Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Currence comments

I'd like to draw your attention to a comment Currence posted Wednesday 31st to this post:

"It doesn't quite satisfy your wish for a Burzumic Burial, but on his second album Burial samples the bit of dialogue used by Wrest in his Lurker of Chalice track "This Blood Falls as Mortal Part III". You can hear a preview mix of Burial's new album on the BBC page for Mary Anne Hobbs' show (if you haven't already). Dub and black metal move a bit closer...".

Listening to Kode9's preview mix I couldn't spot the Lurker Of Chalice sample at the first listen, but on the other hand the music is such an incredibly rich and thick brew it's almost impossible to take it all in at once... It sounds like months of satisfying listening.

And I am quite satisfied: "Weird soul music, hypersoul, lovingly processing spectral female voices into vaporised R&B and smudged 2step garage" (sourced here) meets "arpeggiated post rock guitars, martial percussion, simple propulsive krautrock rhythms, swirling droning ambience, strange haunting vocals, obscure found sounds and samples, doomy slow motion dirges, reverb drenched, almost sun dappled melodies over creepy warbly soundscapes, warm thick keyboards, heavily strummed steel string guitars, rich throaty crooning, super overblown distorted guitars, all smeared into a warm fuzzed out, dreamy and melancholy, mostly midtempo blackened doomscape" (sourced here). Insane! Who could want more?

Three From Massimo Dallamano







Monday, October 29, 2007

La coquille et le clergyman - Germaine Dulac (1928)

"Pure cinema is an error, just as in any art it is an error to try to reach the principle of that art to the detriment of its objective means of representation. It is a peculiarly terrestrial principle that things can act on the mind only by way of a certain state of matter, a minimum of substantial forms that are adequately realized. There may be a kind of abstract painting which dispenses with objects, but the pleasure that is derived from it retains a certain hypothetical quality which may, it is true, be satisfying to the mind. The foundation of cinematographic thought seems to be the utilization of existing objects and forms which can be made to say everything, for the patterns of nature are profound and truly infinite.

The Seashell and the Clergyman manipulates created nature and tries to make it yield a little of the mystery of its most secret combinations. One must not, therefore, try to find in it a logic or a sequence that does not exist in things; one must interpret the images that follow one another in terms of their essential, intimate significance, an inner significance that goes from the outside to the inside. The Seashell and the Clergyman does not tell a story but develops a series of states which are derived from one another just as one thought is derived from another without this through reproducing the reasonable sequence of events. From a collision of objects and gestures are derived real psychic situations among which the cornered mind seeks some subtle means of escape. Nothing exists in terms of forms, volumes, light, air - but above all in terms of the sense of a detached and naked emotion that slips in between the paved roads of images and reaches a kind of heaven where it bursts into full bloom.

The characters are merely brains or hearts. The woman displays her animal desire, she has the shape of her desire, the spectral glitter of the instinct that drives her to be one and constantly different in her repeated metamorphoses.

Génica Athanasiou has succeeded in identifying herself with a role which is entirely instinctive and in which a very curious sexuality acquires an air of fatality that goes beyond the character as a human being and reaches the universal. Similarly, I have nothing but praise for Alex Alin and Bataille. And finally, I want to address a very special thanks to Germaine Dulac, who was able to appreciate a screen play that seeks to penetrate the very essence of the cinema and is not concerned with any allusion either to art or to life."

- Antonin Artaud, Cinema and Abstraction, (first published in Le Monde Illustré, No. 3645, October 29th, 1927)



The Surrealists "... turned out to support Artaud's protest of the film The Seashell and The Clergyman. Although the film had been made from Artaud's own screenplay, he had been angered by director Germaine Dulac's poor realization of the project. For the February 2 [1928] premiere at the Studio des Ursulines, Breton came armed with a copy of Artaud's original scenario, which he read aloud to the packed house during the film's projection, pointing out differences between Artaud's intent and Dulac's results. (Artaud, meanwhile, sat in another section of the theater with his mother, but took no active part in the demonstration.) The audience tried it's best to ignore Breton and watch the film, but then another voice - probably Desnos's - shouted in the darkness "Who made this film?," to which a third voice replied: "Madame Germaine Dulac." "And who is madame Germaine Dulac?" Whereupon Breton rose and, in his most courteous tone, announced: "Madame Germaine Dulac is a cunt." Madame Germaine Dulac herself fainted away in the front row, while the cinema's owner, Armand Tallier, had the Surrealists duly ejected - shouting obscenities and smashing the house mirrors as they went."

