Curator’s notes: Sissy Spacek, Grave Texture, and TrashSquirt

Tone Madison presents this night of abrasive duos on June 29 at Arts + Literature Laboratory.


Sissy Spacek are Charlie Mumma (left) and John Wiese.

Sissy Spacek are Charlie Mumma (left) and John Wiese.

The main thing that convinced me to book L.A. duo Sissy Spacek for a June 29 show at Arts + Literature Laboratory was the work of member John Wiese. Through his solo work and in many collaborations—with artists including Sunn0))), Aaron Dilloway, and Merzbow—Wiese has built up a body of experimental music that treats fierce abrasion and textured beauty as part of a dynamic continuum. But Sissy Spacek, currently consisting of Wiese on bass and vocals and Charlie Mumma on drums and vocals, is very much its own beast, and versatile in its own, admittedly always ear-scarring way.

In May, Sissy Spacek simultaneously put out three different releases. Disfathom is probably the most indicative of what you can expect at this show: The tracks range from 19 to 50 seconds long, and position Wiese and Mumma as essentially a merciless grindcore duo, a blasted-out rhythm section fusing with two voices, one low and guttural, the other at a piercing screech. My favorite track here would have to be either “Flipside Drifter” or “Glass Delusion”—each have distinct little textures that briefly rise out of the chaos before being engulfed again. But it’s best experienced as a sequence that fuses together through its sheer unadorned brutality, and it can take a lot out of a person, even though the whole thing is over in less than 10 minutes.

The other two releases, Duration Groups and Reversed Normalization, each stretch these abrasive instincts in a different direction. Duration Groups is one 36-minute track that features Wiese and Mumma in a six-piece ensemble with sax, electronics, guitar, percussion, and additional vocals. It’s just about as relentless as Disfathom, but the approach here is more improvisational and stretched-out, and there are even brief snatches where things seem to swing, before the churning noise claims you again. Reversed Normalization is another collaboration, but here Wiese and Mumma pursue their interest in musique concrete, foregrounding static and crumpled texture. All in all it’s still mostly quite harsh—except for some cavernous, almost droning moments between the vocal retches of “Weeping Appearance”—but there’s variety within the madness, and for me that’s the whole point of this project.

As it turns out, the two opening sets on the bill will both be duo artists, and both from Madison. And in both cases, I don’t entirely know what the expect. Grave Texture consists of Izzi Plunkett, guitarist and vocalist for an excellent local death-metal trio called Ossuary, and Beau Deveraux, better known for his electronic projects Samantha Glass and Roan Linden. TrashSquirt is a collaboration between power-electronics solo project 10564 and synth-based instrumental project Red Museum. That collaboration, as far as I’m aware, is even newer, but I’m pretty sure it’ll all fit together in a night of abrasive and illuminating experimentation.

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