Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Cathedral That Is Red

This looks extremely interesting:

"Defying the Atlantic with Broadband connections, The Red Cathedral was formed by members of Krieg, Njiqahdda, Wraiths and Caïna in late 2008 to make evil hellnoise - music to follow shortly."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

iTunes list 2008

These are the albums which my iTunes indicates have been added in 2008 and have been played most often, in descending order:

1) Hototogisu - Some Blood Will Stick
2) Aluk Todolo - Descension
3) Various Artists - Basic Replay
4) Leviathan - Massive Conspiracy Against All Life
5) Hototogisu - Green
6) Ofermod - Mysterion Tes Anomias
7) Skullflower - Desire For A Holy War
8) Ghäst / Yoga - Split
9) The Bug - London Zoo
10) Krieg - The Black House

The chosen criterion means that albums which have been released before 2008 also appear on the list. I've reviewed all of these albums on this blog, except the Krieg album and the Basic Replay album.

Obviously, albums added late this year are somewhat at a disadvantage.

Furthermore, it should be taken into account that I use the iPod mainly for commuting - Ambient is unlikely to be played frequently as the noise of the trains would spoil it. This means that excellent albums such as Kevin Drumm's Imperial Distortion, Expo '70's Black Ohms, Fennesz' The Black Sea and Aethenor's Betimes Black Cloudmasses do not appear in the list.

Furthermore, genres such as Dubstep and Dancehall are underrepresented: the missus doesn't like Black Metal and Noise, so I tend to play the former genres relatively more often over the stereo and less on the iPod. This means that albums such as Benga's Diary of an Afro Warrior, Skull Disco's Soundboy's Gravestone Gets Desecrated By Vandals, as well as the compilations Dancehall. The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture, An England Story. The Culture of the MC in the UK 1984-2008, Wackies Sampler V0lumes 1, 2 and 3, and King Jammy's Selector's Choice Volume 1 are absent.

Anticipated albums for 2009 are Velvet Cacoon's Atropine, Aethenor's Faking Gold & Murder (featuring David Tibet), Khanate's Clean Hands Go Foul, Sunn 0)))'s Dimensions, Lurker of Chalice's Perverse Calculus (does anybody know something about its status?), Deathspell Omega's Chaining the Katechon, as well as Xasthur's new album. A compilation announced by Tumult has piqued my interest also: Unblack and Blessed.

Now that I'm at it, these are the albums which I've played most often since I bought my iBook in 2005 (in alphabetical order):

1) Abruptum – Evil Genius
2) Can – Future Days
3) Haemoth – Kontamination
4) Hototogisu – Spooked Summer
5) Leviathan – Tentacles of Whorror
6) Mirag – Black Temple Carved In Smoke
7) Skullflower – IIIrd Gatekeeper
8) Skullflower – Orange Canyon Mind
9) Velvet Cacoon – Genevieve
10) Xasthur/Leviathan - Split

As you can see, I'm a sucker for Matthew Bower's work.

Post scriptum

To the list of anticipated albums I should add Svarte Greiner's second full-length album, “Kappe”.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shock Xpress - Vietnam Vets (pt. 3)

In an article in the first Shock Xpress book ('Fighting A Battle That is Finished - The Cinematic Plight Of The Vietnam Vet'), film journalist, co-founder of Headpress and co-author of the books Killing For Culture and See No Evil, David Kerekes examines the portrayal of the Vietnam veteran in exploitation cinema. These are trailers for some of the films discussed in the article.

Forced Entry (Jim Sotos, 1975)

Jacob's Ladder
(Adrian Lyne, 1990)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Aidan Baker and Tim Hecker - Fantasma Parastasie


The cover art of Aidan Baker and Tim Hecker's recent musical collaboration 'Fantasma Parastasie' shows a Phantasmagoria.

A Phantasmagoria was a magic lantern show, invented in France in the late 18th century. In these shows, magic lanterns projected frightening images such as skeletons, demons, and ghosts onto walls, smoke, or semi-transparent screens. The projector was mobile, allowing the projected image to move on the screen, and multiple projecting devices allowed for quick switching of different images.