- Mark Polizzotti, "Revolution of the mind. The life of André Breton".


A conundrum: what happened between the glowing praise Artaud wrote on October 29th, 1927 an the premiere on February 2, 1928? Did Artaud see the film die on the cutting room floor? Or did the Surrealists hijack the premiere, did they take advantage of some critical remarks Artaud might have made about the film to create a row? Certainly, the fact that Artaud's mother was present points towards such a scenario. Would Artaud really have taken his mother to see a film he regarded as a total failure?
*

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Striborg - Ghostwoodlands (pt. 2)

I

"I wish I was a ghost", Sin Nanna, responsible for one-man Black Metal band Striborg's anomalous sound, states in a rare interview. Sin Nanna describes a nightly encounter with a ghost as a formative experience, and wants his music to have the same effect on the listener as that encounter had on him. In describing his own encounter with a ghost, Sin Nanna describes the haunt as a "glowing white head" which peered him at from an abandoned house. He also describes poltergeist-like disturbances, such as gushes of wind and a guitar string snapping by itself. Sin Nanna relates that he experienced strong emotions of dread, terror, panic and desolation. Furthermore, the experience made Sin Nanna feel sickened: "Whatever it was were trying to make me ill".


II

"I want to be a ghost": what a fascinating example of mimetic excess, what a mindbending play on mimesis and alterity! A ghost is an after-image of a living person: wanting to be a ghost means wanting to be an after-image of oneself, miming misesis, a ghostly mise-en-abyme, mimesis running amok. Yet at the same time, ghosts are "Other": as the undead, they declassify the categories of living and dead. The self dissolving into the fluidity of ectoplasm, Sin Nanna tries the incorporeal on for size - a costume for the theater of his Black Metal music.


III

How do ghosts and Striborg's music correspond? How do the experience of meeting a ghost and the musical form of Striborg's music relate?

Perhaps it is worthwhile to explore the thesis that the relation is mimetic in nature. Sin Nanna wants to transform himself into a ghost; is the music a mimetic transformation of the encounter with the ghost?

The production of the music echoes the image of the glowing white head. Interestingly, Sin Nanna does not use the usual trope of 'darkness' to describe his music. On the contrary, in an interview he describes the production as 'bright' - the unusual adjective the polar opposite of dark. "This is how I always produce music, bright, fuzzy, cold and distant. (...) I want my sound to be fuzzy and distant, like an audio version of literally the mist you encounter in everyday life". "Glowing white" and "fuzzy bright" - I feel these adjectives are largely interchangeable.

The emotions of dread, terror and panic - some of the emotions Sin Nanna felt during the ghost encounter - are all three closely related to that of fear. These emotions cause tension of the muscles, an increased heart rate, perspiration, dilation of the pupils and horripilation (gooseflesh and hair standing on end). I strongly feel these physical symptoms of fear are somehow bound up with features of Striborg's music, though I find it hard to put the correlation into words. Is there something gooseflesh-like in the ambient washes of Kosmische synthesizer sound that permeate the songs, the coagulations and swirls in the sound a transformation of the contraction of the muscles which elevates the hair follicles above the rest of the skin, when the skin crawls? Does the cold and thin guitar noise sound like cold sweat, like simultaneous perspiration and chill and cold moist skin? Is there something of the muscular tension and increased heart rate in the nervous, idiosyncratic percussion?

The emotion of desolation points towards feelings of loneliness and isolation, i.e. non-communication with fellow human beings. The same type of questions that I asked about fear, can be asked about these emotions. Cannot Striborg's musical style be called isolationist, in that it is seeking to be so idiosyncratic as to turn every listener away? The music is so primitive and so "totally fucking weirded out" that even many Black Metal aficionados are nauseated, sickened by it.

As for the poltergeist phenomena Sin Nanna describes: the word derives from the German verb 'poltern', meaning 'to rumble' or 'to make noise'. Thus, the phenomenon already points towards a ghost as an auditive experience. One theory with regards to poltergeists posits that these spirits are "recordings" of powerful emotions, which are believed to be engraved into the place they haunt. These recordings play themselves over and over again, like a locked-groove record. So a poltergeist is a recording that rumbles, that makes noise. And thus Striborg's music is a noisy recording that mimics a recording that makes noise - another eerie, animistic mise-en-abyme.

