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"I'm not trying to sell noise music to anybody," says Kevin Cosgrove, grinning. He of all people knows that noise music, particularly harsh noise, is a difficult subject to broach — even with the very artists who create it.
Cosgrove sits cross-legged on the floor of his studio apartment, sipping from a Mason jar of tea. A jumble of instruments meets with piles of what appears to be trash and bits of scrap metal, forming a blockade between his bed and the window, divided in two by a sprawling drum kit. Harps and sitars loom over a set of gamelan drums, a pair of crutches peeking out from behind the stacks.
In his creative think tank in south Minneapolis, Cosgrove is quietly planning a small revolution — though he would be the last to admit it, or even consider it as such. The month-long harsh noise music residency he has curated for each Monday in July at the Kitty Cat Klub, Tourniquet Noise, is to him simply an extension of his love for this particular subgenre of music, and a reaction to recent shifts in the scene's undercurrents.
takes place each Monday in July at Kitty Cat Klub; full schedule at kittycatklub.net
He exudes an air of tranquility, perhaps the residual effect of once spending six years living in a monastery in Japan, isolated from the world at large. "I wanted to meditate, and I wanted to meditate with a master," he explains. "I wanted to get enlightened." Though hesitant to go into detail, he does fondly recall ringing giant bells at the temple with a log, to keep time for the surrounding village, and playing drums during weekly ceremonies.
Harsh noise is a far cry from this serene mental image, yet still somehow a fitting one. "It has a meditative effect, and even for how violent it sometimes is, it has almost a calming effect," says artist Oskar Brummel. Brummel will perform by the name Wince on July 28 — the final Monday night of the residency — alongside Cosgrove's collaborative act with artist Seth van Horn. Christened Transitional Agony, the outfit will be a combination of Cosgrove's Transitional Species and van Horn's Disthroned Agony. "Something about it is really transcendental," Brummel continues. "It has an interesting psychological and spiritual effect on your brain and body."
After returning from Japan and traveling for some time in the States, Cosgrove settled down in Minneapolis. A percussionist, he became interested in improv music and began testing the waters of experimental noise by performing with found and invented instruments, also toying with the sounds created with piezos — shiny, round contact microphones. "As my sound developed, it started moving from the experimental camp into the harsher stuff," he recalls.
"It was Seth Ryan who got me into the more visceral, really loud and powerful harsh noise music," he says of his friend and Tourniquet Noise co-conspirator. Ryan is a member of local industrial outfit Prostate, along with Brummel.
"Minneapolis has an incredible noise community," Ryan says. "A couple of years ago it seemed to have died off almost entirely. Kevin has been vital in bringing it back."
Indeed, after a rash of noise festivals several years ago like Heavy Focus, held at the since-shuttered Medusa, noise events dwindled. Tourniquet Noise matches prominent past noise artists with newer performers for a five-act bill each Monday. "Minneapolis noise was in critical need of this current huddle," Ryan says.
Along with selecting DJs for each night and playing vinyl herself, Delores Dewberry will be performing a dystopian puppet show with her band the Beheadresses during Leisure Dynamics' set on the first night of the series, this upcoming Monday. "I'm always interested in people meeting people, and creating an environment for people to engage — to talk and get excited," she says. "I think this is really going to provoke some of that, and provide an interesting opportunity for people who aren't familiar with this music to have it be presented in a comfortable environment."
The performers we spoke to are eager for the opportunity to reach a new audience. "Of course, it's not for everybody; it is kind of esoteric," Cosgrove says of the sound. "It took me a while for my ear to develop for certain types of experimental music." The nights offer such a broad representation of styles, though, that music lovers of all walks may be surprised by what they identify with.
Cosgrove is especially looking forward to performances from Ice Volt and Baculum, two acts who have not played in some time, and who were instrumental in reeling him into the noise world. As our conversation wraps up, he rises to his feet, slipping into a pair of sandals to walk over to a nearby punk house, fondly gazing over at his piles of instruments. "I don't think noise musicians are trying to be weird," he says. "We're just doing what we like. This is our thing."