Sunday, 31 August 2008
Saturday, 30 August 2008
The early 1980s was the last time that pop music will ever be interesting.
Alex Kapranos (of Franz Ferdinand/Herman's Hermits fame) is a hypocritical cunt.
When I was first interested in the Pet Shop Boys, at the tender age of 8, I was right all along.
Maybe those were merely prejudices that I'd already held prior to watching the programme. Not pessimistic enough then, and why no Soft Cell? Anyway, Dad's Army's about to start.
My article is pasted here for your delectation:
CUT HANDS HAS THE SOLUTION
William Bennett and afro noise
There are around 30 or so of us gathered quietly in the gloom of a subterranean bar, namely Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh, making small talk while we wait for the inaugural Cut Hands event to begin. Our host, the self-described “animal response technician” William Bennett, comes with quite a reputation. The founding member and sole constant of the notorious ‘power electronics’ act Whitehouse, since 1980 he’s helped produce a unique body of work that has polarised audiences even among the supposedly inclusive ‘experimental’ music crowd. Whitehouse specialise in extreme noise, in transgressive themes and lyrics, tackling areas of experience most would prefer to see swept away not just under the carpet but better yet under the floorboards as well. Over the course of 25 years Bennett himself has always refused to provide the comfort of any fixed meaning, either by explaining himself away or by justifying any of his motives. Now, having announced the demise and subsequent rebirth of the Whitehouse project, the new direction has come about under Bennett’s own moniker and is labelled afro noise.
Cut Hands is its flagship, described as being “a new night for music like no other: where the rules of the West no longer apply, where the sound of voodoo and santería is mixed with raw electricity.” The whole of one wall serves as the screen for a DVD projection; the display is mostly from the archives of the French anthropologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch. African villagers enact a variety of arcane rites, the dusty desert floor the backdrop for a series of uncanny rituals. Eventually our host politely introduces himself and passes round an old wood and straw tribal mask, which we’re invited to try on. Retiring to a darkened corner at the back of the room, our host lets the music play.
It plays. The African influence on the Whitehouse sound has become increasingly pronounced in recent years, culminating in last year’s Racket album, a riot of djembe drums working in chorus with the more familiar electronic assault. Writing in The Wire, David Keenan described it thus:
“Racket posits a more dystopian form of exotica, with ‘darkest Africa’ as the night-side of the psyche, a lawless, violent place of natural and manmade disaster, of scarification ritual, death squads, starvation and the breakdown of everything that the Western social contract barely keeps in place.”
The footage on the screen suddenly starts to reflect this ‘night-side’ as the villagers flail around speaking in tongues, foaming at the mouth, lost in all manner of altered states. The film is now edited by Nick Herd to provide the “Cut Hands visual solution”, cut and looped in time with the pounding rhythm as iridescent hues of bright yellow and green break out in piercing flashes. All the while during the performance a barrage of percussion and electronic distortion is beating away at the synapses, chiselling relentlessly, as the crowd give in and submit to what might be called a trance. There’s pleasure to be had in going under, in plugging in to something primal, and the audience is pinned back rapt. After an hour (maybe more?) of being lost in the void, a brief shell-shocked silence, before a smattering of applause. As we retire to the bar, the small talk begins again, this time a monosyllabic exchange along the lines of “you like it?” “yeah, really intense.” Then it’s a short wait for the next Dundee train from Haymarket station, my brain still rattling around the insides of my skull, my eyes seared with images transmitted from the heart of darkness:
“The horror! The horror!”
A few days before the event I had emailed Bennett with a few questions about Whitehouse, Cut Hands, art and extreme noise:
The ‘Afro Noise’ project seems very participatory, especially the idea of workshops where the audience can get involved. Will Cut Hands incorporate this at all?
Yes, quite possibly, in fact ‘Cut Hands’ will be the umbrella for afro noise - not just for the club nights but for any of its manifestations and guises (including the records), another idea we are planning is to have an art exhibition under this umbrella
As announced in February, Whitehouse will no longer have Philip Best in the line-up, while you are no longer performing live vocal duties. Will Cut Hands give any clues as to the direction future Live Actions might take?
To be honest, with regards to Whitehouse, nothing has really been thought through yet, almost inevitably, the relationship will be symbiotic; as indeed, much of the afro noise sound is borne from the recent evolution of Whitehouse recordings
Whitehouse has always polarised audiences, and after so many years ploughing this furrow do you feel vindicated at all?
Vindication seems to imply that one is seeking some kind of justice, and that was never the intent – artistically, I see polarisation as a symptom of that which is challenging to beliefs, so seen as a measure it can’t be a bad thing
Do you have any advice for Whitehouse neophytes? How should they approach this awesome, for many people quite intimidating, body of work?