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph and thus of recorded sound, spread the rumor he was working on a machine that could make contact with the spirits of the dead. Audio recordings have since their infancy been associated with ghosts. And Sin Nanna wants the listener to relate to his music as he himself related to the ghost: a deeply ambivalent relation oscillating mixing attraction and repulsion. The ghost and the recording occupy an identical space in these formations.

Ghosts have 'Wiederholungszwang' and like a ghost, Striborg's recordings repeats themselves. Album after album, the basic concepts of his idiosyncratic brand of Black Metal are repeated: wafer-thin production, demented warbling vocals, blast beats sounding as if they are played on a cardboard shoe box, confusingly arrhythmic drumming and sinister, Tangerine Dream-like synthesis. Each new album mimes the ones that came before. But it is a poorly-made copy, resembling the original as much as a voodoo-doll resembles it's intended victim ... as much as a ghost resembles the human being it once was.


IV

The motto of Surrealist Roger Caillois famous article "Mimicry and legendary psychasthenia" is "Beware: whoever pretend to be a ghost will eventually turn into one". For Sin Nanna, it may already be too late.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Striborg - Ghostwoodlands

Michel Paul Guy de Chabanon, a French 18th century musician, musicologist and man of letters "...had an interest in spiders and played the violin for them to see what music they liked..." (quote sourced form Claude Lévi-Strauss's "Look, listen, read").

Alas, Lévi-Strauss's book does not tell us what music spiders did like.

For Georges Bataille, the spider was an almost formless creature, an invertebrate that is not like anything: "To declare (...) that the universe is not like anything, and is simply formless, is tantamount to saying that the universe is something like a spider or spittle" (Documents 7, 1929).

Certainly, Bataille's perspective on the spider is anthropocentric. Nonetheless, though highly sensitive to vibration, spiders have no ears. For that reason alone, the music spiders like would sound formless to us, unlike any music hitherto made by man, the audio equivalent of spittle.

Translating the music spiders like to human music is impossible. As Lévi-Strauss notes, translation "... is impossible in music, for lacking words it possesses as many languages as composers, and, ultimately, as compositions. Musical languages are, relative to each other, untranslatable, though conceivably they could be transformable - even if this has not, or has hardly been attempted".

In my imagination, if the music spiders like could be transformed to human terms, it might sound something like Tasmanian Black Metal band Striborg's latest album, the predatory and poisonous "Ghostwoodlands".

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jean Painlevé - Acera ou le bal des sorcières (1972)

Jean Painlevé (1902-1989) was a French filmmaker and photographer whose photographs of crustaceans were published by Georges Bataille in the surrealist magazine 'Documents' - the magazine that inspired this blog.

Painlevé's 1972 documentary on the erotic life of hermaphrodite mollusks, closely echoes Georges Bataille's views, amongst others his concept of the 'formless'.

"A dictionary would begin as of the moment when it no longer provided the meanings of words but their tasks. In this way formless is not only an adjective having such and such a meaning, but a term serving to declassify, requiring in general that every thing should have a form. What it designates does not, in any sense whatever, possess rights, and everywhere gets crushed like a spider or an earthworm. For academics to be satisfied, it would be necessary, in effect, for the universe to take on a form. The whole of philosophy has no other aim; it is a question of fitting what exists into a frock-coat, a mathematical frock-coat. To affirm on the contrary that the universe resembles nothing at all and is only formless, amounts to saying that the universe is something akin to a spider or a gob of spittle." Georges Bataille: "Informe." Documents 7 (December 1929), p. 382.

Visually, the mollusks - what revolting, slimy creatures they are, resembling ugly sexual organs - seem to fall somewhere between a spider and a gob of spittle. Painlevé consistently stresses the hermaphroditic nature of the mollusks; and that hermaphrodite nature is not a class in itself but serves to declassify their sexuality. Furthermore, Painlevé underlines the synesthetic sensorium of the mollusks, which merges touch, taste and smell into a declassified experience.

Similarly, Pierre Jansen's excellent soundtrack seems to emanate from some avant-garde Twilight Zone, simultaneously declassifying modern classical composition and Free Jazz.

The communal mating (mollusk threesomes and fivesomes) are portrayed as orgies, blind fusions of of declassified mollusk bodies "... which oppose no further resistance to the frenzied proliferation of life" (sourced here).

