The term, “wall of sound,” is a technique used to describe the texture and style of many rock bands. A cacophony of noise, clattering space with chord progressions, kicks, and effects–the technique builds, maintains and persists between pauses. Moments, and lapses in songs are filled creating a “wall.” Multiple guitars play similar chord progressions, overlapping and inviting listeners to bury themselves deep within this bed of noise.
Last night, I listened to Sonic Youth play at The Fillmore in San Francisco, one of many bands known for using the technique. I watched as Thurston Moore repeated chord progressions as Lee Ranaldo took lead vocals, playing notes slightly off time from Moore. This dynamic was repeated with the different combination of Moore, Ranaldo and Kim Gordon. The rare moments of silence between bridges were like gasps for breath before re-submerging.
Sonic Youth: “What We Know“
Phil Spector (pictured above), the homicidal producer, famous for his work with The Ramones and The Ronnettes, is the creator of the “wall of sound.” He has been noted for having up to forty microphones in his recording studio to create his patented sound. “Be My Baby,” by The Ronettes is considered the “quintessential expression” (Wiki) of the technique. A random side note, Phil Spector is famous for pulling a gun on Joey Ramone during a studio session, insisting they continue working on their recording.
The Ronettes: “Be My Baby“
Recently, SFCritic interviewed The Raveonettes to discuss their new album, In and Out of Control. The group, whose name references their influence from The Ronettes and Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” are a modern day example of the technique in practice. On “Gone Forever,” the track’s beginning distortion dissolves into light guitar strumming, before building into more instrumentation as the vocals enter. After the song lifts off, the noise grows and continues without any pauses.
The Raveonettes: “Gone Forever“
Thanks for reading this thought process.