April 14, 2012 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Computer Jesus Refrigerator are a noise/glitch band who make amazing and nearly uncategorizable music. They also have a YouTube channel with some highly impressive glitch videos.
posted by Frobenius Twist (46 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
They also have an interesting Flickr page.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 10:24 AM on April 14, 2012

Also they should call their next album "V.34".
posted by Talez at 10:24 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Frobenius Twist: "nearly uncategorizable"

Very much on the melodic / groove side as far as noise goes. I would call it noise rock, like a less focused / less disciplined version of the early '90s Boredoms (they could be throwaway jams from the "Super Roots" sessions).

The bit reduction + simple melody combination feels a bit fashionable and twee, as if they were crassly trying to cash in on Atari video game nostalgia. If they took themselves a bit more seriously some the keyboard work could approach the likes of The Locust, but it is refreshing seeing newer noise bands more willing to go a bit more for a silly feel rather than compulsory gloom and menace.

Based on my experiences at these kind of shows, if you tried to talk to them after the set they would probably be a) huge aspie nerds, b) incoherently out of their gourds on hallucinogens, or c) obsessing endlessly about Thelema, Gnosticism, The Golden Dawn, Theosophy etc. Of course "all of the above" is more than a little likely.
posted by idiopath at 10:39 AM on April 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

from the link to WFMU:

It just seemed impossible that I could be hearing a live drummer playing in synch with what sounds like a random jumble of digital error sounds. I thought the drums must have been sampled and each track pasted together on the computer, but the proof is in the YouTube.

yeah, if that's played live I am well impressed.
posted by dubold at 10:40 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anyone who says music is uncategorizable hasn't spent nearly enough time arguing on the internet.
posted by dubold at 10:42 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I dub this genre POST-BIEBER
posted by Frobenius Twist at 10:44 AM on April 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

dubold: "f that's played live I am well impressed."

It's just jamming. With different instruments, pedals, and amps it could sound like a fast grateful dead medely.You hear a groove and you follow it. The glitch sounds come (usually, based on doing this and seeing it done at shows) from a normal instrument played through a noise pedal or a keyboard with messed up settings. It's not like they are tight, sometimes the beat totally falls apart, this is pretty much standard for rock improv. Not that it is guaranteed that this is improv, but doing rock improv like this is not that hard. This isn't to say they aren't skilled, but I wouldn't point to the rhythmic stuff as the best evidence of skill there. They are good at picking up melodies and beats from one another and staying nimble, not running any of it into the ground, which is where they really stand out skill-wise. I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some jazz background in the group, based on how things evolve structurally.
posted by idiopath at 10:58 AM on April 14, 2012

Holy shit, dubold. I am so glad I watched that video. Wowzers.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:01 AM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Even the above video is as chaotic and incomprehensible as one could ever hope (the band members even seem to speak in an alien language) though it does confirm one thing for me: these glitch-core freakout songs do appear to be strictly composed and performed largely as they appear on album."

Apparently not jamming....
posted by lazaruslong at 11:02 AM on April 14, 2012

Also, a hints for appreciating this for someone who has some background in music theory but doesn't get why this would be interesting to listen to:

You may of heard of how the 12 tone equal tempered scale is derived from just intonation, and just intonation is derived from the harmonics of an open string.

When you introduce electronic manipulation of the sound, there are a number of ways to introduce inharmonic frequencies, frequencies that are not part of a note's existing spectrum. With enough glitch and distortion, the axiomatic basis for tonal theory pretty much falls apart - the payoff for being well tuned or navigating the circle of fifths or modulating between keys is less, because the tonal qualities are obscured. Then, at the same time, the negative consequences of going outside tonality are also reduced: if you play a total "clinker" of a note, it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb, the spectrum being generated by the ensemble is already so thick that everything finds its place equally well/ equally badly.

This opens a huge number of exciting possibilities - things that don't work tonally but can be made to be worked in the atonal electronic gestalt. Indeterminate instruments (both in rhythm and pitch) become viable when they don't clash so severely (because of course everything is clashing severely already). Indeterminate but impressive playing styles. One can learn to manipulate a "melodic gestalt", though harmony is pretty much obliterated in this environment, you can still follow a voice semi-coherently (even Merzbow crafts melody extensively). Given that you can "fuck something up" without ruining the song (the song is already full of breakdowns and miasmas where no beat or harmony or melody shines through), you can attempt ridiculous feats of skill - if you succeed, wow!, if you don't succeed, everyone can just roll with it. I often compare Classical music with Noise, saying that Classical aspires to brittleness and delicacy - a state where the smallest error in technique threatens to ruin everything, and noise is endlessly supple, it can suck anything in, and it is very very hard to break it.
posted by idiopath at 11:10 AM on April 14, 2012 [20 favorites]

lazaruslong: "Apparently not jamming"

This is speculation of course, but I would bet they are using free jazz style structure (where the gestalt is composed, and individual riffs are composed, and the whole thing remains fairly flexible and open within that structure in performance). Like I said above, when you have that kind of tonal miasma, you can get away with quite extreme "mistakes" without ruining the performance (not to say I know they are making mistakes).
posted by idiopath at 11:13 AM on April 14, 2012

Totally. I'd be really interested to compare the album and that live versions! I'm a jazz guitar player, and the idea of holding a song structure of that tonal nature in my head and recording / reproducing it live makes my brain balk. Ouch.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:18 AM on April 14, 2012

It doesn't have a beat, and if you are a chaotically oscillating zener diode, you can dance to it.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:23 AM on April 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

I love it. Thanks for the post!
posted by spiderskull at 11:31 AM on April 14, 2012

I see The Fifth World is leaking again...
posted by symbioid at 11:35 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


It sounds like a Commodore 64 loading something from tape interspersed with four men building a tin shed.

