Various Artists, ‘American Noise,’ (L.I.E.S.)
Release Date: December 11, 2012
The acronym for ridiculously underground New York City imprint L.I.E.S. stands for “Long Island Electrical Systems,” though the land of Billy Joel doesn’t quite scan as a dance-music Mecca. It does remain a place, however, where hardcore punk blasts out of basement dens in Northport, and Guinness Record-breaking metal acts like Manowar can sell out two nights in Huntington, regardless of what cooler sounds are buzzing at the westernmost tip of the island (i.e., Brooklyn). And while almost all of the 23 brusque, scabrous, previously vinyl-only tracks collected here on the label’s double-disc American Noise compilation have analog synths and late-’80s house and acid tracks as their foundations, there’s a touch of hardcore- and metal-edged sonic grit that sneaks in as well.
Not that the mostly unknown artists on this comp are confined to Strong Island; instead, they often hail from Jersey City, Bushwick, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and even that forgotten borough of Staten Island, in the case of Jahiliyya Fields’ set-opening Terry Riley/Emeralds fever dream “Servant Garden,” which segues into the intensifying John Carpenter arpeggios of Steve Moore’s Thing-freezing synthscape “Frigia.” From there, American Noise veers from the luminous-at-3-a.m. deep house of Marcos Cabral’s “24 Hour Flight” to the mind-eating Chicago acid baths of Vapauteen’s “Measure,” and Svengalisghost’s “Deep into Memory.”
The blueprint for L.I.E.S.’ analog-based aesthetic harkens back to Detroit’s Underground Resistance and the Hague’s Bunker Records, two labels that often obscured the cult of personality on their rosters to focus exclusively on the music; Bunker’s influence is particularly evident on “Sark Island Acid,” a warm, tocking inclusion from Dutch master Danny Wolfers (a.k.a., Legowelt), who connects the dots between Mr. Fingers and µ-Ziq. As concise and crafted as such tracks are, though, it’s when the drum machines begin to sputter, the synth lines abrade, and urban haze infiltrates the space between beats that the comp’s headiest moments arise. Delroy Edwards’ distorted and gurgling “Feelings” has already made the leap onto Ben UFO’s recent FabricLive mix, and while known more for his video work, Luke Wyatt contributes two nebulous cuts as Torn Hawk, both sounding like they were dubbed onto a sun-warped VHS tape.
Elsewhere, newcomer Bookworms’ “African Rhythms” layers tribal chants and looses the hand drums from their rhythmic moorings, resulting in something more mesmerizing; Bookworms purportedly also had a hand in the comp’s bleariest track, “Untitled I.,” attributed to Unknown Artist. Across its 11 druggy minutes, there’s static-y crackle, synth squalls, cavernous hi-hat hisses, and strobing white noise, cohering into something akin to what Throbbing Gristle might’ve sounded like emanating from a Brooklyn loft. Or a Long Island basement.