Zebra Mu / Schadenfreude - "The Good, The Bent, & The Twisted" Split
Zebra Mu - Taped to Destruction
Schadenfreude - Country Gas Station
It's been an embarrassingly long time since I've posted an Aural Sandpaper, and I have no excuse other than there have been thrilling things like interviews with DMX that I felt were more deserving of your attention. However, as my primary goal with this blog is to use it to eventually become the Arts & Leisure editor of the Times, I figure I may as well write about music or something, like I told myself I would. And so, for your listening displeasure, today I present to you the unbearable sounds of Zebra Mu & Schadenfreude.
I'm jumping the shark a bit in terms of sheer unpalatability with Zebra Mu & Schadenfreude. My last post was about Big Black, a band that is certainly abrasive, but still uses things like melody, rhythm, meter, and other such outdated musical cliches. These dudes, on the other hand, make absolute, honest-to-God noise. Maybe it could be called sound collage, maybe it could be called abstract composition, maybe it could be called, I don't know, something else (there's my Washington Post audition sentence), but really, it should just be called "guys destroying shit on tape." It's like the audio form of Jackass, only not funny and twelve-year-olds wouldn't like it. I like to think I have a high tolerance for extreme weirdness, and can listen to just about anything, no matter how nauseating (I plan to write about Wolf Eyes next), but Schadenfreude and especially Zebra Mu really bother me. This is maybe the only piece of music I possess that I can't listen to. I downloaded this album last summer during a fleeting period of fascination with circuit bending, and I only now made it through the whole thing.
Circuit bending is manipulation of electronics like toys and cheap keyboards for musical purposes. It creates new, experimental sounds by using devices in a way they were not intended to be used. While circuit bending can produce results where the source sound is still recognizable, that is not how Zebra Mu & Schadenfreude do it. They are more apt to record a tape being eaten or a toy being dismantled by a screwdriver. While these sounds may have at some point been a Tickle-Me-Elmo or something, now they sound like a broken stereo being dragged by a car. The squalling white noise and grinding gears are disorienting and irritating. There are no patterns, very few recognizable melodies, and a whole lot of racket. It may remind you of your VCR fucking up your copy of Fern Gully.
What makes this album so difficult to listen to for me is the aforementioned lack of pattern. There's no rhythm to grab hold of, so it just becomes an assaultive collection of cheap, hideous broken electronic noises. It's impossible to follow, making it extremely difficult to focus on while listening to, and it's too abrasive for background music. It may be beautiful to the smallest of niche audiences, but it would only annoy most listeners. It's interesting conceptually for its repurposing of items with a fixed meaning, making it a form of evil children's music, but it's so headache-inducing to listen to. Which is not to say that headache induction is its ultimate goal. It's not cruel like other super-abrasive music (again, I'm thinking of Wolf Eyes), where the performers are trying to freak people out. Zebra Mu & Schadenfreude seemingly more interested in finding out what happens when things get taken apart. This is nerdy rather than aggressive. Which kind of contradicts what I was saying about how painful to listen to this is; don't get me wrong, it's still painful. It's just that the pain is more a side effect than the intended result. But, like many medications, the side effects are worse than the disease (if after taking Viagra you ejaculate blood, please consult your physician).
I must say, though, these dudes are growing on me. I'm going to listen to them side by side with Drake now.
If for some reason you want to download this album, you can do so legally here