Daniel Menche: A Northwest Noise Master
- Words: Michael Byrne
Portland is a beautiful city; it contains one of the largest urban wilderness areas in the world (Forest Park). But even on days when you can see all three of the mountains that surround Portland, when its two rivers feel like actual forces of nature rather than landmarks, you can still get lost in the Portland scene and, well, miss the forest while chilling with the young creative trees.
Portland, like so many Northwest towns, has shaped itself in relation to its terrain. And it’s the local landscape that shapes the music of Daniel Menche, an enigmatic, masterful, and incredibly prolific drone craftsman who has been making music in the city for 15 years.
“If I put my body in a physical state in nature–that’s the gasoline that I rely [on],” Menche says. “Nothing against community and friends,” he adds.
Menche’s music, as documented on an untold number of physical and digital releases, is unified by both its density and its chaos. The strata and activity within each piece, mostly generated from contact-mic’d surfaces, is almost overwhelming; even at its most abrasive, it’s entrancing, while too dense to ever really feel sharp or painful. If this music has a creed, it’s Menche’s tagline: “What does blood sound like?” The motto is also beguilingly literal: A Menche performance sometimes consists of the extremely fit musician contact-mic’ing his own arteries and heartbeat as source sounds for noise drones.
“Everything is always growing [in my music,]” says Menche. “It’s like watching a forest in time-lapse. Everything is coming and going so fast. It’s like seasons. It’s letting the sounds live on their own; letting them grow on their own.”
Several years back, Menche made an interesting transition into percussive composition; he was aiming to make music “as animalistic as possible–music that can outrun,” he explains. “If I listen to it while running, it would break me.”
This led to what would eventually become 2006’s Concussions on the now-defunct S.F. label Asphodel. “A few versions I was able to outrun, [and] I was like, ‘This isn’t good enough,’” he says. “After many attempts, many hours, I got this two-hour mix. I started running and got into this static state of intensity of spiritual violence. I came off the trail punching trees. I came out of Forest Park crawling, with all of these scratches and bruises. Other joggers were looking at me like I was insane.”
Favorite Portland artist:
Eric Stotik. Any time he shows his paintings in the gallery, it’s like Slayer comes to town.
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