Published Aug 08, 2016Beard Closet is Torontonian Phil Hamilton, who uses guitar and effects to create astonishing noise/drone compositions. His latest album focuses on the brutal, fascist police tactics at otherwise peaceful protests seen all over the United States and here in Toronto, particularly during the G20 summit in 2010. The subject has been addressed by artists as diverse as Killer Mike and Fatima Al Qadiri, but rarely with such visceral instrumental poetry.
"Assembly" starts with a low, menacing, siren-like wail over a dull buzzing, like the rumble of distant tanks on concrete. Periodically, the buzzing will flare up, and around 1:45 it flickers into a shock of feedback noise before unleashing a violent torrent of distortion and fuzz. One can easily imagine an outbreak of police aggression at this point, and in almost cinematic slow motion, a distant high-register melody mourns the mass arrests and the abuse and death under police custody.
While past Beard Closet releases have drifted quite a bit, this record feels refined and pointed. On Deadly Force, no track is over eight minutes, and each has its own flair. "Agent Provocateur" begins with a harsh high-frequency noise and ends with a repeated minor third motif resembling a schoolyard taunt; "Accountability" is surprisingly melodic for Beard Closet, as hopeful as possible given his sound and the subject matter.
The fact that this is a single guitarist with effects might call to mind Noveller's great 2015 album Fantastic Planet, but unlike those lush, variegated soundscapes, Beard Closet's Deadly Force is a lot harsher and bleaker, closer to noise artist Pharmakon or drone maestro Tim Hecker's early work. Like many noise artists, the sounds here can be appreciated for its sonic aesthetic, but the underlying meaning imbues it with even greater profundity and merit. (Arachnidiscs Recordings)