Saturday, March 03, 2007

Warning! If you want theoretical rigour, or even coherence, I direct you to the links bar!

Is that a call to arms I hear rising? Is that a call to arms I hear rising, out of that concrete hole?”

"Got no Soul" Cop Shoot Cop

Some disorganized thoughts on the impending, multi-faith War On Indy.

I wonder where Scott Walker’s “The Drift” stands in relation to the current intelligent-Metal milieu. There must be a million Dork err sorry DARKwave kids out there who do/would dig it. Did “Terrorizer” even review it, I wonder?

Still, we do seem to be at a point of intersection of several kinds. How far off can the Dubstep/Metal/World crossover be (it’s probably already happening of course, but how would I know? I never leave South London.) I mean, if there are the underlying set of affiliations the Blissblogger claims (difficulty as a component in pleasure etc) and that K-Punk’s going for (the anti-Po-Mo, ritualistic, religiose aspects of metal) surely both of these impulses/desires are well served by lots of stuff that lies in the currently shudder-inducing category of “World”. The Goth/World/Folk crossover has long been going on under some kind of cross-genre Paganism (Dead Can Dance, NWW, Nocturnal Emissions, Current 93 et al) the affinities to metal and metal’s own affinities to Classical music are evident. I think what we're largely talking about is an anti-Popist upsurge and a coalescing/marshelling of an anti-Po-Mo/Indy underground under the rubric of the New Solemnity. A while ago I played Neuraxis to a collegue who used to DJ Jungle back in the day (when I was thirty and he was about twelve) and the first thing he said was “that’s Gabber!" Same with Breaks....the line between the Cock Rock Disco (telling name, eh?) crew and Slayer/Sepultura/industrial stuff like “Mind” era Ministry (very Dubstep sleeve art on that) and onwards seems pretty slight to me, but then so does the distance between the blasted quasi mystical ceremonial aspects of Sunn(i))))))) and (as has been pointed out) lots of trad “world” stuff/ devotional music etc (and those peskily obscure blighters, Deleyaman, et al whose overlap with both Clinic/Movietone's serotonin-depleted pastoralism and Gregorian Goth is pretty strong.)

It’s interesting that “World” is so neglected by the Hiperati, too many Womad hippy associations and oleaginous Jools Holland smugfests to be taken on board I suppose, plus the fact that “Songlines” , despite its routinely excellent free CD’s is the worst written and least coherent music mag out there. Still, despite the horrible trappings, in the war against the Indy ideal ( i.e of music as soundtrack to a life of giddy consumption rather than life as the background to an immersion in music) “World” is on our side. One of the reasons Mark K-Punk is so revered in the blogosphere is , I suspect, precisely because of how seriously he takes music and the degree to which this catches LOTS of other peoples' feeling that it is intensely important, central to a meaningful life on numerous levels, and not just something to be picked up on as marketing dictates, flirted with, name-dropped with “cool” friends and dumped next day in exchange for the next new-old thing. Fundamentally both scenes lack “coolness.” This is a very good thing. The metal scene and the world scene (along with Jazz, I guess ) overlap in a number of significant ways, first of all in reverence for musicianship and a canonical tradition (though as with any theology there are doctrinal disputes, competing schools of thought etc), that worldly success is largely scorned ( this is another quasi-religious ascetic trope, right? It’s about the work, not the earthly rewards. Witness the guy Simon reports on who is admired precisely because he DOESN’T have a myspace page!) That neither of them recycle culture per se they expand on it, feel their way forward with that kind of one-step-back, two-steps-forward approach that for example I’m using now, writing this.

The question is not, where is the new “Unknown Pleasures”, who is best charting the corroding of the soul under late capitalism, urban dread reconfigured for the post-rave contingent etc, but who is reaching out and connecting, exploring the overlaps, engaging, testing their own assumptions and traditions against others. So much more importantly, where is the contemporary, “ Bush of Ghosts”**?

