Saturday, January 17, 2009

Caïna - Temporary Antennae (pt. 2)

Listening to Caïna's Black Metal, as presented on his recent album Temporary Antennae, is an intertextual pleasure. Caïna's mastermind, Andrew Curtis-Brignell, alludes to literature, film and art. In this post some of these allusions are explored.


"If I had verses harsh enough and rasping
as would befit this dismal hole
upon which all the other rocks weigh down,
more fully would I press out the juice
of my conception. But, since I lack them,
with misgiving do I bring myself to speak.
It is no enterprise undertaken lightly --
to describe the very bottom of the universe --
nor for a tongue that still cries 'mommy' and 'daddy.'"

Curtis-Brignell derives his band's name from the XXXIInd Canto of the Inferno from Dante's Divina Commedia. The lines quoted above open this Canto. From various sources around the internet:

"Dante divides circle 9, the circle of treachery--defined in Inferno 11 as fraudulent acts between individuals who share special bonds of love and trust (61-6)--into four regions. Caina is named after the biblical Cain (first child of Adam and Eve), who slew his brother Abel out of envy after God showed appreciation for Abel's sacrificial offering but not Cain's (Genesis 4:1-17); condemned to a vagabond existence, Cain later built a city (named after his son, Henoch) that for certain Christian theologians--notably Augustine (City of God, book 15)--represented the evils of the earthly city. In the circle of the lustful, Francesca identified her husband (Gianciotto)--who murdered her and Paolo (Gianciotto's brother)--as a future inhabitant of Caina (Inf. 5.107). Dante's attention is here drawn to two brothers, the ghibelline Napoleone and the guelph Alessandro, who murdered one another because of a dispute over their inheritance (Inf. 32.55-60)."


The track which opens 'Temporary Antennae' ends with Andrew Curtis-Brignell reading a stanza from 'Grief' a poem found at the end of William Hope Hodgson's fantastique novel 'The House On The Borderland'.

The complete book can be found on Project Gutenberg (here). The Providence recluse, H.P. Lovecraft, wrote about the book in his 'Supernatural Horror In Literature': "The House on the Borderland (1908) -- perhaps the greatest of all Mr. Hodgson's works -- tells of a lonely and evilly regarded house in Ireland which forms a focus for hideous otherworld forces and sustains a siege by blasphemous hybrid anomalies from a hidden abyss below. The wanderings of the Narrator's spirit through limitless light-years of cosmic space and Kalpas of eternity, and its witnessing of the solar system's final destruction, constitute something almost unique in standard literature. And everywhere there is manifest the author's power to suggest vague, ambushed horrors in natural scenery. But for a few touches of commonplace sentimentality this book would be a classic of the first water."

You can hear Coil's Jhonn Balance reading William Hope Hodgson's poem on a rather lovely limited edition picture disc 7", which was released in 2005 to commemorate Balance who fell to his death on November 13th 2004 (4 years ago already!). The reading is accompanied by a beautiful drone crafted by John Everall, one of the unsung heroes of the British Industrial music era (the 1993 album Pathogenesis is a classic!). You can find the 7", which is of course completely and utterly out of print, here. I've reproduced the poem below.

Grief - William Hope Hodgson

Fierce hunger reigns within my breast,
I had not dreamt that this whole world,
Crushed in the hand of God, could yield
Such bitter essence of unrest,
Such pain as Sorrow now hath hurled
Out of its dreadful heart, unsealed!

Each sobbing breath is but a cry,
My heart-strokes knells of agony,
And my whole brain has but one thought
That nevermore through life shall I
(Save in the ache of memory)
Touch hands with thee, who now art naught!

Through the whole void of night I search,
So dumbly crying out to thee;
But thou art not; and night's vast throne
Becomes an all-stupendous church
With star-bells knelling unto me
Who in all space am most alone!

An hungered, to the shore I creep,
Perchance some comfort waits on me
From the old Sea's eternal heart;
But lo! from all the solemn deep,
Far voices out of mystery
Seem questioning why we are apart!

"Where'er I go I am alone
Who once, through thee, had all the world.
My breast is one whole raging pain
For that which was, and now is flown
Into the Blank where life is hurled
Where all is not, nor is again!"

The Innocents

Considering that he has a degree in film studies, it should come as no surprise that Andrew Curtis-Brignell's music references film. On 'Temporary Antennae' samples a song, 'Oh Willow Waly', from the 1961 psychological horror film The Innocents. The film, based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, Caïna's album too. The song simulates two types of 'authenticity': that of children and that of folk singers. It appears to be sung by an eleven year old child, but was actually sung by Isla Cameron, a Scottish actress and singer who was 31 at the time. And the song itself seems to be a traditional folk song, but was actually written by British screen writer Paul Dehn and French composer George Auric. The lyrics - considering they are supposedly sung by an 11-year-old - evince a sensuality and suicidal character that borders on the perverse. "The Infant Kiss", a song by Kate Bush from her 1980 album Never for Ever, was inspired by the film. The lyrics to Kate Bush's song are narrated in the first person by a woman who has an almost pedophile infatuation with a young boy in her care.

Below are the lyrics for "Oh Willow Waly", and YouTube videos with the trailer for the Innocents, with the song "Oh Willow Waly" and with Kate Bush's "The Infant Kiss".

Oh, Willow Waly

We lay my love and I beneath the weeping willow.
But now alone I lie and weep beside the tree.

Singing "Oh willow waly" by the tree that weeps with me.
Singing "Oh willow waly" till my lover return to me.

We lay my love and I beneath the weeping willow.
A broken heart have I. Oh willow I die, oh willow I die.

Theatrical trailer for The Innocents

Willow Waly - Song from The Innocents


Kate Bush - The Infant Kiss

Gentian Osman

Andrew Curtis-Brignell considers the Washington-based artist Gentian Osman to be Caïna's official visual interpreter. Here is her Flickr set, which is very nice.


Bruce Adams said...


Nicola Masciandaro said...

Am way behind on reading your blog (and everything else). Just want to say, thanks for the tireless black metal commentary!

Death to false death to false . . .

valter said...

Bruce, Nicola, good to hear from you again!

And Nicola, thanks also for the mention on the 'Audial Gnosis' blog, which I frequent also. BTW, I found Dinshaw's Getting Medieval in a 2nd hand bookshop so I'll be reading that soon.