As a member of the Let’s See What Happens Society, in other words, with an open mind
I took my younger brother along to see you and Philip perform in Leeds last year. He’s normally into rock music, but he really enjoyed it. He told me afterwards, “It was more like performance art!” Has there been any performance art that influenced the Whitehouse ‘act’?
Not directly – it’s taken a life of its own from the very outset all these years ago, from a domain of disenfranchisement and what your brother is seeing is really 28 years of that process
Who are your favourite visual artists? Has any artist had a direct influence on the Whitehouse sound?
Rather than name specific artists I find the museums in Vienna the most gratifying, I also love the Museum of Art Brut in Lausanne - no real direct influence on the sound itself, but certainly conceptually and not perhaps in the traditional sense (e.g. ‘Why You Never Became A Dancer’)
There have been quite a few noise/experimental artists such as Throbbing Gristle and Sun O))) performing in art galleries of late. Would you consider doing this?
Much art is assessed according to the context in which it’s placed, so it becomes a potent tool for marketing – beyond that perception, I see the aforementioned bands as belonging to the mainstream model
For me there is something Modernist about the Whitehouse approach; the desire to create something completely new and free of conventional structure, and now looking to Africa as a source of inspiration like the Cubists did a century ago. I’m not asking you to compare yourself with Picasso(!), but is this a valid observation?
Personally, I do relate to Picasso’s lifetime extraordinarily restless desire to discover sources of potential inspiration free of conventional structure (just as you describe); the secret to me is to remain committed to one’s intent
Are there any contemporary artists you would recommend to our readers? Whose work should they check out?
Definitely Stefan Danielsson, the Swedish artist, who did the cover for ‘Racket’ and will be heavily involved with art for the various Cut Hands projects – beyond that, I’d only suggest that art is to be experienced live and not merely in books, as music is much more than something you hear, art is much more than what you see
William Bennett afro noise set:
Thursday, 28 August 2008
Monday, 25 August 2008
THE YUCK ‘N YUM AUTUMN 08 ISSUE IS NEARLY HERE!
Come along to Drouthy's on Fri 29th of August at 8pm for a sneak preview. We will have live performances from All Modes On and Tom The Noisemonger.
All Modes On is the blissfully electro alias of the girl-who-plays-all-instruments…..Expect a lucky bag of melodic trips into the mystery glitter spangled world which is Sarah J Tingle. Her stripped down instrument choice set behind layered masses of musical input will invite you to listen to vocals that can mend a bad day and a nice long gaze, followed by just the right amount of drums.
PLUS resident hipster Ben Robinson and his electro comrade Scott Duncan drenching you in Disco!!!
Don’t fret if you can’t make it the latest issue will be free to download after this weekend!!! Hoora!!
Saturday, 23 August 2008
He lingered awhile in the vestibule, and the service was some way advanced when he was put into a seat. It was a louring, mournful, still afternoon, when a religion of some sort seems a necessity to ordinary practical men, and not only a luxury of the emotional and leisured classes. In the dim light and the baffling glare of the clerestory windows he could discern the opposite worshippers indistinctly only, but he saw that Sue was among them. He had not long discovered the exact seat that she occupied when the chanting of the 119th Psalm in which the choir was engaged reached its second part, In quo corriget, the organ changing to a pathetic Gregorian tune as the singers gave forth:
- Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?
It was the very question that was engaging Jude's attention at this moment. What a wicked worthless fellow he had been to give vent as he had done to an animal passion for a woman, and allow it to lead to such disastrous consequences; then to think of putting an end to himself; then to go recklessly and get drunk. The great waves of pedal music tumbled round the choir, and, nursed on the supernatural as he had been, it is not wonderful that he could hardly believe that the psalm was not specially set by some regardful Providence for this moment of his first entry into the solemn building. And yet it was the ordinary psalm for the twenty-fourth evening of the month.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
So on Tuesday night it really did happen. Kenneth Anger, the iconic filmmaker, writer, magician and whatever else came to Dundee and we saw a selection of his films. The man himself was very courteous and charming, signing autographs (see yesterday's post) before the event and taking questions from the floor afterwards.
During his introduction, Anger spoke of his affection for Scotland (Kenneth was the name of a Scottish fighter pilot, a friend of the Anglemeyer family) and of his recent visit to the house of Aleister Crowley on the hill above Loch Ness. The first part of the screening comprised a few films from the Magick Lantern Cycle, all classics of independent cinema that have lost none of their strange power:
Lucifer Rising (1973)
Rabbit's Moon (1950)
Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)
There followed an amazing screening of new and rarely-seen work, all made since Anger's return to film-making in the 21st century.
The Man We Want To Hang (2002).
Shots of paintings and drawings of and by Aleister Crowley, with a soundtrack by Liadov (according to my Anger monograph). This was an enjoyable piece, about 10 minutes in length, which showed a great many intriguing, surprisingly contemporary-looking artworks by the occultist.
