The first thing that happens, when one gets introduced to the world of "noise music," is that someone older and wiser takes you under his wing, to teach you about the different "schools" of noise, for as any noise enthusiast knows, not all noise is created equal. Generally, it seems, all Noise 101 lessons start with the harsh sounds emanating from urban centers in far-away Japan, and then move into homegrown American noise schtuff. From there, you are taught to link these two classes of noise-makers into one ear-splitting transcontinental breed of artists coexisting but rarely interacting in the "heyday" of harsh noise in 1990s Japan and America. I'm sure it's slightly different for everyone, and as someone only recently christened into her 20s, I apologize to those readers who make up the "older and wiser" demographic mentioned above, but this trajectory seems like the standard introduction.
Inside, the booklet accompanying the release features one page, each one designed by the artist, ranging from almost blank pages to those featuring artfully-designed manifestos. Even the design of the album, with the prerequisite warnings against hearing damage and the DIY feel of the booklet, is exactly what is required of a 90s noise comp.
What is shocking about the album is how little both Japanese and American noise have changed since a decade and a half ago. First off, the names are really the same (at least, for me), with Merzbow, Masonna, and Solmania some of the biggest hitters on the Japanese disc, and Haters, Macronympha, and Daniel Menche some of the top guys on the American one. Sonically, the album is really superb - certainly one of the best noise comps I've heard, in its completeness and breadth. Honestly, listening to the pieces now, I can't imagine anything being made now sounding all that different, unless what you define as 'noise' 'music' radically shifts. Which is to say, listening to these tracks, I get a bit worried -- where does noise music really have to go from, say, the chaos of the 40 second Masonna track "Epistle to Dippy," or grimey filth of Pica's "Tightening the Pilliwink"?
There has been change, certainly, but in terms of American noise at least, I can't really see the change having been for the better. While "The Japanese-American Noise Treaty" certainly presents a somewhat blunt take on the most fertile period of noise music, it is far from a musical retrospective relic. Rather, the album is a sort of guideline for what noise should, and generally does, still sound like in 2011.