Sunday, December 03, 2006

Xasthur - A Haunted Burial, Postrock's Kindertotenlied

In keeping with one of the constant interests of this blog (black and blackened music, Black Metal versus Dubstep), Phil Freeman calls "Xasthur (...) pretty much metal's own Burial..." on his ever-interesting blog 'Running The Voodoo Down': "... if you want hauntology, check out his cryptic wailing".

Does Freeman misread 'hauntology' as spookiness? As K-Punk writes: "Hauntology isn't about hoky atmospherics or 'spookiness'...". The fact that Xasthur's wailing can make your hairs stand on end, does not make his music hauntological.

On Dissensus, ' hauntology' is described as a concept that "... is deployed towards a music that employs certain strategies of disinternment - a disinternment of styles, sounds, even techniques and modes of production now abandoned, forgotten or erased by history". "Yet," writes K-Punk, " sonic hauntology, disinterment goes alongside internment, the deliberate burial of signal behind noise". Hauntological music is music in which surface noise is foregrounded instead of repressed: "There is no attempt to smooth away the textural discrepancy between the crackly sample and the rest of the recording".

Can these concepts be applied succesfully to Xasthur's music?

Certainly, the unusual sound of Xasthur's music foregrounds it's technological production, foregrounds 'layers of fizz, crackle, hiss, white noise'. As the Aquarius Records review of his 'Subliminal Genocide' writes on Xasthur's debut album 'Nocturnal Poisoning': "... the sound was murky and muddy and fuzzy, but above it, were delicate melodies, dreamlike minor key filigree over a bottomless black pit. (...) You could see the texture of the canvas and the individual brushstrokes beneath the art".

In foregrounding technological production, Xasthur's music is not very different from much of Black Metal, a genre whose deliberate low-quality sound recording serves to introduce " ... the technical frame, the unheard material pre-condition of the recording, on the level of content" (to quote K-Punk again). Perhaps this is the third meaning of the lo-fi Black Metal production mode explored in the previous post.

On the blackened laments of 'Subliminal Genocide', the Aquarius Records review writes: "Taken out of a black metal context, they'd sound like some sort of super emotional epic post rock, but as they are, buried under thick layers of blackened buzz and wrapped in huge swaths of fuzzy sonic fog, they become even darker and more desolate, lonely and mournful". Thus, Xasthur is both interment in noise and disinterment of the Postrock genre. Postrock, the disinterred style, sound, musical technique ... Postrock, now abandoned, forgotten and erased by history ... Postrock, a genre that died in it's infancy ... Postrock, already haunting us, like the red-cloaked child of Nicholas Roeg's tale of haunted Venice,"Don't Look Now".

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