Eyesore: Beautiful Noise
story by tim mcmahan
Lazy-i: Oct. 12, 2005
Sure, everyone knows about Saddle Creek Records,
but did you know that there's another record label right here in
river city that produces CDs that are distributed all over the globe
by bands that tour all over the globe to fans all over the globe?
Public Eyesore Records has been thriving right under your nose
for the past seven years. How could such an enterprise exist without
your knowledge? Probably because most -- if not all -- of the
bands on the label's roster are known only by the tiniest of audiences
who listen, collect, perform and enjoy a genre of music that's
been referred to as "avant-garde," "minimalist"
or "experimental." In fact, your typical FM radio listener
probably wouldn't consider it "music" at all.
"I call it music," said Public Eyesore owner Bryan
Day, who operates the label out of his midtown apartment. "I
might call it 'sound art' or something like that. Referring to
it as 'experimental noise' is naïve terminology since there
are so many subgenres within it."
|| As research
for this article, Day sent a care package that included a handful
of CD-Rs in colorful cardboard sleeves, jewel-cased CDs and some vinyl.
Monotract, Pagu. Released in 2002, the LP contains rhythms
beneath layers of electronic noise/static/squawks that sound like
messages received from outer space. Amidst the chaos are tracks
like "Birao de Lao," a pleasant tone poem lightly sewn
together with clicks that fall on a beat.
Jad Fair and Jason Willett, Superfine (May 2003). Known
as the frontman of the underground punk band Half Japanese, this
solo collaboration between Fair and HJ band mate Willett is almost
commercial sounding. Fair's solo work has been released on such
labels as Kill Rock Stars, Jagjaguwar and Matador, but this is still
an oddity in the Public Eyesore tradition. Fair and Willett play
a variety of instruments, pick out weird melodies and blend it with
shrieks and comic vocals. The 20-song "enhanced" CD also
includes 155 mp3 tracks for more than five hours of additional music.
Blue Collar, Lovely Hazel. Released this year, the trio
plays trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, percussion and "sings."
Opening track "48/1" sounds like boiler pipes moaning
in an old building or someone moving furniture in the apartment
upstairs. The bleeping horns have an improvisational feel and often
build to a noisy conclusion. Along with Superfine, it's among the
label's best sellers.
Jorge Castro, Sin Titulo #2. The 2001 CD-R contains pulsing
noises like faraway satellites that slowly mutate into ambient tones
over its single 44-minute track. Atmospheric and somewhat soothing,
it has no discernible melody.
Jesse Krakow, Oceans in the Sun. Krakow is a member of Fast
and Bulbous, a Captain Beefheart-influenced avant-prog band. The
2004 CD-R opens with "Tree for Me," a track that features
beatbox, organ and Krakow actually singing a melody.
Onnyk, Private Idioms. The 2001 CD-R contains two live sessions
recorded in October 1995 and January 1997 in Morioka, Japan, that
sound like stringed-instrument improvisation but could be confused
with random noodling. The band includes Day's wife, Yoko Sato.
Naturaliste, A Clamor Half Heard. The Omaha-based ensemble
has included among its members Lonnie Methe, Simon Joyner, Chris
Deden, Charles Lareau, Chris Fischer and Day himself. This 2001
CD-R is a wall of noise, distortion, pure nihilism that's both grating
"It's something where if you're
naïve to the whole scene you can't appreciate it as much
as if you're actually a part of it."
So is something like the Naturaliste
recording a structured, thought-out piece? "On no, the entire
thing is improvised," Day said. "Lonnie was doing an almost
Dada-ist concept. His approach is 'Who cares about anything except
Day admits that to the untrained or unwilling ear, some of his
label's music will sound like noise. "It takes a long time
for people to gain a sense of what's good and what's not,"
he said, adding that he receives more than his share of unsolicited
demos in the mail. "There are more people doing crap than otherwise,"
he said. "I don't search much anymore. I get maybe five demos
a month that are kind of interesting, but I don't generally put
stuff out unless I know the person."
He markets his catalog nationally via magazine ads and the Internet
(his website is publiceyesore.com),
but he's never focused on Omaha, though his discs are available
at The Antiquarium record store.
"There' such a small market for this kind of stuff to begin
with," he said. "It's something where if you're naïve
to the whole scene you can't appreciate it as much as if you're
actually a part of it. It's difficult to get into unless you're
doing something with experimental sound. I got into it when I was
going to school for art. It's analogous to various forms of visual
art, but it's so much easier for people to accept visual art than
The smallness of the audience is part of the appeal, Day said.
"It's easier to get people to work with you," he said.
"People involved in this scene like to travel and tour and
collaborate with each other. There are always opportunities to play
with people in an improvised music setting."
Despite the limited audience, Public Eyesore has released 14 recordings
so far this year and is on target to release his 100th catalog item
by year-end. CD releases have 1,000 to 2,000-copy runs. CD-R releases
are painstakingly hand-produced in lots of 250 -- a process that
Day said he's dropping because of the manual labor required to cut
and assemble the sleeves.
The work doesn't end there. Day also books tours for his bands
in the U.S., Europe and Asia. "The tours are much more successful
in Europe," he said. "Japan has a big scene as well, and
there are some places on the coasts of the US where you can tour
That said, his own band, Paper Mache -- which he describes as "definitely
not as loud as Naturaliste and easier to understand" -- is
taking off on a two-week tour of the US heartland later this month,
including gigs in Iowa, Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Tennessee
and Missouri. "It should be interesting," he said. "You
never know who's going to show up."
Published in The Omaha Reader Oct. 12, 2005.
Copyright © 2006 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.