Saturday, April 28, 2007

Earth - Hibernaculum

Imagine that you are a dormouse, a very small rodent, living in nocturnal forests. It is autumn. Food, chestnuts, acorns and hazelnuts are harder and harder to find. The days are getting shorter, as shadows grow longer: "The morning small / The evening tall". Small as you are, even the brown leaves that cover the forest floor are huge, they cast dark and unnerving shadows, as large as you are or even larger. And as the night air grows colder all the time, the snout and feet feel close to freezing, your orange-brown fur providing only limited protection against the chill. It is time to retire to your hibernaculum, a nest sited in a hollow tree and padded with bark, grass, moss and leaves, woven to surround you entirely. It is time to let your breath slow down, to let the rhythm of your heart slow down, to let the blood flow more slowly through your tiny veins ... so slow as to become one with the earth.

I bought "Hibernaculum", the newest album by Earth, together with a recent release of Pandit Pran Nath's classical Indian raga's on Terry Riley's Shri Moonshine label: "Raga Cycle - Palace Theatre - Paris 1972".

Earth's "Hibernaculum" is a shortish (36 minutes long) album, an ep really. The first two tracks and the last track on the album are reworkings of tracks from earlier Earth titles: "Ouroboros Is Broken" is from "Earth 2", "Coda Maestoso In F (Flat) Minor" is from "Pentastar: In The Style Of Demons" and the final track "A Plague Of Angels" is from the "Angel Coma" 12 inch, a limited edition split with Sunn 0))) which was (to the best of my knowledge) only sold on the 2005-2006 tour of these two bands. Only the third track, which is the least long of the album, is new: "Miami Morning Coming Down". But don't let the limited duration of the album and the fact that there is little really new material deter you from buying the album at once. All tracks are done gloriously in the American gothic (as in Cormac McCarthy and Nick Cave, not Marilyn Manson) style of their previous outing, "Hex: Printing In the Infernal Method". And these restylings genuinely add to the originals - Earth's music has developed, matured through the years, evolved from an aesthetics of subdued, sedated aggression into something simple but very subtle. Earth's music is not only deep in the sense of the weight of (sub-)bass ... it is also deep in the sense of 'deep listening' - listening to 'Hibernaculum' one hears musicianship which is almost meditative in it's attention to sound, and more specifically it's attention to the spatial dimension of sound. One can be sure Dylan Carlson has (is?) a powerful "sonic awareness", which " the ability to consciously focus attention upon environmental and musical sound, requiring continual alertness and an inclination towards always listening...". Earth's "sonic awareness" is especially apparent in the relationship between the Drone and Rock within Earth's music. Earth's music is not Drones with Rock, the way some Drone Electronica can be "drones with beats": the beauty of Earth lies in the way the sparse and elegant drum and guitar arrangements flow into deep-listening drones... The Dream World of Drones and the waking world of Rock becoming communicating vessels.

Pandit Pran Nath album was recorded at the Théatre du Palais Royal in Paris, with Terry Riley, La Monte Young and Marion Zazeela serving as accompanying musicians. It is an album of very serious Indian classical music, deeply rooted in Indian mystical traditions. I must admit I find it very hard, almost impossible to write about Pran Nath's music on this album, as I lack deep-going knowledge of classical Indian music and the cultural background of the music. One thing, however, is very striking: the inward-directedness of Pran Nath's chanting, the way the sound is directed towards the interiority of the chanter, towards the interiority of the chanter of the subject - like silence.

