A little over a month ago, I wrote a review for a little band called Blemishes and their debut album Ambivert. These kids made an exceptional album of experimental noise-punk merged with ambient sound collage with influences from Krautrock and various experimental music concepts. These elements may seem disparate, but when taken as a whole album, Ambivert takes shape as a holistic love letter to uninhibited musical exploration.  Similar to my previous WFA artist, Fire-Toolz, or the likes of hyperpop experimentalists like 100 gecs, Blemishes exist in a new era of oddball creatives, fidgeting with the wealth of sound available at their fingertips and building on the works of experimental artists like Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, Public Image Ltd., and many more who subverted genre expectations in favor of kaleidoscopic chaos.

Setting out as a purposely experimental artist is no easy task. Besides the difficulty it takes to master multi-genre musicianship and the related mindset of moving between breakneck-speed punk to deliberately calming ambient, they also have to find an audience that is willing to take that journey with them. It may be a niche audience, but folks like myself who are always hungry for new sounds and approaches to music are a ravenous bunch.

Presenting Blemishes as a Weekly Featured Artist also helps satisfy a personal goal, and one of the rest of the team at Everything Is Noise shares, in putting a spotlight on smaller and lesser known artists in the music world. I started going to local punk and hardcore shows before I was old enough to drive, and in my 24 years of attending small venue, DIY shows, I have found the most passionate and enthralling music to be far from the limelight, nestled in basements, coffee shops, union halls, reception venues, and increasingly the internet sharing a common bond and community that really feels like no other.

So, it is important to me, and something I am grateful for, to be able to expose others to artists like this. I was able to interview Blemishes, who are primarily Julienne and Jesse, but consider anyone who has worked with the band to be a member. Like Fire-Toolz, Blemishes exists as an internet band, ‘I consider this a ‘studio band’, making albums that I’ve never heard before is my main goal,’ Julienne said. They currently produce music in Houston, Texas, and were formed around 2020. Julienne describes the genesis of the band:

Blemishes came out of the ashes of a former project called Pneumatic Heart that was me in my young and mid-teens mostly experimenting with industrial/noise on Audacity until I had the gear to create more ‘rock-y music’

‘The reason for the name change was because of personal falling outs with previous members, by the time I changed the name I didn’t want to be attached to sounds and ideas that were really half-assed and were pure experiments rather than more serious expressions of what I wanted to create

‘The actual name felt catchy, and I always thought the word ‘Blemish’ sounded like a very pretty word, despite its definition.’

The thrill and appeal of Ambivert, for me, is how incredibly good the bursts of punk feel intermingled in the waves of experimental ambient music. The slower and dreamier parts of the album, like acoustic collage “Going Home” and album centerpiece “I Want To Be Water” give the mind time to relax and introspect, before the extroverted punk whirls up into a frenzy, again on tracks like, Torture Garden” and “Flood Diver.” So, what inspired this back and forth approach?

The inspiration for Ambivert mainly is within the name itself, I was very hyper-focused on the idea of an ambivert…More specifically the blend of ‘artificial’ electric music and ‘natural’ acoustic and sound collage elements you hear on the album.

‘Some people online claimed it was from trends or whatever, but I’ve had this idea in my head since around the start of Pneumatic Heart (2017), I just wasn’t ready ’til the middle of 2020 where I had a huge amount of time to study nature outside without any real concept of a deadline, since how the world was at that time.

‘I would say the main genesis of the sound was when i heard Faust’s album, Faust IV which inspired me a lot to mix the harshness and eclectic nature of rock with more ambient and ‘natural’ sounds.

‘That, combined with a lot of production ideas from Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation inspired how I used guitars, I think an obvious example was during the breakdown of “Butterfly Neck” where I actively tried to make it sound like the album was turning into mush, much like how This Heat created Deceit (another influence on the sound collage elements).’

Julienne also named other artists that inspired Ambivert, ‘Basically everything I listen to, intentionally or not. Some artists that come to mind are Prince, Swans, Talking Heads, Glenn Branca, This Heat, UnwoundWilco, Wire, Fugazi, CAN, Sheena Ringo, Midori, Boredoms, Deerhunter, Nick Drake, Steve Reich.’ These are indeed diverse influences for a diverse sound. I have to wonder how all of that went in to the songwriting process for Ambivert, Julienne says:

‘The writing process of Ambivert was me creating a tracklist first and then arranging the songs to fit the mood and trajectory. During the planning stages I scattered my walls with paper with abstract and stupid lines trying to express attacks and ‘phases’ of the songs since at that time I didn’t have the proper vocabulary to convey a lot of ideas I had.

‘At that time I was in a discord server for the awesome musician Uboa, and she was an incredible help with the advice she’d give (including the Xenakis styled composition style…)

 ‘I was basically a stumbling mess trying to understand my gender expression or even what the hell I was, and she (along with many others i thanked on Ambivert) were really was a big help for me in many ways which I’m extremely grateful for.’

How has Ambivert been received since its release?

I’m not entirely sure yet, I think it’s been very polarizing for some people. A lot of people are also mixed about it, but i expected that for my first project with a lot of more ‘serious’ ideas.

‘There was a podcast I had listened to recently, out of curiosity which is a pretty low produced affair, just two friends talking about a few albums every week, which is pretty cool. They ended up calling Ambivert a ‘demo album‘ which I guess is true, I had no issue with critiquing the production or mixing or the songs in general, but then it soon turned into a seemingly very harsh and mean spirited rant about how ‘Musicians shouldn’t release music for the sake of music‘, which left me very confused, more confused than when they compared me to another trans artist Jane Remover (I don’t even listen to her, haha) despite us making entirely different tunes… I do appreciate their criticism despite that, though.

‘The lyrics weren’t really taken into consideration so it’s harder to emotionally latch onto, but it’s mostly made within a spiritual context than a literal one. It’s deeply personal to me and that’s all that matters. Anyone that has given Ambivert a listen I appreciate endlessly regardless to their opinion.’

There is a fountain of creative energy and inspirations coming from this interview. Blemishes seems to be handling any criticism with grace, as well. I know Ambivert is already in my favorites of 2024 list, and if you haven’t given the whole thing a listen, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is a stand-out record that demands to be taken as a whole listening experience. Of course, you could take to just the ambient/sound collage tracks or just the punk tracks, but that would be missing the point (though they have a lot to offer).

This album speaks to me about the ups and downs of life, the cycle of suffering and joy, sadness and exaltation, labor and relaxation. Julienne said of Blemishes future, ‘I want to actively reach a goal where I make a trilogy of albums, after that I’ll have to come up with more material, haha.’ I hope they do, because whether you feel Ambivert is a demo or not, it holds great promise and room to grow their frenetic sounds into even wilder compositions. Stay tuned for more, and check out Ambivert on Bandcamp!

Blemishes is:

Julienne Ceron – Vocals, Backing Vocals, Guitar, Loops, Synth, Samples, Drum Machine, Bass, Production, Mixing, Songwriting, Noise Guitar
Jessie Huntington – Drums

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