LOS ANGELES — Long after local businesses have closed shop for the day, things become very loud at 3709 W. Pico Blvd. It is the kind of noise that can be mistaken for a technical malfunction, like white noise amplified by a faulty monitor, but at Mata Noise, everything that is harsh, non-musical, and experimental is welcome.
The small venue and gallery is located between a Spanish-language church and Korean print shop, one of many anomalous art spaces in this sprawling city. On a recent weeknight, I attended a series of performances headlined by noise composers John Wiese and Greh Holger, who collaborate as Anti-Civilization Mask.
In conjunction with their performance was a video of a collage work in progress. Two pairs of hands tore apart pieces of found images, gluing them in overlapping patterns that defied any discernible shape or form. This was a fitting visual representation of what was occurring aurally, a chaotic collage of sounds being assembled by a pair of conductors.
Over time, the paper collage in the video began to resemble a figurative landscape, some semblance of a sunrise, but that was likely my mind and eyes attempting to make sense of disorder. The hesitation or repositioning of the hands suggested a degree of deliberation in the collage-making, just as Wiese and Holger were forming and deforming sounds on stage.
Amidst the harsh wall of noise, I recognized fragments of what I presumed to be music, a brief drum loop in one sequence or a synthesizer in another, but these samples were not sustained long enough to be considered rhythmic or melodic in any way. As with the visual collage, the senses attempted to latch onto what is familiar, but the spirit of noise performance is to disallow recognition and challenge the passive listener.
Opening performances by local artists Anthony Michael King and Constrain & Fenian generated equal doses of sound and fury, the former arranging a mishmash of vinyl records and the latter creating noise with modified percussive instruments. Before all of this could become overwhelming, the performances concluded within minutes and the noise gave way to the silence and blankness of the gallery walls.
Mata Noise defines itself as a space for “harsh noise performance and related visual arts.” Although this particular night did not host a prominent visual piece, the paper collage from Wiese and Holger’s video was displayed in an assortment of cassettes and zines produced by hand in limited runs.
The noise scene is unlikely to grow beyond small and discrete venues such as this, given its fiercely DIY ethos, but within each cassette tape and performance is something big and expansive, entire soundscapes to be entered and explored.
Anti-Civilization Mask performed at Mata Noise (3709 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles) on February 21 at 10:30 pm PST.