Jeff Carey snaps, crackles, and pops on his latest album index[off], a subtle labyrinth of dynamic noise made essentially on a joystick. The Baltimore artist’s modified video game console is often the instrument of unhinged sonic torture, but here it’s a playful trickster coaxing the listener through a sonic hall of mirrors.
In the summer of 2012, Carey left the audience at the notorious Electrik Maid venue in Takoma Park, MD, completely shattered. It was a demolition derby of bombs and chainsaws brutalizing the eardrums, not unlike most of his recorded catalogue. But now he’s exploring more spacious, ambient terrain not unlike the other headliners Esther Chlorine (a criminally forgotten duo of Hey Exit and Vibrating Garbage). Sometimes he even veers into the haunting drone timbres of another headliner, Tag Cloud. It’s great to hear all those sounds coming together into one album-length nightmare.
But I digress.
(And the cadence of the album is somewhat erratic.
Jeff Carey is a paragon of poise and restraint here, sparing us his usual cybernetic onslaught in favour of a more immersive, haunting torture chamber. Rather than a violent insurrection we get muffled radio static, mutant footsteps in a nuclear snowstorm, acid rainfall in alien jungles. In three basic interlaced movements—infinite queue, memory cell, and gravity assist—we get it all.
Storms rage in distant seas, and ancient beasts die quiet deaths at the bottom of the Mariana trench. What’s really going on in Carey’s world? It’s unclear where the crackling and popping is coming from, if it’s in the same space or time-scale as the echoes and muffled drilling interspersed with silence and pink noise. Distance is warped and intention abolished. Machinery itself is coming alive, or perhaps instead entropy is sapping life out of the universe and everything is running on autopilot, a hollowed out shell of existence. It’s like Morse code breaking you out of the Matrix, frying you in an automated electrical grid.
If you thought noise music had maxed out on its innovative potential decades ago, you’ve got another thing coming.