"Noise," as music designations go, is like that drawer in your kitchen that becomes a home for stuff that doesn't quite fit elsewhere. Ruler. Questionable batteries. Snow globe from a trip to Florida. Where do we stash these odds and ends? Nowhere in particular. Inevitably, they just find their way into the drawer.
Unlike other kitchen sink adjectives like "alt.rock" and "indie," the very thing that ropes music into the noise category is its disparateness. The essence of noise music looms naked, yet obscured by its own murkiness, an undefinable blob.
Still, "noise" seems appropriate, not only as a physical description of what you'll hear--that is, atonal and without any traditional structure--but as an appropriation on par with other once-threatening terms like "punk" or "queer." There's a flashback to middle school. You can hear your father growl, "Turn that racket down!" from the living room. Your mother joins the chorus with "What is that noise?"
Indeed. In this particular music community, "What's that noise?" reflects back a much larger question: "What's music?"
Los Angeles-New Mexico microlabel Sicksicksick (aka Sssk) started nailing that point home in 2001, when it began pressing vinyl from “underground, uncategorical" groups across the Southwest.
"Today, nothing has changed," says musician and Sicksicksick co-organizer Raven Chacon. "We are still putting out short-run ... limited edition releases of desert musicians who make noise." Raven describes offerings in the Sickicksick catalog as "snapshots in time."
It's fitting that Sicksicksick has picked The Curio, a newer venue in the Warehouse district, to showcase its artists this Friday. The venue itself is a kind of drawer for art, performances and projects that don't fit comfortably in other confines. Artists like Occasional Detroit (upcoming Sssk release No. 31), a big beat duo transplanted from Michigan; Lionhead Bunny (Sssk No. 19), the noisy offspring of Bud Melvin and Jessica Billey, who also somehow find the time to be in Grave of Nobody's Darling, Cobra//group, Lowlights and Blue Rose Ramblers; Fando (upcoming Sssk No. 25), a team of two sets of brothers; and prog-folkies Mammal Eggs (Sssk No. 27, celebrating its release the day of the showcase). All together, at least 10 groups affiliated with Sicksicksick will be in attendance.
Removed from the rest of your house, your junk drawer paints an odd portrait of the person who lives there. And so it goes with these noise musicians. There's no nice, neat way of describing what, exactly, it is they're all doing here. But whatever impression they end up making, you'll feel it intensely.