The music that Anaphylaxis (aka Jason Coffman) creates sits squarely within the noise, experimental, and avant-garde realms. And yet, chances are, his music might cause some people to scratch their heads, especially if they have a predisposed notion of just what the “noise” genre entails. Although Coffman is quite adept at creating titanic, violent walls of sound brutal enough to qualify as WMDs, he’s not afraid to go the opposite route and create shifting noise collages that, for all of their strangeness, randomness, and disturbing natures, are uniquely beautiful and even sublime.
That is most certainly the case with Noise For Lovers, quite possibly one of the most beguiling things Coffman has yet released under the Anaphylaxis moniker. Part of that is due to Teresa Santoski’s lovely vocals, their serene nature quite at odds with Coffman’s punishing sounds, providing some slim ray of light. Also, this release feels quite a bit more structured than Coffman’s earlier recordings, employing definable rhythms and downtempo beats to provide some semblance of a shape to the otherwise amorphous sounds.
Coffman’s sound palette seems to have softened quite a bit since the last Anaphylaxis disc I heard. That’s not to say that his music is any less challenging, or that it doesn’t have its darker, harsher moments. But Coffman does a very good job of balancing that side of his music with more inviting and accessible sounds and noises.
The album begins with one of its strongest tracks, the aptly-titled “A Love Set To Music,” a perfect summation of what Coffman is trying to accomplish with the disc. Although the initial sounds are cold and isolating, full of disconnected radio signals and glacial slabs of raw noise, they soon begin to thaw as a warm undercurrent of string arrangements and record snippets begins its flow. These string segments always sound as if they’re on the verge of being ripped apart and ravaged by the whirlwind of sounds swirling around them. But the two extremes only accent each other, creating a fascinating audio yin/yang.
Santoski’s vocals come to the forefront on “Hopeless,” wandering lost and wide-eyed amidst a barren wasteland that seems lifted from Hood’s darkest moments and made even moreso. “Tomie” is another foreboding moment, coming across like a recording of violent subterranean activity — tectonic plates scudding across each other, streams of magma flowing and crackling hundreds of miles below the earth’s surface, or the earth’s core undergoing some maddening change. And Santoski’s reverbed vocals, twisted and stretched all of proportion, only add to the sense of impending doom.
“All Yours” is another one of the album’s brighter moments, and one of its most song-like. Clipped, metallic rhythms churn away while ethereal layers of Flying Saucer Attack-like guitars and feedback swirl and spiral high over head.
Anyone who is a fan of Projekt’s signature darkwave sound will probably find quite a bit to appreciate in “Tomorrow Romance.” A choir of Santoski’s wordless, child-like vocals are looped over dark, shifting drones and groaning feedback. As the song progresses through its nearly 8 minutes, the number of vocals present seem to increase at an exponential rate until the whole thing is a just an unidentifiable, indistinct mass of pure, shimmering sound. Occasionally, a recognizable phrase or lyric will surface for the briefest of moments only to get pulled back into the mass. Abstract and disorienting, but also undeniably beautiful.
The territories imagined by “Wait Here“ ‘s 11 minutes of swirling, apocalyptic sound are vast and bleak, covered by a perpetual grey pall — the sort of place that only one of Tarkovsky’s stalkers might find remotely hospitable. Formless, alien shapes seem to be moving on the edge of your peripheral vision, always disappearing before you can get a firm fix. Abandoned ruins and structures dot the area, their purpose long forgotten now that they’ve been reclaimed by the landscape. Something happened here, and it’s left a distinct otherness, a presence captured uncannily by Coffman.
The album winds down with the epic, 17-minute “(And Sweet Dreams).” Again, wordless, shapeless drones are the modus operandi. They seem to be constantly building but with no climax in sight, making for a listen that’s alternately frustrating, anticipatory, and claustrophobic. That is, until a massive wave of sound takes form and simply drowns out everything else.
Soon, like lovesliescrushing or Stars Of The Lid caught in the maw of a black hole, the overtones and various layers begin collapsing in on themselves, literally crushing the song even as it releases some of the album’s greatest moments of energy and beauty. It’s an incredibly immersive and overwhelming experience, especially when listened to on headphones. The sounds pound and pummel their way into your head leaving you speechless afterwards. Not because of their cruelty, but because of their beauty.