Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Traumatone Fest Day Two

Day two started with Zenta Sustained, a collaboration between Ryan Bloomer (Traumatone, Piss Horn, Ride At Dawn ad infinitum) and Sam McInlay (The Rita). Their cassette on Nurse Etiquette is a fine example of an obsession with the breaking point of sound and sustained (no pun intended) focus on the moment of collapse. A great piece of work and all the more reason why i’m a complete fucking idiot for missing their set as i’ll probably never get a chance to see them live together again. I guess i’m just getting old and can’t keep up.

I also missed Grand Nord, Martin of Wapstan/ Selfish Implosions and many more. Martin described it as a budget version of Knurl. Despite myself i really enjoy a lot of Martin’s projects, even though some of the elements are pretty much everything i find reprehensible about the presentation of music/ noise.

Martin tends to dress up his acts in a degree of the ridiculous. I know he performed his Grand Nord set in a specially made hockey mask and gloves and his Selfish Implosions project is “skate power electronics”, complete with garish clothing, tie dyed bandanas and yelling abuse about long boarders. But fuck, Selfish Implosions were great when we played with them in Montreal last year; i just needed to close my eyes and ignore the words.

I guess part of my repulsion to this tongue in cheek approach is that i find it idiotic and to me it makes me think people aren’t serious about their art (and i use that word in the loosest of ways). As Martin put it to me once he is deadly serious and from his perspective there is nothing more ridiculous than the cliché of the po-faced power electronics approach. And he’s correct in a sense but i still don’t believe that punk, metal and noise would be dramatically improved by the addition of humour and sense of fun and good times.

But yeah, great guy with some good projects, i just have to get over my prejudices.

Warlock Moon were next, i saw part of their set and wasn’t really in the mood for it. They played an inept style of raw punk black metal. And when i say inept i don’t necessarily mean that as an insult; i find much joy in many acts that are written off as inept. I should probably listen to their demos more and get a better sense of them.

They finished with a song called "Slums of Israel", complete with a lyric that sounded like "Die fucking jew". They make reference to the song in question in this interview.

Murder Squad i missed as i was in desperate need of food. The audience quota of studded denim and facial tattoos was high and they’re probably Toronto’s longest flag bearers for DIY crust metal. And Mike makes a mean Bloody Mary.

Crux of Aux from Hamilton are still completely under rated. They play a blend of weirdo noise rock (the influence of which is strongest in their singer’s vocals and actions), hardcore, borderline thrash metal and bands like Melvins and Keelhaul. Far more unique than merely being a bunch of bands all blended together as i may be suggesting. A great band all around, certainly a great choice for this fest and great for me because some of the dudes are clearly even more middle aged than i am.

Obviously thus far day two, to me, was a lot different in atmosphere than day one, and that’s not a complaint. Not every show can or should be a stirring up of a room full of shitty attitudes into one giant punk rock love-in. Sometimes i just want to turn my brain off and listen to some good bands as they are.

Paranoid Time reverted to day one’s performance altering the performer aspect but in a very different though no less valid way.

This was an interesting one, due to the more straight up metal and punk nature of the show there were more people present who clearly didn’t care for noise, which is both understandable and welcome. Watching reactions and attempts to get to the bar by pushing past a guy rubbing a metal sculpture on a table whilst yelling his head off was funny.

Pat’s set was basically a very haphazard metal bashing, vocals and feedback affair but performed with a lot of heart (the same analogy of noise as modern soul music applies to Paranoid Time as it does to Body Collector). Pat’s enthusiasm is both clear and hard not to get swept up in; he’s obviously having a total blast doing it and wants you to join in. It’s the idea of fun and humour conveyed without the need to dress up as a giant skateboarding banana or whatever (which always felt like a curse when seeing UK noise performances in the 1990s).

Sharp blasts of noise are stopped every minute or so as Pat stops to interact with the crowd and give a fake sense of it being a set of songs. And big deal, it’s not like The Endless Blockade has some really every-song-is-unique approach to music, quite the opposite.

Pat’s personal aesthetic is clearly rooted in hardcore punk and DIY grindcore; it translates through his energy and his label’s approach to graphic design. Observe the difference between his more ‘respectable’ label SNSE and his offshoot Gaping Hole with its more over the top dirt bag punk/ grind approach to uniform packaging, both homogenous and incredibly personal (meaning it gives a sense of Pat) at the same time.

