Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dust in the Lungs of God

Out now on Cathartic Process, Death Agonies, Dust in the Lungs of God C20.

This is the fifth Death Agonies release and the first not released on Survivalist.

Line up for this was Carroll. Edgar. King. Nolan.

Dust in the Lungs of God was born out of the middle period of an extended personal meditation on the shortness and shortcomings of human life and the idea that we aren't nearly as important as we'd like to think we are in the grand old scheme of things.

Musically it represents another attempt of mine to erase the importance of individual thought and action in art.

The sounds were recorded in mid-2009 over four sessions, mostly at the end of Blockade rehearsals using our regular backline and drum kit on a variety of hand held recording devices. A vague nod is made to power violence in that part of the goal i set myself was to structure essentially formless and very loud recordings of harsh noise in a way that reflected the structuring of Endless Blockade material. I like the end result and the fact that i can't tell what material came from which session and who's responsible for its creation.

I haven't heard any of the other releases in the current Cathartic Process batch but the previous release by The Teratologist on CP was excellent and i hope for more of the same on the new one. If you don't already have them i'd also strongly recommend Bastard Noise OEB IV, Clew of Thesus - Meridian, Bizarre Uproar - Triumph and Vice Wears Black Hose - Part 1 releases.


Wild Garden - dian marino
Wasase - Taiaiake Alfred


Godstopper - demo
Morbosidad/ Perversor
Macronympha - Amplified Humans
Control - Seven Deadly Sins
Urban Blight - Total War
Winters in Osaka - Mutual Collapse
Nekrasov - whatever it is that's coming out on Void Seance sometime this year. Great release, perfect meditation music

Winter's Agony

Download Winter's Agony here. If you want a physical copy either check 20 Buck Spin or Profound Lore, the last 15 copies are on their way to those dudes. If you want to bootleg it don't forget to print on to Glacial Mist recycled card for the covers and dub it onto one side of a C20 for accuracy.

Cyclopean has made shirts with the cover image.

You can find the third and final interview with Slaughter Strike here, Dave answered most of the questions, i answered a handful.

Slaughter Strike is no more, Dave is in Abyss and publishes Chromium Dioxide magazine, Eric is in Urine Cop and Column of Heaven, Joel is in a Mentors cover band and plays live with Midnight from Cleveland, Cindy is probably shredding along with Dream Theatre records and my main priorities are Column of Heaven, Joshua Norton Cabal and Nameless Dread with some other occasional noise activities. I don't really have the time for a "real" band right now, ie booking tours and trying to get several people with competing schedules to get together at the same time. Maybe a year from now.

Column of Heaven will be primarily myself and Eric working on material that picks up slightly further down the path The Endless Blockade was on (this isn't "new" news).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2010 Part 3: The Problem with Power Violence (and two records from last year that i liked)

First world problems man...

OK, last one was noise, this one is power violence (and one grindcore record because it fits), next one is black metal.

There is no working definition of what power violence does or does not entail. Part of the problem is that many people believe that power violence is a definitive essence that can be easily found lurking within whatever audio murk is being examined. This means that whatever band/ record we're talking about is magickally moved from the set marked "bands that are not definitively power violence" to the set marked "bands that are definitively power violence".

A few years ago in interviews i started trying to side step the whole "what is power violence anyway?" questions (cuz, you know Eric Wood publicly proclaimed Endless Blockade were power violence and no one else was, thus making me an expert on the topic). I suggested that if we changed the language and asked who was influenced by power violence, rather than who was or was not definitively power violence then we wouldn't need to see the same endlessly boring e-fights about whether or not HSMP should be considered a sacred text in the Power Violence Canon or not.

I think power violence is something that can be defined, i just usually can't be bothered with the discussion that inevitably comes with it.

So who is having this conversation about what is or isn't power violence?

Well, mostly it seems to be people that are either pretty young or people who are excessively flippant (and who wouldn't be excessively flippant at this point?)

