Monday, 11 February 2019

Misanthropic Musicology VIII

If I were asked to make a top list of Minimalist music (yes The Wire you're welcome to ask any time mates), this album would wind up in it most certainly.

1. DARKTHRONE - TRANSILVANIAN HUNGER (yes this is in capitals because it is highly highly relevant to this silly little tract of self-indulgent drivel)

Yes, here I share with trembling hands and shimmering head mop perhaps a very important minimalist work in my opinion despite being what to many would be just a total neanderthal metal racket that must be shut off quickly please. And the reason I share this, is because this here chapter of Misanthropic Musicology, once more written from the confines of my sweaty southside apartment (when will this inferno ever. fucking. end?), is all about a "composer" of sorts, a conceptualist for sure, Gylve "Fenris" Nagell. Fenris/Fenris, named for the wolf that eats the sun in Ragnarok - an event it feels like we'll all metaphorically witness soon enough the way it's going - the end of days of Norse lore. Blow the dust off your eyes dear friends with Darkthrone, his main project, a duo for many years with iconic Black Metal minor chord tremelo-er Nocturno Culto (his real name's Ted, if my real name was Ted I'd also call myself Nocturno Culto). Their 1994 album, the above-mentioned and hilariously named Transilvanian Hunger, the black bible of minimalist grimness in metal, blasted tremelo chords over thundering monotone bass and drums, vocals as though old Ted was gargling broken glass while he "sang", an earnest, urgent and extreme expression of total isolation, each song only one riff, one chord, one stomping relentless beat. The shredded 8 track decayed aesthetic renders the power of this work well into treble, no chugging chords here thank fuckness, but dark, crumbling stucco walls on the edifice of civilization in sound. This aesthetic is part of a conceptual masterpiece which is the entire catalogue of Darkthrone, every inch of it well-considered and drawing from a tradition of underground metal, beginning in the 80s with Black Metal's first-wave, but embracing, particularly on the last few albums, the obscure tape and self-pressed lost world of basement metal that inhabits the 80's shadows like a backyard creeper with long bouffant hair and a weirdly large collection of studded leather clothing and at least one codpiece. But don't listen to me, here's  a lesson from Fenriz himself:

OK so he goes way way back to Sabbath and onwards, that's how deep the concept goes for this genius. But did he invent this stuff? No. The great leader of Norwegian Black Metal Oystein "Euronymous" Aarseth injected the nascent second wave of Black Metal with an ideological and conceptual fervour no doubt inflamed by his own interest in big ideas and concepts, including being a card-carrying Communist. But I digress, he's dead, and Fenriz is not, and over the last couple of decades, this iconoclast of ripping forest-bound racket has shaped that vision into an international network of underground metal with no chains, no bounds, total freedom. Once again, through seemingly limiting oneself, one can liberate oneself chaps!

Yes. Even the monochrome artwork for Transilvanian Hunger and the other two classic early Darkthrone albums ('A Blaze in the Northern Sky' from 1991 and 'Under a Funeral Moon' from 1992/3 hahaha such great names) is minimalist, degraded xerox photocopies probably printed out at the shitty Oslo post office where Fenriz apparently works and faxed by grinding the printouts between two stones, stuffing it in a bottle, and throwing it in the north sea, where it miraculously wound up on English shores and into the hands of Peaceville record's Hammy in 1994. But what is this sound? Well as per the above school session with our current subject, it is clear that the dirtiest underbelly of metal is to blame, and the degraded tape sound of old passed around metal demos in the 80s surely informs its aesthetic as much as the monotony and brilliance of Bathory and the early pre-nazified sonics of their contemporary Burzum, whose then imprisoned Varg "survivalist loony" Vikernes unfortunately though dramatically penned half the lyrics from his little cell for this blood thirsty rusty classic. The first four Bathory albums probably belong on my minimalist list as well. But before I throw that racket at you and ruin your day even more, I think an important aspect is the influence, though NOT not not musically in any overt fashion, is Krautrock. Euronymous loved Krautrock, even getting Conrad Schnitzler to do the intro to the also highly minimalistic and "primitive" Black Metal gutpunch 'Deathcrush'.

