NQN, details part 3

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The second song on ne quid nimis is “the hypnopomp”.

It was recorded – along with “the hypnogog” – for a pair of tape compilations of noise music called “The Creeping Eye of God / The Weeping Eve of Dog”, which came out in 1995.

The thing about the cassette underground in the nineties was that there were a lot of pop-weirdo musicians, a fair amount of synthy-weirdo musicians, a handful of heavy-metal musicians… and then there were 958 metric tons of noise musicians. They were all named Bondage Domination Penetration Matrix, or Thank You Jeffrey Dahmer, or Fistfucking Popes or Ted Bundy’s Biceps, or Kitten Torture Masters, or Serial Killing for Fun and Profit. There were almost no musicians doing quiet / subtle music or ambient music in the tape trading network, or at least not in the part of it I was familiar with. Noise at that particular time really turned me off with its macho bullshit fascist/nazi/violent stuff.

At any rate, you can see why, at the time, I thought that being an ambient musician was a rebellious thing given the environment. The tables have seemingly been turned 180 degrees now, it seems like there are more ambient/drone musicians than anything else in the underground. It’s funny how things change.

I decided to contribute to this double tape compilation of noise music, thinking I could do one thing that tried to fulfill what my idea of what “noise” could be, and then another that was a little less brutish. “The hypnopomp” was the latter of the two options. We’ll get into “the hypnogog” in a later entry.

So “the hypnopomp” got its name from the state of the brain leading out of sleep, in which the dreaming mind tries to make sense of the waking reality. Sleep and dreams were an important artistic influence, especially during the stage of my life that produced this album. I came up with many of the ideas for recordings on this album while in hypnogogic/hypnopompic states.

The structure of this song is pretty simple, it has a drone-like repeating guitar phrase, regularly punctuated by a bass tone. That is the skeletal structure on which a bunch of random noises are hung. When I was recording this I was very much enamored of piezo-electric contact mics. I would attach them to anything and everything. It was like looking at something through a microscope… a previously unavailable soundworld would be apparent simply by taping a piezo mic to any object. A cabinet door that had a particularly nice CREEEAAAK to it became a main voice in this track, as well as a woodstove made of cast iron, a water pot with a little water in it… whatever was around!

The Casio PT-1 that I used was a teensy tiny little keyboard that was colored hot pink. It was so small and insignificant, that if it were produced today the company wouldn’t bother to give it such a glorious designation as “PT-1”, as though it were part of a lineage. The whole keyboard was probably 11×3 or so. Its best feature was a little sequencer that you could trigger with a little button so that you could enter whatever tune you wanted, note by note, not worrying about actually playing it on time, because later you could tap it in time with the button and it’d be as though you had played it perfectly. For my part I just sequenced random notes and tried to hit that little button as fast as I could…

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