Wednesday, May 28, 2008


This starts with voices.

And their accents remind me how far things sometimes travel to reach me. This one's from New Zealand, but it came via Portland - that's Portland in Maine, not Portland in Dorset, fool - so it's been zigzagging its way across the globe like a long-range exocet or K W Jeter's Slow Bullet. Did it sit in a cold ship's cargo-hull or the mail-bay of an air-liner, piled up next to letters from ex-pat contractors or siblings separated by ill-advised circumstance? Lorries, trains and a Postman Pat van: bumping n bouncing around in baskets, boxes and mail sacks en route to my vintage mid-90s Panasonic XBS personal tape-player. The loneliness of the long distance cassette-tape traveller an' all that.

This gets me worrying about the Carbon Footprint of my favourite tapes - all those air-miles and the petro-chemicals consumed to create the plastic-casing or the tape itself. The electricity, the light, the heat, the petrol - vrroooom - vrooom - vroooommm...(that's me revvin' up!): "awww-lll aboooarddddd! - next stop: the heat-death of the universe! "

Are tapes more environmentally unfriendly than CDs (probably not!) or vinyl (definitely not!)....? So, maybe you could make a good case here for digital downloads being cleaner than analogue artifacts that have to be created from raw materials, then moved around the physical world just so I can have my fix of authentic sub-underground cultural fix .

As it happens I fucking detest mp3s.

(Squeezed bandwidth and reduced waveform modellin' - a cut-price, cut-throat approximation of music. Art reduced to Data: everything equal; everything 'free' artist's labour devalued to a giveaway, just so's some data-hoster can make a few cents margin off the crappy ads n pop-ups on his crappy site. Download it and let it sit there on yr hard-drive along with the thousand other things you'll never get round to listening to - no effort, no fucking commitment: it's as easy to forget about it as it is to download.)

Still, what about that wonderful world-wide-web of ours...all those millions of miles of copper-cables (and, more recently, fibre-optics), and all that landfill bloated with indigestable plastic Dell base-units and HP servers and IBM blades and switches and hubs and junction boxes and micro-wave relay stations and sub-oceanic cables...the mp3 medium itself might be clean, but that vast physical infrastructure that it relies on certainly ain't...

So, maybe that humble cassette ain't looking quite so shamefully grubby now...and if you want make yrself feel even better you could even argue that particular tape existed before anyone put any music on it...and those tranAtlantic flights were still gonna happen even if you only bought music that was made in a 5-mile radius from yr house, like they were organic legumes or something...

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah: "This starts with voices. "

Violinscrape and trills of controlled feedback circle each other warily referee'd by a 3-note Doomplod base-lane. At this point the music sounds so muffled that I check the batteries on the tape-player. They seem okay. But then nothing - a moment of existential panic - where's the fucking music gone? It's evaporated into silence; then I realise I've put the wrong set of headphones on lol.

Someone starts shouting in the ruins of something that used to be music, but its sounds like they're a mile or two away, trapped under the bass-gtr like they've been caught in cave-in, an accoustic mining disaster - I love this vagueness in music, the way it forces yr imagination to fill in the blanks.

Then someone starts whooping or screaming (joy or terror - I can't tell which) and they're joined by dozens of others...and they sound like fucking savages, I tell ya...the blood-curdlin' screams or yelps of hungry, flesh-eating cannibals teleported in from a faded print of an old Ruggero Deodato film - but they sound like they're worlds away, buried under accreted layers of musty analogue tape-hiss: Cannibal Ferox recast as Cannibal Chrome Position II.

(Just found this in amongst the inserts (incl. "The Adventures of Ambrose Jones"): “Recorded to cassette at Peel Forest in March 2007 during blood ceremonies composed by The Unnamed One and orchestrated by Mrtyu fellowship” - well, that explains a lot, then. I think this is Anthony Milton from the Pseudoarcana label with a few of his bone-gnawin' pals...and good for them, I say, gettting out for a bit of fresh air instead of sitting in all day glued to the box...My God, t-they're everywhere - they're here too.)

The a-side is called "Ritual Terra Continuii" and it tumbles onwards dn into a muffle-swirl'd Netherspace, a dimly-lit and barely-audible vortex of howls, retardo-gtr-n-violin, ticcing percussion and cavernous murk, a picnic singalong conducted by Clay twiddling with the headphone minijack I've found I can get a slightly clearer signal, but I actually prefer the more muzzed-up accidental mix...maybe if I play it on the Teac it might sound more...normal...? Perish the thought. It ends with violin-skrik and and amp/hummmn...and is those birds I can hear in the background?