And on a tangent this doth take me from which we may never emerge. A tradition seemingly upheld throughout Black Metal, as inherited from Black Sabbath, seems to continue infernally eternally, a burning fire of Gehenna in small bursts of synth or drum machine, in atmospherics, and in monotonous drums, as though the voice of Jaki Liebetzeit (may he rest in piece) whispered in snow covered grim forests "you must play monotonous".

With bands unfortunately throwing too much of the Kraut ambience into the Black Metal rather than peppering their records with ambient intermissions to break up the head pounding clatter. Strange celestial synth parps inspired by a mix of Klaus Schulze and the dark organ and hardanger fiddle recordings of Knut Buen.

....this one isn't the greatest example but even many of the tape covers for old Buen releases look like they could be Black Metal, depicting wolves beneath the aurora borealis and dark forest surrounds...hell here's an example...

Got to the point eventually, this dark weird poetry synth piece not unlike other things done by Buen involving organ, hardanger and poetry but I won't bore you with that now. And yes Buen even did an album with Black Metal master Isahn of Emperor infame oddly called 'Hardingrock' which is actually pretty damn good. But I won't bore you with that shit, no, rather I'll bore you with a whole train of minimalist ambiance inspired by the work of this arch grimness conceptual master and the predecessors that inspired him because a whole post only containing links to harsh Black Metal is hard for anyone to take and this void noise is something that is surprisingly wonderful in the after hours as I sit still sweltering at 10:39PM in Brisbane while the makers of so much of this work are frozen in the harsh winter vastland.

And I can go on with endless examples til the night ends and I get back on the filthy Beeno for three stops to my current place of work which will remain as Unutterable as the last one. BUT I must state before leaving this topic behind like I leave a sizeable dint in my Monday night Marlborough Sauv Blanc that Fenriz indeed began an entire project dedicated to Schulze style Kraut synth meanderings in the stars with his excellent and underrated Neptune Towers project so here's a slice of that.

And back to Jaki Liebetzeit monotony and Bathory's unwitting channeling of it.

Drumming doesn't get much more monotonous than that. Hell the whole song is bare bones primitivism at its finest that there Bathory number. Drums clatter in certain pounding warlike tones to accompany a single riff belted into a demonic trance, but punk has something to do with it too, and as strange as it sounds so does classical music. When Bathory's aptly barbarously named Quorthon wasn't bashing out primitive minimalist metal racket in his Swedish garage in the mid 80s onwards, he was practicing his counterpoint and spending a lot of time at the local opera house I shit you not. These are wonderfully strange minds at play, driven towards the esoteric darkness and reveling in it like some absinthe-mad Romantic reborn. We return once more to the dark cellar of Transilvanian Hunger and another example of extreme minimalist tendencies in the Black Metal on an album of extreme minimalism, a song called 'I En Hall Med Flesk Og Mjod' (In the Hall with Meat and Mead), the first 60s seconds is just a single tremelo picked noted with monotonous Bathory drumming and then occasionally drops into an abyss seemingly populated by doc martins wearing neanderthals stomping to a beat taught to them by beelzebub himself after a night out on the lagers at a Sham 69 concert. Totally primordial and really quite mean let's face it.

But then, while you scream like a Munch and hold your ears in fear dear reader I take you to another facet of the compositional worldscape of this here arctic weirdo and his other snowblind mates. They're all a little too fond of Tolkien for comfort, references abound and our core protagonist here had another project called Isengard for the dark wizard of mordor or whatever the hell he is, but Isengard the musical project is brilliant, two albums of folky weirdness and pounding Celtic Frost minimalist knuckledrag of the finest. Like Norwegian psychedelic folk band Folque pounding sticks against a stack of unread copies of Celtic Frost founder Tom Warrior's woeful tell-all road book 'Are You Morbid' (sorry Neil I still haven't even got half way no matter what I drink). Yes it's that good. You don't know what I'm talking about do you. Hell, just like Buen, Folque have some serious proto Black Metal album covers.