And then my other band Slaughter Strike played. We’re still pretty new but every show we’ve played has been packed and well received, we totally have the “ex-members of” thing in our favour. I guess we play a lot of death metal influenced music but filter it through an unforgiving lens of misanthropic hardcore punk narrow mindedness like Discharge and No Security. It’s a totally different mind-set to The Endless Blockade for me.

What attracts me to what i consider ‘real’ death and black metal is the idea that an obsession with death and morbidity is really just a longing for a universal silence and an inner stillness. Witness relatively recent acts like Necros Christos, Ofermod/ Nefandus and several others for perfect examples. If it doesn’t have that sense that the maelstrom and fury is leading to an inner meditative calm i generally don’t care for it in metal.

Orodruin finished the fest off in fine style, really, the perfect end to events. Honest and emotional old school doom. I have to say i’m loathe to refer to them as old school just because they forgo the 0bpm and screaming approach that passes for doom amongst a lot of people these days but it fits a certain frame of reference i’m aiming for.

They have a great sense of melancholy and a sense of searching for hidden knowledge, much like the much missed Warning, though far less down on themselves than Warning appeared to be.

End of day two. Conclusions still to come.

Traumatone Fest Day One

Well, i’ve consistently put off writing about my/ The Endless Blockade’s experience at Maryland Death Fest and at this point i’m obviously not going to bother, it just isn’t relevant anymore. I wrote a lot in my notebook at the time about scenes and culture not being made of bands and records but of collective and individual responses and experiences of those bands and records. I could go on at length but it’s not really very interesting to most people and is essentially drawing from some vague understandings of Phenomenology and Existentialism. And the bottom line is that in all honesty MDF was a largely mundane experience for me and i felt no real connection to what was going on. It was fun in the moment but ultimately had no real lasting value for me.

Last weekend we (The Endless Blockade) played Traumatone fest in Toronto on Friday night, Slaughter Strike, another band with members of Blockade played Saturday. I guess the general idea was a merging of different genres but with the underlying theme being a unity of approaches; a difficult to quickly define sense of honesty of approach combined with a confrontation of the senses. The event now being over i guess to me the common thread with many was the transformative aspect of sound on performer and audience.

Remlap opened Friday night with a good display of harsh pedal noise; he had a nice balance of technique. If the sound was visually represented it would look like a thick line with occasional gouges into defined shapes becoming being engulfed again into the thick line. Definitely a great opener and i was excited to see some harsh noise coming out of Toronto that doesn’t involve either a member of Blockade or Ryan Bloomer somewhere in the mix. I hope to play more shows with Mr Remlap in the future.

Ride At Dawn played their third show, now minus a bass player and not really suffering that much for it. Vocalist Ryan is always great to watch, he definitely goes off (as the kids would possibly say) but not in the way that’s generally acceptable for performers. He has this loose uncontrolled spazzing out, like a black metal Ian Curtis sometimes, not the considered approach of most metal and hardcore singers. Musically they’re not what they think they are. I guess they probably started out intending to pull a Bone Awl/ Ildjarn style punk black metal vibe but it became something else along the way. One song always reminds me of two lines from a Suicidal Tendency song (i forget the title of it and i can’t be arsed digging out the record to find out which one it is) extrapolated to a five minute primitive bludgeoning.

To me this is where the evening started to change into something else entirely.

Body Collector from Michigan was much anticipated by many as being another scrape and screech US harsh noise act but managed to be much more. The set itself was great, a very controlled build up of ugly bass click and drone with very restrained metal work building to an expected and welcome piercing crescendo.

Anyway, that was his set on the most immediate level. I guess what held my interest was the change you could see him undergo as the set went on. If you have any familiarity with Timothy Leary’s eight circuits of consciousness model it was clear to me that Chris was going between what Leary described as circuits one, five and six at various stages of the performance. Reverting back and forth between an intentionally devolved mindset into new ways of perception with the performance itself as the transformative catalyst.

And given that Chris comes from Michigan, primarily used archaic cassette decks and scrap metal pulled straight out of the garbage and was obviously in the throes of some kind of new internal process i have no choice but to refer this as some kind of soul music for the Kali Yuga jugend.

