BRAP! A Reno Noise Night
No neon signs greeted visitors as they arrived at the Hobson Gallery on a quiet January night in downtown Reno. If it hadn’t been for the low lights visible through the front windows, you probably wouldn’t have known something was going on at the art space across the street from The Spice House.
But that night, four local musicians made some “noise,” as part of BRAP! A Reno Noise Night, an all-ages showcase of experimental, electronic music.
Featured acts Death Driver (Louis Gezelin), Totality (Clark Bongiovanni), Transmitter (Tim Hurst) and Next Door Ninja (Hector Urtubia) took turns creating improvised pieces of noise music lasting from five to 10 minutes. Each performer played four sets during the two-hour show. The musical output ranged from earsplitting feedback loops to atmospheric moodscapes.
What is noise music? It depends on who you ask.
“It’s ‘abstract application of sound’ is how I could best try to tell people in a way that’s easy to understand, even if they’re not familiar with the genre,” says Kyle Weiss, who along with Jason Hollis, organizes the monthly event.
“What I tend to respond with is, ‘What do you imagine when you hear that? What comes to mind?’ They describe something, maybe one or two things, and I’ll say yes it’s all that, because it’s true, all of that,” says Hollis. “If you’re thinking of [a dissonant sound similar to radio static] then you’re right. If you’re thinking of analog doodlelies and live percussion over that, you’re right.”
The Reno Noise Night concept actually dates back a few years ago to a series of shows organized by Holland Project gallery director Van Pham, according Weiss. The shows featured a variety of music, some created on homemade acoustic instruments or old-school synthesizers. Weiss performed at some of these events under the name Stickybop. After Pham moved to Portland, Ore., Weiss carried on with the Reno Noise Night name, setting up shows at the Hen Den and the Aeon Gallery. Eventually, Weiss teamed up with friend Hollis, who is also the electronic musician Endif.
“The Noise Night name, as far as I’m concerned, is not owned by anybody in concept,” says Weiss “It’s been promiscuously traded [among] folks of like-minded musical natures.”
In this version of Reno Noise Night, artists who participate in the show must adhere to a mostly freeform, improvised performance. Modified or homebuilt instruments are also encouraged.
The “BRAP!” part of the title refers to “brap,” a term coined by the Canadian industrial music band Skinny Puppy that refers to “drug-fueled experimental noise,” says Hollis. However, he adds, the “drug-fueled” part of the term doesn’t apply in this showcase.
The first show of this version of Reno Noise Night took place at Hobson Gallery last November. Hollis and Weiss performed under their Endif and Stickybop monikers and were joined by Noisecomm and XTeVioN, the frontman of local avant-garde pop band Schizopolitans. Weiss and Hollis said the debut went well, attracting up to 30 to 40 people that night.
Weiss says the Hobson Gallery is a good venue for this kind of event.
“Part of the reason why [the Hobson Gallery] wanted us to participate with this, for that one night that we do it a month, we’re kind of their soundscape,” he says. “In fact, the artists really expressed a great interest in us. They create art while we’re creating our art.”
The musicians who performed at last month’s event say they also appreciate having a place to reach an audience and show off their skills.
“[For some of us] this is the only outlet we have,” says Urtubia, a.k.a. Next Door Ninja and also a member of Schizopolitans. “I hope it keeps happening for a long time.”