This is fine, but when people under 20/ newcomers are the only voices represented then shit gets skewed pretty quickly.

DIY culture is a living tradition, thus in the same way that i absolutely resist the notion that boring old gits like Stephen Blush (or me) get to define the debate on hardcore i also resist the notion that only the very young get to discuss something that's been around for a while now.

So what the hell is power violence anyway? Well, just because it usually can't be specifically named doesn't mean it isn't something tangible. Pick five people who are into black metal and ask them to define it and i'm sure most of them couldn't give you a clear answer. And what are similarities between Psuedogod, Burzum and Hate Forest? And by the same measure what are the differences? Because all three are black metal bands and all three sound utterly different.

Being able to pinpoint exactly what power violence sounds like is not really the issue because i would argue that it isn't a sound. I would argue that power violence is not a genre in and of itself but an offshoot of hardcore (and most certainly not grindcore). If anything it's a set of tools to compose music still very much within the framework of hardcore punk, but one that produces some different outcomes.

To my mind power violence parodies hardcore. When i say parody i don't mean the word pastiche, which a lot of people confuse for parody. I use the word in the same spirit as Bakhtin when he examined the notion of the carnival and the grotesque in his book Rabelais and his World. It is a purposeful distortion of another form to make a new point in the terms already laid out by the thing being parodied.

It's hardcore squared, hardcore on steroids etc etc. When hardcore uses a breakdown in power violence we exaggerate that point dramatically. The breakdowns are slower and it's a more jarring contrast. When hardcore uses short and fast song structures that don't follow traditional musical patterns in power violence we exaggerate those. Our songs are faster and shorter, our transitions are less predictable, our focal points are radically different, we use false build ups, we introduce riffs and discard them instantly without returning to them.

We fuck with the program but we're still definitely very much part of the program; if it moves too far away from hardcore then it stops being power violence (though it can still be influenced by power violence) and becomes something else entirely.

Take Mind Eraser, though they've mutated considerably over the years they write to the basic structure of hardcore but with the content replaced, making it something else, though still undoubtedly hardcore. Hatred Surge do a similar thing.

Iron Lung are all about the focus on repetition in terms of short, concise songs, and a massive expansion on the idea of punctuation and the pause in music. The repetition is very much there, but so fleeting and so shortened it flies past at break neck speed without becoming about lengthening the song. It's the idea of early Swans being attached to the speed of DRI and Koro. Songs are defined not in terms of melody and structure but where the pauses are, where the drums temporarily shift tempo before kicking back in.

Blockade towards the end was about taking the implied noise and dissonance of hardcore punk and really pushing it to breaking points at key moments. I was also starting to get really into the practice of shifting time signatures within sections of songs so a simple six bar pattern became something different. The denial of expectations that a lot of power violence represents has become predictable and codified (variations on the formula of two bar blast as punctuation, four bar break down, two bar blast, two bar breakdown, four bar blast to finish), so i was trying to keep to that spirit. Column of Heaven is largely founded on this song writing practice so far.

What does any of this have to do with 2010?

Well, rather than say "this record peels paint from doors and makes you feel like your face just got raped by a gang of PCP addled Vikings that just arrived through a rift in the space time continuum that this record fucking caused dude!" I figured i would define what power violence is to me, and a lot of people will undoubtedly call bullshit on my ideas, and from there talk about two bands that in 2010 encapsulated these ideas.

SFN - Itching 7"

I love this band. When i say "these kids fucking get it" what i'm really trying to say is that i perceive in their sound the formula i talk about above. They validate my own experiences and opinions, which is probably how most of us respond to art on a certain level.

I think i first met them in Wisconsin in 2006 when Blockade and Iron Lung were touring together. There's definitely a "mid-west, mid-week power violence curse" when you're on tour and i figured this might well be another one of those occasions where some whacky bullshitters with some half baked sub-Spazz riffs would be on the show. But no these four (as they were at the time) kids (Graeme must have been all of 16) were completely amazing and totally destroyed my negative mindset as soon as they started. Four years later and they finally released their first record! The demo 7" doesn't count. In a time where massive productivity is the key to getting your name out SFN spent years recording demos (i think i have them all) and refining the same set of songs endlessly. And fuck it's paid off for them. Ideally they've got over that stage of ultra slow writing and they'll give the world a full length sometime within the next 18 months.