Mouse Heaven (2004)
Introduced by Anger as a tribute to that "demonic imp" Mickey Mouse, whose current incarnation is said to be a travesty of the Dutch animator Ub Iwerks' original design. The film lasted about 15 minutes I think. It mostly featured shots of the Birnkrant collection of rare vintage Mickey Mouse toys, many filmed in close up with moving riveted limbs and jaws. The soundtrack (again, according to my Anger book) was by the ragtime specialist Ian Whitcomb, and also featured a song by the Proclaimers(!)
My Surfing Lucifer (marked 2007, I think)
A young man surfs in the sunshine to the soundtrack of the Beach Boys, Good Vibrations. This lasted as long as the tune, which would be about 7 minutes.
Elliott's Suicide - Tribute to Elliott Smith (1969-2003)
A tribute to the songwriter, comprising mostly performance footage and fan tributes. Lasted about 20 minutes and as I've no interest in this person I didn't care much for the film.
Foreplay (possibly 2008?)
This was shots of footballers training and exercising, with a soundtrack of quite dodgy trance music that kept cutting out for some reason.
Ich Will! (2000)
Footage from Nazi propaganda films of the Hitler Youth, edited in time to an orchestral score. Enjoyable, provocative, and due to be shown soon at the Imperial War Museum in London. This lasted about 40 minutes and featured a brief few moments when the colours went all psychedelic as the image split into symmetrical halves.
There was also an extra presentation in the upstairs gallery, where the crowd was invited up for a 5 minute screening from a DVD player and projector. This turned out to be something called I"ll Be Watching You, a short soft porn film with two men getting it on in an underground car park as a security guard watched them on the CCTV. The soundtrack was by The Police, and afterwards Mr Anger shuffled past with his briefcase and chuckled, "Excuse me, I just need to pick up my dirty movie here!"
The whole event lasted about three hours. We all saw more material than surely anyone can have expected, and it still seems amazing for something like this to occur here in Dundee. But it did, it really happened, and it's certainly not going to be happening again any time soon.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
Monday, 18 August 2008
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Saturday, 16 August 2008
So it's about time I broke this period of self-imposed exile. There's a call-out that looks to be of some interest, the Nine Trades project.
My proposal is as follows:
I live and work in Dundee.
I work at the Halifax / Bank of Scotland call centre as a customer service adviser for telephone banking.
I have been working there since 2003, when I took the job on part-time while at art college. Amazingly, I am still there.
I am on a part-time contract, but usually work lots of overtime to supplement my income.
I do not feel that my day job and my artistic practice are connected in any way whatsoever. This is a source of some frustration to me, and I see this project as an opportunity to perhaps rectify the situation.
The working environment for my ‘day job’ is highly structured and controlled. Reading is prohibited and conversations are fragmented.. However, many people draw or ‘doodle’ during their time at work, and this activity interests me as being an all too rare outlet for expression.
The doodles themselves are usually thrown away once the shift is finished, and one idea for this project might be to present the ephemeral workplace scribbles as being somehow timeless and monumental. The drawings could be used as the starting point for a larger composite piece, bringing together the productions of various employees in a singular artwork that would lend grandeur to what might have been thrown away and destroyed. I would also be interested in teaching my fellow employees a process such as screen printing or etching. To doodle using these techniques could prove interesting both for the potential artists and also for the viewer.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Saturday, 9 August 2008
Extract from H.P.Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from an accidental piecing together of separated things - in this case an old newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor. I hope that no one else will accomplish this piecing out; certainly, if I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so hideous a chain. I think that the professor, too, intended to keep silent regarding the part he knew, and that he would have destroyed his notes had not sudden death seized him.
Thursday, 7 August 2008
Extract from H.P. Lovecraft, Facts Concerning the Late Artur Jermyn and His Family:
Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous. Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species - if separate species we be - for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world. If we knew what we are, we should do as Sir Arthur Jermyn did; and Arthur Jermyn soaked himself in oil and set fire to his clothing one night. No one placed the charred fragments in an urn or set a memorial to him who had been; for certain papers and a certain boxed object were found, which made men wish to forget. Some who knew him do not admit that he ever existed.
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
Sunday, 3 August 2008
The launch of the forthcoming issue of Yuck 'n Yum will have to be relocated, and an announcement will be made in due course. Meanwhile we are currently accepting submissions. Should you have anything that's black and white and art all over, then send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is this Friday August the 8th so get busy.
Friday, 1 August 2008
Guardian interview: LINK
Tom Morton review in Frieze magazine: LINK
George Shaw on Henry Lamb's 'Death of a Peasant': LINK
Scenes from the Passion: The Blossomiest Blossom, 2001
Scenes from the Passion: Late, 2002
Scenes from the Passion: The Swing, 2002/3
Ash Wednesday, 2004/5