Even the title of the documentary (translated: "Acera or the dance of the witches") points towards Michelet's book on witches and witchcraft, "La Sorcière", and thus towards an essay Bataille wrote about Michelet's book in his "La littérature et le mal" ("Literature and evil").





Here is a nice article from the Senses Of Cinema website on Painlevé's "Les Danseuses De La Mer" (link).

Here is an article from the New York Times on Painlevé (link).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Xasthur - Defective Epitaph (pt. 2)


I

Adolf Loos: "When walking through a wood, you find a rise in the ground, six foot long and three foot wide, heaped up in a rough pyramid shape, then you turn serious, and something inside you says: someone lies buried here. That is architecture".

(Sourced here).


II

In "Symbolic Exchange And Death", Baudrillard contrasts the meaning of death in primitive and modern societies.

Baudrillard's view of the meaning of death in primitive societies echoes the work of French anthropologist Marcel Mauss. In these societies, the dead were incorporated into cycles of gift exchange and this incorporation made them part of the same community as the living. In modern society however, the dead are excluded from all symbolic exchange with the living. They are cast out of society and segregated in hospitals, funeral homes, graveyards, the ghettos of the dead. Death has become a-social. Baudrillard: "Our whole culture is hygienic, and aims to expurgate life from death".














III

An epitaph fulfills the same function as the tombstone on which it is inscribed: it buries the dead under an idealized, hygienic meaning. The epitaph is the make-up of the dead. Where hospitals, funeral homes, graveyards and tombstones work through architecture, epitaphs work through a linguistic operation.

So what is a 'defective epitaph'? It is an epitaph which no longer fulfills it's function, which no longer hides death but on the contrary announces it. It is an epitaph which exhumes the dead. It is a linguistic device which in failing has opened up a route between the society of the living and that of the dead.

But as gift exchanges with the dead, sacrifices to the dead, have been neglected, the dead are sure to be unreconciled, unexpiated, sorcerous and hostile. And the sound of these supernatural corpses prowling around the body and the soul is the sound one hears listening to Xasthur's latest album.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Xasthur - Defective Epitaph

Only a few years ago, before the dvd and internet era, copies of obscure European horror films were hard to come by, and good-quality copies were almost impossible to find. Books like Tohill and Tomb's "Immoral Tales" and periodicals like Stephen Thrower's "Eyeball", Stefan Jaworzyn's "Shock X-Press" and Adrian Luther Smith's "Delirium" were achievements of epic proportions, the result of a monk-like dedication to collecting cinematographic smut, the authors wading through landfills of trash as large as continents just to find a single gem.

I've spent many nights in the early 1990s watching n-th generation copies of an obscure European horror film from the 1960s or '70s on
videotape, the image so grainy and scratched and ripped and dark it was hard to understand the plot, the soundtrack garbled, hissing, popping and clicking and and the dubbing either dopey or braindead. Sometimes one felt that rather than watching movies one was watching ghosts of movies.

There was a perverse pleasure to be had in enjoying these ghostly videotapes. Not only did successfully tracking down a hard-to-find video bring with it a sense of achievement that is largely absent in these days of instant access through the internet. Also, the pleasure of watching these ruined videotapes was akin to the aesthetic delight the Romantics found in ruined architecture. But a more contemporary aesthetic also added to the delight: the tainted nature of the recording called attention to the materiality of the medium. What's more, the fact that one knew many of the qualities of the movie to be lost by the bad quality of image and sound allowed one to - as it were - fill in the blanks in the mind's eye and thus see a movie that was almost without exception better than the real movie in a pristine state of a dvd restoration. Though I didn't know it at the time, in a sense watching these films was a Proustian pleasure. But that pleasure was far from innocent: one felt that behind the grime and soot and dirt that clung to the recording material, one could catch a glimpse of an evil so corrosively beautiful that it could burn black marks on the soul.

There is something of this very pleasure to be found in one-man Black Metal band Xasthur's latest effort, 'Defective Epitaph'.

To say that the recording is lo-fi does not do justice to the level of audio degradation: the recording sounds positively cadaverous.