"Marriage Of Birth And Death" begins with a searing welt of modulated feedback that seems to warp in time w/ the tape-flutter. No-Fi sonics; "Metal Machine Music" retooled for the Doom Metal Generation; a machine that slowly winds itself up and takes flight: there's something resembling a riff hidden below strata of distortion and a speaker-stack w/ punctured membranes. Tinnittus of the soul, sick and wearly; a blubber-boned monstrosity attempting a vertical lift-off, like Dumbo, ears flapping, but covered in chancres n sores....incredibly, it achieves flight, disobeying all known laws of fizziks like a bumblebee whose wings're made of tissue-paper and unholy harmonics; a kazoo in reverse. "That's the worst music in the world, ever," laughs my 7-yr old daughter, but she's grinning when she says it. Mrtyu inhabit some weird Post-Metal universe, achieving an ego-less, zen-satori sense of self-eradication similar to Sunn o))), but rather than overloading the listener w/ drop-bass meta(l)-harmonics and drone-overload, they cloak themselves in robes of muffled distortion and more mystic-hiss than a 1920's Jass 78...creating a music that threatens to almost erase itself, leaving only the faintest of traces of itself behind. Hauntological Metal, anyone? I still find it remarkable that we've gone from Ozzy to this in 38 years: Metal's def. part of the mid-70s Discontinuum; the fact that it so deftly picked up an interrupted musical dialogue with itself in recent years, dusted itself off and carrying on walking, whilst everyone around it (Punk, Hip-Hop, 'Electronica'...) are dropping like flies...we could make a pretty valid and winnable arguement for Metal being the most progressive genre around...(I wrote an essay about this months ago as an intro to an unpublished piece; think I may have to dust this off and post it...)

It's also got me thinking about the use of the word 'Ritual' in describing certain types of jams, how's it's become almost ubiquitous in recent years where sub-underground pysch/noise/sludge are did that happen, and why? The earliest example I can think of is H/Wind's "Space Ritual"...then the word became associated with certain types of pseudo-occult/'magickal'/musical-workings round the time of TG/PTV - early 80s, I guess; a hangover of Industrial Culture; a short-hand to add a kinda gravitas to otherwise slack ltd releases? Well, it certainly sucked in people like myself, John Eden, Lurch, etc lol...what were we missing in our lives that made this stuff so appealing to us? (And don't say the Christian Church lol - tho' you might be right, in part...a spiritual gulf, maybe, or pseudo.intellectual validation of certain life-style choices?) Still, I reckon the PTV route might have helped popularise the use of the word 'Ritual' in Western Alt.Rock circles; it certainly made Crowley, etc hep again...I'm guessing Underground Metal's flirtation w/ Anti-Christian imagery may have picked up the baton in the mid/late-80s, wh/ was then passed on to a more recent generation of noize-makers who've gleefully mulched Doom, Black Metal n Sludge (as well as the imagery n idioms associated w/ it) in w/ Psych, Folk, etc...hmmm: this seems like a reasonable, if somewhat foreshortened etiology of the word's recent resurgence. Something worth thinking about and expanding on, maybe...

Anyway, this css is ages old (last summer/autumn), so may be gone by now, but you can might be able to score a copy from Tipped Bowler (who are putting out a tape by the awesome Medroxy Progesterone Acetate ...) or from the Mrtyu site, who say:

"MRTYU is the vedic word for the concept of DEATH! We are the empowered followers of the practice of celebration of MRTYU as brought to the southern realm of New Zealand by the UN-NAMED ONE upon his glorious return from quest for the truths of dark knowledge in India and Tibet. DEATH is the great inevitable. DEATH is all powerful. We celebrate DEATH in all its forms, the creeping slow and violent quick. We are all DEAD but for quirk of time and molecular coincidence. DEATH is TRUTH! We practice our PHILOSOPHY and ARTS so as to acknowledge DEATH as TRUTH and to wage war against the folly of IGNORANT life. The UN-NAMED ONE is a great and inspired ARTIST who has no delusions in the face of DEATH. Alone and as a group MRTYU engage in rituals that involve NOISE of great and devastating POWER! The ceremonies of inverted-prayer and ritual subsimation to the power of MRTYU have been recorded. Some recordings of same have been released on audio disk. MRTYU! spits with hatred in the face of any person who listens to disks for any purpose beside their conduit to divine understanding of the PRIMACY OF MRTYU!"


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