Noxagt LIVE review

Music Reviews
Noxagt LIVE review
Mar 29, 2007, 02:19

NOXAGT pic © J. Graham


NOXAGT / ETTRICK / ACRE at Hemlock Tavern, San Francisco, CA; March 27, 2007

No thanks to a nasty 79¢ canned chili dinner, I missed most of the openers tonight, arriving in the middle of a typically breathless Ettrick tantrum. For those who haven't yet felt Ettrick's spine-twingeing electricity, it goes like this: Take two drummers with the blast-beat instincts of black-metal thrashers; split their personalities so each of them knows the ABCs (Aylers, Brötzmanns, and Colemans) of free-jazz saxophone; and then have both members run back and forth between reed-busting sax rushes and percussion that frequently wrecks the drumkits with heavy chains, hubcaps, and steel turntable wheels. You're does sound like an awesome jazz-metal apocalypse. Usually. This was a relatively quiet night, however—nothing was destroyed and no one had to jump away from the stage for fear of losing an eye to a shattered drumstick splinter. So be it. There's always next week. Ettrick, like hurricane season in the Caribbean, comes around again before you know it.

After a short delay for set-up, Noxagt humbly took the stage. No fanfare, no introduction, not even a glance at the crowd. Just two flicks of amplifier switches and then...instant earthquake. You didn't hear Noxagt begin so much as you felt them begin. An empty whiskey glass quickly shivered off the shelf above my head and konked me on the noggin. A good omen indeed! Although I wish I'd seen these dirge-abusing Norwegians back when they featured a viola player instead of a guitarist, my fears of power-trio cliches were rapidly put to rest: New member Anders Hana simply treated his six strings as channels through which to inflict maximum pain with his effects pedals, including delays, equalizers, pitch shifters, Big Muff distortion, MoogerFooger synth filter, and even a future-fuzz loop effect known as a Truly Beautiful Disaster. (Les mots justes!) I wasn't the only person in the audience to note the resemblance between Noxagt's titanic, tightly wound super-grind and the almighty God-throttling power of those early Swans LPs. This was a potent, preternatural force that rumbled deep within some Dionysian core of the abdomen. It didn't matter that there was little to “see” or that “showmanship” is a foreign word to these, um, foreigners. I would gladly have locked myself in an unlit, frigid fallout shelter and let Noxagt irradiate me with waves of chorded bass, diamond-drill guitar feedback, and drums that punctuated the noise with simple, mechanistic precision. You know that old trick where you rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time? Do that, except press a disk sander into your fleshy belly and apply a jackhammer to your brainpan instead. That, my friends, is Noxagt—a truly beautiful disaster. Give it a FEMA seismic rating of 8 on the modified Mercalli scale: “Destructive: Structural damage considerable, particularly to poorly built structures.”

-J. Graham

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