Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Euronymous as Kafka

In many interviews, Euronymous - the mastermind behind Black Metal band Mayhem - expressed admiration for repressive communist regimes:

"I know you’re interested in communism. Have you been to any communist countries, if yes, what have been your emotions about it?

I’ve been very interested in communism for a while, especially the extreme countries like Albania, Kampuchea, North Korea and so on. I have to say that I have studied so much that I know that real communism would be the best possible system, BUT as I HATE people I don’t want them to have a good time, I’d like to see them rot under communist dictatorship. Ceausescu was great, we need more people like him, Stalin, Pol Pot too. I’ve been to Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the (good) old days, and was about to go to Albania, although it didn’t turn out. Poland was quite all right, but it could have been even MORE gray and depressing. I like secret police, cold war and worshiping of dictators. I like bugging and spying on people, torture chambers in police stations and that people suddenly “disappear”."

From another interview:

"Another personal question here: now that a lot of things have changed in this world of ours, have you stuck to your principles, I mean politically? Euronymous: "As Mayhem is NOT a political band, I don't really like to mix topics like this into band interviews, but anyway I'm still keeping the faith. I openly admit that I am a Stalinist and I'm very fascinated by extreme countries like Albania and Romania in the good old days. I have thought about quitting from the Communist Party though, but this is just because they are not brutal enough any more. It was much better in the '70s, when they were very Albania-inspired and the leader even visited Cambodia during the Red Khmer period and had dinner with Pol Pot!! Those were the days!""

And yet another interview:

People know we are sick, and we give a fuck. Thats what we live (die) for... Stalinism. We hate does 'PEACE, LOVE and DEMOCRACY'-ideas. WAR, SODOMY and DICTATION! We support all extreme and oppressed states like the old ALBANIA, IRAN , KAMPUCHEA under the RED KHMERS and so on. People who are dying and suffering!

We have studied so much politics/theory/economy (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin , Mao, Hoxha) that we know that the world will sooner or later become communistic. Its the marketing economy and capitalisms ideas that will be forced forward sooner or later. Maybe in 30 years, maybe in 300 years. The problem is that communism is fucking good for the people, it's total freedom. Thats why we never wish that it happens. The world can go to hell. We want back the old Stalinist dictatorship, there its was gray, misery and evil. THE BERLIN WALL SHALL RISE AGAIN!!

We were member of a party who was very extreme, they supported the old Albania and their former leader who even was in Kampuchea under the Red Khmers and ate dinner with Pol Pot! Incredibly good! But the party turned humanitarian, so we shall leave it."

Euronymous' statements, crude and childish as they may be, reminded me strongly of Denis Hollier's 1993 book "Absent Without Leave. French Literature under the Threat of War". In this highly interesting work, Hollier analyzes Georges Bataille's paradoxical political position in the nineteenthirties. Hollier's analysis is based on the contrast between Bataille's position and that of Sartre.

Sartre's 1947 book "Qu'est ce que la littérature" ("What is literature?") centers on the crucial Existentialist idea of commitment. Hollier summarizes Sartre's argument: "To want literature to exist is first of all to want a world in which literature is possible, a world which acknowledges its right to exist. The writer must work towards the existence of a world that can give him the means to write and to be read. Committed literature is thus simply literature taking the responsibility for its own conditions of possibility. But this analysis implies that literature insists on being possible."

Bataille's position couldn't be more different: he insists on literature being impossible. For Bataille, literature could only have meaning if it was transgressive, that is if it crossed moral boundaries while affirming them. Literature would only be meaningful if it were forbidden.

In Communist societies, bourgeois tastes - aesthetic art - would be impossible to defend as long the class struggle is not overcome. For this reason, literature is transgressive in Communist societies, and it has a meaning there it does not have in liberal democracies. In the chapter on Kafka in his 1957 book 'Literature and Evil', Bataille wrote: "If the adult gives a major sense of childishness, if he writes with the feeling that he is touching a sovereign value, he has no place in Communist society." Hollier: "According to Bataille, this exclusion is the perverse and paradoxical reason why Communist society corresponds better than any other to the secret wishes of a writer like Kafka - who always harbored a desire for a society that denied him the right to exist".

In the repressive Stalinist and Maoist societies that Euronymous lauded in the above interviews, not only were there prescriptions for artistic work; the regime also attempted to regulate the lifestyle of artists. "Socialist realism" was the only acceptable aesthetic, an aesthetic which was characterized by a militant communist partisanship, an idealistic world view, and optimism. Art was denied the right to exist, supplanted by party propaganda. Writers, artists and performers who did not conform to the prescriptions of party propaganda, suffered censorship, prosecution and - certainly in Cambodia - death.