The Phantasmagoria took place on the threshold between science and superstition, between Enlightenment and Romanticism. They employed the technology of Enlightenment, and ostensibly had the purpose of enlightening the audience. Thus Philip Polidor, who first introduced the Phantasmagoria in Paris in 1793 (during the height of the Terror), introduced his spectacle as follows:

"I will not show you ghosts, because there are no such things; but I will produce before you enactments and images, which are imagined to be ghosts, in the dreams of the imagination or in the falsehoods of charlatans. I am neither priest nor magician. I do not wish to deceive you; but I will astonish you." (sourced from this extremely interesting essay)
Phantasmagoria can be called "... an art of total illusion that also contained its own critique." (ibid). But even if Phantasmagoria were justified with appeals to rationalism, the subject matter was inspired by Gothic novels, which were very popular at the time. Étienne-Gaspard Robert, a professor of physics and the most famous creator of Phantasmagoria, created a full-fledged Gothic decor for his his first performance at the Pavillon de L’Echiquier in 1798:

The members of the public having been ushered into the most lugubrious of rooms, at the moment the spectacle is to begin, the lights are suddenly extinguished and one is plunged for an hour and a half into frightful and profound darkness; it’s the nature of the thing; one should not be able to make anything out in the imaginary region of the dead. In an instant, two turnings of a key lock the door: nothing could be more natural than one should be deprived of one’s liberty while seated in the tomb, or in the hereafter of Acheron, among shadows.” (sourced here)

Phantasmagoria were at once a product of the scientific rationalization of nature, and an aesthetic revolt against this rationalization. They were a liminal phenomenon: ambiguous, open, and indeterminate performances of light and darkness on the doorstep between Enlightenment and Romanticism, between the future as technological Telos and the future as Doom.


'Fantasma Parastasie' is a shortish (34 minutes) album which documents a collaboration between two Canadian musicians.

The first of these is Tim Hecker, who creates Minimal Techno under the Jetone monicker and glitchy Ambient under his own name. As Jetone, his work is obsessively precise; under his own name, his music has a drifting, billowing, blissed-out quality. In both cases, Hecker's music flaunts its technological, digital, inorganic character.

The second is Aidan Baker, a writer, poet and immensely prolific musician, who is best known for his Doom Metal under the Nadja moniker. Doom Metal is a genre which can be said to be one of the musical inheritors of the legacy of the Gothic novel: drug abuse, cemeteries, melancholia, superstition, Satanism, occultism, pessimism and amor fati are among the themes shared by Doom Metal and the Gothic novel.

So is the Phantasmagoria depicted on the cover art of 'Fantasma Parastasie' an apt metaphor for the album? Is 'Fantasma Parastasie' a Doom Metal album that is also a technological, rationalistic critique of Doom Metal? Does it present music which is an assemblage of technological know-how and of what we fear we might want to believe? Is it an album in which Doom Metal seduces glitchy Ambient to forget - even if only for a moment - its optimistic technological constructions and believe in Doom Metal's sombre pandemonium?


That is because Tim Hecker's Electronica and Aidan Baker's Doom Metal have been integrated rather too well, or rather: because Hecker's Electronica has canceled the Doom Metal content. Where in the Phantasmagoria the technological origin of the illusion was obfuscated, here Electronica's technology has elucidated Doom Metal's malevolent spirits out of existence. In fact, Hecker's music has swallowed up Doom Metal so completely that the two genres cannot attract and repulse each other anymore, they cannot intermingle, alternate, amalgamate, penetrate, receive, expand, converge, diverge, sympathize or antagonize any more. As a result, all ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy has dried up.


The term "fantasma" comes from the Greek phantasia (appearance, imagination), and was taken up in a more technical sense in psycho-analytic theory. Freud took phantasms to be disguises for infantile auto-erotic activity or for the memory of a traumatic event. In his analysis of the structure and function of phantasms, Freud gave particular importance "to the role of hearing: for the noise that impinges on the phantasm may not just be brute sound, but also might be the ‘familial noise’ (bruit familial) which carries the histories or legends or traditions of parents, grandparents and, indeed, the whole tribe. The noise, then, is both interruptive and interpellative and it is a critical component of the phantasm. ‘Phantasms are produced by an unconscious combination of things lived and things heard.’" (sourced here).