What connects Hibernaculum and Pran Nath's music? Breath is what connects these two albums. In Pran Nath's vocalizing of ancient raga's, breath takes center stage, the syllables pronounced in a cavernous way, with an immense and distant resonance. And in Earth, Dylan Carlsons compositions lets the guitar itself breathe...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Main Entry: hi·a·tus
Pronunciation: hI-'A-t&s
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, from hiare - to yawn
1 a : a break in or as if in a material object
1 b : an aperture or fissure in an organ or a body part.
2 a : an interruption in time or continuity; especially : a period when something (as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted, for example a temporary suspension of this blog due to the birth of my firstborn child, Aurélie.
2 b : the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening consonantal sound

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Drudkh - Blood In Our Wells

Folk and Volk

In a recent post on Transpontine's excellent "History is made at night" blog Transpontine wrote some interesting observations on gender issues in folk music: "There is a fey element (cf Joanna Newsom) but this is not fey in the sense of vaguely ‘girly’ and lacking in presence. This is fey in its original meaning, as in like the fairies, but not fairies in their diminutive Victorian chocolate box version. (...) behind some of the fey melodies of folk old and new lie sentiments of passion, jealousy, murder and bewitching. This is feycore".

I appreciate Transpontine's attempt to counter the V-chipping or whitewashing of folk, by stressing the eldritch aspect rather than the "twee/mimsy" (Blissblog). There is a regrettable tendency in some folk music to shy away from viscerality, to erase all traces of transgressivity, to present a past as genteel, balmy and innocent with all erotic, obscene, sadistic, cruel and licentious features of the past bleached out. Folk as conformist nostalgia, not hauntology, as far away as possible from the convulsive beauty of The Wicker Man and Comus.

On the other hand, I feel that Transpontine comes close - too close, perhaps - to creating a false contradiction between the 'girly' and the 'feycore'. Isn't sacral transgression of gender barriers, isn't the ceremonial montage of the feminine and masculine, isn't the ritualized collapse of gender polarization traditionally one of the ways shamans practice the fey physically? And isn't it exactly this aspect of folk traditions which lends itself to contemporary reframing, isn't it exactly this aspect which can enter into effervescent relationships with the present - as Coil have shown? Certainly Coil aren't 'folk' on a superficial musical level, but Coil culture is thoroughly informed by (pagan) folk-lore. Coil is the 'feycore' band par excellence, showing a continuity between sentiments of passion, jealousy, murder and bewitching on the one hand and queer transgression of gender limits on the other hand...

Coil show that putting gender center stage doesn't necessarily degrade an artistic endeavor to the world of "law and speeches" (Bataille), doesn't make that endeavor a homogenising bureaucratic project directed at 'mainstreaming' gender. The UN defines mainstreaming as a practice which "...involves ensuring that gender perspectives and attention to the goal of gender equality are central to all activities - policy development, research, advocacy/ dialogue, legislation, resource allocation, and planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes and projects..." - is anything further removed than this from the delirious world of Coil, where eroticism must be "the darkest and most bloody part" (Bataille) of being human? Coil show by example that the most likely space where the sacred can be encountered today is in the obscene, the violent, the sacrilegious yet ritual bending of genders (cf 'The Pope Held Upside Down' and 'The Auto-Asphyxiating Hierophant') - and never in the bureaucratic world.

The notion of 'feycore' itself needs close examination. The suffix -core having strong connotations of speed, aggression and masculinity, the introduction of the term 'feycore' can be interpreted as masculinizing folk. Is this really what folk music needs?

A musical genre which uses folk music in the context of
a pathologically masculine ideology is Pagan Black Metal, also known as Folk Black Metal. Viking Metal is variant of this subgenre. Black Metal which uses (elements of) folk music are often associated with National Socialist (i.e. Nazi) ideology - in fact, Pagan/Folk Black Metal is often a synonym for NSBM: National Socialist Black Metal. Here, effeminate folk music becomes testosterone-swollen Volk music.


Ukrainian Black Metal band 'Drudkh' are a case in point. Their acclaimed 2006 album "The Blood In Our Wells" presents a particularly proggy strain of Black Metal blended with traditional Ukrainian folk music to create a sense of the epic - or the pompous, bordering on the silly.