The compositions are like a Venice of sound, if no effort had been made to preserve that city: a music like a decaying labyrinth, the musical structures crumbling, ready to collapse, already partially submerged in a sea of stinking feedback - and one knows the flood is yet to come. Of course, I would not dare to compare Malefic's recording techniques to the studio wizardry of Lee 'Scratch' Perry. Nonetheless, one wonders whether Malefic - like Perry - achieves his unique sound by bouncing tracks, that is by dumping multiple tracks onto one, allowing more tracks to be added. Something of an inverted, blackened version of the sonic "aura" prevalent on Perry's work on 'Heart Of The Congos' can be found on 'Defective Epitaph': the aura of a malevolent duppy ghost. And as I've said before, this recording technique foregrounds the materiality of the recording. Meanwhile, Malefic's shrieking voice is far away in the back of the mix, sounding as if he is immured deep in the catacombs of the Venetian palazzo Montresor; and he's still so misanthropic that he makes Klaus Kinski look like an altruist. And the electric guitars? They sound more detuned than ever: an Unjust and Foul-tempered intonation, and more Loveless than Kevin Shield's six-strings ever did.

"But...", I hear you ask, "Is Xasthur doing anything new? Is there any progress since the previous album?"

To say that progress has been made since 'Subliminal Genocide' would be completely inappropriate. There can be no such thing as 'progress' in Xasthur's world. So let us say that some of the flows and intensities have ... changed. Malefic has augmented the drum machine ('inhuman drums', the sparse liner notes have it) with a drum kit; though his chops are adequate, the addition of a drum kit makes the music even more disorienting than it already was. Furthermore, a cello has been added to the mix, and it sounds very macabre. Also, the keyboards seem to play a more prominent role: the music has become less 'metal' than ever before, and on the whole closer to ambient music. I'm reminded somewhat of the more ambient-sounding of the movie soundtracks of late 1970s to early 1980s Italian horror films: Xasthur as a feedback-drenched, necrotic Goblin, a zombi Morricone or a blackened, worm-eaten Fabio Frizzi.

The end result is the most disquieting Xasthur album so far. After the first day of listening intently to this album all day long, and writing this post, my sleep was full of nightmares. Now that I'm finishing this post, I am loathe to go to bed. I highly recommend 'Defective Epitaph' ... especially for the fainthearted!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Grachan Moncur III - New Africa / One Morning I Woke Up Very Early (Aco Dei De Madrugada)

In 1969 Grachan Moncur III - jazz trombonist and composer - recorded two albums for the legendary French free jazz record label BYG: "New Africa" and "One Morning I Woke Up Very Early (Aco Dei De Madrugada)".

Moncur had come to France via Algiers, where he had played at the First Pan-African Cultural Festival. This Festival, which focused on Black African ethnic identity politics, had been held in Algeria from the 21st of July to the 1st of August 1969 by the new-fled Organization of African Unity. Moncur had come to the Festival together with Archie Shepp, with whom he had been playing since 1967 (i.a. on 'Life At The Donaueschingen Music Festival' and 'The Way Ahead') and with whom he would remain closely associated in further years (on 'Things Have Got To Change' and 'Kwanza'). Besides Moncur, Shepp brought with him cornet player Clifton Thornton, pianist Dave Burrell, bass player Alan Silva, and avant drummer Sunny Murray.

At the Festival, the whole group was invited to record in Paris by BYG Actuel's Jean Georgakarakos and Jean-Luc Young, and record they did: in a very short time span, working in ever-changing constellations, they created scores of beautiful free jazz records. "New Africa" was recorded on august 11th 1969, only ten days after the end of the Festival; "One Morning I Woke Up Very Early (Aco Dei De Madrugada)" was recorded only a little later, on september 10th and november 4th 1969.

But the jazz corpus created by those invited to record by BYG Actuel - though one of the most enticing on record - was marred by greed: to this day, BYG's mainmen Bisceglia, Young and Georgakarakos have apparently not paid any royalties to the artists involved. The financial problems this created for Moncur initiated a downward spiral, which was worsened by health problems. The result was that Moncur was able to record only rarely after the early 1970's, apparently became quite depressed (read an interview with a very despondent Moncur here), and didn't even merit a personal entry in the 7th (2004) edition of "The Pinguin Guide To Jazz On CD".

