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Gut Punchin' Music: Santa Ana Noise Fest

Pedestrian Deposit

The Santa Ana Noise Fest (SANF) has been gracing the Artist's Village with its rich and experimental awesomeness for four years now. A brainchild between Stephen Anderson and Steven Antonio, SANF hits a demographic that is rarely thought of to be present in the O.C. scene. With Brutal Poodle headlining this year, SANF-4 has been streamlined with the help of Phog Masheen's leader Mark Soden.

Visiting headlining band Brutal Poodle provides insight in to what the Noise scene is all about. The avant-garde project was created by Emmy Collins and Jacobine van der Meer (two members of a former band Lavender) and they employ homemade instruments, electronic devices, feedback rapture, and vocal play. The multi-faceted Jacobine, also known as "The Brutal Poodle," influenced the band to use visual projections, set designs for their performances, and costumes with masks; while drummer John Weldy, known as "Drums Leftist," brings home-made musical instruments to the group. Emmy Collins, aka "Anonymous Bosch," brings Brutal Poodle's stage presence to life with physical stunts, dancing, and performative work.

Brutal Poodle "Two Cans (was there)
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At Brutal Poodle's practice space near El Sereno in Los Angeles they host an intimate concert series called Micro Lunch Concerts (MLC), which occur in the front window of their space every Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. The MLC consists of impromptu, spontaneous noise experimentation ranging from short staccato bursts to 10-minute long jams. These new noise compositions are like little adventures between band members, intimately exploring the improvisations of their band-mates. Emmy Collins describes Brutal Poodle's musical ventures as playful and performative, relying on the exactness of "now." "It's as if there is no future, no past, just now," he says.

Jacobine van der Meer and Emmy Collins from Brutal Poodle. | Photo by Evan Senn

Brutal Poodle's custom-made costumes and masks support their aim to remain anonymous on stage, visually drawing your curiosity in, but keeping the experience relatable on many levels. Familiar sounds join together to create new auditory relationships, while spazmatic sounds carry weight and dissonance through the composition, flirting with complementary tones and textures.

Jacobine works as a Studio Manager for artist Paul McCarthy regularly, helping to build his famous sculptures, and helping to flex her creativity. Her own art, complicated conceptual sculptures, touch on similar relationships as her music with Brutal Poodle. She said that her work with the band has become another kind of artistic practice, which allows her to express herself in a variety of ways. "I find that it is so 'now' that it stops everything else in your head; becomes a whole experience for us and for the audience."

Brutal Poodle in the desert. | Photo: Vic Romeo.

Emmy and Jacobine both value the performative aspects of making noise music. Emmy works as a professional actor, sought after for his eccentric style and personality. Performing is important to Emmy, who owns and operates his own label, Come Records, and likes to showcase musical groups that provoke people. "I want music and art that punches you in the gut," he says. "It needs to move me."

Brutal Poodle "Sheep Tights"
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The noise scene in Orange County stems around the venues, like any sub-genre or sub-culture of music, and the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) has been supporting local noise music for over six years. OCCCA is a large co-op gallery in the heart of the artist's village in downtown Santa Ana, and has been hosting the Eclectic Music Concert Series in their back gallery space, bringing in many different groups of people and types of music from all over.

Yuko Imada from SANF2 | Photo courtesy of Stephen Anderson.

This year at SANF, Mark Soden has grabbed hold of the reigns, and with the helps of The Steves (the original creators of SANF) they have harnessed 13 bands to play the festival, including Brutal Poodle, Cold Grey Eye, Craig Sibley, +DOG+, Endometrium Cuntplow, Grizzly, Jesus Is Dead, phog masheeen, Six Mystic Points, Wire Here, XSXCXEXBX and Yard Goat. This year is also special because they are planning on creating a "Noise Circle" at the end of the event. This offers an opportunity for all the performers to play together, blending their unique approaches to sound production into a swirling vortex of sound. The proximity of the date of the SANF4 to the end of the Mayan Calendar suggests that the "Noise Circle" is the self-proclaimed "official" ritual to open a rift to the end of the world. This noise circle was originally a part of the grand-design of the first SANF, and will be brough back because of its overwhelming popularity -- it just also happens to coincide with the end of the Mayan Calendar.

Local artists including Craig Sibley and Eric Strauss (from Grizzly) are examples of Orange County's burgeoning noise scene, which has in the past coalesced more around Los Angeles. With roots going as far back as the 1940s, noise music has always been about new experimentation and its practitioners have thoroughly engaged with the expansion of instrumentation brought on first by electric instruments, and more recently, computers. In fact, noise music has always drawn from more mainstream genres, and today's manifestation pulls heavily from dubstep, techno, drum and bass, house, and others. But the appeal of noise transcends genre, as Steven Antonio points out, "On a more primitive level it is a release of energy for a lot of us. A lot of males do that with sports, and some of us are just a little bit more technical and do it this way. But overall I think this is a more primitive release for everybody involved."

Stephen Anderson, Mark Soden & Steven Antonio, the SANF Coordinators

Mark Soden relates the musical process of noise to that of sculpture, which focuses on specific elements that are inherent in both making sculptural art work and making noise music. "You can hear the qualities of sculpture as they (the musicians) are building their synthesis," Soden says. As an artist, I can understand the process of making an artwork with the tools that I have in my possession, limited as they may be; but the process of making noise music has roots in technologies -- new and old -- and that gives so much more freedom to the creators, helping to make amazing noise compositions. When asked why they were putting on a noise festival in Santa Ana year after year, founder Steven Antonio answered simply and humbly, "I just want it to be there if anybody needs it; just to exist. To inspire, and leave an impression on people."

Santa Ana Noise Fest takes place on Saturday, December 8, 2012 at OCCCA in downtown Santa Ana. For some tracks from the line up, visit SANF's sound cloud.

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Top Image: Pedestrian Deposit at SANF2 | Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Anderson.

About the Author

Evan is the Editor in Chief of Inland Empire Weekly, Culture Magazine, and Rogue Art Research & Writing (RARW).
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