The very societies Euronymous said to admire, would have denied Black Metal and Black Metal musicians the right to exist. In two earlier posts (here and here), I've written that Black Metal may well be the most playful genre of Metal, and that its playfulness attests to its childlike vitality. Realism, idealism and optimism are as far removed from the Black Metal aesthetic as can be. There is little doubt that if Euronymous had made in a Communist society the music he made with Mayhem, he would have ended his life in a psychiatric ward, prison, Gulag, torture center, death camp.

One might counter that Euronymous' wish for a repressive Communist society was purely based on a straightforward sadist impulse, or on a power-mad desire to become a totalitarian ruler. However, an interview with Euronymous on Swedish radio, probably from February or March 1993, provides further documentation of his position. In the interview, of which you can find the YouTube videos in the 'post scriptum', Euronymous states:

"From what we have heard there are extreme, fundamentalist Christians planning actions against us, which we think is great. We want to see Christians become militant. We hate to see the born again Christians going around being nice to the whole world. That's extremely annoying. We want so see Christians with weapons coming here to kill us. That's what we want."

Like Kafka, Euronymous had a perverse and paradoxical desire for a society (Christian or Stalinist) that denied him the right to exist.

However, Euronymous had a practical problem: he lived in a European social democracy, a society which was very unlikely to deny him the right to exist. Much of Euronymous' extremism can be understood as an impossible rebellion against a social democrat utopia, as the result of a desire to provoke this utopia into denying him the right to exist. Isn't expressing admiration for brutally repressive totalitarian regimes a transgression of the values of social democracy? In fact, the crudeness with which Euronymous expresses his ideas may in itself be a form of rebellion.

Ironically, Euronymous met his end at the hands not of the social democrat society he provoked but at the hands of one of his erstwhile companions in evil: Kristian 'Varg' Vikernes, the man behind one-man Black Metal band Burzum. Ironically? In fact, Vikernes had started to subscribe to a totalitarian (Fascist, not Communist) ideology, the ideology which would stamp out Black Metal if it came to power. Vikernes subscribed (and still subscribes) to Fascism in a straightforward manner, having ironed out all the ambiguities, perversities and paradoxes that characterized Euronymous' position with regards to totalitarianism. Because of this straightforwardness, Vikernes' ideological writings do no evoke exuberance; on the contrary, the life it evokes is unremittingly dreary.

Nevertheless, there is an important difference between the totalitarianism evoked by Euronymous and that evoked by Vikernes. Where Vikernes' vjsual aesthetic recalls the gaudy and nostalgic pseudo-folklore kitsch of National-Socialism, the anti-aesthetic of Euronymous revels in the gray and the miserable. It is in fact the gray of the colorless and arid world of the bureaucracies of the pseudo-justice of Kafka's The Castle and The Trial. Furthermore, where Vikernes' aesthetic evokes a triumphant totalitarianism, the totalitarianism Euronymous evokes is in a sense a failed totalitarianism, a totalitarianism which is provoked into brutal repression because it encounters something irreducible to its ideology. And what is it, that is irreducible? It is childishness, the perfect puerility of Kafka and Euronymous.

"It is by childishness that humanity, in its nascent state, shows its essential nature."

Post scriptum

The interview with Euronymous from Mayhem on Swedish radio, probably from February or March 1993:


Here is a link to an interesting review of Hollier's book.

My post on Dead Raven Choir's album 'My Firstborn Will Surely Be Blind" also explores Euronymous' fascination for Eastern Bloc dictatorships.

Euronymous as Kafka, Hitler as Kalki.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Decentred Acquisition Strategy

Quality control through a decentered acquisition strategy: buying Metal releases from Boomkat, and buying Electronica and Dancee releases from Aquarius.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Exotica - Carmen Miranda

"With her arrival in New York, she found her speech, accent and mannerisms turned into idiocies by the American media. The American public (and Wittgenstein) loved her for her fractured accent and odd expressions, the inter-language of her songs ans high-speed repartee, part-English, part-Portuguese, part-monkey cries and sound poetry. Men, of course, lusted after her exotic exuberance or, lusting after other men, they dressed in Carmen Miranda outfits." From "Exotica. Fabricated soundscapes in a real world", by David Toop (Serpent's Tail, 1999)


"In the 1930s, whenever he felt exhausted and drained from his classes at Cambridge, Ludwig Wittgenstein would go to the cinema with a friend or some student. Ray Monk tells us that he would always sit in the front row, where he could probably immerse himself more completely in the stream of images and sound, and he preferred either westerns or musicals starring
the Portuguese-Brazilian Carmen Miranda." From "Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir", by Norman Malcolm (Oxford University Press, 1958).

