STM 232 - Alex XIII Maerbach

Secret Thirteen Mix Alex xiii Maerbach

Photo by: Luminita Trendler

Our fourth New Blood winner Alex XIII Maerbach compiles an extensive selection of guitar-based pieces illustrating the instrument’s vast possibilities.


Our third New Blood of 2017 is Alex XIII Maerbach, a musician, painter and animator based in Chicago, Illinois. His musical work, which you can check out on his bandcamp, has a very distinct flavor - a lot of it is made using the acoustic guitar in conjunction with external effects, fusing folk,drone and noise in various proportions to create a sound that is at the same time beautifully melancholy and rather rough around the edges. Alex’s experimentation with what I might call a faux-medieval style brings out truly surprising emotional effects, at times pleasant, at others - chilling. Those who have spent a day or two in Tristram may feel they have returned, and that can only be a good thing.

Secret Thirteen Mix 232 is the last one in our New Blood 2017 series and it showcases the vast potential of guitar sound. Across its 35 tracks we find innovators whose distinct sound broke boundaries, not afraid of pushing the limits of the instrument far into unexplored territories and ditching the clichés of classic rock. The mood of the mix is diverse - shrieking noisy patterns stand next to droney sound structures or minimal acoustic folk. John Frusciante’s gritty lo-fi melancholia in “Ants”, Jandek’s bluesy folk gem “Take My Will”, Tarentel’s beautifully extensive ambient/post rock suite for Carl Sagan, Main’s hypnotic shoegaze/noise loops are just a few examples that reflect this versatility. What connects these tracks is the organic feel of textural qualities and the physicality of sound. This is probably also the reason why these sounds might feel soothing at times, while at others they challenge you. John Hoyland’s abstract expressionist painting “North Sound” could serve as a visual companion to the mix because it merges rigid forms with a subtle, yet expressive color pallette. Hoyland experimented with form treating it as the container for color and feeling. His paintings also balance between loose and intense expressiveness and the subtle emotional undertones they evoke. The guitar sounds gathered by Alex XIII Maerbach and their textural features play with our perception in a similar way.

Artist on mix:

This mix is about subverting the established tradition using its own instruments.

Ignoring the fretboard to instead brandish the guitar as a lightning rod for feedback as in the case of Otomo Yoshihide. Or approaching historically established scales with a completely blatant disregard, creating space for new melodic cohesion like Derek Bailey and Bill Orcutt of Harry Pussy. Or further breaking open the tool box on an unanticipating block of wood to treat it very literally as such - a method practiced by Fred Frith and Brian Ruryk. The Dead C’s soundscapes of drenched distortion, the pounding, repetitive, ascending collisions of Swans and Branca, all in juxtaposition to the hauntingly whispered, untuned twang of Jandek.

Despite the 90’s being the pinnacle decade for mainstream noise acceptance (a time when even a band with a name like ‘Butthole Surfers’ can top the charts) the guitar has even so much more potential then it has been customarily limited to, both then and now. This mix is an attempt to help document the myriad of largely unsung composers - whether from the metropolis of Tokyo or the dusted gravel of the rural American midwest - who were unafraid to take another step and explore further in.


01. 大友良英 - Document 1 [Amoebic, 1999]
02. Jandek - Take My Will [Corwood Industries, 1994]
03. Harry Pussy - My Cocaine is the Sun [Palilalia Records, 2012 (recorded 1992-1993)]
04. Alan Licht - Betty Page [Siltbreeze, 1994]
05. Caroliner Rainbow Susans and Bruisins - Huge Gunset [Nuf Sed, 1992]
06. Six Organs of Admittance - Sum of all Heaven [Pavillion, 1998]
07. U.S. Maple - La Click [Skin Graft Records, 1997]
08. Borbetomagus - Buncha Hair [Agaric Records, 1992]
09. Biota - Burn Daylight Part 5 [ReR Megacorp, 1992]
10. Smog - Fruit Bats [Drag City, 1995]
11. Jackie O Motherfucker - Introducing Jackie-O / Corner of the Room [Imp Records, 1995}
12. Glenn Branca - Symphony No. 5, 5th Movement [Atavistic, 1995]
13. 不失者 - That Which is Becoming to Me [J-Factory, 1997]
14. John Frusciante - Ants [American Recordings, 1994]
15. Jim O’Rourke - Stayed A While Then Went Away [Sound of Pig, 1989]
16. Stars of the Lid - (Live) Lid [Sedimental, 1995]
17. Skullflower - Pixie Dust [hEADdiRT, 1995]
18. Un - Fast Money Blues [Siltbreeze, 1996]
19. Fred Frith - Birds [RecRec Music, 1990]
20. Vibracathedral Orchestra - The Beauty Of Refined Rusticity [1998]
21. My Cat is An Alien - Untitled [Opax, 1998]
22. Noggin - Noise & Balloons are Like Arches & Goats [Trackshun Industries, 1994]
23. Roughage - Vacas [Scratch Records, 1996]
24. Main - Pulled from the Water [Beggars Banquet, 1993]
25. The Dead C - Imaginary [Siltbreeze, 1997]
26. Death Ambient - Satori [Tzadik, 1999]
27. Double Leopards - Greetings From Sedgley Porter House [Heavy Conversation, 1999]
28. Twenty Six - Unbound [Bobby J, 1996]
29. Derek Bailey - We Could Be Here For A Few Hours [Emanem, 1996]
30. Brian Ruryk - Interdisciplinary Experimental Intermedia & Turntable [Cast Exotic Archives, 2000]
31. Cul De Sac - The Fourth Eye [Flying Nun Records, 1995]
32. Tarentel - For Carl Sagan [Temporary Residence Limited, 1999]
33. Ashtray Navigations - Psychedelic Emaciator [Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers, 1994]
34. Swans - Helpless Child [Young God Records, 1996]
35. ザ・ゲロゲリゲゲゲ - Rock 'n Roll [Vis A Vis Audio Arts, 1990]

About Author

Paulius Ilevicius is a Secret Thirteen journalist, editor and occasional DJ focusing on more dreamy and melancholic soundscapes. Born in post-industrial town of Pavevezys, currently he lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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