When you get a heads up that an album you’re about to enjoy is classified as “absurdist noise folk,” you kind of already know what you’re getting yourself into… Or maybe, its more likely that you don’t actually have any possible clue. Either way, the latest LP from Bath, UK-based duo Ravetank is a journey in ambient noise and never ending discord. Ranging from whirring wind sounds and quiet meditations all the way to ear-destroying squalls of feedback and atonal guitar monstrosities, Echoes From Feedback Mountain (EFFM) is certainly a mediation on the fine line between noise and melody.
After a full listen to EFFM, you might be surprised to learn that Ravetank is only two people. They recorded the backbone of EFFM live in order to capture the most authentic possible presentation of their sound. From there, they added a series of overdubs, including “bass, some guitar, feedback loops, and contact mic’d metals.” The result is a fascinating, if challenging, blend of recognizable instrumentation that’s been methodically and purposely torn to shreds. An uninformed ear may listen to this and hear nothing but noise, but actually, EFFM is significantly informed by indie pop. A list of their varied influences can be read below in their own words:
“[With EFFM] you have essentially a Noise Pop album. But unlike most other Noise Pop records this is something that takes the Dunedin Sound and C86 Jangle Pop stylings of bands like The Clean, The Verlaines, The Wedding Present, and The Wolfhounds, and combines it with the Harsh Noise and Industrial stylings of Merzbow, CCCC, Einsturzende Neubaten, and The Rita. Combined with the blisteringly short songs that take cues from Guided By Voices, Joyce Manor, and just about any 80s Hardcore band, and you have something that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and is quite a unique listening experience, with songs that constantly segue in and out of noise.”
Opening track, “Welcome to Feedback Mountain,” is compiled from a phone recording, field recordings, elephant bells, and tapes. A listen through headphones reveals footsteps and soothing wind noises before culminating in a tape-aged swooshing noise that foreshadows what’s coming next. Track two, the minute long “Wabbit,” acts as an antithesis to “Welcome,” with it’s absolute maelstrom of noise. Here you can hear the first hints of Ravetank’s indie pop influence, with some blown out guitars carrying the first 10 seconds of the track.
Where “Wabbit” takes indie pop and deconstructs it, track three, “Villa 838,” takes more from Guided By Voices than Lightning Bolt… That is, until the 1:35 mark where a vacuum whirr of a black hole comes in and annihilates any sense of melodicism. You’ll come to find that this intentional demolition of sound is a motif across EFFM, one that’s done tastefully and with purpose. It juxtaposes nicely against the live aspect of EFFM, which really comes through here – you can tell beneath the layers that Ravetank set up a few mics in a room and just let it rip. Underneath all the noise, these songs are still fun, peppy, indie pop jams. Whether you perceive this as a sabotage of songwriting or an exploration of the limits of indie pop is just a matter of perspective.
These same type of upbeat songs can be found throughout the album – “Going To @Bristol” is less than a minute long, but feels like a happy day at the beach (during a hurricane). Following suit, one of my favorite moments on the album is “I Have Left My Body In Outer Space,” with it’s urgent chord progressions, driven bass backbone, and absolutely soul crushing noise breakdown. While there’s certainly a lot to dive into on a full length like this, one of the nicest elements of EFFM is the way Ravetank tie each song together, creating an all-encompassing experience. It’s amazing that an eardrum-shredding blast of noise can be described as “cohesive,” but these two have found a way to weave these 11 songs together perfectly.