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February 15-21, 2006

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darph/nadeR

Photograph by Elizabeth Seward
No Limits: Jared Butler (left) and Cory Thrall find new elasticity in sonic expression.

Let It Shine

For darph/nadeR, salvation is the noise itself

By Gabe Meline


The warehouse is full of sound equipment. I mean, floor-to-ceiling full. Drums, amplifiers, cables, rack mounts—you name it, it's packed somewhere away in this warehouse.

I'm sitting in tonight on a rehearsal with Cory Thrall and Jared Butler, two seriously demented souls who record and perform cacophonous, garbled noise compositions under the name darph/nadeR. They've invited a few friends to augment the "music" making for the evening, and, having a faint idea of what I'm in for, I've packed a saxophone, an analog synthesizer and a Skilsaw.

"Just grab anything you want to use," I am told while setting up, but the offer is too overwhelming to really comprehend. I start fishing through a tangled pile of pedals, mixers and other electronic gadgets when I find, buried under all this weird stuff, Butler's cell phone, and I begin to understand what the priorities are for darph/nadeR.

Experimenting with noise: important. Everything else: not as important.

I am handed a guitar with recessed frets and instinctively begin tuning it when I opt instead, in the spirit of experimentation, to create my own tuning. After 10 minutes, the whole concept of tone is thrown out the window. In fact, entire concepts of melody, time, key and structure are pretty much ground into the pavement by the steamroller of sound that erupts when we begin our first "song."

No discussion is needed, just an "OK, let's go" from Thrall, a quick press of the record button on the four-track cassette recorder, and we're off on a magic carpet ride of stomach-rattling oscillations and distortion as loud as a large mechanical failure. It's no surprise that one night a passerby, hearing darph/nadeR from outside the warehouse, broke down the door and explained that he, in fact, thought there was a turbine engine in there about to blow up.

But who knew it could be so thrilling to be inside a turbine engine? I twist the knobs on the synthesizer, obtaining low-end gurgles and white noise loops. I shake the body of the strange guitar as I pluck and prod at the strings, toying with feedback and reverb. I attempt to play the saxophone unlike I've ever played it before, biting and overblowing the reed, jabbing at the keys, sonorously lifting the horn to the skies.

Across the room, my cohorts are mangling a guitar upside down against the ground, its output further skewed through pedals galore. Thrall, somewhat mild-mannerly, stands at his station—a wall of unexplainable knobs—manipulating his own guitar, while Butler is nowhere to be seen; he's taken off on a voyage through the warehouse with a cordless microphone. Every few minutes, I hear his demonic, curdled vocals and I glimpse his shadow dancing on the ceiling.

Swirling in improvised mayhem, I recall a passage from Psalms 95: "Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation." We are making this joyful noise, and the rock of our salvation is the noise itself. I experience several transcendental states of self-unawareness, several mythic states of salvation, during this 38-minute congregation. As conventional salvation offends, so this salvation, in kind, probably offends most of the conventionally saved, and we let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

After the swelling throb dies down, after we exchange holy shits and whoa dudes, after we've come to terms with the adrenaline running through our blood, we open the warehouse door to discover that we have joyfully cast our pearls before swine: an irate neighbor has registered his disgust by breaking Butler's car window with a rock.

There is an audience for darph/nadeR, and while that audience may account for only a small number per capita in each city across the world, the Internet, of course, has fueled a tight-knit experimental-noise community. Thurston Moore has bought darph/nadeR CDs; they've traded recordings with Wolf Eyes; and recently the duo were invited to contribute a remix for the film Threat, directed by Matt Pizzolo with major backing.

As for me, I've still got a pounding headache. I also feel a primal need to get back to the warehouse soon. Next time, I may even plug in the Skilsaw.


Darph/nadeR have over 50 releases, numerous MP3s and Cory's Beard of Death at www.darphnader.net.


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