There’s arguably no beatmaker in San Diego making more abrasively peculiar sounds than Tenshun. The DJ and experimental artist, whose real name is Jon Calzo, has been involved in a number of underground projects, whether working as a solo artist, providing twisted hip-hop beats for emcee Stuntdouble or laying down massive noisescapes with Psychopop as Skrapez. Yet very rarely does Tenshun ever simply opt for a classic boom bap beat. If he can fuck something up, he will.
Sound Memories is one of three recordings that showed up on Bandcamp in February, all of which find Tenshun involved in abstract sound collages. Yet this is the most fully formed of the three, featuring a series of tracks titled “1,” “22,” “333” and so on—you get the idea. For a series of noisy, unconventional compositions that largely evade immediate melodies, however, there’s a lot of really fun stuff happening on Sound Memories. The cacophonous “333” feels a bit like a breakdancing giant robot terrorizing a cityscape, while “22” is more atmospheric and woozy, something like a space hallucination.
When Tenshun’s at his wildest, the results are outstanding. I can’t help but feel as if I’ve discovered a secret world in Nintendo’s Metroid on the cosmically weird “4444,” and Tenshun even does his best Aphex Twin or Squarepusher-style IDM on the frantic, sputtering beats of “666666,” which is menacing enough to live up to its doubly evil title.
The statement from the artist on Bandcamp reads, “You either like it or not,” and that’s probably a fair assessment. This music isn’t for everybody, and for those who don’t routinely venture into the worlds of noise, experimental or ambient music, its charms might prove a bit elusive. I, for one, definitely like it. Tenshun’s page also says that these sounds “can never be created again,” which makes what’s captured here feel all the more special. They’re not meant to be performed live or become part of a repertoire of hits. They’re moments of experimentation and improvisation captured on tape before they’re lost to the ether. Now that’s some thought-provoking noise.