There ya go - categorised.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:36 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

So it's Yoshida Tatsuya from Ruins Along on ... DMT?
Or have the boys from ICP finally grown up? Can you imagine if ICP ended up doing this? (nah, I have a feeling they don't have such skills).

I fucking love this shit!
posted by symbioid at 11:40 AM on April 14, 2012

GallonOfAlan: "a Commodore 64 loading something from tape interspersed with four men building a tin shed."

Not to pick on you, since I presume you are not engaged with this scene at all, but poetic descriptions like these in album / band reviews are a disease feeding on the music. I could name a number of very different bands in non-overlapping genres that could aptly be described that way. So a description like that, while being affectively apt, doesn't help me find music I like or stay away from music I dislike. In fact it's only real pragmatic use is to warn away those who don't want to listen to anything weird or challenging (and don't get me started on reviews of mainstream music that trick me with adjectives like "innovative" and "strange" when really they mean "we haven't heard this on the radio in the past couple of years, have we?".
posted by idiopath at 11:48 AM on April 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm firmly in agreement with Frank Zappa, who said if someone does something and puts a literal of figurative frame around it, and says 'this is my art', then it's art.

It still sounds like a Commodore 64 loading something from tape interspersed with four men building a tin shed. Which might be exactly the sort of thing you're after in a band.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:01 PM on April 14, 2012

literal OR figurative, I should say.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:02 PM on April 14, 2012

Hmm, ok, so...

1) The visuals are a bit reminiscent of James Koehnline. In fact, looking at the Flickr page linked above, the stills are even more reminiscent.

2) I sense a strong tribal influence, of the TAZ variety.

3) Looking at some of the videos in his playlists, I see Boyd Rice and some other things that lead me to speculate that these are, in some essence, Multimedia Sigils in some form of chaos magick.

4) I want drugs. NOW.

5) What software are they using? It almost seems like some live coding of some type (Chuck, perhaps?)
posted by symbioid at 12:02 PM on April 14, 2012

Nice, and a cool live performance.
posted by carter at 12:04 PM on April 14, 2012

And finally - I'm sorry to spam this, but... I've got that excited feeling I got when I first heard Autechre or Venetian Snares (and to a lesser degree EC8OR or ATR or Squarepusher)... Just that insane WOAH! OK, shutting up now.
posted by symbioid at 12:04 PM on April 14, 2012

noise is endlessly supple, it can suck anything in, and it is very very hard to break it

As a musician I like this characterization a lot. And I do agree that there was a decent amount of harmony some in these tracks, and I like how you argue that noisier stuff can lose the harmony but maintain the melody. My own personal "theory of music" sees melody as the intersection of harmony and rhythm, but examining the "noise paradigm" a bit more it seems possible to eliminate harmony and rhythm (in the traditional sense) and still maintain melody, which is a very ear opening idea. It appeals to the notion that melody is in some sense a true synergy, more than the sum of it's rhythmic and harmonic parts.
posted by grog at 12:28 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm getting too old for this shit.
posted by drmanhattan at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Frank Zappa did this 30 years ago.
posted by Splunge at 2:06 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sounds like John Zorn messing around on a computer.
posted by DonnyMac at 2:54 PM on April 14, 2012

sounds like a Commodore 64 loading something from tape

Um: that was silent, actually. Until the tapeloaders got really good and you got a nice Rob Hubbard tune to listen to while the rest of the game loaded.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:27 PM on April 14, 2012

Next time my party drags on past oh dark thirty and guests are tardy to leave, I'm putting this on the player.
posted by seawallrunner at 3:28 PM on April 14, 2012

Splunge: "Frank Zappa did this 30 years ago."

For values of "this" that also include Frank Zappa, you may as well say that Marinetti did this 100 years ago.

seawallrunner: "Next time my party drags on past oh dark thirty and guests are tardy to leave, I'm putting this on the player."

