Imagine that you’re a small child, plastic bucket and spade in hand, constructing a sand castle. A cold shadow falls over you, and, turning to see what’s blocking the sun, you’re faced with a towering wave which is suddenly everywhere. “A Childhood of Tape Hiss and Violence” comes on just that strong—a pile-driving, annihilating wall, muscles clenching and unclenching therein. In your mind’s eye, cinematic twisters uproot sequoias, fling SUVs around like insolent toddlers, obliterate small towns on a whim.
From Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music to Sonic Youth’s Silver Sessions, I have a soft spot for this brand of mayhem: not “harsh wall noise,” exactly, but something cagier, more compelling. Like these antecedents, the initial onslaught of “Childhood” gives, in time, to a largely obscured loop that suggests the Herculean labors of an active cement mixer, an industrial washing machine, or a locomotive, forever advancing towards the audience. The roar huffs, puffs, and smears so purposefully that it’s just this side of infuriating. And the “magic eye” corollary that characterizes so many compositions of this ilk applies here, as well; at moments, illusory, half-familiar melodies seem to worm through the all-encompassing surge of afterburners, teasing and tantalizing and downright unreal. The silence that arrives once these 20 turbulent minutes are up is, somehow, even more damning.