Wittgenstein, Directed by Derek Jarman, Britain 1993, color, 35mm, 76 min.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Buried Melodies

Melodies 'buried' beneath chaos, noise, buzz - the funerary metaphor is a staple, if not a cliché of Black Metal reviews:

"Leichenbergen (corps mountains) plods along dissonantly and onevenly with orchestral stabs and bass wails to reveal some deaden melody's buried beneath the chaos (...)" (here)

"Watain build walls of noise with melodies buried deep within (...)" (here)

"(...) there's even some pretty melodies - buried way in the mix, but still there, like the glistening droplets of synth around the beginning of 'Wandering the Wilderness...'., and the quite lovely but also devastatingly morose melody in the title track that Xasthur would kill for." (here)

"Loping mid-tempo buzz over buried angelic choruses, like Morricone's The Mission performed by Graveland." (here)

The 'burial' metaphor points towards a way of listening to Black Metal that is teleological - like an archeologist, the listener excavates the melodies, removing the soil, chaos, noise and buzz until the musical truth is revealed. This way of listening to Black Metal can be likened to watching a strip tease (seeing clothes stripped away, in the hope of the revelation of the sexual organ) or reading a suspense novel (the obfuscations of the plot being stripped away to reveal 'whodunnit'). Listening to Black Metal this way is primarily an intellectual pleasure: one learns to discern, one learns to know, to understand the melodic origin or destiny of the music. The melody would serve as a transcendent signifier, as the source of the whole song, as the source of Black Metal signification.

However, I feel the situation of Black Metal is a little more complicated. After all, Black Metal is a necro(-philiac) genre - the melody is only excavated because it is cold and dead. And how did melody die? It died because it was buried alive. Melody asphyxiated, dehydrated, starved in a tomb of chaos, noise and buzz. Why was it buried alive? Only to dig it up again. For Black Metal, love smells like death.

Post scriptum

Of course, this post is deeply indebted to "The Pleasure of the Text' by Roland Barthes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Current 93 - Live at the Roadburn Festival

Last Sunday - April 20th 2008 - I saw Current 93 (David Tibet supported by no less than eleven musicians) live at 013 venue in Tilburg, the Netherlands.

Tibet's performance and its psychological effect on myself, reminded me strongly of the 1958 ethnography 'Voodoo In Haiti' by Alfred Métraux:

"The explanation of mystical trance given by disciples of Voodoo is simple: a loa moves into the head of an individual having first driven out the 'big good angel' (gros bon ange) - one of the two souls that everyone carries within himself. This eviction of the soul is responsible for the tremblings and convulsions which characterize the opening stages of trance. Once the good angel has gone the person possessed experiences a feeling of total emptiness as though he were fainting. His head whirls, the calves of his legs tremble; he now becomes not only the vessel but also the instrument of the god. From now on it is the god's personality and not his own which is expressed in his bearing and words. The play of his features, his gestures and even the tone of his voice all reflect the temperament and the character of the god who has descended upon him.


The preliminary crisis has a contagious effect, particularly upon people who are nervous or unstable. That is why the sight of a possession often has the effect of provoking others, not only among the hunsi who are ready to be ridden by the gods but also among the spectators who have come as visitors or out of curiosity.


Unlike an hysteric who shows his own misery and desires by means of a symptom - which is an entirely personal form of expression - the man who is ritually possessed must correspond to the traditional conception of some mythical personage.

And by which mythical personage is the man ritually possessed? By Walter Benjamin's angel of history:

"A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress."

Post scriptum

I also met these very nice people (not familiar with their music, though).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Exotica - Yma Sumac

From 'Exotica. Fabricated soundscapes in a real world' by David Toop:

"Yma Sumac's origins are still in doubt, muddied by claims she was an Incan princess, a descendant of Atahualpa, who was killed by the Spanish in 1527. This dubious legend was matched by counterclaims that she was Amy Camus from Brooklyn. (...)

Only few singers possess the freakish, octave quality of Sumac's voice. (...) A generic jungle landscape is conjured, interspersed with magisterial orchestral climaxes, presumably suggestive of pyramids, citadels and sun temples rising out of forests." (...)

Sumac, like the parabola of her voice - its low moans and masculine gutteral, the musical saw of her upper registers - floats between identities, wrapped in the image manufacturing of Hollywood and her self-created ambiguities.

Below are YouTube videos to the 1954 film 'Secret of the Incas' which stars Sumac.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Paysage D'Hiver (pt. 2)

Winter, snow and whiteness are among the richest of metaphors. No doubt an immensely interesting post could be written about Paysage d'Hiver using the work of Mallarmé, Blanchot, Célan. But for this post, I've chosen a more ethnographic approach.

Thus, to investigate the meaning of winter landscapes in Black Metal, I turned to amateur reviews of Paysage D'Hiver's music on the internet, gathering the metaphors which connect music to winter landscape from forums and sites such as Metal-Archives. Below, I've analyzed the most central metaphors, to understand what the listener 'does' with the music.

