Tip! **2022 stock ** There’s always been something fascinatingly off about Aaron Dilloway. While his bandmates in Wolf Eyes, with whom he played during their quintessential early-2000s run, screamed and thrashed around with maces, Dilloway could be spotted side stage—appearing oddly forlorn and entranced, jaw slightly slack with a contact mic secured to the inside of his cheek. A wire would dangle out from his mouth and hang in front of his guitar. After he split from the group, Dilloway took an unexpected left turn and moved to Kathmandu, Nepal to record the Nath family, a group of snake charmers he met while “roaming the streets and villages… in search of sounds and music.” But it’s in his solo work that things get really weird.
Noise music often explores themes of catharsis, using blistering volumes and shredded textures to transport artists and listeners into states outside music’s generally agreed upon borders. The abrasiveness both weeds out unwilling audience members and shields the artists. After all, if you don’t like it, you probably just don’t get it. Not so with Dilloway, whose music exudes a raw vulnerability and needling playfulness. On 2012’s Modern Jester, this approach reached its most definitive form, painstakingly stretching grimy tape loops into a rich tapestry of grotty discomfort.
The Gag File is his follow-up to Modern Jester and is every bit as rewarding and unnerving as its predecessor, though at almost half the length, it’s easier to digest. Opener “Ghost” grabs on immediately with a simple, warbling synth drone and a lurching rhythm. On paper it doesn’t sound like much, but Dilloway strikes just the right balance between dread and curiosity. (It feels sticky and unclean, but what exactly is it?) Later, murmured vocals slide into the mix, evoking the dead-eyed whisperings of a B-movie serial killer. “Karaoke With Cal” inverts the dynamic, foregrounding a man’s voice, now choked and gasping in a field of light tape hiss and nothing else, before introducing a heaving, lonely piano figure.