Wall of sound
At Always Fierce’s performance on April 6 at the West Street Market, members Louis Gezelin and Anthony Alston perched in front of two large amplifiers and made noise. The immediate sound seemed at first an errant sound check experiment: an electronic hum.
But it kept building. Eventually, it swallowed the whole room.
Gezelin kneeled monk-like before the right amplifier, obsessing over pedals and microphones, while Alston, playing bass guitar, provided the sonic foundation on which their ambient sound grew. They ultimately created an escalating drone, both peaceful and overwhelming.
They’re difficult to pigeonhole. “Ambient” implies that Always Fierce resembles artists like Brian Eno, but ambient artists tend to work within a soundscape, not expand the soundscape until it becomes malevolent.
Despite their resemblance to electronic music, it’s also inaccurate to classify Always Fierce as strictly electronic, as most of the sound sources are organic, between Gezelin’s vocal microphone hums and Alston’s bass playing.
Even when asked of influences they were quicker to name visual artists like Olafur Eliasson than any direct musical inspirations or colleagues.
Their closest equivalent, then, is some imagined combination of thick ambient haze, like Eno, and drone metal that crescendos into oppression, like Earth and Sunn O))).
The duo started collaborating in November 2008.
“It was really kind of weird because it was a really quick process,” says Alston. “The first time that we got together we started recording.”
The partnership proved comfortable.
“I wasn’t holding anything back initially,” says Gezelin, who also plays in local math-rock band Manacle. “As we played more and more together, it got more and more comfortable. So we’re completely open to any idea we have.”
The two ultimately wish to create, in their own words, “an introspective space.”
“What I try to do over time is … it could be a small minute sound, and I take that sound and manipulate it,” says Gezelin. “And I take that sound to the pinnacle of loudness. I’m trying to elicit a strong response to certain types of sound.”
They create their sounds through Alston’s bass and guitar accompanying Gezelin as he hums into and picks up errant noises with tiny, circular piezoelectric microphones, which he then feeds through distortion and delay pedals.
“It gives you a different sound,” says Gezelin. “We’ll also take a microphone in, and we’ll pick up like keys jangling or something like that.”
Their shows and the sounds they incorporate in them are always evolving.
“I was thinking of using field recordings that I did while I was out of the country recently,” says Alston. “Each subsequent show we’ve incorporated a little bit more, like during the second show I was doing both guitar and bass.”
And they don’t occupy a traditional space in the Reno music scene.
“There isn’t a narrative story,” says Alston. “We aren’t traditional singer-songwriters, where there was a riot and we want to tell people.”
“We’re not pushing a particular idea, like articulating something like a love story,” says Gezelin.
The two hardly wish to be locked into a genre in the first place.
“[Alston] hates noise,” says Gezelin.
“I don’t hate noise,” Alston clarifies. He dislikes it as a genre description. “It’s the same as anything else. I mean it’s helpful and descriptive to an extent, but if you say ‘noise,’ people have a really specific idea.”
It is not noise, then. It is a sound being born and realizing its full atmospheric potential. It is the evolution of a hum into a howl.