Throwaway Style: Droning Out the Noise with Tiny Vipers, Norm Chambers, and Pink Void

Pink Void // photo by Allyce Andrew

Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.


The world is full of noise. The chatter of nature, cars whipping by, and even the low hum of your computer all contribute to a universal murmur that we might not even notice if we’re not thinking about it. That’s all before we get to the “other” types of noise. Push news notifications full of nonsense, frustrating conversations, and that buzz of anxiousness rushing through your bloodstream. Tuning out everything and finding true quiet is near impossible, it seems, unless you’ve got a hermetically sealed chamber just sitting around (and really, who doesn’t?). Sometimes to quiet the noise, you need more noise. And for a city as noisy and sometimes (depending on who you ask) exhausting as Seattle, you need that blanket of sound to help soften the blow of day-to-day life. As Shabazz Palaces once said, “that’s how city life goes.” As such, artists within the city are learning this steadily on their own and crafting work that complements this need for peace. Tomorrow night at Timbre Room, three artists will help give the relief many of us crave through swaths of robust sound.

Tiny Vipers, aka Jesy Fortino, hasn’t been totally missing in recent years, but she’s been rather elusive until the release of her Laughter LP last year. After 2009’s Life On Earth, she began to abandon the traditional “singer-songwriter” format that she’d masterfully interpreted in her own vision during her tenure on Sub Pop. Some of her earliest deviations into drone and noise came with her 2012 collaboration as Mirroring with Grouper’s Liz Harris, entitled Foreign Body, and then fully embracing the power of ambient songwriting with her 2016 solo effort Ambience 3. On Laughter, she doesn’t just revel in ambiance – she harnesses dissonance and distortion, wielding the menacing tones of her synths and tape loops like beautiful garments. Having spent the past few years studying to become a civil engineer at the University of Washington, you can feel her reconstructing familiar sounds into something new and with newfound power. The vocal samples on opener “Boarding Charon’s Boat” steadily devolve under pressure from droning notes and bass rumbles.

Fortino isn’t alone in her pursuit, nor is her sound the definitive approach. While Laughter embraces dissonance, the music still finds ways to settle back into a comforting frequency. Pink Void, on the other hand, runs in the opposite direction. The moniker of Crystal Perez made her full-length debut last year with a self-titled tape composed of two nearly 26-minute tracks of guitar loop experimentation. It’s harsh, visceral music that takes its time to get where it’s going. You can feel the static flickering off the hums of her guitar on the massive “Hidden Mind.” The music swells, feeling as large as neighborhood construction but reinterpreted as an artful explosion with narrative audio sprinkled throughout. As the audio clips and turns into violent, white noise, it’s surprisingly not hard to find peace within the chaos. To let the sound overcome you is maybe the best way to cancel out every other noise caught by your ear drums.

And yet, there’s still value in softness as well. Norm Chambers relies more heavily on lushness and synthesizers than the other two artists, but sometimes you need that too. Most of Chambers’ work has been in soundtracking. Whether it’s doing the score for the graphic design documentary Graphic Nature or creating pieces to align with shows at the Laser Dome, he has a masterful understanding of the environment of which he’s working. “Breath of fresh air” feels trite to say, but his music often feels like a cool breeze brushing by your face. It’s expansive, leaving room for you to bring whatever you want into it. In that ambiguity, you have the space to find your own comfort. That’s a luxury.

Getting through the noise everyday is hard and thankless. But works like these make it easier. And at the end of the week when you’re at your most drained, maybe even anxious about “trying to relax,” maybe some help from artists like these can do us all some good.

Tiny Vipers, Norm Chambers, and Pink Void play Timbre Room tomorrow night, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m.

New and News

Cool American Announces New Album Better Luck Next Year Vol. 3, Shares “17”

Portland indie rock act Cool American are back to follow-up last year’s Infinite Hiatus with a new EP titled Better Luck Next Year Vol. 3. As the name implies, this is the third iteration in an ongoing series from the project. The release was recorded between bedrooms and friend’s houses, and you can really feel that with the first single “17.” There’s that warmth of home oozing through the track, cracking with each steady guitar riff and Nathan Tucker’s hushed vocal performance. The LP comes out Feb. 16 via Good Cheer Records.

ジョナサン aka Jonason shares instant loops

Sometimes you find something stumbling around the Internet without any context, but it still stops you in your tracks. This beat tape, instant loops, definitely gave me one of those moments. With no more description than, “Microwave loops on 𝘏 𝘐 𝘎 𝘏 for best 𝘧𝘭𝘢𝘷𝘰𝘳”, ジョナサン (or Jonason as they go by on Instagram), dropped a hypnotic set of jazz-infused hip-hop loops you could easily keep – well – looped. Really wish I could give you all some more information, but maybe it’s best to just let these mysterious beats ride while you cook up some instant noodles and create your own backstory.

Live and Loud: This Week’s Recommended Shows

Jan. 18: Michete and Da Qween at the Laser Dome

Jan. 19: Tiny Vipers, Norm Chambers, and Pink Void at Timbre Room

Jan. 19: Red Ribbon, Sea Moss, Guayaba, and Amenta Abioto at Hollow Earth Radio

Jan. 23: Cold Showers, Haunted Horses, Second Still, and Zen Mother at Chop Suey

Jan. 20: The Black Tones, Duke Evers, The White Tears, and B r a c k e t s at The Central Saloon

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