scene was undoubtedly one of the most interesting and rich musical breeding grounds of the modern era. Epitomised by people like Geza X and the television program New Wave Theatre, the scene was fertile soil out of which grew hundreds of new wave and punk bands.
One of the most cruelly overlooked bands of this period were Suburban Lawns. Consisting of five art students from Long Beach, all performing under pseudonym, the band performed a jerky, manic style of new wave that echoed the best elements of punk and surf rock. The radiant jewel in the crown of Suburban Lawns was frontwoman Su Tissue, who's vocal style could slip from monotonic drawl to squeal in an instant, and who's aloof stage presence was aggressively anti-punk.
The band released their first single "Gidget Goes To Hell" in 1979, and quickly followed that up with a self-titled album in 1980. The LP has since become stuff of legend; a wholly unique slice of experimental rock 'n' roll that epitomised everything that was exciting about new wave.
The band went on to release one more EP before parting ways. Members formed other bands, Su Tissue went on to record an experimental solo piano album and have a minor role in Jonathan Demme's Something Wild, and Suburban Lawns slipped further into obscurity.
To celebrate Futurismo reissuing their classic LP, we had the pleasure of talking with guitarist Frankie Ennui (real name Richard Whitney) and drummer Chuck Roast (real name Charles Rodriguez) about their time in Suburban Lawns.
If you've taken any introductory course or even read any introductory books on music, you'll almost certainly have heard it described as "organized sound." Fair enough, but then what do you call disorganized sound? Why, noise of course. And all this makes perfect sense until your first encounter with the seemingly paradoxical but robust and ever-expanding tradition of noise music.
"Modern 'noise music' finds its roots in early electronic and industrial musics," says Static Signals, which used to review a lot of the stuff. "Where composers began expanding their vocabulary of sound and instrumentation is where the concept of 'noise' begins: what sounds can produce music and which are purely static or noise? For some, music's outer boundary is defined by western European classical instruments designed hundreds of years ago and the sounds, pitches, rhythms they can (classically) produce. For others, no sound, rhythm, tone, or pitch is off limits; music can be made by anything that can vibrate air."
The development of electronic musical instruments — and indeed, any kind of sound-manipulating electronic device — came as a great boon to this exploration of the borderlands between organized and disorganized sound. You can hear the effects of that sort of technology and much else besides in An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music, a seven-part anthology released by formidable Belgian experimental music label Sub Rosa, all of it available on Spotify (whose software you can download here if you need it). The first two volumes are embedded above; all seven volumes can be streamed via the links below. If you dig the collection, we'd encourage you to purchase your own copy and support Sub Rosa's project.
- An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music #1(Spotify playlist) features John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, DJ Spooky, and Sonic Youth (Buy on Amazon)
- An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music #2 (Spotify playlist) features Captain Beefheart, Percy Grainger, Sun Ra, and (Eraserhead's sound genius) Alan R. Splet (Buy on Amazon)
- An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music #3 (Spotify playlist) features Faust, Merzbow, and Carsten Nicolai with Alva Noto (Buy on Amazon)
- An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music #4 (Spotify playlist) features Gyorgy Ligeti, Steve Reich, and the Loop Orchestra (Buy on Amazon)
- An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music #5 (Spotify playlist) features Pere Ubu, Dub Taylor, and Li Chin Sung aka Dickson Dee (Buy on Amazon)
- An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music #6 (Spotify playlist) features Sachiko M, Pain Jerk, Henry Cowell, and Ultraphonist (Buy on Amazon)
- An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music #7 (Spotify playlist) features Tziga Vertov, Cabaret Voltaire, Novi_sad — and, to end the anthology, a piece both anonymous and untitled (Buy on Amazon)
To the noise music-uninitiated — and probably even to a few of the initiated — some of the tracks here will sound like music, and some certainly won't. But most of them fall fascinatingly in-between the two states, ideally expanding the listener's conception of the sonic territory music can explore. Some musical experiments, just like scientific experiments, point in more fruitful directions than others, but each one sheds a little new light on the musical enterprise itself. And "the noise," to take the words straight from Sub Rosa themselves, "goes on..."