I rest my case. And myself. Good night.

Next time....I have no idea...but worry ye not, I shall be back for mine misanthropy knows no bounds nor doth mine musicological impulses. Until then.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Misanthropic Musicology VII seems the world's most important train-based musicological weekly has betrayed its roots already and become a home operation. That's right, I write this to you not from the quiet carriage screaming towards The Unutterable but from the stinking hot confines of my flat on Brisbane's inner south. I could of course just wander up to Fairfield Station and ride that Beeno shit-dragon up and down this dusty heatwave dome of a town all day every day at present, but I won't. Instead I write here, enveloped in silence while some sparky (that's an electrician for you of the confused) fiddles with a broken powerpoint in my kitchen, fixing it and leaving within 5 minutes. Unheard of. Thank you, whoever you were you beardy high-vis wonder you. Now distraction free I listen intently to Rebecca Clarke's works for cello and piano, beautiful impressionistic gothicary filling my head. Who is Rebecca Clarke? Well a composer and violist/violinist of the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries to be precise, and I dare say a proto-goth goddess too.

You see, this week's Misanthropic Musicology focuses largely on the work of two great composers who somehow came into my mind at the same time, that being Mlle Clarke, and Siouxie Sioux. Do they have anything in common? Well surprisingly more than one might imagine. Siouxie is of course the original punk rocker par excellence, famous for her notoriety amongst the Bromley Contingent, a gang of punk rockers who followed the Sex Pistols everywhere, Siouxie thus becoming a household name in the UK after the swearing-on-tele incident incited by the host being a filthy pig towards her (at age 16 I may add) during an interview with the pistols.

Thing is though she also happened to be a musical genius, forming Siouxie and the Banshees around the time of this ridiculous film, a band whose incredible free improvised punk prayer "the Lord's Prayer" live in some dingy shithole in London or something inspired countless punk bands to form and go in new angles, directions, inflections, you effing rotter. The Banshees laid the blueprint (along with Nick Cave et al) for Goth, their lengthy discography is well worth a plunge, from the post-punk revelation of their debut The Scream, to the sophisticated multi-layered darkness of Juju and the in-between-these-two absolute fucking brilliance of Join Hands featuring one of my personal Banshees faves 'Love in a Void'. Here is not the Banshees playing it...

 ...a hint to next week's Misanthropic Musicology.

Anyway, listening still to Rebecca Clarke's works for cello and piano I sit, sweating and thinking of the similarities between Siouxie and Rebecca. Both grew up in Britain, both grew up in abusive households, both have been overlooked due to their sex/gender and given nowhere near the credit due as usual. Both also do Romantic, gothic, exotic, mysteriousness very very well indeed.

Image result for rebecca clarke composer
Rebecca looking forlorn and Gothy as fuck with her viola

Siouxie looking similarly forlorn.

Rebecca Clarke's compositions for viola have become, to an extent, standard rep for performers on that instrument, with a selection of inventive and beautiful viola sonatas well worth checking out. She also wrote this stunning hallucinatory ballad for violin and piano with the evocative title 'Midsummer Moon', sounding right out of the songbook of her contemporary British composers such as Ralph Vaughn-Williams, her French contemporaries such as Ravel, but with a voice all her own which is severely under-rated as I'd never heard of it until I started searching hard for it.


Siouxie also has the interesting though not that appealing to this here writer band The Creatures, whose percussiony thump under Siouxie's trademark Goth wail is an interesting listen though nowhere near as revelatory as The Banshee's extraordinary legacy. What a legend.

Amen. So do yourselves a favour and delve deep into this. I'm going to go back to listening to Rebecca Clarke and bad underground cult heavy metal accompanied by a washing machine I did some very dodgy repairs to some years ago (and it still works thank you) and two pedestal fans, which despite their best efforts are doing very little to decrease the ever increasing heat as the sun beats down on Brisvegas at high velocity, intensity: total genocide of all living things. You think I'm joking, but think on this, 1/3 of an entire species of flying fox has just been wiped out by the heat in Victoria, and basically the entire fish population of the Murray-Darling basin has just died. None of these places are anywhere near Brisbane, but it's still a worry, actually think I might spend my arvo wading in the pool and looking up bunker-building on YouTube.