While there are no explicitly nazi themes on the album, it is very nationalistic. The band uses for it's lyrics poetry by Oleksandr Oles (1878-1944), to portray Ukraine as a body wounded by enemies, a body which must assert it's honour through violence (the poem is reproduced below). The violence is directed outwards, against those enemies, and death is regarded as an external pleasure - and as such the music couldn't be more different from Abruptum's Black Metal which affirms it's internal absurdity.

This wounded body of Ukrainian nationalism is decidedly gendered - male, of course - and has a strong aversion to queerness: this month, angry Ukrainian nationalists have held protests against the selection of a transvestite to represent Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Interestingly, the folk music on the album is sampled from the Ukrainian film 'Mamay', a 2003 Oscar nominee. 'Mamay' a historical drama, is a Romeo-and-Juliet-type story abut the love between a cossack and a beautiful Tatar woman. The film is said to point towards a new cultural identity for Ukrainians, not through the definition by negation but through inclusion of other ethnicities. Thus, Mamay's political message apparently points in an very different direction than that of Drudkh - (inadvertently?) introducing a multivocality in Drudkh's music that would be interesting to investigate. Alas, Drudkh never allow interviews.

And this multivocality draws attention to the fact that Drudkh's music can be read against it's nationalist grain - that while Drudkh strive after ethnic homogenizing, Drudkh's music can be liked for the inclusion of samples of 'exotic' (i.e. heterological) or 'world' (multicultural / ethnically different) music: Ukrainian folk. Drudkh can be liked for unintended reasons.

Volk hauntology?

On Transpontine's blog post, he praises folk music for it's countercultural sensibilities: "Since Cecil Sharp began collecting songs in the early 20th century and defining a specific ‘folk music’ in opposition to other popular musics, folk revivals have invoked the spirits of gypsies, agricultural workers and miners against the evils of modernity or capitalism, depending on political perspective".

On Drudkh's record label, Supernal Music, Drudkh's sensibilities are described as "... nostalgic, anti-urban, conservative revolutionary. (...) Against the degenerate modern, liberal ideology of cosmopolitanism, urbanism, and secularism, and in favour of heroic, traditionalist values, living in harmony with nature rather than raping it".

Are these two really different? Let us not forget that Cecil Sharp's activities were directed towards a nationalist agenda!

For both Transpontine's folk and Drudkh's volk music, it can be said that "the ideology of authenticity disguised the fact the old songs were not simply a direct testimony from the past but were being reframed and understood according to contemporary needs". And perhaps one can even maintain that Drudkh use of crackly samples of Ukrainian folk music and half-forgotten poets means that the music "... employs certain strategies of disinternment - a disinternment of styles, sounds, even techniques and modes of production now abandoned, forgotten or erased by history" (Dissensus)? And doesn't the way Drudkh incorporates folk music samples in it's Black Metal music make dyschronia audible?

And doesn't this indicate that even the bewitching power of the hauntological can be harnessed for unsavoury purposes?

In the end, I hope and think the answer to these troubling questions can be found in the work of Walter Benjamin, whose oeuvre was obviously a major influence on the concept of the hauntological.

In his essay "On the Concept of History" Benjamin writes: "A chronicler who recites events without distinguishing between major and minor ones acts in accordance with the following truth: nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost for history music on the other: for truly ". Here, I feel, is one of the major differences between truly hauntological music on the one hand and Drudkh's on the other. For hauntological music no sound from the past is lost, whether major and heroic or minor and everyday... while Drudkh stresses only the major, the heroic, the pompous. For hauntological music, nothing should be regarded as lost for history, while Drudkh's nationalism can't wait to lose, to rid itself of, all that opposes a homogenized Ukrainian nation.

When The Flame Turns To Ashes
Oleksandr Oles

Formerly you seemed to me like a wounded eagle
That has been left in agony to die...
Your eyes are watching the damned enemy
Who wanted to trample you with their feet.

You're breathing with anger and burning, but not dying...
To dig you're shuffling ground with your claws,
With one wing you're beating off the rooks
And laying on the other one, thats' broken...