Parastasie or Parastasis is a medical term, which refers to a phenomenon familiar to those who watch the medical television drama House. It is a reciprocal relationship among causal mechanisms that can compensate for, or mask defects in, each other; for instance, a syndrome in which a hyperactive organ masks the deficiency of another organ.

Both the fantasma and parastasie are feverish cover-ups, disguises overripe with tension, maskings ready to burst.

Not so Tim Hecker and Aidan Baker's album: too consolidated, too consistent, 'Fantasma Parastasie' lacks grit and is ... polite.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Shock Xpress - Vietnam Vets (pt. 2)

In an article in the first Shock Xpress book ('Fighting A Battle That is Finished - The Cinematic Plight Of The Vietnam Vet'), film journalist, co-founder of Headpress and co-author of the books Killing For Culture and See No Evil, David Kerekes examines the portrayal of the Vietnam veteran in exploitation cinema. These are trailers for some of the films discussed in the article.

Apocalypse Domani (Antonio Margheriti, 1980)

The Exterminator
(James Glickenhaus, 1980)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From 'Illusory Confections'

I found this terrible, terrible and beautiful photograph over at the excellent 'Illusory Confections' blog (here).

And here is a link to the IMDB page of the film advertised in the background, the 1943 'Reise in die Vergangenheit' ('Journey into the Past'), directed by Hans Zerlett.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

W.B. Seabrook - The Magic Island

At a second-hand bookstore - for a mere € 15 - I found a beautiful hardcover edition of W.B. Seabrook's 1929 book 'The Magic Island', published by The Literary Guild Of America in 1929, in New York. It is illustrated with (politically very incorrect!) quasi-expressionist drawings by Alexander King, and with photographs by the author. Some of these are reproduced below (click to enlarge).

Seabrook was an exceptional figure: he was a Great War veteran, a journalist and a traveller, a friend to both the Surrealists and to the notorious sorcerer Aleister Crowley, an alcoholic and a sadist. He had supposedly eaten human flesh ("like good, fully developed veal"). The Surrealist photographer Man Ray was inspired by Seabrook's sadist practices to create pornographic photographs such as "The Fantasies of Mr. Seabrook", "Lee Miller and William Seabrook" and "Homage to D. A. F. Sade", all with Lee Miller as a protagonist. In 1933 Seabrook was voluntarily committed in order to cure his alcoholism, and he documented the experience in his 1935 book "Asylum". Despite the treatment, Seabrook remained an alcoholic. He committed suicide by a drug overdose on September 20, 1945.

The illustrator, Alexander King, was a rake also, described "as a thief, morphine addict, failing playwright and painter, a man of iconoclastic observations and caustic humor who began his career as a painter of human figures, focused primarily on the face. Then he became an art thief, stealing fifty prints from the Metropolitan Museum." King, who claimed to have been married five times, published anecdotes on his life in a series of humorous books, such as May This House Be Safe from Tigers, Mine Enemy Grows Older, I Should Have Kissed Her More, and Is There Life After Birth. King was a frequent guest on on TV talkshows from roughly the mid-1950s until his death in 1965.

Georges Bataille's Surrealist journal Documents published an appreciative article on Seabrook's 'The Magic Island', written by Michel Leiris and Bataille himself. Even if Seabrook's reputation amongst anthropologists is quite bad (his account of Voodoo is often regarded as crypto-racist), Leiris credited Seabrook with being a "conscientious observer and the first man of the white race initiated into the mysteries of voodoo" and praised him for his "humane attitude" toward his subject. Bataille was especially appreciative of the final paragraph quoted below - it echoes Bataille's philosophical attempt to harness the forces of a dis-enchanted sacred to revitalize Western society.

From 'The Magic Island':

"And now the literary-traditional white stranger who spied from hiding in the forest, had such a one lurked near by, would have seen all the wildest tales of Voodoo fiction justified: in the red light of torches which made the moon turn pale, leaping, screaming, writhing black bodies, blood-maddened, sex-maddened, god-maddened, drunken, whirled and danced their dark saturnalia, heads thrown weirdly back as if their necks were broken, white teeth and eyeballs gleaming, while couples seizing one another from time to time fled from the circle, as if pursued by furies, into the forest to share and slake their ecstasy.