Orn played a very hateful set of 60BPM sludge, the kind of which hasn’t really been seen since the mid 90s. Sure, a bunch of people try and do it now and you have all these fucking useless bands that think owning a Khanate and Corrupted mp3 collection means they have all the right pieces in place but there’s nothing to it. There is an overabundance of bands who exist simply based on tempo and/ or volume; i.e. the “we want to be the slowest band in the world” mentality. This is meaningless. Power and content in music that demands power and content does not come merely from tempo. People take the most obvious facets of a genre and have no deeper understanding of what it is that informs the culture. Much of Black Metal and Power Violence are both stellar examples of this shortfall in thinking.

Orn played with vigour and honesty and once again, the descent into a more primal mentality that managed to disconnect from the surroundings was apparent.

The Rita. Fuck, how to even adequately describe the sounds, actions and atmosphere that occurred when Sam played? Language fails me in being able to describe this as anything but an atavistic regression on a grand scale.

The whole fest pretty much revolved around the notion of bringing The Rita to Toronto and giving him a suitable show so expectations from many were high. I was one of those with high expectations and they weren’t even close.

The set was far more varied than i would’ve anticipated from one of the people responsible for giving the world the HNW micro genre. Sharp blasts of flesh stripping noise punctuated by staccato Ur-rhythmic muted noise started what was a very physical set. As time went on (this is a perfectly composed ten minute set i’m poorly describing here) the set morphed seamlessly into his more well known deadened noise crunch; a celebration of nothing and emptiness as a universal state, not as a value judgement and signifier of the extremely inconsequential. An intellectual approach achieved by removing the intellect entirely; sound as pure Prana.

Again, i have to bring attention to the change in performer. Sam is someone who for all intents and purposes has the mannerisms of a librarian (absolutely no pejorative bias intended whatsoever). During his set he was so utterly possessed by sounds and both responding to and affecting change with those sounds that any clichéd talk of being “in the zone” or whatever is like comparing a goldfish to a great white shark.

The set finished with what a casual observer would possibly call a mosh pit. Yeah, fuck that, that wasn’t a mosh pit. Moshing to noise is an idiots game. This was Sam responding physically to his sound and the audience in turn catching a sudden glimpse into same void that was staring back into Sam. This was spontaneous reaction to an indescribable force manifesting in the only way people could, moving with that force.

Utter perfection.

Blockade finished the night off. I’m not really that interested in our music being entertaining, if that’s what someone else gets from it then that’s fine, but it’s not our primary concern. Recently some of our Canadian shows have been getting more and more confrontational and bordering on violent and i guess this show was the logical end point to those recent developments.

Kids want to mosh and Matthew’s thing is now to stop people doing that, not out of some kind of anti-hard dancing crap, more out of a denial of release for the audience.

Anyway, tonight there were a number of punches and kicks thrown, both by myself and Matthew at the audience and from the audience toward us. At one point i figured out the game was Matthew stopping people moshing and then people in return fucking with Matthew so i took it as my roll to clean up and elbow those people in the head, like trying to get the last word in.
It was pretty charged in there, i almost blame writing the song Raised by Wolves two years ago which essentially alluded to this idea of creation being an intentionally destructive aspect of humanity and vice versa.

If you’ve ever seen us play and thought i was an arsehole for generally throwing my shit around and yelling at my band mates when setting up, this is all part of the mental preparation we do for playing. And if you’ve ever thought i was an arsehole for entirely different reasons they’re probably valid too.

At the end of the set it seemed like there was a lot of broken glass in the venue and blood stains all over the floor and Matthew’s shirt, seems like he busted someone’s head open throwing the microphone at them and i caught someone square in the face with my headstock. Both bleeders seemed OK with it for some reason.

End of night one.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


the Justin Bartlett Abraxas shirt will be for sale through 20 Buck Spin shortly. Failing tht we have a small number of local shows left to play this year that they should be available at.

Monday, June 1, 2009


The Death Agonies/ Pig Heart Transplant C20 and Flatline Construct C20 are both sold out from us. RRR may have some copies of both, Pig Heart Transplant may have some copies of the DxA split and Traumatone may have the Flatline Construct tape available.

I suspect a few confused crusties have copies they'll part with too, so try your luck.

Next releases:

Joshua Norton Cabal - Victor Over Death C20 (two invocations to Shiva recorded earlier this year)
Slaughter Strike - demo (members of Blockade and Rammer)

traumatone fest

i don't get to watch Bolt Thrower from 5ft away backstage at this fest whilst drinking Shane Embury's rider dry but this event is more our kind of thing than MDF