Noel's Noise

Comets Echoplex master has a side project of his own

By day, Noel von Harmonson mans the Echoplex for Comets on Fire, torquing the band's heavy psych slabs through the prism of his proto-electro tacklebox. Actually, no — by day he works at Streetlight Records. But when the sun sets on compositional rock and the monsters come out, Harmonson goes solo down in the sewers of the noise world, unleashing some truly evil sonic chaos.

As a tape-delay knob-noodler, Harmonson has taken Comets where no typical '60s revival group has gone before, placing the band on an unlikely continuum between Steppenwolf and Wolf Eyes. But after a tour with the latter band, Harmonson was inspired to strike out alone into the wilds of noise, via schlock-horror homage. "I was working at the record store, and someone turned in this boxed set of the Leprechaun movies, called Pot of Gore. And I thought, 'Why does this exist?' I realized I would make a tribute to each Leprechaun movie — if Pot of Gore exists, it's just as reasonable for a [noise] tribute campaign to exist." He released four cassette tapes, in hand-printed quantities of 30. "It got reviewed in Arthur, and the Midwest noise guys were into it — I think that gave me the energy to record something 35 minutes long and think that people would give a shit."

That 35-minute opus was christened Born on the Fourth of July, a punishing solo electronics-manipulation album out on S.F.'s Resipiscent Records. It's a total assault of desultory, menacing squalling, from start to finish. There aren't any recognizable instruments, and the sounds that might have started out as vocals have long since been tortured into electrocuted chunks of lung by the time they hit your ears.

"My stuff in Comets is more rehearsed and planned out, but with my solo shit there's just chaos and a totally random outcome, where you start with whatever sound comes out first and manipulate it from there. It's abstract and improvisational ... There is phrasing and tonality, but nothing is planned."

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