Noise is a funny term. Not "ha ha" funny, but highly prone to linguistic slippage: its connotations cover everything from the stylized squawk of Lightning Bolt to the Pacific Rim blasts of Incapacitants or Masonna. The mutant term "noisecore" has been beaten virtually beyond recognition, referring to everything from the nitroglycerin airbursts of World and Final Exit to the unrelated sonics of Isis and The Dillinger Escape Plan. To some, such descriptive terms might seem to have outlived their usefulness; it's apparently so difficult to articulate a generic theory of noise that it often only confuses, much like the word "fascism."
But it's almost impossible to discuss Geisha without talking about noise. Make no mistake; Geisha is a rock band, with a bracing, headfirst aesthetic worthy of The Melvins or The Jesus Lizard at their most unglued and time distorting. But their sound wears thick, anesthetic distortion like a cloak, embracing both the rock impulse and the raw sensory pleasure of hissing, apocalyptic distortion with a fervor that rivals Unsane. That said, Geisha are also much more than mere revivalists smitten with the gun-toting golden age of AmRep - their music conveys a breed of eerie, forlorn elegance all its own.
Unlike many would-be noisemongers, Geisha have an actual sense of dynamics. Mondo Dell'Orrore isn't just a monochromatic fuzztone blast, as the band frequently swirls in brushstrokes of clean/ dirty guitar melodies that almost conjure up Mogwai at their best (read: circa Young Team). Between the chokehold of "(SevenSevenSeven)" and the mournful, oceanic grandeur of "Love Theme from Reich Here, Reich Now" (song titles in the cutesy vein of clever, without going overboard), Geisha demonstrates a full range of expression - something often lacking in bands that stitch together their rock transubstantiation with static cling. They deftly temper beauty with terror, and the album evokes this balancing act in its epilogue: gorgeous, echoing piano overlaid with a forthright confession from a serial murderer. It's unusual to see a band operating such familiar instruments - guitars, distortion pedals, amps that we can easily imagine belching choking, black smoke -with this level of innovative expertise.
Both rock music and noise have seen much abuse at the hands of pretenders to their respective thrones. This is why Geisha so deserves recognition and awe: they intuitively grasp the basic properties of each aesthetic and wield them with simultaneous mastery, like a doctor simultaneously performing open-heart surgery and cloning a Komodo Dragon, but doing it so fast that it all blends into one big, scaly, blood-soaked revelation. Geisha are a rare bird; ignore them at your peril.
9.3 / 10
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