Thus also my unspying eyes beheld this scene in actuality, but I did not experience the revulsion which literary tradition prescribes. It was savage and abandoned, but it seemed to me magnificent and not devoid of a certain beauty. Something inside myself awoke and responded to it. These, of course, were very individual emotional reactions, perhaps deplorable in a supposedly civilized person. But I believe that the thing itself - their thing, I mean - is rationally defensible. Of what use is any life without its emotional moments or hours of ecstasy? They were reaching collective ecstasy by paths which were not intrinsically peculiar to their jungle ancestors, but which have been followed by many peoples, some highly civilized, from the earliest ages, and will be followed to the end of time or until we all become mechanical, soulless robots. It is not necessary to look backward to the Dionysian orgies, the bacchanalia, the rites of Adonis, or frenzied David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant. What, after all, were they doing here in these final scenes, when formal ritual had ended, that was so different from things which occur in our own fashionable and expensive night clubs, except that they were doing it with the sanction of their gods and were doing it more succesfully? Savage rhythm, alcohol, and sex excitement - yet there was an essential difference, for here was a mysterious something superadded. Lasciviousness became lust, which is a cleaner thing, and neurotic excitement became authentic ecstasy, the 'divine frenzy' of the ancients.

There us nothing quite as stupid and pathetic as an orgy that doesn't quite come off. Perhaps there is a deep mystical truth in the saying attributed to a much-misunderstood voice, 'Whatever ye do, do it in my name.' Perhaps if we mixed a little true sacrificial blood in our synthetic cocktails and flavored them prayerfully with holy fire, our night clubs would be more orgiastically succesful and become sacred as temples were in the days of Priapus and Aphrodite."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Shock Xpress - Vietnam Vets (pt. 1)

In an article in the first Shock Xpress book ('Fighting A Battle That is Finished - The Cinematic Plight Of The Vietnam Vet'), film journalist, co-founder of Headpress and co-author of the books Killing For Culture and See No Evil, David Kerekes examines the portrayal of the Vietnam veteran in exploitation cinema. These are trailers for some of the films discussed in the article.

Taxi Driver
(Martin Scorsese, 1976)

Don't Answer The Phone
(Robert Hammer, 1980)

Combat Shock (Buddy Giovinazzo, 1986)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ambient Burzum

Burzum's 1994 album 'Hvis Lyset Tar Oss' contained the band's first Ambient track, 'Tomhet'. Though the track was at the time compared to Aphex Twin's classic 1994 album 'Ambient Works Volume II', actually the track was closer to the music of 1970s 'Berlin School' Kraut Rock Electronica (Klaus Schulze, Kluster, Tangerine Dream). After the 1996 album 'Filosofem', which contained a 25-minute Ambient track, Burzum released two albums containing only similar Ambient music: the 1997 album 'Dauði Baldrs' and the 1999 album 'Hliðskjálf'. The two Ambient-only albums were recorded and released after Christian 'Varg' Vikernes (the mastermind behind Burzum) was imprisoned for murdering Øystein 'Euronymous' Aarseth.

Before he was murdered by Vikernes, Aarseth functioned as something of a mentor for his assassin-to-be. Aarseth was not only a founding member of the legendary Black Metal band 'Mayhem', but he was also an aficionado of Berlin School Electronica. Aarseth sought out Conrad Schnitzler when visiting Berlin, camped outside the German musician's home, and persuaded him to contribute a track to his band Mayhem's debut album, 'Deathcrush'. In fact, Aarseth felt so honored by Schnitzler's contribution that he made it Deathcrush's opening track. Opening one's debut album with the music of another artist: surely that gesture underlines the immense importance the music of Schnitzler and of the Berlin School had for Aarseth. Surely, it is Aarseth's influence which is responsible for Vikernes creating Ambient in the style of the Berlin School.

Burzum's gradual cross-over from Black Metal to Ambient-only music is said to be due to the fact that Vikernes is not allowed to have the instruments and equipment necessary for Black Metal in his prison cell. Nevertheless, today, bicycling through a wintry forest landscape listening to 'Filosofem', I intuited another reason for Burzum's musical transformation. I sensed Euronymous haunting the album's Ambient track, the 25-minute, pompously titled 'Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Säule Der Singularität'.