It is ironic that where a Festival (the First Pan-African Cultural Festival) provided the main impetus for BYG Records, another festival proved to be it's undoing. BYG Records organized a festival together with the countercultural magazine Actuel called 'Le Festival Actuel'. It was planned to take place from October 24th to 27th 1969 in Paris. However, the French authorities denied the organizers the necessary permits, fearing that either a Woodstock-like chaos or a repetition of the may 1968 student riots might ensue. This forced the organizers to move the entire Festival at a very late stage to Belgium, to a place called Amougies (or Amengijs in Flemish) which is near the French-Belgium border. The Festival had a very ambitious line-up, featuring Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, Soft Machine and Ten Years After. Also, much of BYG Records roster of Free Jazz performers participated; Grachan Moncur III appeared on Saturday night, together with Don Cherry, saxophonist Arthur Jones and pianist Joachim Kurt Kuhn. Frank Zappa was master of ceremonies at the Festival. Though an audience of 15-20,000 attended the Festival, the financial strain it caused was too much of a burden for BYG Records, which finally went bankrupt in the early seventies.

Bisceglia went on to become a Jazz photographer; Jean Georgakarakos founded Celluloid Records; and Jean-Luc Young founded the record label Charly Records in France in 1974 and moved operations to England in 1975. Living up to his reputation for shady deals, Young ran into legal trouble due to copyright infringement in 2000 while still working for Charly Records.

It is Charly Records that rereleased both "New Africa" and "One Morning I Woke Up Very Early (Aco Dei De Madrugada)" in 2003 on one cd, with liner notes by The Wire's Edwin Pouncey.

The trombone - Moncur's instrument - has held a particular fascination for me ever since I saw drone metal band Earth perform live, Steve Moore - who has roots in Free Jazz - providing beautiful trombone gravitas to Earth's haunted Americana. But Moncur's trombone playing is light years removed from Moore's drones: his style is firmly rooted in Jazz tradition.

Moncur's music is not Free Jazz of the chaotic and noisy, Merzbow kind; and it is also devoid of the cheap quasi-mystical exoticism which can spoil Indian/Jazz-fusion-type Free Jazz. Notwithstanding the influence of Shepp's ethnopolitical protest music, both albums present a rather lyrical style of Free Jazz, elegant rather than intransigent, poetic rather than acerbic, a mélange rather than a hotchpotch. Moncur comes across as a good-natured progressive who chooses to explore both the heartlands and the borders of the Jazz tradition, rather than as a revolutionary firebrand who aims to scorch the earth of that tradition.

But that does not mean that Moncur's music lacks passion - on the contrary!

'New Africa' features Roscoe Mitchell (alto sax), Dave Burrell (piano), Alan Silva (bass) and Andrew Cyrille (drums). It opens with the eponymous seventeen-and-a-half minute suite, which consists of four movements. Over the course of these movements, the relaxed, steady bass work by Silva binds together the energetic performances of the other musicians. The drums and the piano on the one hand and the sax and the trombone on the other maneuver around each other in benevolent aerobatic dog-fights. In 'Space Spy' Dave Burrell provides a suspenseful piano tune that gives the track a tense feel appropriate to it's title: that of a Free Jazz afro-futurist espionage thriller. The third track ('Exploration') is the 'Free-est' of all. It is thoroughly informed by Alan Silva's musical style: spiritually ecstatic, with an interplay of instruments that is as writhing as a mass of Cthulhoid tentacles. Archie Shepp appears on the fourth and final track of 'New Africa', where a self-confident (but never swaggering) swing provides the two musicians with a theater stage on which to perform their powerful art.

I'm also very fond of the second part of the disc, the album "One Morning I Woke Up Very Early (Aco Dei De Madrugada)". It was recorded after 'Le Festival Actuel'. This album presents two songs which are interpretations of Brazilian traditionals: "Aco Dei De Madrugada" and "Ponte Lo"; and two originals: "Osmosis" and "Tiny Temper". On this recording, Moncur was assisted by French bass player Beb Guérin, Brazilian pianist Fernando Martins and Brazilian drummer Nelson Serra De Castro. More laid-back than 'New Africa', the Latin influence gives his music an immensely graceful swing.

I do not have the faintest hope that Moncur is receiving any royalties from this re-release. Nevertheless, it provides a welcome chance to experience Moncur's elegant Free Jazz.


