Various Artists: Less Self Is More Self: A Benefit Compilation for Tarantula Hill
Eff celebs with perfect teeth smiling at you while taking calls during telethons, Salvation Army Santas ringing bells outside Wal-Mart, and high-school kids working medians to fund band trips. Charity begins at home, is next to godliness, and makes us feel all altruistic and tingly. But let’s be honest--cracking the checkbook for a good cause is twice as nice when you get something physical back in exchange for that supposedly selfless generosity. All proceeds from the sale of Less Self Is More Self help the members of Baltimore noise sorcerer Nautical Almanac, Carly Ptak and Twig Harper, and their Heresee label get back on their feet after their home base and performance venue Tarantula Hill burned to the ground March 17--which isn’t even the best reason to buy it.
Noise compilations have an unfortunate tendency to bludgeon you mercilessly and repetitively, becoming thoughtlessly sequenced endurance tests where the lawless gargoyle rot of like-minded sonic polluters runs together into an endless slog. Stacked with blue-chip donations from avant fixtures and new jacks alike, Less Self celebrates contemporary no wave/improv/noise’s diversity over two discs and 26 tracks, curated like an ambitious gallery show of small-scale pieces. New York definitely represents for Baltimore. Sightings’ Mark Morgan chimes in with "Alright This Next Fucking Guitar Jam Is Called ‘Landscape Annihilation,’" which sounds like rusty scythes being haphazardly dragged across a metal floor while forlorn guitars yowl alluringly.
"Spkr Tst 3," courtesy of Sonic Youth codger Lee Ranaldo, mimics the workings of some massive, automated machine designed to dispense sheets of sandblast noise. Monotract member and No Fun Fest founder Carlos Giffoni upstages the entirety of his group’s 2005 one-note debut, Welcome Home, with "Afraid of Blood," a shredded laptop malevolence that funnels into the sky. Through briny, choppy static drizzle, Boston’s Jessica Rylan warbles mournful, indistinct arias against keyboard melancholy on "Please Come to Meet Me There." Baltimore’s own Lexie Mountain cunningly distorts the timbre of her husky voice into a hall of smashed mirrors titled "Befit It." John Olson, Leslie Keffer, Chuck Bettis, Nautical Almanac, and others check in strikingly as well, transmuting tragedy into treasure.