After he was imprisoned, Vikernes could have chosen to remain silent. He did not. Instead, he went on to create music in the style so beloved by his victim, 'Berlin School' Ambient. Did Vikernes become possessed by Aarseth after he murdered him, as Raskolnikov was tormented by the memory of the old pawnbroker and her sister, both of whom he murderded with an axe? Does Euronymous, in a sense, live on in the Ambient music of his murderer?

In any case, to my mind the Ambient tracks present the weakest side of Burzum. This is not only because of my personal distaste for 'Berlin School' Ambient. It has rightly been said that all the great works of literature either establish a genre or wind one down - and the same might well be said of music. Burzum's Black Metal certainly did establish a (sub-)genre, and thus can be said to be a 'major work of music'. The same thing however cannot be said of Burzum's Ambient music. Here, Burzum is a follower rather than a leader. And although many Black Metal bands intersperse their guitar noise with Ambient tracks, the latter tracks tend to be of the Industrial Ambient rather than 'Berlin School' Ambient variety. Brian Williams' Lustmord seems to be a bigger influence than Burzum. Why? The answer is simple: Vikernes' Ambient music is dreary, dreary, dreary - it doesn't quite open up to the cosmic dimensions suggested by the music's titles. Vikernes himself is supposed to have explained his move toward Ambient as a move away from Black Metal, which - as it is a 'late style' of Rock is in fact of Afro-American origin. Indeed, Burzum's Ambient is about as mindnumbing as the ideologies Vikernes converted to in the period he murdered Euronymous.

And yet my intuition points towards another possibility: if it would indeed be true that the fact that Vikernes' abandoning Black Metal for Ambient was the exoteric effect of him being haunted by Euronymous, perhaps the weakness of Burzum's Ambient can be said to be Euronymous' ghostly vengeance upon his murderer. Is Aarseth slowly draining Vikernes?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shock Xpress - Harry Alan Towers (pt. 2)

There's a nice interview with exploitation film producer Harry Alan Towers, conducted by Allan Bryce, in the first Shock Xpress book. These are some films discussed in the interview.

Edge Of Sanity (Gérard Kikoïne, 1989)

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare
(John Hough, 1988)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Skinny Puppy - Last Rights

I've always regarded Canadian Industrial band Skinny Puppy's 1992 album 'Last Rights' as a failure - a bloated album. If the band's 1990 album 'Too Dark Park' already teetered on the edge of the swollen, the 1992 album certainly was overdone. Nivek Ogre's vocals had devolved from anguish into kitsch sentimentality; the music was "... a scribble effacing all lines, a scramble effacing all sounds ..." (Deleuze & Guattari), a "statistical heap" of samples; the album as a whole somehow smacked of puerile Hollywood Gothic.

It was the last Skinny Puppy album I bought. In fact, the album was one of the reasons I abandoned the Industrial aesthetic and crossed over to the nascent IDM scene, a scene which I would abandon for Black and Doom Metal when IDM became too complacent and anodyne. To experience once more something filthy, something guilty! Writing my post on South Korean Black Metal band Pyha's 2008 album 'The Haunted House', made me go back to the Skinny Puppy album.

I must say the sixteen years which have passed since 'Last Rights' was released, have been kind to the album. It is as if time has assembled the scribble, the scramble that I used to hear into a consistency; as if time has simplified, creatively limited, selected the album's overabundance of sounds. The hands of the clock have achieved what the hands of the musicians could not.

By what means has the clock done this?

In 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', Walter Benjamin writes that "Within major historical periods, along with changes in the overall mode of being of the human collective, there are also changes in the manner of its sense perception." Certainly, my manner of sense perception has changed in the last sixteen years.

In part, this change is due to technological advances: the stereo equipment I own is much better than the one I had when the album came out, the acoustic spatiality of my Elac speakers making the disparate elements that constitute the album more clearly discernible. Furthermore, where the production style of 'Last Rights' seemed too rich, in fact downright Hollywoodesque at the time, now - in this age of compression and subsonics and 5.1 surround sound - it sounds quite restrained.

