Merzbow Credit: courtesy the artist

Passing sirens, squealing brakes, fireworks, the metal-on-metal grind of el trains, the incongruously chirpy commercials preceding your streaming videos, and every damn noise coming out of everyone else’s phone on the bus. For people everywhere—but especially for those of us living in the city—unwelcome sounds assail us like a thousand irritating cuts. Drone Activity Chicago, which is part of Red Bull Music Festival Chicago 2018, gives the listener a chance to purge those annoyances by pitching him- or herself into an all-encompassing barrage of sound. The event, which takes place at Saffron Rails (a massive brick-and-timber industrial space on Goose Island that will be outfitted with two rooms, three stages, and an arena-worthy soundsystem), has an expressed intent to rattle its listeners’ molecules, and its lineup includes artists who set the bar for how to do that. Headlining the event are ultraprolific Japanese noise artist Merzbow and Sunn O))) cofounder, experimental guitarist, and composer Stephen O’Malley, both masters at purposefully employing volume to alter consciousness and physical states. The rest of the players are locals, and their collective stylistic reach goes far beyond drone music: Quicksails and TALsounds play tuneful, immersive electronic music; Carol Genetti explores the extremes of her amazingly supple voice; Thoom mixes a cauldron of sampled Middle Eastern hand drumming and blown-out club beats; Ono lay noise and freaky proclamations over dance grooves; Katherine Young combines classically rooted structures with electronic distortion; Matchess combines analog sounds with spell-casting chants; Bruce Lamont’s latest album merges dark ambient metal and western movie soundtracks; Rebecca Valeriano-Flores delivers righteously condemnatory punk rock; Fire-Toolz blend shut-in metal moves with the ugliest 80s-vintage synth sounds; and Hogg revive the vibe of first-generation industrial music. This is the most extreme Red Bull Music Festival event in town this year, but you don’t necessarily have to know or like everything on the bill to get something out of it. All you need is an appreciation for body-massaging volume.   v