The music of Paysage D'Hiver serves to evoke images of winter landscapes in the listener's minds. One fan writes: "Paysage D'Hiver means landscape of winter apparently and this name aptly describes what you hear." Another fan: "Listening to this makes you portray immense frozen mountains." Yet another fan: "The main concepts of course are winter and darkness, and the music provides a platform to meditate on these concepts. If one can understand this link of what the music means in relation to the concept of PdH, then the music will immediately make more sense. One will come to realize that this particular music is music to think and even dream upon."

Paysage D'Hiver's music can be called a musical equivalent to St. Ignatius De Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. Where the Saint's Exercises makes the believer visualize Hell, Jesus and other symbols of Christianity, Paysage D'Hiver makes the listener visualize winter landscapes. In Paysage D'Hiver as well as in the Exercises, sound (music/prayer) is subservient to sight.

Where Roland Barthes sees the Exercises as an metaphoric and metonymic list of God's attributes, the music of Paysage D'Hiver is a metaphoric ('cold' ambient, metal) and metonymic (environmental sounds) sonic list of the attributes of winter. A fan writes: "Much like Immortal's Blizzard Beasts the music whirls and blasts past you in a scream which sounds a lot like a blizzard. The lack of hooks and breaks as well as the track lengths also mimic a winter storm very well."

Snow reduces the visual variety of a landscape to a minimum, by covering all with a white blanket.

Paysage D'Hiver's music is described by many fan reviewers as "minimalist": "...one of the coldest and darkest minimalist black metal projects yet. It is so minimal that at times a riff repeats for over 10 minutes."; "The music here is minimalistic"; "...this music is all about repetition...". In fact, the music incorporates both the static (long, ambient tones) and the repetitive (riffing with only minimal variations over long periods of time) varieties of musical minimalism.

One reviewer calls Paysage D'Hiver's poor production "minimalist": "The production value is also minimalistic being extremely thin.". Here, minimalism is interpreted as an ascesis of production, as strict self-denial of the joys of high production value as a measure of spiritual discipline.

Paysage D'Hiver's minimalism has a functional aspect with regards to the visualization of winter landscapes. As one fan writes: "To me there's a dualism that is unfounded when experiencing the minimalistic atmosphere that, with the right headphones and approach, can send the listener to a completely frozen and lonely landscape...". Another fan: "[The music] opens up the imagination and paints landscapes of darkness and snow. That is why the repetition and steady droning of the guitars is essential. It is so that there will be no sudden in jolt to ones thoughts." Yet another fan: "Even if there are very few melodies in each song, it's not due to a lack of inspiration from its composer in this case, but more by his will of creating a Hypnotic/Initiatic atmosphere which leads to the harmony/osmose with the nature and Elements, like by shamanic rites." Here, minimalist repetition has a mantra-like function. Wasn't minimalism as a musical style influenced by Indian music, Terry Riley and La Monte Young studying with Pandit Pran Nath?

"She's pure as the driven snow" is an expression which associates snow with purity, with the absence of any heterological taint, with the absence of anything associated with the body, the desires, passions, etc.

In the context of Black Metal - a necrophiliac and Satanic musical genre - purity may be an unexpected metaphor. On the other hand, any metaphor combining whiteness and purity will evoke disquieting associations with the the racism ('racial purity') so prevalent in NSBM.

But the purity of Paysage D'Hiver is "purity of vision" - or, to put it less kindly, the monomania with which Wintherr pursues his vision of winter. Monocolor white equals monomanic music.

Static noise
"The guitars and vocals white out sounding like fluctuations in malevolent static." Here, static noise is associated with snow. Perhaps the association is brought about by the popular expression for the view on a television screen with no reception: tv snow. Here, nature is not the teacher of art; on the contrary, technology (static) informs nature (snow).
Of course, static noise is also connected to the stasis of minimalism and purity.

Aesthetic danger
In the semiological landscape of Paysage D'Hiver, danger, beauty and nature are closely intertwined. One fan likens the music to "...a completely frozen and lonely landscape where the only conflict [the listeners] face is (...) the fierce beauty known as winter." Another likens the experience of listening to this music to "...being assaulted by the beauty, majesty and ferocity of the winter landscape." The music's harshness is also connected to an aestheticized danger: "The instruments in these heavy passages blend into each other as the droning blast beats and ragged guitar squalls become a massive wall of black noise, conveying the harsh and uncompromising force of a winter storm."

A salient feature of this reception of Paysage D'Hiver's music is that the listener puts himself on the receiving end of nature's violence. In this, I'm reminded of Carol Clover's analysis of horror films, 'Man, women and chain saws'. Like Black Metal, horror films seem to offer sadistic pleasure to their viewers, a pleasure in which violence is directed outside. Clover, however, argues the reverse: that these films are designed to align spectators not with the male tormentor, but with the female tormented--with the suffering, pain, and anguish that the "final girl" endures.

