AS THOSE OF US with semi-obscure degrees and over-priced educations well know, the question "But what do you actually do with that?" is omnipresent. Comparative literature grads unloading boxes at Powell's should be heartened by the tale of Daryl Groetsch, who took two seemingly opposite ends of the educational spectrum (a BA in composition and an associates in engineering technology) and turned the degrees into a stunning, dissonant, and highly regarded noise project, Pulse Emitter.
With Pulse Emitter's recorded work, Groetsch doesn't so much create songs as he creates wordless narratives; most of his album tracks clock in over the 10-minute mark and meander all over the place; close your eyes while listening and you can easily imagine the song as a soundtrack to a long journey. He manages to accomplish all this with nothing more than a handmade modular synth, which he describes as "more a member of the band than an instrument; it definitely has a mind of its own." Despite his reputation for songs that make "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" sound like the Dead Kennedys, Groetsch is trying to add some sense of brevity to his work. "I'm working on recording some LPs right now, which is a challenge, because you only have 15 minutes per side to try and represent the best of the music."
If all of this sounds a bit odd, consider that Groetsch considers Pulse Emitter to be his less experimental project. "I also play the vacuum tube and tapes in a band called Shitty Vibe Smasher with Glamorous Pat and Dan of Together Tapes. We only use practice amps when we play live, in order to encourage people to gather around us. I think we could be classified as a quiet noise project."
While Shitty Vibe Smasher might be on the more low-key side of things, Pulse Emitter's live shows are decidedly more intense. "I try to find the maximum the PA can handle and play at that level," Groetsch says. "Most noise artists have a really limited range and play toward the middle of the spectrum, but I try to incorporate both high and low frequencies." He laughs, and then, when asked about potential audience deafness, says, "It's strange, but people have told me it doesn't hurt like they expected."