by: Mikko A

Another book I wrote about almost decade ago on Special Interests forum is Charcoal by Robert Longo. What I thought about it, was instantly like this guy is like THE RITA of visual arts. In that exact order, not the other way round. This speaks of impact what The Rita has had in presentation and theory of noise. He would be the reference point for things, not the other way round.

Especially now, we can hear and read a lot of lists and talk about favorite noise or top noise recordings of all times. Very often, noise is vastly bigger phenomena, that is hard to shrink into concept of ”best album”. One question, I don’t think I have ever seen talked, would be the most important artists. Especially, if it gets newer. Let’s say, the most important noise characters of this millennium? Tough and challenging question. Not only because in genre filled with small network, replying to this question gets you in danger zone of embarrassing circle-jerk.

That said, here at the Special Interests headquarters, there is nothing holding back in voicing opinions without hesitation. If I was to be asked, from perspective I am looking at, top-3 artists that shaped noise of new millennium would be The Rita, Prurient and Bizarre Uproar. Each of them are utterly easy to observe. 

Prurient may appear now almost as if he would live outside the realm of noise. Cross-over with multiple styles of music and for magnitude of Hospital Productions and Prurient, is surprisingly rarely popping up in discussion at noise forums. As example. Perhaps their absence from social media distorts this perception? If looking at the past, american noise was very much dominated by one off releases of C-60 heavy noise assaults. Tell me if I am wrong, but if not absolutely pioneering, Hospital Productions was very much in core of popularization of shorter noise tapes and batches of releases what we now take granted. Certain aesthetics is so strikingly Fernow, as well as certain ways of using feedback, vocals, synths and so on, that a lot of projects out there do not need to tell they were inspired by him. Nor they can deny it. It is so obvious.

Bizarre Uproar, even if formed as long ago as 1992, really blossomed from 2007-ish onwards. His return with new sound, vitalized energy for massive creation and fearlessly engage personally into his art spawned hordes of fanboys and copycats. Filth & Violence label started in 2008 may be small, but without doubt, it has shaped more the sound and aesthetic of contemporary nasty noise and disgusting power electronics than any classic names of the originators of this type of expression. Bizarre Uproar started in almost noise vacuum. Project was not born out of being fanboy of the old power electronics, but from fertile ground of artists personal experiences and will to create. Works of this mid 00’s era was dominated by diving into absolute transgressive experiences personally. Often humiliating himself, rather than presenting cut & paste of commercial pornography.

The Rita, who may have not been first to make noise wall, but who articulated and visualized the single minded fetishistic sound & subject obsession into big bold letters of HNW is probably the most visible and most discussed phenomena in contemporary noise.

One can guess, that none of the artists intended, that their approach would spawn something that is almost some sort of movement. Something that changed the face of noise that we formerly knew. It is possible that someone like The Rita may prefer to be associate what was before him, as opposed what came after him? That is something what could be asked from the artists. However, when there is something powerful, when the time is right, things will start rolling into direction originators may have not intended. It is unlikely originators consider the genre and the motivations of current artists represent the same that they did.

Now back to Robert Longo. By coincidence, I stumbled across his work. Neat, award winning art book from 2012 priced with extortionist level in Finnish bookstore. I kept wondering should I take it or not. At first I did not. I browsed it. Fingered the very tactile book, that is not just a book, but piece of art itself. After few visits in bookstore over several months, always returning to browse this one particular book, I decided that I just forget about it. No use spending like 90 euro for this book, even if I want it. Lucky enough, eventually found one for mere 34 euro while visiting bookstore in Germany.

So who / what is the Robert Longo? How he is resembling The Rita? One day in 1999 Longo was at his studio, pissed off for not having his graphite pens. Instead he found pile of charcoal sticks and powder and decided to give it a try. More than decade later, there is huge amount of MASSIVE charcoal works produced.

His idea and method is pretty simple in theory:

Iconic images done in almost photo-realistic manner, usually in massive size. Using charcoal, that creates deep large black areas and extremely nice grey toned fades.

Iconic – in some ways always reminds of the nature of mankind. Often also leaning to popular and visually striking. So what is iconic in this case are things like: Big tits. Cars. American football players. Huge foaming waves ready for surfers. Sharks. Lions. Airplanes. Planets. Nuclear explosions. etc. Usually something very simple, yet effective. Depicted in utterly focused way. Neat angle, in middle of large black surfaces. 

Longo uses often things that anyone who knows the western culture, immediately has some sort of connection. It is not abstract, nor it has feeling that there would be any overt transgression or hidden message. Merely appreciation to form and beauty. Beyond the sort of blunt choices, there is simply magnificent scale of his craft. It’s hard to really explain, even by samples online. Book is absolutely better. But I’m sure anyone who have seen exhibition, will tell book must be worthless comparing to real deal? Nevertheless, this book if done unusually stylish. Choice of paper, the tones, the detail, it’s always done in a way that black is not just black. It is often almost unreal silky matte black. Offset halftone pattern is not diminishing the impact of images. It is very smooth, almost unnoticeable. Even if it is obviously compromise to print A4 size offset print out of wall size originals, the book is done so well, it is art object itself.

I admire also the choice of tools. We’re basically talking about something, that IF it’s not stone sculpture, this is just about as ancient method of creation of art that exists. Some (cave) drawings from 30000 years ago are made with coal. Material is cheap, anyone could try it, but it can be guaranteed, very few are Robert Longo.

I would be surprised, if reader would have not connected the dots by now. Listening to The Rita ”Gamzatti” reissue on Total Black, looking at its presentation and listening its sound, the pure and single minded appreciation to form is so obvious. 

”Gamzatti” LP (2014) marked the first The Rita recordings utilizing sound sources from pointe shoe work.  Two exactly 14 minute long tracks are style of The Rita I personally enjoy the most. It is noisy, heavy, hard and certainly as massive as large surfaces of charcoal texture. And this is the thing: I like this texture. I am not particularly fond of artists who would push photoshop paint bucket button to create ”large black area”. I would not be particularly impressed of mp3 link where tinny and half assed replica of art is presented. Gamzatti I and II presents absolutely rich texture on the wall of noise, where you can observe the roughness of surfaces, gentle differences of depth of particles and grain. Sound of these songs are not yet crackle studies. Block and surfaces that are moving are bigger.

To truly experience the power of Gamzatti, it is pointless to regress into boomboxes and bluetooth speakers. Loud stereo amplifier, proper speaker that can make audible to heaviest and deepest tones of this work seems mandatory. Even if sometimes, my tastes of sound or subject does not line perfectly with what The Rita does, or I am not always impressed by subject matter of Robert Longo, my impression of both is the same. The care and passion for the detail that The Rita displays is inspiring regardless does every piece that he creates really please my own taste. These obsessive artists are there not to fill my desire, but their own. Many times there is something undeniably strong, something ballsy, something that is easy for clueless outsider to make fun of. In style of what is so great in black & white image of shark? Answer might be as simple as: You will never know.

Rest of us might want to see again The Rita documentary where artist shows his mind blowing piles of ballet magazine collection, kneels in front of heavily gated mini mixer, and is swallowed by his world of noise texture.