I love power violence, but most power violence records i hear do absolutely nothing for me. This 7" reminded me of why i continue to mine this aesthetic.

Defeatist - Sixth Extinction CD

Not a power violence band by any stretch of the imagination, but i feel they apply the ideas of parodying structure and content to the grindcore genre in the same way that the good power violence bands do.

Defeatist are great in a subtle way. Initially they were one of those bands i would've said "fucking crush you with a clown car filled with mutant Orcs screaming about the end of the human race!" You know, that whole this-record-is-brutal thing without saying much else.

But listening to this CD and the Sharp Blade Sinks Deep Into Dull Minds discography CD (which i think i prefer slightly) fairly intently one day (which is something i don't do enough of these days) i picked up on a lot more things than i had first heard.

There's an interesting use of time signature going on and there's some cool shifting accents, that like Iron Lung define the form of the song rather than melody. But it's subtle, almost like how you notice how loud your refrigerator is when it stops making a sound. Yeah, apparently i've just decided that comparing music to consumer goods is a good thing.

Like Klaus Dinger of Neu's Motorik beat, to fully understand the section you're listening to you have to put it in the context of the part that immediately proceeded it and the part that follows it.

But it's also scream-like-a-banshee-guitars-that-sound-like-atlantis-sinking-drums-that-sound-like-a-boeing-taking-off brutal as well.

New age grindcore; tough as nails with a sensitive underbelly. Not really, i'm becoming self-conscious of how fucking ridiculous it is to talk too much about music.

Anyway, there's another two that would be in my definitive 2010 best of list.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 part 2: As Loud As Possible

For some the importance i feel that the publication of As Loud As Possible magazine represents may not be as clear as i'd like until the next post when i bring things closer to home and talk about power violence using some of the framing i'm intending to bring up here.

Going by blog comments, conversations at shows and personal e mails it's clear that The Endless Blockade managed to straddle the worlds of noise and hardcore with some degree of success. Some noise people that liked us saw an approach in us that, despite very different end results, either mirrored their own or at least came from a similar place. We also appeared to be something of a small gateway for people discovering the world of noise in its many forms.

For the people that are still navigating their way through the entirely intimidating noise as a genre via Bastard Noise, The Endless Blockade, Breathing Problem related things and a cursory knowledge of Dominick Fernow and possibly Mikko Aspa, ALAP is an essential purchase.

The importance of Throbbing Gristle is well documented. Like so many other intitially repugnant strains of art TG gained respectability through the passing of time and exposure to the fallout of their ideas. See also punk, black metal, techno, graffiti, yoga and veganism.

Bizarrely Whitehouse appear to have benefitted by being around forever as well; generally respectable music publications will actually acknowledge them now and write off the transgressive aspects of their aesthetic with a cursory mention of "Sadean wit" to get themselves over the initial hump of guilt over enjoying something that is essentially utterly hostile and downright unpleasant.

Even Genocide Organ have managed to find someone that will write that hoary old pile of dog shit pondering if they're merely "a mirror being held up to society" in the liner notes of the reissue of Remember. People need to remember that Mayakovski quote about art and mirrors better...

And let us not forget the exotic sounds of Harsh Japanese Noise like Merzbow and Melt Banana (sic). Like i said in a recent comment on another post on this blog, people who will reference Lords of Chaos in a conversation about black metal can usually be written off immediately as being unknowledgable. The same holds true for people that will bring up the Merzbow/ BMW story when talking about noise. (Read the actual story here and then move on with your life)

Sometimes it feels like noise has become an exotic oddity from the mysterious orient (that no one really likes), with magazine articles reduced to a few paragraphs shoved in between either Philipino and Mexican black metal bands (themselves more exotic oddities to be wondered at) or Hassidic drum and bass DJs and has been modern composers.