But my manner of sense perception has also been affected by changes in my personal mode of being. The passing years have expanded my musical horizon. Thus, 'Last Rights' has found a place in the procession of musical genres that I have liked. For example, the final track, 'Download', foreshadows the glitch music aesthetic by several years. My appreciation of chaotic music, pomposity and cartoonesque histrionics has grown through listening to Black Metal. And listening to Free Jazz has engendered an interest in (over-)ripe, late-style music in which complexity and chaos go hand in hand. The expansion of my musical repertoire has provided an enriching context for Skinny Puppy's album, and has allowed me when listening to select, capture and extract certain aspects of the album and thereby to effect a certain simplicity. Furthermore, my biographical aging has had an effect on my mode of perception. When I was young, I was more sectarian in my musical tastes than I am now; 'Last Rights' accords better with my current eclecticism than with my former purism. And in all probability, a barely-acknowledged nostalgia to the time when I was twenty-something plays a role also.

Finally, I like it that 'Last Rights' is completely outdated and utterly unfashionable. As noted by Walter Benjamin, the Surrealists had been "...the first to perceive the revolutionary energies that appear in the 'outmoded' - in the first iron constructions, the first factory buildings the earliest photos, objects that have begun to be extinct, grand pianos, the dresses of five years ago, fashionable restaurants when the vogue has begun to ebb from them. The relation of these things to revolution - no one can have a more exact concept of it than these authors. No one before these visionaries and augurs perceived how destitution - not only social but architectonic, the poverty of interiors, enslaved and enslaving objects - can be suddenly transformed into revolutionary nihilism."

'Last Rights': a dress of five years ago, slightly dusty, taken from its cupboard to contemplate for a few brief moments, and then put back.

Post scriptum

Here is the video for 'Killing Game'.

And here a (crappy-looking) live performance of 'Love in Vein'.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Shock Xpress - Harry Alan Towers (pt. 1)

There's a nice interview with exploitation film producer Harry Alan Towers, conducted by Allan Bryce, in the first Shock Xpress book. These are some films discussed in the interview.

Der Heiße Tod
(Jesus Franco, 1969)

Circus Of Fear (John Llewellyn Moxey, 1966)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Various Failures

Such a sad list: a top 10 of records I should have bought in 2007 ... but failed to.

1) Birchville Cat Motel - Gunpowder Temple of Heaven
2) Skullflower - Circulus Vitiosus Deus
3) A Guy Called Gerald - Black Secret Technology (2008 Edition)
4) Appleblim - Dubstep Allstars Vol 6
5) Nahvalr - Nahvalr
6) Striborg - The Foreboding Silence
7) 2562 – Aerial
8) Zomby – Where Were U In 92?
9) Chaos Moon - Languor Into Echoes, Beyond
10) Nordvargr - Helvete

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Shock Xpress - Joe Dante (pt. 3)

The first Shock Xpress book contains an interview with film director Joe Dante, conducted by noted critic Kim Newman. Here are some trailers of films mentioned in the interview.

(Joe Dante, 1987)

The 'Burbs
(Joe Dante,1989)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

wargus,vargr - 'Verbrecher' 'Wolf' - eine sprach- und rechtsgeschichtliche Untersuchung - von Michael Jacoby

From Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind's 1998 journalistic study of Norwegian Black Metal, "Lords of Chaos. The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground":

'A fascinating dissertation exists entitled Wargus, Vargr - 'Criminal' 'Wolf': A Linguistic and Legal Historical Investigation by Michael Jacoby, published in Uppsala, Sweden, but written in German. It is a highly detailed, heavily referenced exploration of the Germanic word Warg, or vargr in Norse. The paper begins with a section "The term Warg as a Designation for the Criminal in Ancient Germanic Sources," discussing the connotations for the root word among the various Northern European cultures. It appears in the different language dialects, but always with a negative implication when descriptive of men, conveying the sense of "criminal," "outlaw," "outcast," "thief," "malefactor," "evil being," "the damned one," and indeed, even "Devil."


