No matter what genre a band seems to be working in, these days, the blending of live instruments and electronics seems to be the name of the game, as well all struggle to come to grips and make the best use of the technology at our disposal. Which raises the question, in the case of the Portland psychedelic duo Noise Agency: what exactly do you call this, and how exactly do two people make so much racket?
Noise Agency is equal parts trance rock, hippy drum circle, Chicago Post-Rock, psychedelic lightshow and Atari adventure. The basic template seems to be live drums, trancey repetitive basslines, swarms of effected guitars, a handful of handmade electronics, and a variety of studio FX. Otic is pretty light on the vocals and is largely instrumental, except for the occasional stream-of-consciousness dream dialogue, and the odd vocal effect, as can be seen on the Crazy Train By Way Of Carissa Explains It All of “Hah 60″
or the rustbelt “Good Morning, Captain” of “Happy Err”, which hearkens back to the industrial roots of Stumptown:
Noise Agency occupy a rare intersection, and possess a unique opportunity: the ability to appeal to fans of raw, analog electronics, jazzy post-rock, and jamtronica in equal measure. I can hear shards of Tortoise in the basslines, Ekoplekz and the Radiophonic Workshop in the hand-modulated oscillators, and the tech-groove of Lotus or Eoto. Maybe this is the beginning of a dialogue between this disparate genres? I was always surprised more Phish heads were not more into the instrumental prowess of Tortoise, as I think they’d be hooked, if they knew it existed.
Noise Agency are a prime example of what i’d like to see more of, in Portland, blending old skool West Coast-psych with technology and the future, even if that future is Retro. That’s a lot of what its like here, being both old-fashioned and hypermodern, simultaneously. It’s a place of intersection, and of overlap. They’re also a good alternative to the Soft Grunge pastel romanticism that I think a lot of people associate with this place, or furry folk (both of which we possess in great abundance, but that is not all).
Noise Agency also suggest a way forward: an amalgam of the Human and the Machine. I, (and i’m sure most of you), listen to boatloads of Techno, and truly love it to the depths of holographic soul, but after a while, the machine rhythms can be rather piercing, grating; like working a too-long shift at the local groove factory. It makes you yearn for groove, swing, soul. The human touch.
Noise Agency are affiliated with a local crew called SDMPDXLLC, an amalgam of SadoDamascus Records and Sonic Debris Multimedia, which are a great waypost for hearing the more experimental edge of Portland’s avant-garde scene. Rest assured, there IS an experimental and electronic scene here, as well as Metal and Noise, but they’re not talked about that often, don’t really gather in one specific spot. Now, i am gathering them all in the shadowy folds of Forestpunk.
Don’t have a full stream of this one, but you can grab it for a scant $8.99 @ Amazon:
Noise Agency: Otic