Listen to an hour of noise by Russian noise project Nozhrazdrazhenye

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ножраздражение / nozhrazdrazhenye / Knifeirritation, is a four-track tape of deep drone and noise by a shifting arrangement of artists from St. Petersburg and Moscow. Noise is a recourse when language fails, when the words you have are insufficient and imprecise, when the information you receive is too overwhelming and unreliable to parse in a legible way. Noise is itself illegible, which is powerful in a culture built on surveillance and information wars, in which visibility can be a trap.

In a powerful New York Times piece titled simply, “The Agency“, Adrian Chen reported on a Russian agency that employs people to work as professional trolls, saturating the internet with false information and artificially bloating pro-Putin support. The implications of this practice are terrifying considering how many people glean their perception of reality based on information obtained from the internet.

The internet gives each of us the Godlike ability to zoom out and take a macro look at things, and the sheer amount of information available gives our interpretations a false sense of objectivity. It’s hard enough to accept that the logic driving our interpretations is flawed; the idea that the facts themselves are illusory is downright bone-chilling.

This isn’t a new idea and certainly not one exclusive to Russia. We know, for example, that Facebook algorithms make it so that each individual sees different information in their news feed, or that it’s possible to buy followers on social media, thus inflating your perceived influence. We know also that American politicians and news outlets are notorious for spreading information laced with spin, “truthiness,” and straight-up lies.

When I interviewed Lusia, a member of Nozhrazdrazhenye, about her punk band, I asked why they are never explicitly political in their songs. She replied that they didn’t want to speculate about specific things because political goals change every year and they didn’t want their work to be manipulated. I didn’t quite understand what she meant at the time.

She explained, using America’s embrace of Pussy Riot as an example, that all information is prone to being used by the propaganda machine. When you take into account how frequently the political allegiances of any given country can shift, how frequently states and cultural attitudes reconceptualize who is an enemy and what an acceptable line of thought is, and how dire the repercussions for incorrect allegiances can be, you start to understand just how dangerous it is to have a legible platform.

Not to say that this is an explicitly political record meant to address those themes, but when language is weaponized on the daily, a record as opaque as goh, with unintelligible track titles like “gishercereg,” “gisher,” “goh,” and “gorc, makes perfect sense. Once you dig into the tracks you access psychedelic noise meditations, meticulous textures, dense emotional dreamstates, desperate seances and patient exorcisms. It’s a surreal headspace to get into, one that opts out of language, linear time, musicality, and everything else we are beholden to, at least for an hour.