The Kalamazoo, Michigan based duo Bronson Arm, consisting of Blake Bickel on baritone guitar and Garrett Yates on drums, forges anthemic noise-punk songs that are a study in controlled chaos. Their self-titled debut album on Learning Curve Records, a label revered for championing the abrasive and the avant-garde, is a testament to their unique sound that teeters on the edge of seat tension and explodes into cathartic hooks. Today, we celebrate the release of their new single and video, with a special list of top 10 noise rock albums released this year!
The album, slated for release on January 12th, is a collection of sparse, machine-like compositions that hold a mirror to the likes of Fugazi, Sonic Youth, and The Jesus Lizard. Bickel’s heavy, haunting baritone guitar intertwines with Yates’ powerful drumming, creating a soundscape that is simultaneously minimalist and monumental.
“While it’s not a themed album, the roles of dominance and submission continue to appear. Navigating anxieties surrounding both. I’m not talking strictly about sexual relations between two people… More about social constructs, capitalism, community, and general roles played in group dynamics.” – says Blake Bickel.
Expounding a bit ore about the new track, he continues: “Patsy Ultima explores the threshold where empathy turns into annoyance. It’s an emotional cocktail in response to AND consisting of equal parts indignation, cancel culture, and schadenfreude.”
Yates, apart from his role in Bronson Arm, is the owner of The Run Off, a thriving DIY venue in Kalamazoo. His contributions to the local music scene are significant, booking an array of genres from punk to metal. This dedication to the community and the DIY ethos is reflective of the spirit that drives Bronson Arm. A potential feature for Idioteq could delve into Yates’ experiences running The Run Off, perhaps exploring the most memorable shows he’s booked or his top picks for DIY venues.
Bronson Arm, in their latest venture, also premieres a new video for their song “Patsy Ultima.” This release is accompanied by Blake Bickel’s curated list, “Bronson Arm’s Top 10 Noise Rock Albums of 2023,” a compilation of this year’s standout noise rock albums. Bickel’s selections, ranging from BEDTIMEMAGIC’s intense “Sleep Together” to the more experimental tones of MS PAINT’s “Post American,” offer insight into the band’s influences and the broader noise rock landscape.
Bickel’s commentary on each album reveals a deep appreciation for the genre’s nuances. His descriptions paint a vivid picture of each record, whether it’s the relentless energy of BEDTIMEMAGICc or the cinematic soundscapes of FACS’ “Still Life In Decay.” This list is not just a collection of recommendations; it’s a window into the artistic mind of Bronson Arm’s guitarist, showcasing his understanding and passion for noise rock.
As Bronson Arm gears up for the release of their self-titled album, they stand at an intriguing crossroads. Their music embodies the raw energy and unbridled spirit of punk while also embracing a more measured, thoughtful approach to songwriting. This balance sets them apart in a genre often dominated by sheer volume and intensity.
Bronson Arm’s Top 10 Noise Rock Albums of 2023
by Blake Bickel of Bronson Arm
“2023 has been a fantastic year for releases in the Noise Rock / Noise Rock adjacent field. In no particular order… here are 10 albums released this year that have jumped out to me and continue to get rotation on my record player at home, or streaming in the van as Garrett and I travel around playing shows.” – says Blake.
BEDTIMEMAGIC – Sleep Together (The Ghost Is Clear)
Yes I’m drawn to this album and band because they are a two piece. But Sleep Together feels like a record where BEDTIMEMAGIC is really hitting their stride. Underneath the back handed tongue-in-cheek sarcasm that is ever present, the emotive qualities cut through and add a dense dimension. A dimension that has probably always been there… but I’m really hearing it on this record. It’s a really INTENSE listen. A full throttle, relentless blast-in-your-face kind of record. However, there are just enough dynamic passages and shifts in accents/rhythms that allow you to catch your breath. And bring me back to listen again and again.
