Even in some of the angriest, dudeliest noise music made now, you’ll find some traces of what’s become noise’s present-day psychedelic, “transcendent” rule book. Maybe it’s a function of noise becoming a bigger, more accepted music movement, but there’s a sense that noise must be “more than” noise, the focus not so much on the machine and its vast capabilities for expression and composition, but on the ghost in the machine. It’s almost as if a good number of the people making noise music now are afraid of noise music. In other words, in the genre of music with the most capabilities for bare physicality, you’ll find less and less bare physicality—visceral, corporeal guts.
It’s taken composer/noise artist Daniel Menche 22 years and somewhere around 70 releases (give or take) to actually name a record Guts, however much guts—the body, the machine: rusting, bleeding, pumping, dying, being obscene—might actually factor into the artist’s oeuvre. Right now, as it has for as long as this writer can remember, Menche’s blog header asks, “What does blood sound like?” If you’ve seen Menche in concert, you might’ve gotten a most literal answer as the (super-fit, most un-noisy-looking) Menche contact-mics his veins and arteries, revealing the answer that blood can sound as harrowing as the most fucked, circuit-bent electronic signal birthed into sound waves.
Menche told me once in an interview that the goal of his 2006 record Concussions, something of a breakthrough as far as these things go, was to create something that he, an avid trail runner, couldn’t outrun. The result was percussive soundscapes, the biggest, most intense, most alien drum circle ever. As breathless as jumping rope at 20,000 feet, the record is a sort of post-electronic noise without much parallel. The first entry into the four-part, double-record Guts (the CD version), “Guts 2X4,” is much like that, but with a sound source much more vague. Percussive, yes, and bottomless with the lower-end sound of the beating up of something mingling with a just-there high-end managing to be as nightmarish as it is slight. If you’ve ever been tossed around by some kind of turbulence—under a waterfall or rapid or thrashed around by an ocean wave with up becoming down and back again—it’s a lot like that, with asphyxiation to match.
By the time “Guts Two” comes around, Menche’s source material for Guts becomes more clear. It’s a piano. Or it was a piano; since its thrashing, it’s very much an ex-piano now. (Head over to danielmencheblood.blogspot.com right now and you’ll find a picture of said piano moments before heading to the dump, guts exposed.) At first it’s just a thin peel of suspended, high-pitched sound and sparse metallic rustling, while thin webs of electronics pass over and back. What sounds like a high electronic tone only gradually reveals itself as piano notes, as slight holes and narrow spaces appear, releaving something strangely acoustic, only to distort and stutter and concuss, becoming more and more a soft violence made hard through sheer claustrophobia and disorientation.
Over “Guts One,” “Guts Two,” and “Guts Three,” the idea remains the same, viewed from different angles: A sound becomes its own destruction becomes the feeling of destruction. A scraping thunk, a metallic scrape, a strand of electronically processed something, all flowing downward toward rushing, panicky disorder, deep dark caverns of increasing entropy, tapering—quieting, thinning—only at the end into some final and forever image of magnificent broken symmetry. On “Guts One,” that forever image is like a sort of once-molten metallic chunk, losing momentum after some period of downward fall as it reaches the 20-minute mark. A piece of something torn apart in a storm bouncing twice and landing at your feet.
There’s no need to paint something onto music like this. As “Guts Three” moves into its own final seconds in deep, damaged gongs—piano notes rendered as church bells ringing over a nuclear wasteland—there’s no need to acknowledge any sort of ghost or psyche at work. It’s not sacred. It’s the machine itself, realized in a most-pure way through the kind of destruction that feels only naturalistic at the end. You know, guts: You can’t get away from guts, your own, that piano’s, or Menche’s chihuahua Arrow’s, whose guts you can find on the record’s x-ray cover image, in case you were wondering what sort of creature that’s supposed to be anyway.