Posts Tagged ‘Kenji Siratori’

Empty Quarter – 1st June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest instalment in the reissue series of albums by oddballs Photographed by Lightning is something of a departure from its predecessors – but then, each album marks a different departure, and if one thing this contemporary appraisal of their back catalogue highlights is that they never stated still or retrod ground, which each release existing in a completely different realm from those which came before.

Recorded in 2002 and released in 2004 and considered by the band to perhaps be their strangest offering (and it’s got some tough competition), it lists as its inspirations the works of Kenji Siratori, Friedrich Nietzsche, Suehiro Mauro, Georges Bataille, J G Ballard. I’m often particularly intrigued when a band’s citations are literary, or otherwise non-musical, perhaps because in some respects, while there is naturally much crossover between all creative disciplines, literary influences tend to be more cerebral, ideas or concept-based over sonic. When a bands say they’re influenced by Led Zeppelin, you can probably hear certain stylistic elements in the composition: but you’re not going to hear elements of Ballard in the guitar technique of any band – although with a substantial catalogue of releases to his credit, Kenji Siratori is a notable exception to the rule, particularly as the experimental Japanese polyartist’s forays into extreme electronica and harsh noise in the vein of Merzbow actually do very much resemble his literary works also as a brain—shredding sensory overload.

This is certainly a fair summary of the experience of this album: the title track, a mere intro at under two minutes, is a blend of scratchy, synthy noise with extraneous elements collaged here and there.

‘The Embryo Hunts in Secret’ and ‘Putrid Night’ are both a sort of psychedelic new wave collision, and with the wandering basslines that veer up, down, and everywhere amidst treble-soaked chaos, the effect is disorientating dissonant, as if everything is slowly melting or collapsing in on itself. Everything is murky, dingy, kinda distant-sounding and discordant. Take ‘Kundalini Butterly’ – a spiralling kaleidoscopic mess or scrawling feedback and a bass that sounds like an angry bee bouncing around inside an upturned glass, coming on like Dr Mix covering Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag’.

Blood Music is noisy, but it’s not straight-ahead guitars noisy: instead, it’s a mangled menage of bits and bobs hurled together – not clumsily, but then, not delicately, either, with pulsing washes of rhythm throbbing and crashing all around. It gets weirder and darker as they plunge into ‘My Hole’, where the bass bubbles and throbs beneath a continuous stream of trilling distortion, synth whistles and wails, and there’s a lot of overloading, whupping distortion that derails the helicotoptoring synths and froth and foam that sloshes around at the lower end of the sonic spectrum. ‘Dark Sun’ goes kind of industrial with a hefty, thunking beat, with a relentless, distorted snare, low-slung, booming bass and heavily treated vocals, and there’s chaotic piano all over the place: the emphasis is very much on the dark here.

Dave Mitchell’s lyrics are, we’re led to believe, to have been inspired by whatever he was reading, but buried low in the mix, bathed in reverb and given a grating metallic edge, he sounds like a malfunctioning Dalek chanting incantations. To be clear, that’s by no means a criticism.

Final track, ‘Frame’ is more overtly ambient, but dark, with a certain industrial hue as it shifts to pound out a relentless beat against braying sax and a whirlpool of aural chaos: I’m not about to suggest that PBL were going through any kind of NIN phase, but there are hints of parallels with The Fragile in places here.

Everything about Blood Music is seemingly designed to challenge, to present the music in the least accessible way possible – and it’s far from accessible to begin with, for the most part. The dark density of the sound is heavy, and there’s something quite deranged about the album as a whole, in a way that’s hard to define… but deranged it is. Which seems a pretty fitting summary of the band’s catalogue as a whole: the only thing you can really predict is their unpredictability.

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Karlrecords – KR024 – 15th July 2016

Edward S. Robinson

How I hadn’t encountered the work of Iannis Xenakis previously, I will never know. Nevertheless, it was at the 2016 European Beat Studies Network conference that I first saw – and then heard – examples of his work, courtesy of Antonio Bonome in his talk on ‘Polytopy and Burroughs’ Coordinate Points’. The crazy, three-dimensional graphs, or polytopes, which accompanied Metastasis were utterly mind-bending. Given that I’m neither a musician nor a mathematician, they didn’t mean a great deal to me, but as visual pieces, they were stunning. Conceptually, Xenakis’ fusing of two disciplines, music and architecture, breaks new ground in itself, with the combination of architecture and music translating to the architecture of music. And then Bonome played the sounds these images represented. Huge, extended, quivering, brain-draining walls of sound. Powerful, immense, they seemingly took solid physical form. This was truly something.

La Legende d’Eer was composed in 1977 and 1978, when Xenakis was in the midst of his far-reaching explorations of mythology and philosophy. La Legende d’Eer is another of Xenakis’ monumental polytopes, and was created to mark the opening of the Pompidou Centre in 1978. While previous editions have presented the music as a single track and across different releases, featuring an array of errors, this latest reissue from Karlrecords (which makes the work available on vinyl and download for the first time), uses the eight track version Xenakis himself presented at Darmstädter in 1978.

La Legende d’Eer represents one of Xenakis’ most renowned and celebrated electroacoustic compositions, and is a challenging work to sat the least. Not being musically minded in the compositional sense, or scientifically minded in the sense of the technicalities of the mechanics and frequencies and all that jazz, I’m perhaps rather ill-equipped to respond to the fullness of Xnenakis’ objectives and achievements. As such, this is less of an academic analysis and more of a straightforward review, and pulled more from the gut than drawn from anywhere else. However, this is sound which elicits a cerebral, emotional and physical response first and foremost. This is extreme music, which many would likely dispute even constitutes music, and a similarly extreme response is surely a natural one.

Those who are wired to actually derive enjoyment from it are likely a very small minority, but one I happen to belong to. The eight tracks segue together, and begins as a series of trilling whistles of feedback, building into a screeding, shrill mesh of treble, howling drones and pained hums that bow, bend and scrape. If sounds reminiscent of Whitehouse (the resemblance of ‘Wriggle Like a Fucking Eel’ to moments on track seven is remarkable, but then the twittering, jittering top-end noises Xenakis creates are also very like those which make up the majority of the Great White Death album) and the entirety of the careers of Merzbow and Kenji Siratori can be heard, then La Legende d’Eer marks the foundation stone of power electronics and noise. Amidst the earthwork rumbles and the buzzing swarms of hornets and the atomic detonations, shrieks, rattles and crashed are churned together to form a huge, excruciating aural assault.

Acute listening reveals complex internal polyrhythms of the sonic vibrations as they bounce together and against one another. And as the tones and velocity of the sounds shift, so the rhythms change. Indeed, La Ledenge d’Eer is a work in which sound is in perpetual flux. Bleeping arcade game sounds bubble from a tidal wave of noise which resembles a landfill sit’s worth of tin cans, blooping laser modulations surge and swell before devouring themselves and being carried away in an avalanche of static and pink noise. Extraneous jazz honks through a kaleidoscope of sparkling circuitry and low-end interference. In short, there’s a lot going on, and what goes on changes over the course of the piece(s).

It’s a three-dimensional attack on the senses, designed to inflict maximum disorientation and temporal dislocation. And it succeeds. It will necessarily and inevitably twist the psyche and create an almost indefinable sense of discomfort, and it doesn’t require a mathematical equation to calculate the unsettling effects of the sound on the listener. 38 years after its composition and it’s still an astounding and quite devastating work.

 

Iannis Xenakis - La Legende d'Eer