I miss many aspects of my pre-pandemic life, but at least so far, going to shows is surprisingly low on the list. Remembering braving the social stress and the late-night commutes home appeals to me less than finding time to reflect, breathe, and check in with people I care about. If I miss any live music, though, it’s noise. I crave twenty-minute sets in tiny rooms, sets where performers put unreasonable amounts of stress on their unrecognisable machines and the flimsy folding tables underneath, while the other twelve people in the audience make cryptic gestures of communion or gaze ahead with disquieting levels of attention.
This new release by Oakland duo W.O.E. speaks to my minor wish. Brian Tester and JaMile Jackson’s music is more psychedelic than it is punishing, but it has the almost absurdly overwhelming quality I like most in noise. It feels gigantic, and at the same time its expressiveness makes it unmistakably human. Especially on “Ultrawarm Indices 4,” the sound unfolds gradually and with restraint, it pulses in a way that’s not overtly machine-like, and it’s bright and colourful and detailed. Focusing on any single sound here is like trying to keep your eye on raindrops in a downpour. At least for now, it gives me the satisfaction of a noise show, without the part where I try not to miss the last bus of the evening.
Ultrawarm Indices is available now, both as a tape and a pay-what-you-want download, on the San Francisco label Glowing Dagger.