Happy Holidays, and welcome to Heavy Vanguard, where the music is as weird and awesome as you can get. We’ve sort of been on the jazzier side of the avant-garde as of late, what with focuses on Captain Beefheart, and our last episode on Soft Machine, but Scott managed to even it out some by choosing to go in-depth this week with Totem by White Suns. The Flenser label is known for putting out some cutting-edge extreme music, such as releases by Kayo Dot, Wreck and Reference, and Botanist, and Totem is no different, though its approach and attack vary very differently from most other Flenser artists with their use of free improvisation techniques combined with noise music.
What I found most interesting about this album was how perfectly it idealizes noise rock. Usually this is a genre that refers to rock music with noise elements, or that uses feedback in an interesting way, but usually as a secondary element or some sort of FX. Totem instead takes the harshest noise you can think of (we’re talking Merzbow level harsh here), and fixes it into a structure that, while a bit chaotic (given the band’s tendency towards free improvisation), nonetheless gives listeners something to grasp onto. If you’re at all interested in noise music, but find a musician like Merzbow to be too dense, this is a great gateway album.