CF makes noise music and draws comics. Somehow, I've earned a reputation for liking noise music, when I pretty much just like Black Dice, and Black Dice side projects. And not even every Black Dice side project- The collaboration of Eric Copeland with Avey Tare, Terrestrial Tones, is not to be found on my computer, even though Alex owned a copy of Dead Drunk that I remember having some moments. Actually, maybe I should look into that. But anyway. CF makes noise music under the name of Kites, whose record Peace Trials I've talked about liking in the past. That one goes back and forth between brutal noise jams and folk songs, and the jams get more abstract and brutal as the songs become prettier, as the record goes on. I never would have downloaded that were it not for my affection for the guy's comics, as they've appeared in various anthologies. I can connect those folk songs to the drawing styles, almost. There's a warmth, and a simplicity: CF draws in a thin pencil line, occasionally embellished with watercolor paint.
Anyway, CF's put out a "graphic novel," his first after a bunch of short stories and minicomics and drawings. It's called Powr Mastrs, it's completely awesome, and none of the reviews I've read of it have articulated why. He also put out another record on Load pretty recently, which I'm listening to now, hoping to talk about.
For once, the weird hyperbole/nonsensical assertions that is noise discussion's stock in trade is accurate: The Load website describes this record as cold. Yes. There are human voices on this record, but they're not in syncopation with the instruments. Noise machines go fuckity-buzz-beep-bomp-skronk, while the human voice does spoken word: "Lady! No one's going to look at you that way! Put your compact away!" and sometimes get chewed up in the machines themselves. But Load also does the weird bullshit for a record for the comic, Powr Mastrs, and it's not even worth talking about.
Powr Mastrs is great, despite the lack of the watercolor paints that are sometimes a huge art strength, that make CF's stuff look like Henry Darger. Without it, the art sometimes gets into Charles Schulz territory, in terms of sideways figure drawing. There's also this weird geometric technical drawing aspect to the architecture, and the angles things are chosen to be depicted from. There's also these drawings of plants and animals which are really great, and where the drawings shine most obviously in terms of what's considered good drawing. The coolest elements of the drawing lie somewhere in between though, when figures get distorted of abstractions as their bodies pull apart. This happens in a lot of CF's comics: Some sort of hydrocephalic hallucination of power ripping things apart from the way they normally lie. More of a vision than a hallucination, actually, because the way the figures and the architecture look, so thin-lined in pencil, there's a sort of squareness that is different than what you'd see in, say, a Brendan McCarthy comic, which for the sake of the argument will serve as shorthand for psychedelia in the traditional "taking some mushrooms and throwing down the paint" sense. That stuff is muddier, this is more clear. The crazy distortions keep the geometric clarity of seeming drawn with s-curves and t-squares. It's awesome.
The noise isn't like that at all. It's, you know, noisy, against that sort of recognizability. Brian Chippendale travels in the same circles as CF. His comics keep the visual noise of crazy cross-hatching, and in Ninja it was made clear that that was deliberate. The panels that didn't have that, that were clean, were thought of as being bleached, gentrified for yuppies. The insane sketchiness was to reinforce a vision of a world that was more like Fort Thunder and less like a condo. Noise as something exclusionary, but also celebratory of vitality. CF's comics have a particular style, but it's not really of a piece with his music the way that Chippendale's work is.
CF's comic in Kramers Ergot 5, which he did the covers for, was signed "Fuck all you careerists and fuck the president," and in Powr Mastrs there's a note on the table of contents that says "law stay away." Tom Spurgeon has described CF's comics as being dissimilar to a sort of fantasy story about good triumphing over evil and more about weird social interactions that might be kind of unfair. What I like about this stuff is the way that sort of punk human personality elements are reflected in world-building and good stories, that sort of attribution of the transference of ideas from one consciousness to another. That's why I want to connect the comics to the noise- they come from the same person, and thus, theoretically, the same place, and in an effective piece of art, I tend to think the artist's vision is communicated. The noise only does that in terms of scene signifier: something so abrasive that it can only exist in certain contexts, and those contexts, due to their extremism, can have these lawless overtones: Shows held in houses, usually with fridges full of dumpstered food and drugs readily available. There's a whole set of associations. In Powr Mastrs, there's a "transmutation night" for witches off in the distance for lawless fun. There's also "beard parties," where immortal children pretend to be old.
In a lot of CF's short comics, there's this kind of transcendence, also, that comes from not being all that into conflict: "Race From Dying" from the SPX 2001 anthology had a dude opting out of work by drawing lines and patterns he could disappear into. The 2-page story in Paper Rad's BJ and Da Dogs had a character that took lack of conflict for granted in favor of making friends, kind of as a punchline. There's some kind of zen peacefulness that just sort of comes up. This is also vaguely evident in the folk songs from "Peace Trials" which hint at extollations of peace. Powr Mastrs doesn't have that, but it's not over yet, it has a while yet to go. So far it's just laying out the world of social relationships, which will maybe end up transcended in the future. But without that element- that "the point" element, the third-act conclusion that enforces the themes, there's still a lot to like. One element is the drawing, which is hard to articulate the strengths of, besides just saying that it's graceful. There's also the humor, and the world being built as an interesting one in itself, of just a world inside an artist's head.