Of course, the intertwining of nature, beauty and danger finds its origin in the philosophical concept of the sublime, which found its eighteenth-century origin in the Swiss Alps, the very area where Paysage D'Hiver's Wintherr lives. Byron:

"Above me are the Alps,
The palaces of Nature, whose vast walls
Have pinnacled in clouds their snowy scalps,
And throned Eternity in icy halls
of cold sublimity, where forms and falls
The avalanche - the thunderbolt of snow!
All that expends the spirit, yet appalls
Gather around these summits."

As Marjorie Hope Nicolson wrote in her 1959 study 'Mountain Gloom, Mountain Glory. The development of the aesthetics of the infinite', to poets of the seventeenth century, and to their predecessors, mountains were not at all beautiful: they were inconvenient, they were seen as repellent warts which disfigured the symmetry of the face of the Earth, they were the symbols of Gods wrath. But in the eighteenth century, under the influence of Romanticism, mountains became to be seen as the cathedrals of nature. Rather than a sensation of formlessness and ugliness, mountains produced "...a delightful Horrour, a terrible Joy (...)" (John Dennis, 1688). Nicolson's thesis is that this change was made possible by the Enlightenment, which gave humankind the illusion of rational control that reduced nature to an object of aesthetic contemplation. No longer were mountains fearful barriers; they now became grand spectacles for secularized religious impulses. The ambiguous sentiment expressed by John Dennis is close to Rudolf Otto's concept of the numenous. For Otto, the Holy is a mysterium tremendum and fascinosum: a mystery that simultaneously fascinates (attracts) and frightens (repels).

The reception of Paysage D'Hiver's music is informed by the concept of the sublime - an alpine Romantic Agony. In a sense, this is a pity. Black Metal is a "wart, went, blister, impostume" upon the otherwise fair face of music. Paysage D'Hiver could have been received as a perverse postmodern reincarnation of the pre-Romantic view of mountains as fearful, grim and ugly.

The music of Paysage D'Hiver is used as a monomanic, minimalist musical mantra. This mantra is supposed to help the listener to visualize Alpine winter landscapes, and to experience this landscape as sublime, an aesthetic emotion of simultaneous attraction and fear, an emotion which finds its origin in Romanticism. Listening to Paysage D'Hiver is a phantasmatic practice.
How this practice is connected to other elements of the listener's lives (social, economic, psychological, political etc.) falls outside of the scope of this post.

I think the fan reviews serve as 'instructions for use' of the music, a ' how to' guide to the phantasmatic practice, detailing for the benefit of the listener what do with this Black Metal. They specify a preferred technique or procedure designed to direct the experience of the music. That there is a preferred technique or procedure implies that there may be other, forgotten or expelled uses of Paysage D'Hiver's music. I myself, however, still enjoy listening to Paysage d'Hiver in the orthodox way.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Paysage D'Hiver (pt. 1)

No such thing as a "zero degree of winter" is possible. An objective, neutral, transparent, naked winter is impossible. No winter can be experienced without pathos, without color.

This is not only true for literary representations of winter, but also for musical representations of the coldest season. Even such a starkly minimal album as "Un peu de neige salie" by Bernhard Günter is still stained with meaning.

Winter landscapes are a symbol of Black Metal. They are one of the most important strands of Black Metal's cultural 'web of significance' (Geertz). Winter landscapes (snow) are to Black Metal what tropical landscapes (palm trees) are to Exotica. What is the context of winter in Black Metal? To which other signs is winter connected? What is the meaning of winter?

To answer these questions, I turn to Paysage D'Hiver, a Swiss Black Metal band. Paysage D'Hiver is a solo project; the man behind the moniker is thirty-year old Wintherr. Strongly influenced by Burzum, Paysage D'Hiver integrates Ambient, environment recordings (howling winds and wolves) and Black Metal. As evinced by the name of the band and the musician, winter and wintry landscapes are the band's central theme.



Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Black Metal Exotica

As with all Black Metal, the piquancy (if it exists) lies in two conflicting responses: the immediate effect of the arrangements, which can be appreciated for their bizarre originality; followed by (or, in some cases, preceded by) a displaced reaction to the music’s absurdity in a poisonous context. Lovable and detestable, arrogant and naive, skillful and stupid, the nature of their kitsch leaves them saturated with levels of meaning that less controversial, more conventionally worthwhile musics often fail to deliver”.

This citation is from David Toop’s book “Exotica. Fabricated soundscapes in a real world”. I merely replaced the word ‘exotica’ with ‘Black Metal’.

Though the musics (as well as the poison of their contexts, their arrogance and naiveness) may have very different colors and tastes, their reception has a similar structure.

Friday, April 11, 2008

David Toop - Exotica. Fabricated soundscapes in a real world

"Exotica is the art of ruins, the ruined world of enchantment laid waste in fervid imagination, the paradox of an imperial paradise liberated from colonial intervention, a golden age recreated through the lurid colours of a cocktail glass, illusory and remote zones of pleasure and peace dreamed after the bomb. Nothing is left, except for beaches, palm trees, tourist sites with their moss-covered monuments, shops stocked with native art made for the invaders, beachcomber bars and an absurd perception of what may once have been.