There’s something very Anti-the-prevailing-spirit-of-the-times in the submission to form and tradition in both metal and “World” ( horribly nebulous term, but you know what I mean). Where the poptimists get it wrong is the assumption that we want to basically live lives of divine frivolity, that effectively we are consumers first and foremost who want an endless array of semi-novel, heavily mediated, “experiences”, a dizzy, multicoloured kaleidoscope as opposed to some kind of a life project/investment of all our faculties/emotions in something “meaningful”, by which I mean something that subordinates bright, eclectic, clued up knowingness to just actually knowing something, which subordinates range to depth.I know a little of everything (and will therefore never be completely caught off guard/have my lack of clued-upness exposed) for, I know a few, or one thing, deeply. Now this might smack of the ludicrous to some but for me it seems admirably less ludicrous than the remorseless, shrill and panicked bluffing/blagging I encounter every time I leave the house ( NOT a reference to the Kino Fisters I hasten to add!) Just admit you know nothing about Deleuze, just admit you’ve never heard A-Z by Colin Newman! (I'm talking to myself there by the way folks!) So to me, whenever I see depth of engagement, be it Sunn(i))))) or La Chicana ( who couldn’t really be more different as bands) somehow the nausea and mild migraine that even a superficial flick through the NME or a walk along Oxford Street induces, cuts out. They’re not trying to second guess the trends, they’re not getting suited and booted to impress the A and R guys, for them being an artist isn’t just being another kind of canny middle class professional with the right names on the CV.
This isn’t some rock-lovers rhetoric of “authenticity”, what we're finally talking about is reorienting of the relations between seemingly disparate styles on the basis of an underlying ethic***, simply, that you do what you love (if you're capable of love, many aren’t!), you work at it forever, maybe, without any prospect of reward, the world never knows you, you receive no applause. Nonetheless you’ve had a good life. You’ve been one of the lucky ones. Because if your involvement in the art itself has been deep enough, it will have sustained you. Because the conversation you’ve maintained with the tradition has been serious and intense. Better a bearable weight (feel how the body and all the senses engage under the load) than all this unbearable lightness!
In my craft or sullen art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labor by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.
Dylan Thomas

*I think Mark just stops shy of calling Indy/Po-Mo profane
**Am I the only one hearing a lot of Devotional Fourth World Polynesian Lushness in that Truly Fucking Amazing Panda Bear lp?
***This would apply in the blogosphere too, there's plenty of people out there whose tastes are rather different to mine, none the less I feel as though we're on the same side.


Anonymous said...

carl i agree with your overall argument, but

Fundamentally both scenes lack “coolness.

when watching a video clip of KODE 9 I felt it was COOL in all the wrong ways - like the commodified vampire Gothic of Bauhaus (Bella Lugosi is Dead) from my own teenage years. Komodified apokalypse.

I also feel the whole dubstep thing is culturally exclusive. It cannot be situated properly outside of dissed plant settings in London and to us outsiders, mostly sounds like a poignant vacuum cleaner.

In Belgrade this is the kind of music that the pro-Western, quasi-hip young crowd would listen to, the elitists, while the proles would find it depressing.

Which for me is insufficiently socially transformative.

Will you please explain in which sese the scenes fundamentally lack coolness.

Phil Freeman said...

I'm the editor of the US world music magazine Global Rhythm, and have profiled three different metal groups who mixed folk music and native instruments into their sound: Melechesh (Middle East), Korpiklaani (Finnish - they've got an accordionist flexing right alongside the guitarists) and Borknagar (arty paganish Black Metal band who did an acoustic album very much indebted to Scandinavian folk). I'm going to be doing another one in an upcoming issue - Cruachan, an Irish band who sound like the Pogues stuffed into a telepod with Slayer.

Anonymous said...

thank you Carl, good to know someone cares about all this ...and even knows the existence of such band as Deleyaman and still remembers Colin Newman.