Taking a small cue from the current season of Halloween, I’d like to introduce my latest tune. I’m often on the side of not providing deep deconstruction of creative pieces but as I’m only going to skirt around the broader themes and add some rough background and some treats.
Before I start wittering on, this is the meat and bones of the post. A new song, a long song, and one I’m quite pleased with for its continuity and its formation.
In a quick answer to the opening question, no, I don’t. I’m sure there are folk who would intentionally mystify their activities to gain favour, power and money but I doubt they are truly dangerous or possessed of otherworldly powers. Of a more fatal type historically have been those ‘gifted’ with a skill to spot a Witch and claiming of a divine right to persecute and punish any that slip outside of their sphere of control. A nasty business from both sides and sadly perpetuated today across many communities. Fear in the unknown is a powerful persuader.
The mythology of witchery is pan-continental and with extensive history. Folk stories exist from ancient Greece, China and across Europe. Africa and its vast diaspora embrace it and continue to use its power throughout Africa and the West Indies. It’s endlessly occupying in the darker sides of life and bleeds out into fiction of all types. From schlock pulp, comic books, magical realism and beyond we love witchery in all its forms.
Since I was a 11-12 year old staying up with my Dad to watch Hammer movies I’ve always loved the horror genre. I’m less inclined to watch some of the contemporary gorefests that arise. The sense of mystery and the unseen is far more powerful. Along with the ‘Wicker Man’, ‘The Devil Rides Out’ the classic Dracula/Mummy/Werewolf movies I’ve had a long appreciation for ‘The Night of The Beast/Demon’. As it wasn’t readily available I bought an import VHS copy about 10 years ago. More recently I found an import DVD copy.
Now it’s even on You Tube?
Its a brilliant cross over UK/USA production made in 1957. Lots more about it here. It’s interesting to me in that it proposes the relationship between belief in outcomes and how belief can lead outcomes. The original story was written by M.R. James, an historian and academic who wrote several ghost stories. Apparently a new film version of this particular story has been proposed.
My song uses as its lead in an exchange between the two main characters of film – Dr. John Holden, the American rational psychologist and Dr. Julian Karswell, the professorial academic with a leaning towards the dark side. A far more well known use of text from this film is found in Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’….Its in the Trees! Its coming!…
For your further enlightenment, this is the film in question. Its a wonderful thing.
Sonically the tune progresses in a simple linear way – Introduction>Consolidation>Expansion>Proclamation>Disintegration. Most of this achieved through layers of rhythm and increasing distortion, I did want to include something nailed to reality and was inclined to find a real Witch.
Like the fictional Carswell in the movie, Aleister Crowley was an historian & academic. He was a great self promoter and was variously known as the ‘The Great Beast’ and the most evil man in England. In more recent times he has been further mythologised by references from Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan and any other Satanic referencing Rock/Metal band.
Many years ago I borrowed ‘Magik in Theory & Practise’ from my local library with one or two strange looks. Its a lengthy and mainly unreadable book that serves in many ways as a diary of Crowley’s onianism and its outcomes. Crowley travelled widely and assisted many archeological expeditions in the mediterranean, south America and China and was undoubtably committed to research and comparative cultures. He was worldly and well informed as well as being somewhat deviant in other areas. Its proposed that during the early years of the Second World War he worked with MI5, along with Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl & Dennis Wheatly producing mystified disinformation for Nazi opponents – it was even suggested that he came up with the popularised ‘V’ for Victory sign.
In the song , during the middle section I’ve used a recording of Crowley intoning a ‘prayer’ about America. One of the main edifices of Witchery is presentation, intonation…. ‘giving it some scary’. Crowley achieves this better than most. There’s a touch of the William Burroughs about it.
This is the recording I used for the song.
The song use a number of processes and apps. Mainly produced using Garageband with added Rev loops. The main guitar was my Eros Les Paul copy (£45 in 1985, nice pots) recorded in Amplitude. I guess I had some God Speed You Black Emperor In mind, or maybe Swans. I’m consistently surprised these things turn out without being completely discordant.
I’m working on that though.
God Speed You Black Emperor – Warwick Arts Centre
So it’s been a little while since I posted here. My day job is fulfilling many of my WordPress hungerings and the Glove of Bones side dish has been occupying my down time. September & October have also been quite a gig fest – King Crimson, Hey Colossus & Kogumaza, The Sisters of Mercy, Space Lady, the Sun Ra Arkestra in a couple of days and last night the stunning God Speed You Black Emperor. I’ve been looking all day for some comment but nothing so far. So I’m here to hang around in a temporarily empty space.
It’s apparently been 13 years since the last time they played the Warwick Arts Centre. Whilst nowhere near main stream the band has a fairly legendary cult status. Formed in 1996 in Canada and broadly tagged ‘post rock’ they are still a large ensemble of skilled and dedicated noise makers. The last album Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress from earlier in the year is their first single platter, all previous productions being expansive long form albums of everything from riffing & crushing guitars, folkish violin & cello to drone, static & tape loops.
The hall at WAC is mainly standing, a modern campus theatre space with a single balcony (I vaguely recall watching Bauhaus & the Southern Death Cult here in the 80’s in its previous life). The stage is low with dark curtain drops at the back. This was littered with equipment, two drum kits, double bass, stacks of amps and complex daisy chained effects peddles.
The opening band was The Dead Rat Orchestra, two contemporary chaps doing what I can best describe as post Tudor revolutionary ambient folk drone. Honestly, look them up. They were really engaging and idiosyncratic. Have a look here.
Just a little before 9.00pm the lights went down and the back drop flickered with shadows. A low bass drone hung in the air indicating the volume we should anticipate. Many sensible folks plugged in their ear defenders. Sophie Trudeau & Thierry Amar came out first, hooking up to the electricity and drawing sound from their instruments. The remainder of the band came in from the shadows slowly, Aidan Girt & Timothy Herzog on drums & percussion, Mauro Pezzente on bass, David Bryant and Mike Moya on guitars and effects – both seated, and finally notional band leader of the anarchist collective Efrim Menuck also on guitar, tapes & loops and a mountain of effects. From there on in its anyones guess. The band play, they don’t do show, no guitar faces, no ‘Hello Warwick and the surrounding areas!”, (in fact no vocal mikes at all). The songs are long pieces that build & evolve, the band know the pieces inside out and pass cues between them selves, and when they let fly the sound is internal and external, it shakes your boots and soul, glorious sweeping violin, growling distorted guitars and gut punching bass. Although I was on the frontline I didn’t in the end reach for ear plugs. It was loud but it was perfectly placed for the room. I could mainly hear the sound from the bands back line rather than the halls PA and their evident skill with sound manipulation would have been lost with a restricted plugged up dynamic range.
Its not impossible that they improvise around some pieces, I don’t know the songs by name, more by feel. They certainly played the four songs from the recent album:”Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’ Lambs’ Breath, Asunder, Sweet & the monstorously huge Piss Crowns Are Trebled. If I find a set list I’ll add it in.
EDIT – Setlist as promised;
This is ‘Hope Drone’ from 2011
I was as anticipant to see this as I was King Crimson – ultimately very aligned bands, equally about the music – but for pure visceral eye watering impact GSYBE took the edge. If you get the chance they really should not be missed. Its a fine line between GSYBE and Swans as to who’s the most affecting. Swans damaged my ears more…. but that was equally worth while.
Here’s GSYBE from earlier in the year
Filed under Comment, Gigs, Music, Video
Tagged as Drone, God Speed You Black Emperor, GSYBE, Live, Live review, October 2015, Post Rock, Review, Sweet Asunder, Warwick Arts Centre