Unlike punk, rap, or other initially underground genres, noise has rarely spawned regional scenes. After all, music bred primarily in bedrooms and basements isn’t exactly a community builder. But lately a wide group of abrasive sound-makers have made California something of a noise hotbed, the latest proof being the overwhelming California Noise 10-LP box on leading underground L.A. imprint Troniks. Two of the state’s best noiseniks, Axolotl and the Skaters, dwell in the bowels of the Bay area, and this split LP continues their rise to the head of a bulging West Coast class.
Axolotl is a rotating group led by transplanted Brooklynite Karl Bauer, whose violin drones and electronic processing result in vibrant, oscillating tracks that veer from meditative ambiance to aggressive abstraction. All alone this time out, he concocts a three-part piece called “Holon” that sounds like an Axoltol best of: part one piles on layers of digital crunch, part two crafts a wind-swept sound massage, and part three rides oddly soothing distortion into the sky. But Axolotl’s trilogy is somehow outdone by the Skaters’ sidelong séance “Bodydoor Procession.” Live, the duo of Spencer Clark and James Ferraro use howling voices as sonic weapons, but here their moans bubble up slowly through plaintive piano chords and delectable static. The track steadily ascends yet never crests, giving it the feel of a hazy, sun-painted California horizon, tangibly present yet eternally out of reach.