There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Radio hiss might be the most universal sound in pop culture—it’s the same everywhere you go, after all—but turntable crackle is the romantic runner-up. It has been fetishized in the CD era, with hiphoppers and rockers alike tacking it onto pristine digital recordings, sometimes ironically, sometimes just for kicks. For Loren Chasse, though, the noise of stylus on revolving vinyl possesses enough rhythm and purpose to stand on its own. The San Francisco aural artist’s new disc, Hedge of Nerves, will sound empty and formless—even pointless—to any listener whose attention is divided. But in a quiet, distraction-free room, Chasse’s carefully layered recordings of crackle amount to jazzy little movements that intertwine the high-pitched scrape of a 78, the low rumble of a fresh LP, and the impertinent pops of a 45. But Hedge of Nerves isn’t a pompous Metal Machine Music for the age of turntablism. Chasse works as an elementary school teacher by day, and he sometimes includes such sound art in his lesson plans. His enthusiasm for the stuff comes shining through on the disc; he obviously wants you to hear the prettiness in his pieces, not their artiness. Oddly enough, though, Hedge of Nerves falters whenever Chasse ventures away from the record player and mixes in something more conventionally pretty: recordings from nature. Those instances offer listener-friendly counterpoints, but they also come across as more ambient and ordinary. If I’ve fallen asleep listening to Hedge of Nerves, it’s during those passages. But the vinyl crackle returns near the end of the disc, and it’s usually more than enough to tweak me back to consciousness. —Joe Warminsky