The Art of the Earache: Five Bands From Phoenix's Noise Underground

Matt Loberg of Genital Stigmata/Geiger Retort.
Matt Loberg of Genital Stigmata/Geiger Retort.
Courtesy Photo

To those not plugged into the deeper chasms of the musical underground, the idea of a noise musician most likely seems oxymoronic and bizarre. An easily understandable stance, given that noise is largely considered to be an undesirable sonic experience.

However, over the course of decades, a sizable subsection of the extreme music underground has developed and refined an art form to the many shades of noise. A platform of subversion and subtlety that is capable of transmitting a range of emotion and aesthetic.

This sun-parched enclave for puritanical NRA members may seem the most unlikely place for a noise artist to reside, yet there is, in fact, a small group of artists and free-thinkers not so quietly producing meticulous compositions of discordant mania and buried beauty.

The following is a list of some current heavy hitters among the thicket of many.

James Fella

Undoubtedly a longstanding pillar of excellence, as far as Arizona noise and extreme music go, James Fella set the bar and secured it in place with a mountain of live performances (in various creative agents) and prolific releases. Putting aside earlier bands, James is better known as the principal songwriter for the infamous art rock band Soft Shoulder (still active in some form).

Fella further widened his gaze into the realms of avant-garde audio while simultaneously developing an obsessive label output as the proprietor of Gilgongo Records, producing records for noise titans like John Wiese, among many others.

Bet money that Fella won't be slowing down anytime soon, having already produced four releases since the turn of the year, one of which is a massive lathe-cut double-LP box set that includes two 90-minute cassettes along with a full-color zine and poster. It's a project he labored over for more than two years. Let that, if anything, speak to the level of commitment he possess.  

Glochids Though perhaps not able to be categorized as noise in the truest sense of the word, Glochids certainly is a creative vehicle of unique quality. The brainchild of James Roemer, a taciturn giant of a man, Glochids' live performances mirror his extremely collected personality and focus on experimentation.

His recordings rely heavily on field-recorded source material and contact-mic appropriation. At his live performances, I've seen Roemer implement everything from vintage punch-card computation devices to marimbas. The result is always a unique layered collage of sound as grating as it is meditative.

Glochids has one full-length album (available on vinyl and cassette) from Weird Ear Records as well as several hard-to-find cassette releases. His next scheduled performance is Thursday, February 27, at Tempe's Sonoran Pop Fest. You also can catch James (a.k.a. DJ Jimmy Glimmer) spinning records at the Palo Verde Lounge on one of his "DJ at PV" nights during any given week.

Genital Stigmata/Geiger Retort

A testament to the most unforgiving fringe of the noise genre (commonly known as "power electronics" or "harsh noise"), Matt Loberg has forced some truly horrendous sounds into existence. Since the young age of 16, Loberg has been creating and performing new machinations of inflamed pedal- and sample-driven mayhem under the name Geiger Retort, and he since has morphed his sound into a more vicious and conceptualized focus as Genital Stigmata.

Taking cues from such staples as Prurient and Whitehouse, this is the soundtrack to the type of insanity that lands you in a straitjacket. This looks to be a good year for Loberg with a mess of releases in the works, including one on floppy disc. Genital Stigmata is scheduled to perform Thursday, March 6, with The Body at Wallstreet Warehouse.


Dealing The auditory extension of one TK Nicholson, a writer, publisher, website curator, and longstanding presence in the Phoenix music scene. Though abrasive, Dealing exists below full-powered harsh noise. His is an auditory mental gridlock littered with samples from obscure B-movies and plodding static war like drumbeats.

Last year was a productive one for Dealing, releasing two tapes, one of them a split with Tropical Body, an incarnation of Little Rock, Arkansas' reclusive William Cody Watson, as well as a seven-inch EP on the aforementioned Gilgongo. Keep an ear to ground for more releases from Dealing in the future and check out the Polyphase Records booth at the Double Nickels Record Collective in Tempe for quality records stocked by Nicholson.

Shun the Atavist

Shun the Atavist is the brainchild of Joe Maynard. Wielding a dense output of tracks via digital download, the audio technician covers all basis of experimental audio, ranging from harsh noise to ambient drone. His source material includes circuit-bent children's toys and various computer programs that seem practically indecipherable to the uninitiated.

Though having never performed live or produced physical releases (at least in recent years), there is some truly compelling composition by Maynard. Keep up with his continued output at

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