Just ruins and a spell, repeated endlessly to provoke fading memories: lust and terror, chainsaw bikers, sultry tropical airs, Aztec spells, x-ray eyes and hot pants, sunken cities, lost cities, singing sea shells, electric frogs, bustin' bongos, wild stuffed bikinis, jungle jazz, sacred idols, space escapades, switchblade sisters, pits and pendulums, tabu, taboo, tamboo, taboo, tabuh, tamboo, tabuh-tabuhan.

This post is the first in a series of posts inspired by David Toops 1999 book 'Exotica. Fabricated soundscapes in a real world'. These posts will present to you YouTube videos of the musicians and films featured in Toop's book.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Georges Bataille - The Sacrifice of the Gibbon

Pondering the post on Abruptum and Hermann Nitsch, I was reminded of Georges Bataille's short story "Le sacrifice du Gibbon", which was written between 1927 and 1930.

Like the work of Hermann Nitsch, animal sacrifice is at the center of attention in this text. However, where Nitsch sacrifices European farm animals, referencing a 'cheerful, rural, attractive' paganism, Bataille's sickening tale sacrifices a Gibbon. This unusual choice of animal adds a frisson of decadent exotica.

This in turn lead me to wonder how an Abruptum would sound in which the instruments form the European classical tradition (violin, piano) would have been replaced with instruments which signify 'exotica': congas, bongos, harp, tambourine, celeste, alto flute, Korean stone chimes, Burmese gongs, Chinese woodblocks, Japanese bells, African xylophones and marimbas, gamelan instruments from Indonesia, Yma Sumac replacing Diamanda Galas.

Abruptum meets Les Baxter: perhaps I've liked David Toop's book on Hollywood's misappropriations of indigenous musics a little bit too much...

Anyway, the story is reproduced below.

The Sacrifice of the Gibbon

In order to renew this tender pact between belly and nature, a rotting forest offers its deceptive latrines, swarming with animals, colored or venomous in sects, worms, and little birds. Solar light decomposes in the high branches. An Englishwoman, transfigured by a halo of blond hair, abandons her splendid body to the lubricity and the imagination (driven to the point of ecstasy by the stunning odor of decay) of a number of nude men.

Her humid lips open to kisses like a sweet swamp, like a noiseless flowing river, and her eyes, drowned in pleasure, are as immensely lost as her mouth. Above the entwined human beasts who embrace and handle her, she raises her marvelous head, so heavy with bedazzlement, and her eyes open on a scene of madness.

Near a round pit, freshly dug in the midst of exuberant vegetation, a giant female gibbon struggles with three men, who tie her with long cords: her face is even more stupid than it is ignoble, and she lets out unbelievable screams of fear, screams answered by the various cries of small monkeys in the high branches. Once she is trussed up like a chicken-with her legs folded back against her body-the three men tie her upside down to a stake planted in the middle of the pit. Attached in this way, her bestially howling mouth swallows dirt while, on the other end, her huge screaming pink anal protrusion stares at the sky like a flower (the end of the stake runs between her belly and her bound paws): only the part whose obscenity stupefies emerges above the top level of the pit.

Once these preparations are finished, all the men and women present (there are, in fact, several other women, no less taken with debauchery) surround the pit: at this moment they are all equally nude, all equally deranged by the avidity of pleasure (exhausted by voluptuousness), breathless, at wits' end . . .

They are all armed with shovels, except the Englishwoman: the earth destined to fill the pit is spread evenly around it. The ignoble gibbon, in an ignoble posture, continues her terrifying howl, but, on a signal from the Englishwoman, everyone busies himself shoveling dirt into the pit, and then quickly stamps it down: thus, in the blink of an eye, the horrible beast is buried alive.

A relative silence settles: all the stupefied glances are fixed on the filthy, beautifully blood-colored solar prominence, sticking out of the earth and ridiculously shuddering with convulsions of agony. Then the Englishwoman with her charming rear end stretches her long nude body on the filled pit: the mucous- flesh of this bald false skull, a little soiled with shit at the radiate flower of its summit, is even more upsetting to see when touched by pretty white fingers. All those around hold back their cries and wipe their sweat; teeth bite lips; a light foam even flows from overly troubled mouths: contracted by strangulation, and even by death, the beautiful boil of red flesh is set ablaze with stinking brown flames...

Like a storm that erupts and, after several minutes of intolerable delay, ravishes in semidarkness an entire countryside with insane cataracts of water and blasts of thunder, in the same disturbed and profoundly overwhelming way (albeit with signs infinitely more difficult to perceive), existence itself shudders and attains a level where there is nothing more than a hallucinatory void, an odor of death that sticks in the throat.