Post scriptum

In all biographical material on the internet, a detail that was included in Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler's 1976 book "The Encyclopedia Of Jazz In The Seventies", is omitted: the fact that he served as a musical director of a drug rehabilitation program in Harlem in the early '70s. Not even Moncur himself mentions it in a very extensive biographical interview at the Al About Jazz website. Why? Was that function too 'uncool'? And if so, why? Is the encyclopedia wrong? Was the idea of the therapeutic function of music-making too un-hip? Was it the idea of Moncur working for a rehab program, that had to be censored, drugs still being the epitome of cool and rehab a "no, no no"?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hototogisu + Burning Star Core - "Volume 1"

I

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?


II

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.

Hototogisu
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).


III

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.

Three From Lucio Fulci







Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ostia (the death of Pasolini)

Would anyone dare to describe Jhonn Balance's death as a tragedy in the literal sense of the word - as an organized expression which forms the logical end point of Coil's oeuvre?


In an article in the September 27, 2007 issue of The New York Review Of Books , called "The Passion Of Pasolini" Nathaniel Rich reviews several books on the Italian filmmaker and author. Among the books reviewed is a catalog for a 2005 exhibition at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, called "P.P.P.: Pier Paolo Pasolini And Death". One of the authors of the catalog, Giuseppe Zigaina, proposes the theory that Pasolini organized his own death as an artwork that would be the crown upon his entire oeuvre. Zagaina in fact proposes that Pasolini's death was an suicidal artwork.

Nathaniel Rich writes: "Zigaina is not the first writer to examine Pasolini's work for clues to his death. Just after it happened, Alberto Moravia, who had been Pasolini's close friend for more than thirty years and who wrote a book about his murder in 1977, said that he recognized the murder scene in Ostia from Pasolini's descriptions of several landscapes in his two novels, Ragazzi di vita (The Ragazzi) and Una Vita Violenta (A Violent Life), and in an image from his first film, Accatone. (Pasolini had actually shot footage of the site a year earlier, for use in his film Il fiore delle mille e una notte [A Thousand And One Nights]). But Zigaina is the first to interpret these connections as anything more than poetic irony".

I think Alberto Moravia's book that Rich is referring to is the 1977 book "Pasolini: cronaca giudiziaria, persecuzione, morte" by Fernando Bandini and Laura Betti. The book has a preface by Moravia.

Moravia's account of an unnatural death announcing itself in an artist's work long before that death occurs, reminded me strongly of Coil muscian Jhonn Balance and his death. Like Pasolini, Balance's lyrics give the impression that he foresaw the circumstances of his own death - enough to make one fleetingly believe superstitious, irrational things. The Treshold House website states correctly that "...much of the work of Coil, Jhonn's Life's Work in fact, described or addressed that Very Moment" (meaning the moment of his death). What makes this parallel all the more uncanny, is that Coil wrote a song about Pasolini's death, "Ostia (the death of Pasolini)". The song is part of Coil's seminal 1987 album Horse Rotorvator; the lyrics are reproduced below. In the song, Balance identifies with Pasolini; and Balance seems to forecast his own death once more when he sings "Throw his bones over / The White Cliffs / of Dover": he died at home after drunkenly losing his balance and tipping over the banisters, falling down as one might fall from cliffs.

Would anyone dare to write an essay on Balance, which describes him as "the 'organizer' of his own death, which, conceived as a form of expression, was indented to give meaning to his entire oeuvre" - that is, the same way Zigaina describes Pasolini?




Ostia (the death of Pasolini)

There's honey in the
hollows
And the countours
of the body
A sluggish
golden river
A sickly golden trickle
A golden, sticky trickle
You can hear
the bones humming
And the car
reverses over
The body in the basin
In the shallow
sea-plane basin.
And the car
reverses over
And his body rolls over
Crushed
from the shoulder
You can hear the
Bones humming
Singing like
a puncture
Killed to keep
the world turning
Throw his bones over
The White Cliffs
of Dover
Into the sea
The Sea of Rome
And the bloodstained
coast
Of Ostia
Leon like a lion
Sleeping in
the sunshine.
Lion lies down.
"Out of the strong
Came forth sweetness."
Throw his bones over
The White Cliffs
of Dover
And murder me
In Ostia.
The Sea of Rome.
You can hear his
bones humming.
Throw his bones over
The White Cliffs
of Dover
And into the sea
The Sea of Rome
Then murder me,
In Ostia.


Post scriptum

Here is a link to a Guardian review of the exhibition on Pasolini.

You can purchase Rich's article here.

Below you'll see Moravia's eulogy at Pasolini's funeral.