Next week...Gylve "Fenris" Nagell aka Fenriz...


And some bonus Doro Pesch...

Hahaha "Metal Tango"....

Monday, 21 January 2019

Misanthropic Musicology Part 6

Well a rare site indeed at present, that being the inside of the 7th Locomotive Wonder of the UNIVERSE on it's rusty lumbering way towards the Unutterable. I'm not going to work though, as I have no job now (yep), but rather to rehearsal with as yet unnamed band who may or may not ever play live but what a pleasure it be with some excellent musical comrades in tow you bastards (since writing this line it is quite likely said band shall at least for one gig be named Exaybachay and said gig will likely occur on 24 Feb 2019). But this rambling nonsense isn't about my music, it's about composers and shit, and this episodes was promised to be Sean O'Riada. Problem is I got bored with a lot of it because despite how great he was, it's only his works for Ceoltóirí Chualann that are worth listening to (sorry, in my humble opinion that is), and there's only about three records worth of that marvellous stuff. And it's the same marvellous stuff on all of them! 

 So yes I listen now, as I have of late voraciously, to Billy Childish in all his ye olde Wild permutations instead, and what a legend he is. Folk songs in drunk twilight delirium. Well dressed mod psych with all the laddish toffery of that Rolling Stones video of Mick and Keith, drunk at a piano spilling vodka all over it and propping themselves up no doubt with methedrine alone!

Yes it's all that fantastic. This then whirls into record after record of garage punk delight with all its gritty Thatcher-smashing righteousness. Buff Medways and 1914 trench-war gas mask rock stomp. Over the edge to bayonet once more in blood and mud and endless pints of cider made from the blood of the Bosch. Bloody oath.

Well then. I've spent very little time of late on that bastard train and I don't mind. Perhaps location is not so important for this here endeavour. And a quick game's a good game. To bring it back to Ireland here's a song by Planxty, sung by the great Christie Moore. Next time....I dunno...It's a surprise!

BOOM Vacuum #15




B       A                           C                                                           K

30 JAN
the Junk Bar
$5-$10 (whatever you can afford)

The Quartet for the End of Time
Danielle Bentley & Adam Cadell
Duo Imply (Charu Mani & Hannah Reardon-Smith)

Sunday, 13 January 2019


Features a track featuring yours truly and the mighty ARTUS! Will be part of an upcoming digital release from PAGANS of a long improvisatory session, me + ARTUS, in Gascohna, in 2018. I'll blather more about it when the record is in the works, but for now listen to the incredible recent and upcoming works from this great label NOW.

Also NEXT BOOM VACUUUUUM 30 JAN, Same time, usual place. Get ready.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Misanthropic Musicology on the Beenleigh Line Part 5

Image result for pole top transformer on fire

So. Glora Coates washing my psyche on this final pre-yule week of commute if I make it that far. A combination of chronic sparkling shiraz (Christmas-In-A-Bottle) imbibing and the looming of impending redundancy is making the roiling run along the soaking tracks this morning more like fear and loathing in Brisvegas. God I hate my job. But I digress. Back to Gloria Coates and her broad, deep abstract expressionist compositional gesture. How is she not in the curriculum as a top notch mid-20th-century avant-gardiste? Oh wait she's a woman. But she is getting her just desserts to an extent at present and I admit to only recently coming across her when I noted BBCSSO were doing a programme of her work under the outsider-loving baton of Ilan Volkov. Gloria's gorgeous, intense, distinctive sliding textures directly invoke apocalyptic visions as her Indian Sounds (Symphony No. 8) slides through a genocide war dance that feels like time itself is melting under the boots of so-called progress. That seriously powerful yes! Invoking sounds from First Nations America while atonal washes of string horror intervene. This image is no mistake I dare say. Revolutionary and revelatory. Gloria. G.L.O.R.I.A. Glooooriyah!