Jacoby's research continues with an investigation and examination of the most noteworthy crimes which were strongly connected to the word. These are: grave robbery, treason, theft, and manslaughter. A case can be made that Varg Vikernes fulfilled each one of these specific connotations in some respect. Describing the first of the crimes, there is clause in another ancient Germanic legal text, the Salic law, which states: "If anyone shall have dug up or despoiled an already buried corpse, let him be a varg." Vikernes advocacy of, and participation in, grave desecrations certainly qualifies him for this designation. As regards treason, Varg proudly states a desire to see the current government of Norway overthrown, and he identifies with the man whose name has become synonymous with treason in the international vocabulary, Vidkun Quisling. Vikernes has also often been called a "traitor" by others in the Black Metal scene for killing Øystein Aarseth. Vikernes was found guilty of theft - he stole 150 kilos of explosives and had this stored in his apartment at the time of his arrest. The old Germanic laws do not appear to make a distinction between first-degree murder and manslaughter, and refer only to the latter. Vikernes was convicted of mudering Euronymous, although he insists this was only manslaughter, done in self-defense. It is eerie and uncanny that someone would live up to their name so well, even down to the subtleties of its earliest etymological essence. As he result of his actions, he has truly become and "outlaw" and "outcast" in the eyes of society."

I bought Jacoby's dissertation through the internet - it's front cover and the invitation to the dissertation defense are reproduced nearby. Here is a link to a post I wrote earlier, in which I examine Moynihan and Søderlind's hypothesis on the meaning of the word Vargr for the deeds of Varg Vikernes from an anthropological point of view.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Shock Xpress - Joe Dante (pt. 2)

The first Shock Xpress book contains an interview with film director Joe Dante, conducted by noted critic Kim Newman. Here are some trailers of films mentioned in the interview.

Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch
(Joe Dante, 1990)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Yamaguchi Goro - Bell Ringing In The Empty Sky

The title of this reissued 1969 cd of Japanese Shakuhachi flute music, 'A Bell Ringing in the Empty Sky,' is named after a composition that refers to the death of Fuke, the master of the eponymous sect of Zen Buddhism:

"One day at the street market Fuke was begging all and sundry to give him a robe. Everybody offered him one, but he did not want any of them. The master [Rinzai Gigen] made the superior buy a coffin, and when Fuke returned, said to him: "There, I had this robe made for you." Fuke shouldered the coffin, and went back to the street market, calling loudly: "Rinzai had this robe made for me! I am off to the East Gate to enter transformation" (to die). The people of the market crowded after him, eager to look. Fuke said: "No, not today. Tomorrow, I shall go to the South Gate to enter transformation." And so for three days. Nobody believed it any longer. On the fourth day, and now without any spectators, Fuke went alone outside the city walls, and laid himself into the coffin. He asked a traveler who chanced by to nail down the lid. The news spread at once, and the people of the market rushed there. On opening the coffin, they found that the body had vanished, but from high up in the sky they heard the ring of his hand bell."

A beautiful legend: the absurd dislocation of the signifier and the signified (robe and coffin) points towards an absent referent, thus initiating a series of exchanges of absence: the absence of Fuke at the East and South Gates is answered by the absence of spectators outside the city walls, the absence of spectators is reciprocated by the absence of a corpse in the coffin, and the empty coffin is in turn answered by an empty sky. Like the bell in this legend, the music on this cd announces a void - a void that can hit you with the power of an oncoming freight train.

The music on the album is starkly austere; its austerity is what makes for the richness and intensity of the music's effect. This austerity is not the ascesis of those who are working 0n the project of salvation. It is an austerity which kills the desire which binds one to the object, without proposing ascesis as a new object for desire, without subjugating experience to the goal of salvation or deliverance. Rinzai Geko said "If you meet a buddha, kill the buddha. Then for the first time you will gain emancipation, will not be entangled with things, will pass freely anywhere you wish to go." If you meet salvation or deliverance, destroy it! That Rinzai Geko's murderous attitude to Buddha-as-object struck a chord, should not come as a surprise: many followers of Fuke's teachings were roaming samurai. These followers lived as mendicant monks and wore wicker baskets on their heads which covered their face completely: acephalous monastics. These followers were called komusō, 'monks of emptiness'.

Even though I use the word 'music' in referring to "Bell Ringing In The Empty Sky", perhaps even music as such is absent from this cd: the playing of the shakuhachi bamboo flute is intended as a meditative respiratory exercise, that is: as a method for experiencing the breathing body intimately - an experience that is a signpost towards absence. It is a non-aesthetic sound, abstract and a-rhythmic: the absence of music.

The sound of "Bell Ringing In The Empty Sky" asks the listener to requite its emptiness by absenting himself.