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Monday, July 9, 2012

Misanthropic Agenda: The Oakland Noise Label That Finds Most Experimentalists Dull

Posted By on Mon, Jul 9, 2012 at 3:30 AM

Misanthropic Agenda founder Gerritt Wittmer
  • Misanthropic Agenda founder Gerritt Wittmer

Name: Misanthropic Agenda

Owner: Gerritt Wittmer

Founded: 1998

Label one Sheet: Misanthropic Agenda is an independent record label based in Oakland. In addition to releasing music by its director, Gerritt Witmer, the label focuses on experimental music from around the world with absolutely no consideration for commercial potential.

Musical focus: Wittmer maintains that the only criterion for MA's releases is that he personally enjoys the sounds. Given the label's focus on harsh noise, musique concrète, sound art, and highbrow experimental, it seem likely that Wittmer must enjoy esoteric and difficult sounds to the near exclusion of everything else.


Creation story: Although Wittmer is vague about the initial beginnings of MA, he concedes that the label was established because Wittmer required a creative outlet in order to grapple with depression in his late teens. Misanthropic Agenda releases Wittmer's own music, a jarring variety of harsh noise that utilizes vocal manipulation and unpredictable volume dynamics. What began as an outlet for his own cathartic noise has since grown into an internationally relevant institution within the noise community.

Headquarters: Fittingly, Wittmer operates MA out of his home at Terminal, a warehouse located in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood that doubles as a venue for experimental and noise music.

Press: Despite releasing sold-out recordings by international figureheads of experimental music like Merzbow, Boris, and Joe Colley -- which accrue positive coverage in publications such as The Wire -- Wittmer was surprised when offered a feature in Label Sampler. For an artist who has personally performed abroad and the curator of a relevant experimental imprint, one might assume that Wittmer would be accustomed to interviews and press activity. Yet, he frequently apologized for his awkwardness. Wittmer attributes the lack of press interaction to the general lack of commercial appeal in MA's output. As he explains, "I have operated so long outside of any typical industry tools. I release sound art and there is no business in that."

Joe Colley's ANTHEM
  • Joe Colley's ANTHEM

Most unusual release: With experimentation and boundary-pushing being an implied rule, many MA titles vie for this category in one way or another, but a couple are notably bizarre. Boris, an experimental rock group from Japan with proclivities for drone, psychedelic, and noise, released dronevil on Misanthropic Agenda in 2005. The release was a double LP intended to be heard on two turntables with each record playing simultaneously. The "drone" record is simply that: pulsating, low-end tones that hover atmospherically and unobtrusively. The "evil" record, however displays Boris' propensity for oppressive guitar feedback, lacerating riffs and dense noise. Together, the result is a visceral and difficult example of experimentation. Despite such inaccessibility, droneevil quickly sold out its initial run of 1000 LPs.

Boris' dronevil
  • Boris' dronevil

On live performing: Wittmer claims that he finds most experimental performances boring. It's an audacious viewpoint but such a perspective informs his unique approach to live performance. Wittmer's appearances recall the brazen performance art Viennese Actionists. A video of Wittmer performing in Sweden in 2010 on the MA website shows him breathing, then humming and then screaming into an ultrasensitive microphone over the course of 15 minutes. During the climax, he appears to be pulling string from his mouth as he yells.

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Sam Lefebvre


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