Formerly you seemed to me like a stately knight,
Who lay in steppe to rest on the stone...
You're hardly sleeping and delirious about the ruthless battle,
While your enemy is hissing like a snake...

My nation! And you - an eagle, that has been wounded at the night,
Why aren't you a knight, who has been captured?
Oh my eagle, my winged giant,
Oh my knight, who has been punished for the sleep!..

Why on earth, my eagle, don't you fly with eagles,
But dragging wings, as oars, by the ground?!
Why on earth, my knight, don't you go into action,
But such a wind, you're plaintively crying in the tillage?!

So what is an eagle, if his flock
Doesn't pluck from the earth into the blue of serene day,
And what kind of knight are you with smile of servant,
Without proud thoughts, without a honour and a name?!


Here is a link to indepth information about the film Mamay, sampled by Drudkh.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia page on Ukraine.

Here is a link to a news article on neofascism in Ukraine, and here and here are some other links to far-right activism in that country.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Post 100

What to do for my 100th post? To look back? To evaluate? Take stock? To see whether I have delivered on the promise of "...dusty things, ethnographies of one-man-Cthulhu Cults, confused concepts, black and blackened musics, untruths"? Or to look towards the future? To make new promises? To submit to new goals? 100 more posts? Other, new targets?

Silence is sexy. Deathlike silence. Silence.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Thousand Skulls As A War Relic

Does anyone have any idea of the name and location of this ossuary? It looks like some kind of World War One monument. The photo is part of the cd inlay for Sunn 0))) magnificent "Black One" album, and bears the legend "A Thousand Skulls As A War Relic". The flag in the picture might have provided a clue, if it were possible to determine the nationality - but alas, it is not.

Here is a link to an article on the use of human bones by a Belgian Surrealist as an intervention against the political cult of the dead.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bataille and Mysticism

The link I posted yesterday to an article on Bataille and medieval mysticism, ('Bataille and Mysticism: A "Dazzling Dissolution"' by Amy Hollywood ) appears to be broken. The article is one of the better articles on Bataille which can be found on the 'net, and provided some of the inspiration for the post.

Here is a functioning link - I hope.

Here and here is some biographical information on Amy Hollywood.

Here is a review of her book, "Sensible Ecstasy: Mysticism, Sexual Difference, and the Demands of History".

It remains a pity that so few of such fascinating articles are available to the general public, i.e. tp those who are not affiliated to a university. It is maddening to run up against the iron curtain around sites such as Jstor, every time I am researching for a post. Academia, please give away your knowledge, squander it, be like the Sun!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Abruptum - Post Scriptum

On a somewhat overcast second Easter day, listening to Bach's "St. John's Passion" and "St. Matthew's Passion" and to Abruptum's "Evil Genius" (all works of agony and suffering), I wrote a post scriptum to yesterday's post on the latter album. If you haven't read yesterday's post yet, I advise you to read that first.

It is ironic that music (stubbornly, I keep using that word) which sounds so retarded should bear the title "Evil Genius" - there are light years between the dark and dank grotto which Abruptum would surely inhabit and the high-tech marvels of the lairs of evil geniuses like dr. Fu Manchu and Ernst Stavros Blofeld. Abruptum sounds like a caveman, not like Brainiac!
But perhaps the word 'Genius' should be understood in it's original meaning of 'tutelary spirit' - animistic deities from Roman mythology, spirits which guarded over individuals, regions, families, households and cities - in short, over social communities. And of what community is Abruptum's "Evil Genius" the tutelary spirit? Of the band Abruptum (in a anthropological sense, a band is without doubt a community)? Of the community of early nineties Scandinavian Black Metal musicians? Of the (imagined) community of Black Metal fans? We cannot know without interviewing Abruptum, we cannot know without anthropological fieldwork. But surely it is a wrathful spirit, one that will blight the community if it is not properly placated. It is an Evil Genius, after all.