A friend and collaborator of mine years ago went by "DJ Room Clearer". The problem with this tactic is, the most annoying and socially oblivious people are the ones who will stick around because they like the music.
posted by idiopath at 3:30 PM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I really like the videos. Sort of gives off a Cyriak/Black Dice vibe.
posted by Pope Xanax IV at 3:58 PM on April 14, 2012

sorry - zero plot, zero interest. Music has to actual go someplace to be interesting for me, and this didn't do that. Also: MY EYES MY EYES MY EYES MY EYES
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:04 PM on April 14, 2012

man that hat looks fuckin *hot*

this is good - solid noise, and that guy's an excellent drummer. i can't handle chaotic visuals, but i love chaotic/semi-structured/free music. thanks. cool post.
posted by facetious at 6:32 PM on April 14, 2012

YOu know, I really really really liked this. And then I saw the live video, that they can do it without a drum machine, and now I really really really love this. I hereby categorize it as my new music love that nobody I know will appreciate.
posted by davejay at 8:05 PM on April 14, 2012

Good stuff! For anyone in Tokyo, dig around the live houses in Shimokita/Koenji/Okubo/Kichijoji/Shibuya and you can find interesting glitch/gabber/noise/zeuhl bands any night of the week. Bring earplugs though.
posted by jet_manifesto at 9:13 PM on April 14, 2012

A friend and collaborator of mine years ago went by "DJ Room Clearer"

I believe a similar approach was used by Company Flow when they put out the "Funcrusher Plus" album.
posted by Hoopo at 11:14 PM on April 14, 2012

I've seen "glitch" show up a few times in the last couple of days, in reference to music, video and something else.

Back in my day, we wore onions on our belt, which was the style at the I'm willing to admit that I'm old enough to have possibly missed a movement while I was napping or something, but could someone define Glitch, that isn't this adorable Glitch?
posted by dejah420 at 11:51 PM on April 14, 2012

In the late 60s I had a music teacher who brought an album of experimental "electronic music" to class and I was fascinated by sounds I'd never heard before. I dashed straight out and bought a couple of albums which I then listened to repeatedly. I don't recall the artists but their primary focus was on achieving a specific sonic texture; it was more ambient than anything else.

These remind me of that early stuff, which is interesting as it has, for me, sort of brought the whole electronics thing full-circle. In the beginning there was a fascination with the actual sound of the electronic instrument; as synthesizers improved it became indistinguishable from the sound of unsynthesized instruments. This is a return to sound for sound's own sake. Not toe-tapping, but still fascinating.

Thanks for posting this!
posted by kinnakeet at 7:03 AM on April 15, 2012

The videos remind me a little of Sekitani Norihiro's work without the grisly elements.
posted by DonnyMac at 8:18 AM on April 15, 2012

Back in the days of sound cards, I had a sound card that went crazy and did pretty much exactly this. (What made it "musical" rather than just white noise was that it was the MIDI portion of the card that went nuts.)

I'm sure you could recreate it pretty much exactly by piping an random number generator into the MIDI in of any card. cat /dev/urandom > /dev/midi or something like that.
posted by gjc at 10:03 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

sorry - zero plot, zero interest. Music has to actual go someplace to be interesting for me, and this didn't do that. Also: MY EYES MY EYES MY EYES MY EYES

The absence of a global narrative in no way implies that the music doesn't "go someplace." On the contrary, it opens up the possibility of the music going everywhere, forever, as they
neither aim at the climax, nor at prepared (and consequently expected) multiple climaxes, and the usual introductory, rising, transitional and fading-away stages are not delineated in a development curve encompassing the entire duration of the work. On the contrary, these forms are immediately intense and seek to maintain the level of continued "main points", which are constantly equally present, right up until they stop. In these forms a minimum or a maximum may be expected in every moment, and no developmental direction can be predicted with certainty from the present one; they have always already commenced, and could continue forever; in them either everything present counts, or nothing at all; and each and every Now is not unremittingly regarded as the mere consequence of the one which preceded it and as the upbeat to the coming one—in which one puts one's hope—but rather as something personal, independent and centred, capable of existing on its own. They are forms in which an instant does not have to be just a bit of a temporal line, nor a moment just a particle of a measured duration, but rather in which concentration on the Now—on every Now—makes vertical slices, as it were, that cut through a horizontal temporal conception to a timelessness I call eternity: an eternity that does not begin at the end of time but is attainable in every moment. I am speaking of musical forms in which apparently nothing less is being attempted than to explode (even to overthrow) the temporal concept—or, put more accurately: the concept of duration. . . .
In works of this kind the start and stop are open and yet they cease after a certain duration.^
Or so says Stockhausen, anyway.
posted by invitapriore at 10:30 AM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

It sounds like a Commodore 64 loading something from tape interspersed with four men building a tin shed.

I could name a number of very different bands in non-overlapping genres that could aptly be described that way.

This made me curious... may I propose a [Name The Most Bands Which Sound Like A Commodore 64 Loading Something From Tape Interspersed With Four Men Building A Tin Shed] contest?
posted by WalkingAround at 1:26 PM on April 15, 2012

I think I just found the soundtrack for my "tender coming-of-age story" screenplay.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:23 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh well... nevermind that contest.
posted by WalkingAround at 9:26 PM on April 16, 2012

Spin 17
Foque Mopus
Crash Worship
Iannis Xenakis' composition Legende de Eer seems to fit the bill, but it is a tape piece, computers were slow in the early '70s
posted by idiopath at 6:22 AM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks, idiopath! I've heard about (but not listened to) Xenakis, and that's about it... I'll do some googling on all the other names.
posted by WalkingAround at 8:20 AM on April 17, 2012

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