Plus, stream three tracks from the Philadelphia noise musician's upcoming collection 'Raw Elements: 1999-2009.'
Photos courtesy of M Ax Noi Mach
It’s a peculiar proposition to be a musician’s musician in a subculture where even the notion of what makes up “music” is up for debate. When you’re an innovator within a niche—noise—that is only recently (and, let’s be honest, transiently) fashionable, the world is unlikely to beat a path to your door. But of course, recognition is not the point. To make Unheard Music by choice is to know that what is being produced is for the few, by design. M Ax Noi Mach, Robert Francisco’s solo project moniker (he plays in Veiled along with Arnau Sala), is a potent mix of Nitzer Ebb, Nurse With Wound, and heavy, heavy bass.
Francisco has been, since the 90s, the noise musician’s noise musician. Though he’s been a mainstay with a ferocious live reputation in Philadelphia, and White Denim put out his excellent In The Shadows in 2010, M Ax Noi Mach remains generally unsung outside of very, very small noise circles. Ryan Martin, of NYC avant label Dais, says, “For over a decade, one of the few constants in experimental music I ever witnessed was that any leftfield obsession I felt myself leaning on, typically Robert Francisco was either close to its focal point or tied in with his multiple music projects and/or label. To me, an artist like him transcends the definition of ‘ahead of their time’—more like we'll never catch up to this body of work.”
Now Handmade Birds is putting out Raw Elements: 1999-2009, the new M ax Noi Mach collection. Entirely recorded onto cassette four-track in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and Barcelona, it’s a perfect introduction to one of the unsung heroes of American noise even if the auteur himself is ambivalent about “noise culture” and his place in it.
“You know, I’ve never really put that much thought into this,” Francisco told me. “I’ve never really considered myself a noise musician. I’ve never really considered my music noise. At the heart, my songs are made of noises and sounds that are typically considered not to be musical and put into a repetitive rhythm. So by definition it could be considered noise, but I don’t believe myself to identify with the pre-existing or concurrent noise scene. I’m a bit of a lone wolf.
“It’s called Raw Elements because these were all ideas that I was expressing, ir more raw and extreme forms before unifying them into a collective sound that initially came together on In The Shadows.
M Ax Noi Mach has always been a primal endeavor, and it definitely comes from a private place. I’ve always had a fire inside of me; I’ve always had a feeling that I’ve had to release. Pure intuition. Pure rage, the animal let out of the cage. My newer music projects, both Veiled and Dexter Industries, are heavily influenced and reliant upon where I am recording, what I am doing, thinking and feeling on a less temporal level.
Life experiences and places have mostly influenced M Ax Noi Mach lyrically. By recognizing collective unconscious thoughts or personas that are unique to an area and embodying them in characters that are either described or speaking. Some of the other lyrics are documentations of actual people that I live around that have a touching story that needs to be told.”
Philadelphia is rapidly becoming known as a hot bed for indie/DIY/alternative rock and roll music. Whether that’s a byproduct of gentrification or the kids who were young enough to misremember 90s college rock as good finally being old enough to play/write about music is up for debate. Francisco seems ambivalent but not unduly negative about the town.
“Let me start by describing my present situation,” he said. “It is 90 degrees, it is dark out. I live alone in a tiny apartment in a not-so-popular neighborhood. I have a box fan wedged into my window blowing more hot air in and a dim clip light illuminating half of my tiny room.
I initially came here because I was attracted to the maze of dilapidation, to the dark corners. I wanted to get lost in them. I initially came here with a lot of hopes and dreams. I chased them and now I am on the other side of that peak. I think the people here like my music because it identifies and emulates an omniscient energy that is most present on the streets at night. It is something in the air. It is visceral. It is a story in action.
Philly doesn’t really have many underground music scenes that are all that big, but it does have diversity. I would say since I’ve moved here, the diversity remains and each separate music scene is growing, and as they grow they become more separated. When I first moved here, at one show you’d have a rock band, a rap DJ, a noise act, etc. The crowd would be about five people: one goth, one old hippy, one college kid, one rocker, and one rap music fan. Now there’s a lot more of each, and, harvesting true Philadelphia hate, they stick to their own. But I do believe that things here are most powerful when diverse and attract different genre-freaks to a single event. “
Raw Elements was mastered by Arthur Rizk (Inquisition, Power Trip, and most recently Prurient's Frozen Niagara Falls). He also recorded the next Max Noi Mach full length. Francisco’s take on his upcoming work can just as easily be applied to the new Handmade Birds collection:
“It’s complete and ready to go. The only thing missing right now is a label. Arthur produced it. He made it happen. He came to me and offered to record my next album. This was days after my eight-track reel-to-reel died. I had no idea when I’d record again. Until this point, I have only ever recorded on analog machines and only ever by myself. When we started recording five years had passed since I recorded In The Shadows. Things for me had gotten pretty dark in between the two. I became a disconnected character that walked right out of one of my songs. I walked a thin line and may have walked a bit on the wrong side. If it wasn’t for Arthur, I really don’t know when I would have recorded again, and it definitely would not have happened.
My first album was called In The Shadows; this one will be called On The Edge. Poetic continuity. It is colder, it is heavier. It lacks emotion. It has a slightly matured primal sense. I learned a bit of restraint and patience. The feeling inside of me, though possibly unfamiliar, was captured perfectly. And as we all know, when you are on the edge, things are darkest just before the light.”
We are pleased as punch to help draw some shine to Max Noi Mach. Check out three tracks from Raw Elements below and pre-order the album here.