In reality, when this puerile little vomiting took place, it was not on a mere carcass that the mouth of the Englishwoman crushed her most burning, her sweetest kisses, but on the nauseating JESUVE: the bizarre noise of kisses, pro longed on flesh, clattered across the disgusting noise of entrails. But these unheard-of circumstances had set off orgasms, each more suffocating and spas modic than its predecessor, in the circle of unfortunate observers; all throats were strangled by raucous cries, by impossible sighs, and, from all sides, eyes humid with the brilliant tears of vertigo.

Post scriptum

Text through the Sex, drugs and post-structuralism blog (here).

Monday, April 07, 2008

Two From Otto Muehl

I'm still thinking of an incredibly convoluted, post-structuralist way to say: "Not fit for work!"

Kardinal (1967)

Leda und der Schwan (1964)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Velvet Cacoon - glossolalia

Cryptic messages from Velvet Cacoon. Will the fabled "P aa opal Poere Pr. 33" ever see the light?

Anise Royal

Luxury Seaworks
Particles of a Saltpetal
Antique Ports
Seaweed Accord
Olivecake & Candlesmoke

This, the 2nd act of enamoured artisseries.

April 1st, 2008

I'm free to explain, everything, is, giong to paln..

anise royal


February 8th, 2007

Vo melie aa prennex tave ne filoqe vaelin. Plua avellie priavsere xavennele plua "P aa opal Poere Pr. 33" sole filoqe o emriets lu ne fleteprians veruqe prestielka o rolle lux. Sennia ue "2, Claverie, Grevona, Marylux, Oviamoire, Sovarine, Flouvonne" lexefi embuan o oprotte lu 2004 sole plua "Genevieve".

Abruptum - In Umbra Malitae Ambulabo, in Aeternum in Triumpho Tenebrarum

"The most extreme intensity raises our experience to excess, to raging, painful happiness. The excess of the play is ordained by ominous music and ecstatic screaming." - Hermann Nitsch.

Swedish Black Metal duo Abruptum released their second album "In Umbra Malitae Ambulabo, in Aeternum in Triumpho Tenebrarum" in 1994. It was brought out on Øystein 'Euronymous' Aarseth's record label Deathlike Silence Productions, and was to be Aarseth's last release: he would soon be murdered by Burzum's Kristian 'Varg' Vikernes.

Praised by Aarseth as "the pure essence of audial evil", the duo ('IT' and 'Evil') reputedly recorded their music during orgies of self-torture. Aarseth on the album in 1993: "A couple of weeks after this, the Abruptum LP will be released. This will be the most gruesome and black album ever, it's not ordinary music but pure EVIL on vinyl. The guys were torturing each other in the studio, they were whipping, beating, cutting, burning and pouring boiling water over each other DURING the recording, and you can HEAR it from the music that they were SUFFERING! " (link).

The music on this album can be characterized as a decentered and destructured installation of Doom Metal, Black Metal and cavernous Ambient. Instruments which are unusual in Black Metal, such as piano and violin, are part of the musical material. The only human sound on the album is that of cries, screams, groans: the sound of human anguish. That 'In Umbra...' is a recording of a physical event rather than a conventional album of music, is borne out by the fact that it is a single, hour-long track.

I interpret Abruptum's music as an audio documentation of transgressive performance art actions aimed at the sensory experience of pain and suffering. The performance art actions explore existential experience. Abruptum's vocalist IT: "Some 17 years ago I was in an unfathomable hunt for certain parts, buried within the foundations of myself, prying ever deeper to conjure up my personal anguish, hate, desire and the gloomy, spiteful darkness, lurking profound within my corporeal shell".

For me, Abruptum's releases are a Black Metal 'Orgien Mysterien Theater' (a "Theater of Orgies and Mysteries"). Could not the next text have been written by a more literate, more intellectual IT?:

"The truly new about my theater is the victory over role-playing, brought about by staging real events. Real events automatically lead to a total art work. They can be experienced with all five senses. They can be tasted, smelled, can be heard, be seen and felt. Besides the visual dominance of my theater, which tries to make one let go of speech, noise is an essential factor. First, noise takes the role of music in my total art work. My music has it's roots in the cry, in noise, is connected to the most extreme excitement, which is a necessity for the theater. In the history of man, the cry comes before the word, and the cry occurs when the excitement is so strong that the word no longer suffices. My music is in no way illustrative or an addition to the Actions. The music comes literally from the excitement of the event. The music intensifies the Action, the Action activates the music. She delves deeper into the catastrophe of the drama. As a consequence, my acoustic formation has developed beyond the extreme, archaic expressions that I nevertheless do not wish to abandon. The instrumental timbre becomes ever more essential. (...)

Orgiastic music should place us in an intense state of 'finding existence'. The O.M. Theatre can be likened to a giant symphony in six parts. The intense impressions on the senses, which the O.M. Theater's orgiastic desecrating actions bring about, the visual, olfactory and taste sensations of blood, flesh and innards should grow into roaring, thundering tones."

