Who is Roy Carousel? According to legend, the Pahrump-based “outsider musician” was a clown in his earlier years, making balloon animals for kids at birthday parties and bat mitzvahs and bringing that unnecessary dose of terror to an otherwise happy event, as clowns often do. And according to Joshua Cohen, founder of local label Sacré Bruit!, the retired jester also happens to be a musical genius.
Carousel composed Sacré Bruit’s latest release, Smile Again for Me, though Cohen says he had “limited contact” with Carousel, only adding to the former clown’s mysterious mythology. Over months of archaic communication (handwritten letters), the experimental, acoustic-noise tape came together with the help of local noise musicians performing under Carousel’s loose direction.
“Brian Gibson [of local band Wax Pig Melting] was our courier service,” adds Sacré Bruit co-conspirator William Davenport. “We would record some stuff, burn it onto a CD and give it to Brian, and he would go to Pahrump and come back with some notes,” Cohen adds. When I ask if Carousel is actually Gibson—which would be the more obvious backstory—the guys pause and giggle. “I don’t think he’s that good at voices,” Davenport says.
No matter who Carousel might be, Smile is the unusual, noisy result, created at Carousel’s discretion—full of chaotic guitar plucking, strings, chimes and percussion. And the album’s slightly-deranged-clown artwork (created by Gibson) puts the music in an even weirder context.
For Sacré Bruit, the stranger, the better. The tape-only “experimental hivemind” started releasing cassettes in December, starting with one of Cohen’s improvisational noise-guitar sets he dubbed Sacré Bruit!, later chosen as the label’s name. “It seems that tapes, even going back to the ’70s, were the main form of expression for this kind of music,” Cohen says, who dubs each cassette, one by one.
But Sacré Bruit goes beyond tapes. “People started asking me, ‘Do you know about Friday Noise at Photo Bang Bang? And I didn’t.” Set up by Aaron Dunham (who goes by Frying-Mindset), Friday Noise has turned into its own eclectic collective—something Cohen calls a “natural harmony” with Sacré Bruit.
“In the past six months, that has exploded into this incredible thing,” says Cohen, who also released Frying-Mindset’s Best Not Listen to This in January. “It’s bringing people out of the woodwork who share similar tastes. If you want to participate, drop us a line, [and] we’ll put you up next month, front-row center.”
Sacré Bruit Carousel's Smile Again for Me out now digitally and on cassette June 1 at sacrebruit.bandcamp.com.