Scramble Punks 

Reigning Noise with Sleetmute/Nightmute

With their unrelenting battery of three guitars, super-hot, skittering drums, and screamed vocals, Sleetmute is bent up and ruling this chaos/noise thing, I think they're the toughest band in town right now. "We are NOT the toughest," protests lead guitarist Coldie. "Are you trying to get us beat up? Right now, the toughest band is Panther. The toughest man is Mark Burden." Nate, also a guitarist, disagrees. "Mount Hood Community College Jazz Band (Big Chris Part Three) is the toughest." "Fall of the Bastards!" Charlie counters. "Harum Scarum!" chimes in Lanie.

Ladies, ladies; there's no need to argue. We can all be the toughest band in Portland. It's just that, with Sleetmute around, the stakes are a little bit higher, that's all. Who else can pull off such a gigantic monstrosity of weirdly timed, yet smashed-up noise? What other band can literally throw themselves into the audience with such enthusiastic poise (not to mention sheer gymnastic aptitude)? Who else can break a string and actually make the music sound better?

Coldie, Nate, Lanie (guitar, vox) and Charlie (drums) can. Hell, they win tough points just for Lanie's presence as leader; while performing, she's been known to exude this simultaneous cool composure and anarchic madness--screaming her lyrics, tossing and smashing her body around and pounding her guitar, but keeping a straight face the whole time, never wincing once. Coldie is her foil, and often stands rigid and robotic, making direct eye contact with the audience in a head-to-head standoff. For sure, Sleetmute's particular anvil-punk isn't everybody's bag (it's abrasive, it's brutal, it's non-linear, it's a big art-devouring experiment), but purely from a live-show standpoint, you've likely never felt so pleasurably freaked out.

But the presence of four girls (gender being relative, of course--it's pretty much just two girls and two girly boys) diffuses the testosteroney aspect that taints and liquefies most aggressive spazz-out rock. Without the underlying notion that the people onstage are being loud and violent because they're trying to prove how big their dicks are, it somehow alters the meaning. Like maybe it makes it more interesting. And more vital. I mean, what could they be so mad about? It's a mystery open for discussion, but use your imagination, and don't pull any easy-access riot grrrl shit out your ass. Part of the beauty of Sleetmute (nee Sleetmute/ Nightmute) is that, like a living film noir, meanings are constantly shifting, and constantly fuzzy; your esoteric interpretation is as good as mine. Maybe they're the screaming soul of a squashed Yoko Ono.

Whatever it is, they're not going to tell you. When I wanna know what their songs are about, Lanie responds, "I love love." But there are lots of things they wish their songs were about; Coldie, for instance, would like to write more songs about "Gambling, scratch-its, Megabucks, and Powerball." The method to their madness starts at the songwriting, which is either generated through strife, or generated like an orchestra: Nate believes it's because "we fight a lot," but Lanie attributes it to the fact that "Charlie points at us when it's time to play."

From a more critical standpoint, though, one thing that would make Sleetmute better is if they had a DVD player. Nate, the more progress-inclined member of the group, agrees. He laments, "I really wish I had a DVD player." It is the latest in technology, and with the recent proliferation of acts in all areas of electronica, particularly intelligent dance music, the band will have to keep up with the trends if they really want to stay innovative. (Even Big Chris, the new name in town, owns one!) A DVD player will provide them with a virtual open door of new ideas--they could incorporate it into their performance, for instance, or use it to watch the 30-minute documentary about the making of Lord of the Rings. The possibilities are endless.

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