Odwalla88 challenged the pillars of noise music and performance in a powerful, unsettling show at the Storage art gallery Friday night. The Baltimore duo, made up of Chloe Maratta and Flannery Silva, imparted political and emotional messages through their nostalgia-laden lyrics, refreshing musical content and authoritative stage presence. A small but energetic audience responded warmly to Odwalla88 as well as their opener, mid Atlantic rift, cheering throughout the harsh and experimental — yet surprisingly accessible — sets.
While noise music is associated with activist discourse, the genre is dominated by male-identifying performers, rendering its theoretically radical nature questionable. These performers often play outwardly aggressive and punishingly loud compositions, generally appealing to music fans with the privileges of exhaustive musical knowledge and hardened ears. Originally developed as an alternative to the hierarchies present in more traditional forms of music, noise has become inaccessible to at least the same extent as genres like jazz, classical and rock. Odwalla88 decimated the male-centric, loudness-oriented conception of noise music Friday, challenging genre expectations musically as well as ideologically.
More aurally similar to slam poetry and left-field SoundCloud beatmaking than noise luminaries like Merzbow, Odwalla88 presented a refreshing vision of noise music’s future. Instead of introducing themselves to the audience with an impenetrable wall of sound — as a good percentage of noise artists elect to do — they began their set with call-and-response vocal looping. Much of their set consisted of pedal-supplemented interplay between their two voices in this style, which in and of itself made the performance dissimilar from the leagues of noise acts who focus exclusively on non-verbal sound. The fact that Maratta and Silva elected to speak and shout these vocals — rather than scream them in the grating, inhuman style of noise acts their jagged musical sensibilities seem to reference — also contributed to a sense of originality in their set.
During the song “My Window Ambience,” Odwalla88 repeatedly yelled “Live! Laugh! Love!” over a minimal yet irregular electronic rhythm they had created with simple looping and sampling hardware. This portion, like other parts in the song in which lines like “No, I won’t plié for you” were featured as the vocal centerpoint, showed how dissimilar the band is from just about every other noise act out there. The “Live! Laugh! Love!” section was not especially loud. It also featured positive and empowering words rather than the indecipherable, disturbing lyrics noise acts often favor such as the Wolf Eyes’ lyrics “A murdered woman is sprawled out on the floor / Stop and look into her dead eye” ( from “Track 01”). The band’s themes were easily relatable to listeners. For instance, the duo’s hammered, unique refrain “Today, my best friend saved my life,” played over broken-sounding drum patterns, was genuine and affirmative. Rather than acting as an inaccessible force sonically or ideologically, Maratta and Silva seemed to make empowering people who are generally excluded from noise music their central concern.
Before Odwalla88’s set, mid Atlantic rift, the solo electronic project of double-degree senior Margaret McCarthy, established an ideal atmosphere for the show as attendees arrived at Storage. Her songs fluctuated between ambient soundscapes in the vein of Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point Never and melodic, rhythmically tight choruses. McCarthy, like Odwalla88, placed a greater emphasis on vocal gestures and stuck to a far more digestible volume than the vast majority of her noise music peers.
By the time mid Atlantic rift’s set came to a close and Odwalla88 took the stage, the vibe had been established. It was clear that this would be a noise show like no other. For once, the lineup was made up entirely of female-identifying people rather than male-identifying people. Quieter, more subdued audience behavior was required, given the show’s volume. Perhaps most importantly, there was room for those who are normally unable to experience noise concerts to the fullest extent. Odwalla88’s boundary-breaking music and strong feminist ethics were certainly responsible for this positive turn.