Show Review // C.U.M at Democracy Center – 1/18/23
Show Review // C.U.M at Democracy Center – 1/18/23

Show Review // C.U.M at Democracy Center – 1/18/23

The crowd at the Democracy Center was wearing their best outfits on Saturday night for the noise show. Noise music has been around since 1910s Italy and here was a crowd in Cambridge over 100 years later agitating to experience it. The best outfits included a leopard print coat, a psychedelic dress, and a sweatshirt that taught you how to make meth with pictured instructions. By far the proverbial “winner of the night” was someone wearing a hand-painted leather jacket that read “Nazi Punks Get Killed.” At least, they won by the metric of getting stopped for photos. The Center is a house that’s been converted into a performance space in the heart of Harvard Square. There were around 30 folks there for the show, all standing together in a dimly-lit former living room that was illuminated by fairy lights strung across the windows. A wedge of light was shining on the hardwood floor from the open kitchen door, piercing through the murk.

The duo that makes up C.U.M. (“cut up & mangled”), Pain Chain and Chuck Steak, put on a strong performance with an unmistakable message. Pain Chain was petite, clad in a black t-shirt, tights, and a black baseball hat covering close cropped hair. Chuck Steak was taller and wearing a red t shirt, jeans, and a black baseball cap over their long ponytail. The two had many instruments, including a cake pan attached to a cable, a large flat piece of metal, a chain, and a synth, among others.

The set started with a rhythmic grating sound, peppered with static and swishing. After a brief conversation between the members of C.U.M. the show really took root. Pain Chain began to get down on their hands and knees, holding the circular, metal cake-pan inscribed with the message “End All Suffering.” The pan was attached to a contact mic. There were pieces of an American flag that had been ripped or cut lying in a pile on the ground. Pain Chain got back on their feet and began rocking back and forth from one foot to another while they manipulated a chain around the end-all-suffering pan. For a while they held the cable and kicked the pan across the performance space then pulled it back and forth. Occasionally, they kicked the pieces of the flag across the floor as well.

All the while, swishing sounds like being inside a heavy storm washed over the room. Digital beeps, almost like a video game, slowly crept into the soundscape. By this point, Pain Chain had traded their cake pan for a small synth and was deeply involved in wringing noise out of it. All while Chuck Steak generated noise from behind the table. They both worked feverishly to create this disjointed wall of sound. Pain Chain kicked all the pieces of the flag, which had been scattered, into a pile again. Chuck Steak suddenly dropped a large, flat piece of metal, resulting in a unique, jarring clang to add to the layers.

Pain Chain leaned harder into their instrument, adding to the impressions of tires screeching, swirling, digital video games, and an electrical hiss, among others. Seemingly out of nowhere, Chuck Steak produced a loud crash, and just like that the set reached a climax. I was left feeling disjointed as if I had been wakened from a dream soon after my head hit the pillow. The noise was clear—end all suffering.

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