Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hototogisu + Burning Star Core - "Volume 1"


Contemplation of music sometimes calls forth images in the mind's eye.

I saw something of the beauty of factory chimneys collapsing in slow motion in the november 2005 collaboration of Hototogisu and Burning Star Core: the beauty of a nineteenth century red-brick smokestack, sign and symbol of mankind's labor, keeling over after a demolition charge is exploded at it's base, and toppling, breaking into pieces, falling apart as it hurtles towards the muddy, stinking earth, ending it's life in a monstrous cloud of dust.

And - as if contagious - this image gave rise to other images of collapse, to new visions of disaster, to immense displays of annihilation, the images proliferating in a frenzy until they reach a cosmic scale: star systems crumbling, galaxies exploding, the universe tearing itself apart.

Is the escalation to a cosmic scale caused by the symbol for infinity (∞) on the artwork? Are the astronomical associations caused by the name of one of the two collaborating bands: Burning Star Core?


Burning Star Core (BXC) is a free noise group loosely centered around Cincinatti, Ohio resident C. Spencer Yeh, a classically trained violinist. In this incarnation of BXC, Yeh (violin, voice, electronics) is assisted by Trevor Tremaine (drums, percussion, objects) and Robert Beatty (acoustic appraiser, electronics, Moog). Beatty and Tremaine form two-thirds of Hair Police.

is the name of a conspiracy by Matthew Bower (Skullflower, Sunroof!, Total, Pure) and Marcia Bassett (Double Leopards, Zaimph, GHQ). Both Bassett and Bower maltreat "guitar, electronics, voice" on this release.

The cd comes in a unusual but very nice packaging (a black polycase) and comes with a button with the face of one of the five musician's (I got Marcia Bassett!).

In the first three tracks, Tremaine and Beatty provide rhythm and basslines to the noise paroxysms of Bower, Bassett and Yeh. The flows and intensities of Hototogisu's fever-pitched scree seem - through a trick of perspective - to be slowed down by their juxtaposition to Tremaine's and Beatty's drum and bass. This juxtaposition of time frames works to transform Hototogisu's music into a gloriously ragged, raw, scorched and blackened krautrock - Can's 'Tago Mago' re-imagined as a disaster movie - a kosmische disaster movie.

The fourth track is a long and ominous guitar drone drifting, gradually picking up speed and finally hurtling through the dark interstellar void. Outer Space Gamelan's Matt likens it to yet another disaster scene: "...a field recording of the razed turf where the factories and buildings responsible for the creation of this music once stood".

For much of the recording, I couldn't discern C. Spencer Yeh's violin from the infernal din created by the guitarists. However, in the last and shortest of the five untitled tracks, the violin is foregrounded. This coda evokes yet another time frame: the instrument calls forth historical time, by virtue of it's long history which has spun a very thick spider's web of associations around it. And what is called forth is yet another disaster, a "... catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of (our) feet" (Benjamin).


The fantasmata evoked by Hototogisu + Burning Star Core's music were for me "... a species of liminal monster (...) whose combination of familiar and unfamiliar features or unfamiliar combination of familiar features provokes [me] into thought, provides [me] with new perspectives, one can be excited by them; the implications, suggestions and supporting values entwined with their literal use enable [me] to see the subject matter in a new way" (Victor Turner): to see the music as an exquisitely beautiful disaster.

Post scriptum

Here is a link to the Dronedisco site.

Here is a link to a review of this album on the Outer Space Gamelan blog, and here a link to a Brainwashed review.

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