Freedom fries you
There was a tent in the Hen Den, a basement and house show venue on Sinclair Street. Shadows moved within the tent, supposedly creating whatever sound this was that galloped from the speakers directly into your guts. It sounded like the Earth’s long-held-in exhalations. It’s bigger than you. These shadows seemed to extend and bow, as though they were all kowtowing to the sound. As though the sound built them from nothing, and they must pay their respects.
This was the noise group Chinese Gore on Nov. 6. At an interview at their practice space one month later, now separate from their tent, the shadows appear quite human. Three of them resemble the same overpowered humans who drag Swahili through the heart’s great violence: Troy Micheau, John Griffin and Van Pham.
In fact, the first Chinese Gore show resulted from an untenable Swahili date last August.
“I think we were scheduled to play a show as Swahili, and we could not,” says Pham. “So we made a fake band.”
“Van and I had talked about doing something else for a while,” says Micheau. “With Swahili—I don’t want to say we’re locked into a sound, but we kind of know what we do, so we wanted to try out some more freeform ideas.”
Those who heard these freeform ideas seemed unwilling to move, as though the slightest twitch would break them free of their new Zen existences, granted benevolently by the sound and its four adherents.
“It feels like more of an exercise for us and then hoping [the audience members] enjoy it,” says Micheau. “It’s putting us in this position where everything is up in the air for them and us. The audience doesn’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know what’s going to happen. The only thing that’s happening between us is the sound.”
“I remember getting out [of the tent at the Hen Den show] and being surprised that people were actually in the room,” says Michael Modene of Think in French and Short Hair, and recently converted new member of Chinese Gore’s sonic pilgrimage.
The noise that Chinese Gore produces has no prescribed beginning or end. It is an improvised drone that can emerge arbitrarily or with malevolent intent, that can undo itself in a great fire of sound or dissipate softly into the horizon.
“It allows you to get into a different head space than playing in a normal band does a lot of the time,” says Micheau. “When you’re playing in your band, you have your songs that you’ve written. When we do this we have no idea what’s going to happen at any time.”
Chinese Gore sculpt their sounds to their surroundings.
“For me, what we do here, the sound is an environment in a lot of ways,” says Micheau. “So I want the music that we’re making to fit the surroundings and to alter it in some way and to be part of it.”
So they house their usually seven-to-15-minute bray in tents or in costumed violence.
“To me it almost suspends time,” continues Micheau. “After we played that first show, I felt like that was going on for centuries. And then you guys were like, ‘Oh, that was seven minutes.’ ”
This time-stoppage, this site-specific sound-sculpture, this freedom to include anything in the service of a heavy drone without regard to audience reaction—all are fundamentals of Chinese Gore’s moaning sound creations.
“We usually get together once before we play a show because we try different things,” says Micheau. “Tomorrow night, we were talking about getting a vibrator and attaching a contact mic to it and putting it in a box. I think it’ll be fun.”