As discussed in the previous post, Abruptum's soundtracks are a recursive audial image, creating a double mirror effect which is intended to act upon the listener. "And when you look for a long time into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you" (Nietzsche in 'Beyond Good And Evil'). To make the abyss look back into him, was exactly what IT desired his music to do.

Dark mirror
Abruptum's soundtracks functioned as a mirror, as a tool which served to enable IT to see introspectively deeper into his inner being, to reach further along the dark road to 'utter hell'. As such, the cd is a scrying device, a tool for divination, used to seek out signposts along the road which leads to his darkest recesses. The cd can be likened to John Dee's famous obsidian scrying mirror, which he used to call forth his spirits.
IT: "With Abruptum I have attempted to conjure up and beckon my wrathful demons, befriend them and compose them to an utterly natural element of myself".
In this sense, IT is one of those religious specialists known as diviners or shamans, a ritual technician of ecstasy, who uses his ecstatic audio material for sorcerous purposes, who uses the external power of magical rites and paraphernalia to consciously do evil.

As Roland Barthes points out in "Sade, Fourier, Loyola" modernity changed the hierarchy between sound and image, priviliging the latter over the former. 'Hearing is believing' became 'seeing is believing'. Before modernity, hearing came first; believing meant listening to the word of God: auditum verbi Dei, id est fides.
Abruptum's scrying method uses the ear, not the eye. Sound, not image, points the way towards the essence of evil. In this sense too, Abruptum is premodern.

Here is a link to an interesting article (Word-document) on Bataille and medieval mysticism, an article which provided some of the inspiration for the post.
Here is a link to an 1994 interview with IT.
Here is a YouTube link to a Dr. Who (!) video with Abruptum music from "Evil Genius".

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Abruptum - Evil Genius

"As simply as I can, I will speak of the paths by which I found ecstasy, in the desire that others will find it in the same way" - Georges Bataille, Inner Experience.

"Evil Genius" is a cd collecting the Black Metal legend Abruptum's demos "Hexam Galaem Zelog" and "Satanist Tunes" as well as a 7" ep called "Evil", all from what can be called the Dream Time of Black Metal: Scandinavia 1990-1991. In this Dream Time, the nascent genre established it's traditions and cultural structures, it's rules for (anti-)social behaviour and it's ceremonies. The creation of Black Metal was the work of persons who have become the genre's mythological culture heroes: Euronymous, Dead, Fenriz, Faust, Frost, Count Grishnackh. In this creative epoch these culture heroes travelled across Europe, creating significant places of interest and 'sacred sites' (such as the Helvete record shop in Oslo) - some sacred sites, paradoxically, being created by burning the sacred sites of others: churches.

The mythological culture hero behind Abruptum was purportedly a dwarf nicknamed 'IT'. Even if the founder of Abruptum was a dwarf, "Evil Genius" sounds as if it was made not by a dwarf but by a fairy-tale Giant: the music is huge but ugly, clumsy and violent, as if it is ready to eat humans ... especially children. Lumbering drums, gigantic hands fumbling on six tiny strings which spew forth doomy guitar fuzz as uncouth as a cyclope's armpit, retarded, brutish grunting, atonal synthesizer washes and the oddest of samples (some orchestral, some erotic, most indescribable) lurch drunkenly right into and out of the mix. Due to the demo's poor production value, the music sounds incongruously both heavy and hollow at the same time, giving it a cavernous aspect ... claustrophobic ... like a fairy-tale giant captured in it's infancy and kept in a grottoe from which it - now grown - can never escape ... roaring as it is tortured by dwarves ... In fact, Black Metal mythology has it that Abruptum midget mainman IT was tortured or tortured himself in the studio in order to faithfully record the sound of agony.

What is the meaning of this music? Is it right to use the word 'meaning' in this context? Is the word 'music' appropriate?

IT's autobiographical liner notes provide invaluable anthropological insight into this matter.

IT: "In fact, though this is an obvious fact for the majority, Abruptum is NOT in any ways music, something that for reasons I never grasped, I have had to point out time yet time again".

So if it is not music, what is it then?

