Review: R/S - USA

USA documents Rehberg and Schmickler’s 2009 tour across the states, and presents three noise improvisations captured live (two from Chicago, one from New York). This is brash, agitated stuff – synthesizers overlap in warbling, fizzing, quivering gestures all happening at the same time, with both members outright refusing to step back and provide the music with a static backdrop. Instead, both delight in constant activity and textural excess, and USA is all the more enthralling for it.

At 17 minutes, “Chicago I” is the longest piece and probably the most dynamic. Glissando synth tones slurp upwards like a chorus of frogs, while flickering noises jerk around the stereo field and up and down the frequency range. With so much happening at any given moment, listeners have to be selective as to what they concentrate on, and it’s easy to find one’s self frantically flitting between points of focus as each of USA’s layers bustles boisterously for attention. “Chicago II” is equally as aggressive but adds cascades of blips and beeps into the white noise fray, like a spaceship motherboard sent into meltdown. “NYC” revolves around a centre that morphs from scrapes to shrieks to splutters, with elements of the previous two pieces making a dramatic and conclusive reprise during its 10-minute duration.

Everything is incredibly up-front – the sounds of USA ping around the skull as if trapped and panicked within it – and it’s a quality that reminds me of Merzbow’s more explicitly digitalized offerings. Although unlike much of Merzbow’s recent output, which enters with a bang and complacently drifts for the rest of its duration, Rehberg and Schmickler never let up – if anything, USA only escalates into greater frenzy as it progresses.