//Less – Social Disappointment (The Ghost Is Clear)
Social Disappointment is a RIPPING exploration of pummeling rhythms, anxiety-inducing pulses, and grinding textures. It’s a DIRTY, DIRTY record. Reminds me of putting a tape in your boombox and CRANKING it to the point of blowing our your speakers… but you don’t turn it down, cause it sounds SO GOOD. I hear a fair amount of parallels to the band METZ in their presentation. Yet, they are clearly doing their own thing. And you would have to, considering they don’t have a guitar player. //Less is a 3-pc bass guitar/bass/drums noise rock band from France. I was lucky enough to snag an LP from the limited edition run this year. But you can still buy the download after you stream it and realize you can’t live without it.
Mr Phylzzz – Fat Chance (AmRep)
Mr Phylzzz has been BUSY! To the point of being prolific. Fat Chance is just a RIPPING FUN album to listen to. They hit grooves that pick you up and then body slam you down to the ground… and mock you. But just for a second. The groove then buys you a drink at the bar and gives you a big fuggin’ hug… and then gives you an atomic wedgie. What stands out to me about this record is the musical kinship I feel between the guitarist/vocalist Clinton and the drummer Danny. They have locked into each other in a way that’s truly special. Leading each other into little tangents like musical “inside jokes.” Jokes that make you want to jump up and down and bang your head.
Elephant Rifle – Broken Water (Learning Curve Records)
I was so excited to get this record. I’ll buy anything Elephant Rifle puts out, without listening first. The guitarist Clinton seems to reinvent his instrument’s tonal vocabulary on most every release. This influences the space he fills and how the songs are structured. The opening track is a sparse acoustic track, setting the dark mood of the album, and its returning theme turns this album into something other than a collection of songs. This is a carefully crafted statement piece of an album, meant to be listened to from start to finish. And it’s powerful.
FACS – Still Life In Decay (Trouble In Mind Records)
This album sucked me right the fuck in. It’s an album that creates a vivid and surreal plane of existence. While the space is consistent throughout, the mood and density that live within varies drastically. At moments you are frenzied, at the edge of your seat… while others, you slump back, exhale and float within the ambient colors swirling around you. The driving drums DEMAND attention and pile drive through the textures with effortless confidence, as does the grinding bass. Every note of every instrument is serving the material. No overplaying… no flashy musical clickbait. Just refined taste and emotive cinematic soundscapes to get lost in.
Oxbow – Love’s Holiday (Ipecac Recordings)
This Oxbow album dives deep into intimacy and vulnerability. Eugene’s vocal delivery flows between agony and ecstasy. The various passages with choral/choir implementation create an ethereal layer that is utterly jaw dropping. It’s just a beautiful album tinged with just the right amount of darkness and suspense. This is another album that, although each individual song stands like a pillar on its own, I feel is meant to be digested listening to the whole.
Cougars – COUGS (Expert Work Records)
This is their first release since 2006 and its FUCKING PERFECTION. They successfully honed in on the best aspects of previous works and delivered a straight-to-the-point NOISE ROCK record. Highly focused and relentlessly pummeling. I feel this release is stating: “Yeah, that thing… you want the thing? We can do that. Here you go… on a silver fucking platter.” It’s delivered with a smirk. I have a feeling this album is their way of clearing the air, that they are just getting started and have a LOT more in store. For now, I’m just happy pounding my fists to this album.
The Dog Indiana – Burnt Offerings (Early Onset Records)
This is a ripping album from a newer band. I FEEL it. I believe every word. They have set the bar for themselves and explored a variety of rhythms in this very guitar-driven album. Whenever I listen to it my brain picks up on various riffs and textural accents and I mentally start riffing with them. I hope to catch this band live – and look forward to where they take their sound.
Intercourse – Halo Castration Institute (Learning Curve Records)
Another album that grabbed me from the first 10 seconds of listening. Dripping with vengeful filthy disgust… not just in the vocal delivery… the grooves, the cadence. It can be hard to listen to this record sitting down. I want to move around… I’m eager to catch this band live.
MS PAINT – Post American (Convulse Records)
This release is the wild card on my list. I don’t feel it’s strictly a Noise Rock record. But IMO easily welcomed into the adjacent fields. This record feels like a wonderful post-modern mashup of influences and fresh perspective. Driving drums, synth-heavy soundscapes, grounded by fuzzed-out bass lines. The vocals command… and demand your full attention. I’m hoping to catch the repress of this record, but you can still find and support them on Bandcamp.