IT: "Some 17 years ago I was in an unfathomable hunt for certain parts, veiled within the foundation of myself, prying ever deeper to conjure up my personal anguish, hate, desire and gloomy, spiteful darkness, lurking profound within my corporal shell. (...) Recording this pursuit was a task I chose, not for the somewhat more ordinary causes of recording an album, but purely as a purpose to alter into and transmit this energy right back to myself, thus being able to mirror the matter, reaching even further along this dark road".

Thus, the soundtracks (for want of a better word) on "Evil Genius" are a recursive audial image, one that in heraldry is termed 'mise en abyme' and which is also known as the 'Droste effect': the soundtrack mirrors the author whom mirrors the soundtrack which mirrors the author ... and so on. Thus, Abruptum is called a 'sinister void' in the liner notes.

Moreover, these soundtracks are concerned with the relationship between the author as such and the author as a reader/listener. The soundtracks wish to act upon the latter, to transform the author who is their audience, much as many texts of the Christian and non-Western mystical traditions are transformative texts meant to bring about in the reader the mystical experience described within it. It is, to quote Bataille, 'the putting to death of the author by his work'; and even if the author is dead, the consumer of "Evil Genius" is consumed by what he is consuming ... as if by fire...

Here is a link to a fascinating article on the Dream Time of Black Metal and on that underground music's ambivalent relationship with fascism.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Improve the oratorical qualities of your blog, read Quintilian's treatise on the art of oratory here... A constant source of inspiration!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Striborg - Embittered Darkness / Isle Des Morts

With the notion of expenditure, Georges Bataille developed the idea that human activity cannot be completely be reduced to greed, useful production and conservation of (capital) goods. On the contrary, generosity, improductive squandering also has it's place in human life and keeps that life vital. As reckless waste, as ruinous gift-giving Georges Bataille mentions luxury, war, games, spectacles, sacrifice, art, death and eroticism. Goal-oriented rationality and expenditure are opposites: "An unproductive expenditure is nonsense, or even counter-sense".

Striborg's extremely strange Black Metal obliviously wastes high-end audio equipment, it squanders the aural quality of expensive cd-players, amplifiers and loudspeakers, it ruins their hi-fidelity, it ruins them, it ruins them: Striborg's music is audiophile expenditure.

Accuracy, warmth, tonal color, speed, timbre, size of sound stage, depth, clarity, pace, timing - on other words, all qualitative attributes of high end audio - are utterly squandered when such equipment is used for Striborg's music, which is fuzzed out, cold, hollow-sounding, thin, raw, completely blown out and in the red... The production of Striborgs cd 'Embittered Darkness / Isle Des Morts' presents "... the splendor of rags ..." (Bataille, The Accurse Share Volume 1), and ... and... and here doubt starts, here - dear reader - I loose my sure footing. Bataille continues the words I quoted with "... the somber challenge of indifference". Black Metal can certainly present a somber challenge, but is indifference Black Metal's strategy? Can it really be that desinterest is the strategy of that hysterical genre? No, Black Metal is not ever indifferent, it somberly yet gleefully sacrifices conspicuously accumulated audiophile high end gear.

Striborg relates to well-produced music as a slaughterhouse relates to a museum... one attracts and the other repels, one is proper and clean and the other improper and unclean... Reading some reviews of the 'Embittered Darkness / Isle Des Morts' and ' Nefaria' cds one is struck by the fact that even die-hard Black Metal fans are disgusted by the ugliness of Striborg's production, perhaps feeling it goes a little too far...

