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Transgressive waves

Tulsa Noisefest promises two evenings of challenging sound art

Nathan Young and Matt Hex

Greg Bollinger

“Noise is dissonance. Noise is unwanted sound,” said Tulsa Artist Fellow and noise veteran Nathan Young. “Noise is a musical question.”

This year, Young has curated Tulsa Noisefest (May 4–5) with Matt Hex. The two have been putting on local noise shows and playing noise festivals around the country together for two years. Both have been actively involved in the national noise scene for well over a decade.

Tulsa Noisefest—which will take place at the Cameron Studios (303 N. Main St.) in the Tulsa Arts District—is meant to expose Tulsa to the underrepresented music form and to preach its gospel.

Noise takes many forms, from academic compositions to punk-as-hell mic and effects pedal rage sessions. Young’s year-long, ongoing Tulsa Noise series explores the full spectrum of the genre. Over Noisefest’s two days, the harshest of the harsh and the wildest of the wild will shine.

“The whole Tulsa Noise project is huge,” Young said. “But [Tulsa Noisefest] is just as big an endeavor, because it is just the harsher acts. In this context, we’re just wilding out. It’s fun.”

Noise is obscure, and the average Tulsan has little frame of reference for the genre. Noise contains a complicated universe of subgenres: power electronics, free jazz, drone, grindcore, industrial, dark ambient, minimalism. Noise compositions are inspired by a range of subjects, from serial killers to frogs to sexual bondage to Duran Duran. Appreciating noise requires patience and attention and can be a lifelong pursuit. But noise isn’t wanted—it’s transgressional.

How does a newcomer navigate their way through noise?

Young’s answer is Tulsa Noisefest.

“I think that people listen to [noise] for a lot of different reasons. Just seeing a band like [Friday night headliner] Plack Blague, you understand it’s a very expansive world.”

Young and Hex have grouped the artists into two themed days, each paying tribute to a different aspect of Tulsa’s underground music scene. Friday will pay homage to Tulsa as a haven for industrial music and feature beats-heavy artists. Saturday will recall Tulsa’s reputation as a hardcore punk way station and feature artists with a harder edge.

Young and Hex invite Friday night’s attendees to consider memories of Retro Night at the legendary Ikon venue, the expertly assembled industrial record selection in the gone-but-not-forgotten Mohawk Music, and industrial nights at the Tulsa Eagle.

For Saturday, think back to Operator Dead: Post Abandoned shows at the Monolith and basement hardcore shows in Crosbie Heights, or further back to N.O.T.A at the original Crystal Pistol or Brother Inferior at the 401 Club.

Noisefest acts will come from all over. Miami’s Rat Bastard, founder of the International Noise Conference, one of the country’s most important noise events, will play Friday. Saturday’s lineup includes Witches of Malibu, a harsh noise band born out of Hunting Lodge, one of the Detroit scene’s seminal noise bands, which started in 1982 and was a hometown inspiration for Wolf Eyes, one of the most popular and prolific noise acts of all time.

Young says Noisefest is here both to evangelize noise to the city and to demonstrate that noise is already here, albeit in places one wouldn’t immediately recognize.

“It’s bigger than you think,” said Young.

Young and Hex point out that aspects of hip-hop culture, for instance, are moving in the direction of noise. Sporting rainbow-colored hair and face tattoos, mumbling over surreal atmospherics and beats that range from rough and heavy to minimal and erratic, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Xan, and Lil Yachty are in their own ways reaching into the wellspring of entropy. Popular culture is embracing dissociation, dissonance, noise.

There’s intelligence to noise—it isn’t just an artist noodling around with knobs and mics onstage.

“There’s a brilliance, a bravado, when you go up there and don’t break character,” Hex said. “You go up there and play to your heart’s content.”

Some performances to look forward to include the nuanced and meditative Amps For Christ, featuring alumni of the hugely influential Bastard Noise (Saturday). Denton, Tex.’s Filth promises a hypnotizing sprawl of multitextural noise generated from a vertical tower of electronic sound gear (Friday). Local acts will include Campbell & Gardner, Drew Hail, Natty Gray, and Young and Hex’s own individual noise projects, Narco Alms and Bonemagic, respectively.

Schedule is subject to change. Check Tulsa Noisefest Facebook event page for up-to-date listings.

Friday, May 4
7:00 p.m.: Rumian Rashid Reza
7:15 p.m.: Drew Hail
7:30 p.m.: Church Simulator
7:45 p.m.: Yung Snickers
8:00 p.m.: Cemented Urethra
8:15 p.m.: Twin Towers
8:30 p.m.: Rat Bastard
8:45 p.m.: Zusammenbruch
9:00 p.m.: Craccrock
9:15 p.m.: Narco Alms
9:30 p.m.: Bullshit Market
9:45 p.m.: Bonemagic
10:00 p.m.: CBN
10:15 p.m.: Compactor
10:30 p.m.: EFFLUVIUM
10:45 p.m.: Filth
11:15 p.m.: Plack Blague

Saturday, May 5
6:00 p.m.: Womb Glow
6:15 p.m.: Ambigere
6:30 p.m.: Support Unit
6:45 p.m.: Evasive Flowers
7:00 p.m.: Faint Glow
7:15 p.m.: Tick Suck
7:30 p.m.: Human Fluid Rot vs Body Inflation Sequence
7:45 p.m.: Fierce Deity
8:00 p.m.: Campbell & Gardener
8:15 p.m.: The Blakstar Experience
8:30 p.m.: Patrick Hopewell
8:45 p.m.: Emperor of the North
9:00 p.m.: Amps For Christ
9:15 p.m.: Witches of Malibu
9:30 p.m.: Endless Chasm
9:45 p.m.: Terminal Island
10:00 p.m.: Natty Gray

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