It's treated as either a gimmick or a curiousity.

And then there's the highbrow approach, the same one that some heavy metal fans will use to intellectually validate their tastes; some Russian woman can play Carcass songs on a piano, some Finnish dudes can play Metallica songs on cellos, so and so from some boring band is actually more like a classical jazz guitarist than some generic shredder. These things apparently give the veneer of respectability to something that in reality doesn't actually need that repectability bestowing on it.

The noise version of this is to reference people like Russolo, Cage and Xenakis; all of whom are interesting and there is an undeniable importance to their artistic and philosphical contributions, not just to noise but to music as a whole.

But none of this adequately explains the importance of The Rita, Sigillum S, Intrinsic Action, Government Alpha, Richard Ramirez ad infinitum in particulary easy terms.

As Loud As Possible is certainly not the first voice noise has had; there have been several zines, a few books (of varying quality) and some talking heads (also of varying quality). What ALAP does is examine the past and the present of noise using the terms of noise itself without relying on the hackneyed approaches of either exoticism or intellectualism.

Some have questioned the validity of the reviews section; in the micro-releasing world of noise most of these are long sold out by publication time and the reader has little chance to hear the product. This isn't actually important and the reviews function less as a buyers guide and more as a guide to the evolution of both individual artists and the broader scene.

Noise artists frequently release a lot in a short time frame and in limited numbers. ALAP takes snapshots and traces development, documents phases and the entry and exit points of movements and currents. HNW didn't appear over night, it existed before it was given a three letter acronym. Sam McKinlay of The Rita can quite eloquently explain (so feel free to make contact with him to discuss it further) that he sees the birth of HNW as being rooted in an approach that appeared in the mid 90s where a group of quite different artists deliberately moved away from the frenzied and hyper kinetic cut up clean sounds that the Japanese scene at the time epitomised (itself a steroidal push of the ideas Merzbow presented in Noisembryo). McKinlay (in personal conversations) makes no bones about comparing HNW to an art movement and that it needs to be seen in terms of a lengthy process of artists discovering their formula and the constant mutual re-informing and re-envisioning that these movements entail.

Using this lense, noise (and most forms of art and the culture attached to art) is defined equally by what it rejects and what it includes. ALAP acknowledges this and gives voice to the disparate tendencies that make up what is reffered to as noise.

ALAP looks at the past and how it informs and relates to the present; see the articles on Broken Flag, RJF, Interchange and others. And rather than just focusing on the past, which whilst interesting is too easy and ultimately too worthless to look at with no further explanation, it also looks at the present and again uses past reference points to explain how we got here (see Climax Denial, No Fun, Sewer Election and IDES amongst others).

This is the approach we (meaning noise consumers and creators) have rarely had. This is the voice that in a sense validates what we do without being held to account for the same boring questions we get from outsiders over and over again. Why someone would want to attach a contact microphone to a block of glass or why someone would want to release a tape wrapped in electrical tape and thumb tacks that is both difficult to open and difficult to find. These questions are dispensed with because they're unimportant and the answers can be found in other places anyway.

We can see where we've come from; whether it's a reaction to punks lack of real noise, a continuation of transgressive performance art or just teenagers hearing Whitehouse for the first time in the early 1980s who thought "i could have some of that" and starting their own power electronics projects and labels. We can see where we're at now and we can take a good guess at where we might be going.

Punk (and thus hardcore) is generally great at seeing its past but terrible at being able to get to grips with its current forms and by the same token too many noise people think they're reinventing the wheel and have no idea who their musical forefathers actually were.

ALAP is not an apology and it is not entry level. It presupposes a certain amount of knowledge to find meaning within its pages. Which is how is how it should be.

That noise is still viewed like it's the dark continent of music or that it's apologised for in terms of intellectualism is a source of occasional personal irritation. ALAP raises the bar and renders those approaches largely null.