Hair Police - Constantly Terrified (Cover Artwork)

Hair Police

Constantly Terrified (2005)

Troubleman Unlimited

There's a distinct trend occurring recently in which noise artists are slowly being introduced to a more mainstream audience. Whether this is a result of a changing in the composition of traditionally held beliefs as to what noise should accomplish -- either commercially or artistically-driven, although the former would most certainly be unrecognized -- or from increased attention these artists are receiving from fringe-turned-mainstream critics. With a number of these critics, who appeal to a more independent-oriented music scene, beginning to push more accessible noise bands (such as Wolf Eyes) and succeeding, the style has since opened up to a lot of those formerly uninitiated. Arguments could be made both ways concerning whether this phenomenon is mostly a commercially-driven one or not, but it seems safe to say that it plays at least a partial role. More important than that question, however, is whether the newly acquired appeal somehow adversely impacts the very grounds upon which the concept was created. The whole idea of avant-garde, from noise to free-jazz and anywhere in between, was to break from the commonality of music being created under the further commercialization of society -- which turned almost anything and everything into a commodity to be bought and sold to profit someone, including art -- and push the bounds of what could be considered music or art. But ours is a society that continually accepts things further and further from the norm eventually bringing it into some relegated sphere of that very part of society it wished to reject. Although an interesting topic, little can be done about the situation by these artists now, but the progression of any band can give insight into just how big a factor this inevitability plays in their compositions.

Hair Police has continually morphed their sound. At one point it might have even been possible to call them a rock band (although disturbed) which was shattered to pieces with the continued addition of further cacophony and destruction of structure within the music. Hair Police have always been damaged and continue to find further means of expressing that fact; there is certainly no invisible puppeteer influencing their brand of noise, even if it does garner more attention nowadays. Constantly Terrifed is a more dramatic piece, one that builds itself around the sparse, scratchy backgrounds and adds elements on top to further the sense of anguish felt throughout the record. The eight-minute-long "My Skull Is My Face" uses some repetitive background noise to set the stage for alterations from distorted and demonic background vocals (which are indecipherable, of course) to moments of eerie beauty through echoing effects. Even the lengthy opener, "Rattlers Echo," uses the first few minutes of its ten to build mood. The quiet noises in the background gently lull you in and the pulse, which gently crescendos into awareness, becomes hypnotic. It rises above the background noise, which sounds like nothing more than muffled clangor of someone messing around on a drumset. It's quietly assuring and even comforting -- nothing more than a false sense of security they create before breaking into the song with muffled screams, squealing noises and inhuman racket. The end fades off into "The Haunting," which also slowly builds, constantly growing louder and more unstable as elements are thrown onto the mix eventually erupting. There's no unneeded aural unpleasantness, but there is a sense of isolation and despair through the somber swirls of the bass effects that underlies the noise.

The title track resembles the opener, using much of its time on atmospheric building, although using far more effects in doing so than before. At over 14 minutes in length, the piece comes off as monumental. The build is crushing, so slow it gains weight before finally being pushed over the edge into a mass of clashing noises, destroyed screams and swirling squeals. It's one gigantic build into a release that becomes so palpable it practically begs to be let free. Once it is, the result is ultimately even more satisfying because of the skillful first half. The brass that squeals in the background behind the rest of the song adds a perfect element to the song, adding an organic feel from an instrument being played so recklessly it actually fits the destruction beautifully.

Hair Police have left a trail of gaping mouths over time from their destructive and unimaginable live show, and while it may be impossible to capture that essence which defines them so well live and digitize it for anyone, Constantly Terrifed makes a good attempt. The album is a lesson is contrast, restraining itself at moments and opting for atmospherics instead of straight destruction in order to better develop those latter moments. It is an unpleasant listen, like a soundtrack to a nightmare, but that's what gives it all its power; plus, for all the unpleasantness, it's actually pretty enjoyable.