Rattle Symptom: The Noise Of Stagnation
Catalogue number: | Artist: Rattle Symptom | Date: 29/06/2012
Troubled times create interesting music; perhaps as a consequence, the Belarusian capital of Minsk is proving an increasingly fruitful location for experimental electronica. On this occasion, we’d like to draw your attention to Rattle Symptom (Simptom Pogremushki).
The Russian word «pogremushka» has a slightly less appealing ring than any English equivalent. It contains two disconcerting elements. The first is an echo of the word for thunder: «grom.» This shift from childish noise to elemental din is furthered when we consider how close the term is to our own «death rattle.» In rare cases, the phrase «pogremushki» pops up in Russian medical dictionaries, but for English speakers, the band’s name is unnerving, to say the least.
In that same worrying spirit, Rattle Symptom are responsible for some very atmospheric, if not scary drone. It suits their domestic context. In recent news reports, we read that opposition parties were unable to gain a single seat in Minsk’s elections; the Western press was outraged (but did nothing). Rattle Symptom provide the perfect soundtrack.
They are associated with Minsk’s broader performative online community, Haze. It describes itself as «a group of musicians, promoters, artists, journalists, poets, etc, etc…» Lots of low-level yet earnest enterprise. Haze’sMySpace page provides a wealth of useful links to interrelated projects — and there’s a great deal of interesting material for free download, too.
«The raison d’etre of Haze is to foster collaboration between Belarusian and European art-spaces with the help of web-galleries, and live exhibitions — all of them producing online publications.»
Haze currently boasts the ability to establish web-galleries for painting, graphic work (especially digital), and photos, too. To this we can add their numerous, melancholy musical endeavors from the distressed streets of Minsk. On good days, those same social spaces look like this:
This summer was spent by Haze looking for contributors to a planned compilation that would be dedicated to Lee Harvey Oswald. Given the political situation in Belarus and the ultimate fate of Mr. Oswald, the social and psychological connotations are grim.
Some examples of this social and sonic tension are needed. The slow, sad drone of «Tune In» brings a fittingly moribund atmosphere to the proceedings; it sounds the death-knoll of enterprise, an inexorable deceleration or descent into white noise. Somewhere in the background is an extremely distorted, almost unlistenable vocal.
«Dust» (Pyl’) plays upon a similar theme, allowing constant distortion to undercut any chance of clear, comprehensible sound. Signal and feedback cancel each other out, leaving nothing but stasis. The grinding sounds of stagnation come to the fore.
And lastly we have «I’m a Tambourine.» Forget the jollity of one-man bands or any other other associations. Simpton pogremushki radically subvert the (forward) drive of a classic, if not cliched guitar riff… then force it round and round. Drone cuts in from time to time, while the guitar work goes absolutely nowhere. The sounds of human presence — of an actual guitarist — are pushed into the background, leaving a very tinny, «divorced» soundscape.
So what do these noises «look» like, if Simptom Pogremushki and Haze are keen to contextualize their sounds in various art installations? The Soviet architecture of their hometown encourages expression on a grand scale, even in the subway.
The band refuse to respond in kind. In a strange combination of worry, awe, and self-irony, their first video is entitled «Misha Meets the UFO.» A teddy bear(!) is frozen with fear in front of an insistent light source. The background noise — provided by Simptom Pogremushki — lessens the likelihood of any giggles.