I’m not normally a fan of noisy, dissonant music but when I read the following on the Bandcamp page for “Deaf Arena” by John Cohen I was intrigued:
“A haunting collection of abrasive electronic noise shot through with equal parts hypnotic vitriol and poignant melodicism…”
It reminds me of the spirit of “I care because you do” by Aphex Twin. I say ’spirit’ because it is unfair to compare anyone to Richard D. James’ technical mastery or musical vision (albeit on “Sweet Tester” Cohen comes very close). This ’spirit’ is to take noise and make something from it … make moments that challenge as well as moments that excite or comfort … moments that make sense after the initial revulsion brought on by the dissonance has abated.And after a number of listens I can honestly say I totally agree … “Deaf Arena” is truly haunting, especially when the melody comes to the fore.
This is Cohen’s genius – he can make a sonically meaningful sow’s purse from the discarded pig’s ear.
Tracks like “Sweet Taster” with its beat built on the percussive qualities of a distorted sample & the more ambient drone that fades to white noise … or the strangle melodious chords of “Human Distortion” that build to towards some superbly skittery percussion … these tracks amply demonstrate Cohen‘s ability to create said purse.
There is method in Cohen’s madness … his emphasis on structure, discipline & craft is obvious from these recordings. This isn’t some improvised nonsense played by incompetent musicians that are seeking to appeal to some obtuse Wire writer … it is apparent that care & thought has gone into these tracks.
Don’t get me wrong, “Deaf Arena” by John Cohen isn’t for everyone … I did struggle with the title track and it’s repetitive vocals … but if you can get beyond the apparent noise, you’ll be captivated by a wonderfully creative expression … such as “watch that searing flare” which is as exquisite as it is dissonant.
I enjoyed “Deaf Arena” by John Cohen and would recommend it to anyone with a love of leftfield music like Aphex Twin or Autechre.
John Cohen’s alter ego – Deadfader – Facebook Page