Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hototogisu - Green

"Green" (2005) has been called Hototogisu's Black Metal album. This would be true, if there were such a thing as celebratory, effervescent Black Metal. "Green" is Free Black Metal where ecstatic noise, many-colored like confetti, glitter and streamers, replace the cemetery-like black-and-gray tints.

Many Black Metal bands are one-man endeavors, following the example set by Burzum's obnoxious Kristian "Varg" Vikernes. A sense of loneliness often pervades the music these bands produce, personal as well as cosmic loneliness.

"One can experience loneliness in two ways: by feeling lonely in the world or by feeling the loneliness of the world. Individual loneliness is a personal drama; one can feel lonely even in the midst of great natural beauty. An outcast in the world, indifferent to its being dazzling or dismal, self-consumed with triumphs and failures, engrossed in inner drama — such is the fate of the solitary. The feeling of cosmic loneliness, on the other hand, stems not so much from man's subjective agony as from an awareness of the world's isolation, of objective nothingness. It is as if all the splendors of this world were to vanish at once, leaving behind the dull monotony of a cemetery" (E.M. Cioran, 'On The Heights Of Despair).

Indeed, Black Metal can be "self-consumed with triumphs and failures, engrossed in inner drama" to the point of egotism, a self-centeredness that is all the more irritating because these dramas of the self are completely unrelated to the social... In fact, these dramas are anti-social: Black Metal's loneliness is part and parcel of it's hateful misanthropist ideology.

"Green" on the other hand, even though Hototogisu consists of only two persons (Marcia Bassett and Matthew Bower), radiates a sense of communal festivity that is at once personal and cosmic. The album presents a euphoric continuity between Bassett's music and Bower's, a ludic abandonment, an ineffable affinity.

That is not to say it is music without an edge: the noise still is as sharp as a samurai's sword.

Habermas' 'ideal speech situations’, those rational, idealized, Icarian structures which have plagued Improv, have been swept away by euphoric firestorms, ecstatically lacerated by guitar strings, buried under beatific blast beats, deliciously dissolved in drone. The titles of the performances (such as "Hellebore", "Ascend On Blackened Wings", "Crucified Forest") shake up the fixed, the finished and the predictable: they are at once loving caricatures of clichéd Black Metal song titles and acts of cruelty towards utilitarian rationalism. And the name of Bassett's and Bower's band points towards death: "Hototogisu" is the Japanese word for cuckoo, a bird which in Japanese culture is a symbol of the netherworld. Hototogisu is a feathered psychopomp which shows listeners the way to a colorful and joyous hell, to an infernal and communal 'realm of pure possibility' called "Green".

Post scriptum

Interestingly, like Cioran, Black Metal often presents it's spectacle of loneliness against a decor of great natural beauty, specifically the rural and wild landscapes of Norway.

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