Menche was the first American noise artist that I was able to embrace, as his approach to art was not only unique (the first work I heard was him processing the sound of salt rubbed between contact mics), but it also was cliché and pretense free. It was simply the work of a man who loved experimenting with different sounds and ways of generating them. While he has stepped back from his more prolific past, the works that he has been releasing are more fully fleshed out and rich, and these two albums are no exception. With Vilké building upon drums, guitar, and wolf howls, and Marriage of Metals focusing exclusively gamelan, the two are vastly different in approach, but the same in quality and structure.
The four track, double LP of Vilké is perhaps the most traditionally musical work I have heard Menche having his hand in. The A sides of both records emphasize his more recent fascination with percussion and drums as a starting point for noise collage. Part one is an instantaneous percussive oblivion, with non-stop pounding clattering from left to right throughout. Processed howls of wolves rise up early on, mutated resemble a choir of human voices. Midway through some of his harsher noise tendencies shine through, but even with them in place, there is an overall sense of structure and organization to be heard.
The third part focuses on percussion that is somewhat ritualistic in nature, but cut up and shaped into an unnatural, thudding sound and static laden brittle rhythms. An almost synth-like pattern also opens the piece that soon falls apart into noise chaos, but is then pulled back together again by an expansive, but obscured ambient melody.
The fourth part is perhaps the most different from what I am used to with Menche's work, with erratic, reverb heavy guitar opening and staying prominent throughout the piece, giving a certain metal edge overall. Menche has never made his love of heavy metal a secret, but this is the first time I have heard it overtly shine through in his art. Even when heavy effects and layering leads to a more traditionally noise oriented sound, there is still a bit of metal bleakness to be heard.
Marriage of Metals is a bit more understated in comparison, however. His processing of gamelan into a deep, low-end thump and overdriven guitar-like noise layers makes it not even vaguely resemble its underlying source at first. A slowly evolving rhythmic structure stands out, and again it has more of an overall musical quality to it, while still resembling nothing traditional on its surface.
On the flip side, the initial sound is not as removed from traditional gamelan, although filtered into a dense, glassy sound as opposed to its traditional resonating clang. It has a delicate timber overall, somewhere between Indonesian music and church bells with a bass heavy undulation beneath. Compared to much of his previous discography, it is downright subtle and beautiful.
While he has gone through periods where new material appeared monthly, Daniel Menche has seemingly taken his time in putting these two works together, and it shows. Distinctly different from one another both in concept and in overall sound, both bear signs of careful artistry and composition, something many artists filed as noise are often apt to not use. The final pieces on both releases also show a developing sense of true musicianship, albeit skewed and idiosyncratic, but employing a sense of structure that rivals that of the best composers. Both stand out as brilliant releases in a long and extremely impressive discography from one of the true unsung masters of sound art.
- Marriage of Metals Part One (Excerpt 1)
- Marriage of Metals Part One (Excerpt 2)
- Marriage of Metals Part Two