The last words of this post focus on Striborg's vocals. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" - and Satan is to God what Striborg's vocals are to the Word: a mockery. "Sin-Nanna growls and gurgles his obtuse black ravings in an impossibly creepy animalistic voice, somewhere between a rabid dog, a tiny demon, and a wicked old witch" (Aquarius Records) ... a list of voice-types to which a toad and Donald Duck with a sore throat might be added. Striborg's vocals mock, Striborg mocks. One cannot remain indifferent.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Headless Review / Jean Rollin and Georges Bataille

Here is a link to an electronic reproduction of "La Revue Acéphale" ("The Headless Review"), a 1937 Surrealist publication by Georges Bataille, Pierre Klossowski, André Masson, Jean Rollin and Jean Wahl. It was the second in a total of four issues. "La Revue Acéphale" was the exoteric manifestation of Bataille's secret society 'Acéphale', which aimed to revitalize the modern world through an ancient rite, that of (human) sacrifice. The reproduced issue was devoted to Nietzsche, whose philosophy it aimed to recuperate from the Nazis. It contains fascinating essays on that philosopher, as well as an highly interesting article on Nazi neo-paganism - all in French.

Nevertheless, all non-Francophones are advised to follow the link anyway and click on 'voir' to see some beautiful illustrations by André Masson.

BTW: the Jean Rollin who participated in this issue of "La Revue Acéphale" is of course not the French cinéfantastique film maker Jean Rollin, who was born in 1938 and couldn't possibly have contributed any articles to this "La Revue Acéphale" (I just corrected the error in Wikipedia).

In fact, it was the filmmaker's father who contributed to the publication. The father was also called Jean Rollin. Jean Rollin's mother, Denise Rollin-Le Gentil, had an (extramarital) relationship with Georges Bataille from october 1939 to the end of 1943.

Tohill and Tombs' "Immoral Tales. Sex & Horror Cinema In Europe 1956-1984" suggest that years later Jean Rollin (the filmmaker, that is), would remember the bedtime stories that Bataille told him, about 'Monsieur le Curé', a wolf dressed in the robes of a priest.

How I would like to have heard those stories!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Alice Coltrane - Universal Consciousness

'Universal Consciousness' is a record of jazz psychedelia and kaleidoscopic polyrythms and lush technicolor fields of Hammond organ ... of an interplay of violin and harp and and drums and bass that is exceedingly nervous, twitching, even neurotic in some parts, and blissfully, sedatedly calm in others ... of such a complexity that the music at times appears to be swirlingly chaotic, bewildering ... a record which presents a confused and unintentionally kitsch pot-pourri of Indian and Islamic and ancient-Egyptian new age imagery (such a strange combination of the mysticisms of utterly different societies, one sedentary, hierarchical, autocratic, mummifying and pyramidical; the other nomadic, military, expansive and conquering; and the last ... well, Indian) ... a record in such a naively poor taste that one can not help but forgive it and give oneself over to the queasy, doubtful pleasures of it's outdated mysticism ... and finally, a record whose sensuousness contradicts the ascetic discipline of the Vedanta and Yoga ...

When I first listened to the album it's neurotic quality made the strongest impression. Even the beautific smile of Alice Coltrane on the album's cover art seems a little desperate, a little lost. That doesn't surprise: Alice Coltrane created the record in 1971, only four years after the death of her famous husband. The entire album appeared to me to be a denial of death, and a denial of the death of her husband in particular. In the liner notes she writes: "Ohnedaruth (John Coltrane), who since four years past repaired to a city of shining radiance, situated in a point in space where stands a mammoth Colossus of Three Worlds, will sound the valourous hymn to the dead in war (...) on a flute". Trane isn't dead, he is not effaced, he is not abolished, he just moved house! And Alice Coltrane's quest for enlightenment is - when read with Bataille analysis of Yoga in "L'Experience Interieure" - a project to surpress pain, a project to deny death. Even the album's title, "Universal Consciousness" refers to a complete and utter absence of non-consciousness, to an absence of materiality, i.e. the absence of death.

But then again, it is all too easy to read the record against it's grain, to misuse it, to use it not for austerity and ascetic discipline, but to let the music lead one to laughter, love, vertigo and madness: 'Universal Consciousness' is dramatic and powerful.

The album was erected as a pyramid for John Coltrane. But hidden inside this pyramid is a labyrinth in which the listener may lose himself.