Grey green swelter, Gloria's String Quartet No. 9's an absolute belter. Stunning textures slide, grip and patter in and out of focus, phrases melting like the soles of my boots on steaming tarmac. A quality of the folk outsider lives inside Gloria's work, like the grand masterpieces of a hermit unexposed to anything other than a few Pollocks they pilfered from the back of some derelict barn. There's a quality in her work that sits well outside the institutions while still paying heed to hundreds of years of compositional process (thank fuck, and in a nod to the original composer rebel the 9th quartet has shadowy echoes of Beethoven's Grosse Fugue) and well within the world of cantankerous greats kicking against the pricks. Her oeuvre is chronically under-recorded but the current one spinning has Quartet 9 (amazing) and the Sonata for Solo Violin which I will rush to get a copy of ASAP and learn it with the fever of the born again. This train moves with the same greasy glissando filling my ears. Will I ever get to work? Do I even give the remotest shit?

Gloria Coates' broad brushstrokes melting in Mississippi mud, about to bust the levee in strains of bottleneck blues all sliding up and down in abstract stroke, expressionistic howls from the margins of the canvas. Mississippi mud? Could be Brisbane river mud, that brown snake fangs lit in slithering heat dripping with venom and tears, taking souls on the in-breath making holes in the out, parting brown sea no-one wants to cross. Blown textures over known fissures of dissonance, shifting, grinding on the tracks matched in consonance. Don't think this ain't melting. There's gon' be some trouble here.

Holy dooly. Latest release of Gloria Coates, Piano Quintet and fresh Symphonic documentation Drones of Druids in Celtic Ruins, breathing cold in the belly of Cuchulaínn's ghost. Heatwave again in this low down long barrow, tomb on wheels and wires tearing through total climate Eclipse (the Duke and McLuhan didn't foresee this one). Gloria's apocalyptic sonar picking up waves, sending me up on their crest and crashing me into their fundamentals with a low bow Sonic Boom. Not even sure where I am despite familiar sites South Bank station mind the gap, or pour into the gap and join the primordial ooze beneath the tracks vibrating in dissonance with electro-charged steel, bows grind close to the bridge as piano depth charges chase your final molecules into the henge of happenstance. No stance, sitting, watching an old man with kind face read a heavily illustrated book that appears as a Hindu tome, emergency help point begging fingers to press just for the penalty for misuse. Hello brownssnake my old friend, screaming strings buried in tidal flow. Tied to the moon, The Wizard Fingers Never Rest.

Final ride toward the Unutterable for 2018 and perhaps for some time, against my own will, for the Unutterable forces have conspired to have my living ripped out from under me. Ah neo-liberalism you fat bottomshelf cunt. But I digress. Heatwave conditions again, blistering rise to 37 degrees at 7:30am, too hot for Gloria though I work on and in with her glissing apocalyptic swirl with the hot, heavy, slippery sounds of King Sunny Ade, Naija number 1 juju motherfucker. 1982 wasn't quite the apocalypse yet (couple years too Orwellian early) but it was the year of Juju Music. Deep bloody juju, born in sweat and dance in shadowlands, clatters of claves, minimal stabs, tweedles and slides of guitar and pedal steel, in and out of perception, pounding of ngungun bass to bring Baron Samedi out for an Endless Boogie til the last seconds of Saturday close and the final funeral party of the day tears Sunday open in trance and intoxication, burning skies as Gomorrah's smoke blocks out the first or perhaps the last light as you stand on the sea's edge, sweat and condensation mix on bottle side, sliding down into a psychic prone position. Yes that's right. But back to Gloria. Her work is finally getting some attention, though perhaps not the significant attention it deserves. Bigger and better orchestras are playing it. More articles seem to pop up about her and it, and all praise the Old Gods for that my dear friends. And so as I slide by the city phallus pharm on this 7th locomotive wonder of the world towards the Unutterable one last time, I bid you all a Merry whatever it is you celebrate this time of Year and a happy New Year.

Next time....Seán Ó Riada