The text is, of course, the work of the notorious Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch. Nitsch, together with Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, and Rudolf Schwartzkogler, is associated with the art movement known as Wiener Aktionismus, an art movement infamous for extremely physical, transgressive performances. Nitsch's performances are rituals of sacrifice which incorporate the ceremonial slaughter of animals, the drinking of their blood, being smeared with their viscera and entrails, crucifixion, drunken excess and nudity. Nitsch's performances have no audiences, but only active participants. He calls these rituals 'Das Orgien Mysterien Theater'.

Many photographs of these rituals in my 1983 catalogue of a Nitsch exhibition in the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, could also have been made at one of Abruptum's self-tormenting performance art actions. And wouldn't Abruptum's music have been the perfect expression of the happenings filmed by Nitsch's close colleague Otto Muehl? Or vice versa, wouldn't these disturbing films have been the perfect music videos for Abruptum's music? Both music and films are filthy, disturbing, destructured, decentered, evil.

Both Nitsch and Abruptum use elements of Roman Catholic ritual in their work, and both use these elements in a heterodox way. Where Nitsch uses the ritual implements of Catholicism (chasubles, monstrances) for their association with a 'cheerful, rural, attractive' paganism, Abruptum uses the ritual language of the Catholic mass for it's association with occult sorcery. IT: "Why the 'Latin only' lyrics? Unquestionably for the plain reason that the composition and atmosphere fuses to the form in the only way viable for me, and because we find this language has been used in occult practices in a fairly near past."

In their musical and theatrical performances, both Nitsch and Abruptum de-privilege text: lyrics and playscript are lost in cries of torment and ecstasy. Where Nitsch spatters canvases with blood and gore to create tachistic paintings, Abruptum can be said to create tachistic Black Metal. Like Nitsch's theater, Abruptum's music works with extra-ordinary power. The music heralds the most extreme forms of mental activity - bloodthirstiness, intoxication, orgiasm, ecstasy, agony, mystical perception, etc. In Abruptum, destructive passions reach their fulfillment.

Post scriptum

Some of Nitsch's recordings you can find on the dmtls Merzbau blog.

The recordings include the clucking of chickens, part of the listening environment of the Prinzendorf castle where the Wiener Aktionismus rituals took place. These 'pet sounds' I would have loved to hear in those of Abruptum: for me, few sounds are as sinister as the clucking of chickens. Perhaps it is that I associate that clucking with Tobe Hooper's 1974 film 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre'; perhaps it is that they remind me of one of Skinny Puppy's most ominous tracks, 'Epilogue' from their 1987 album 'Cleanse Fold And Manipulate' which samples the chickens from Hooper's film; or perhaps they remind me of Pierre Verger's terrible photographs of Voodooists which bite off the heads of chickens. Abruptum with chickens would have killed me.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Malefic Automobiles (epilogue)

From Voodoo folklore: "According to popular belief [malefic sorcerers] do their nocturnal raids in motor-cars. A few years ago there was much talk in Port-au-Prince of a 'tiger car' (auto-tigre) which took people away at night to 'eat' them."

This tale anticipates the emergence of a horror film subgenre in the late 1970s in which malefic, possessed automobiles terrorize American communities. This is the epilogue to a short series of posts showcasing trailers for these films. The epilogue is inspired by comments to the previous posts by Bruce, who pointed me to the 1974 television film "Killdozer".

The plot of 'Killdozer' is based on a 1944 novella by Theodore Sturgeon. The film anticipates 'The Car' by three years, and is a Lovecraftian variation on the theme of malefic, possessed automobiles. Construction workers building an airstrip on a small Pacific Island encounter an ancient non-material, extraterrestrial lifeform which came to Earth in a meteorite and lived in the ruins of an ancient temple for millenia. When one of the workers rams the meteor rock with a Caterpillar D9 tractor, a blue light is emitted which causes the tractor to stop running. Later, the tractor is possessed by the extraterrestrial entity and starts killing the construction workers.



'Killdozer' inspired the noise rock trio of the same name, from Madison, Wisconsin. The band which was formed in 1984 and broke up in 1996. Killdozer's 1989 track 'New Pants And Shirt' from the album 'Twelve Point Buck' was covered in 2002 by Teeth of the Lion Rule the Divine (which contained Cathedral's Dorrian Gray and SUNN0))) luminaries Greg Anderson and Stephen o'Malley).

Thanks again Bruce!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Lair Of The Minotaur video

Check out this brand new video from Lair of the Minotaur: a very graphic crossbreed between "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", a trashy Italian sword and sandal film, a Herschell Gordon Lewis film and Redemption horror video cover artwork. Found through the Southern Lord Records blog. Lovable in all it's idiocy.