January 25, 2008

Music: Black Boned Angel - Bliss & Void Inseparable


Black Boned Angel
Bliss And Void Inseparable
[20 Buck Spin 2006]











Phew. This is both immense and intense. Those familiar with the extended aural barrages of Black Boned Angel will be as pleased as I was with this hour-long epic of heavy drone.

The dynamic range goes from near silent at the start to a massive wall of sound at the heart, but it never loses clarity - you can hear all the layers piling up. There has been a small avalanche of chancers jumping the doom-drone bandwagon in the last year or two, since everybody wants to wear the cloak of Sunn 0))), but this stuff is the real deal. Campbell Kneale has been putting out blissful drone epics as Birchville Cat Motel for a good decade and he knows his shit when it comes to making an hour-long track stay interesting for its entire duration. Sounds range from dual feedback guitar to lugubrious repetitive piano, with a heavy dosage of megaton doom making an appearance about minute 17.

It's a beautifully constructed piece of work and definitely one of my favourite sixty minute plus tracks of recent times!

January 08, 2008

Book: J.M. Coetzee - Waiting for the Barbarians

J.M. Coetzee
Waiting for the Barbarians
[Vintage 2004]











This is a simple book on the surface, with more complex ideas to be mined. The style is clear and open, with some beautifully realised imagery, but it effortlessly encompasses difficult and complex ideas concerning morality, justice and the pitfalls of "civilisation".

The story is narrated by the Magistrate: a complacent, aging bureaucrat in a frontier town, who is looking forward to an easy life, but whose peace is shattered by the arrival of a Colonel from the Third Bureau who insists on capturing nomadic barbarians from the surrounding area and torturing them to extract information about possible barbarian attacks on the Empire.
There are obvious parallels with current global political situations, and what could be interpreted as references to previous regimes (eg the Third Reich and the Khmer Rouge) which show the possible consequences when states sacrifice justice and morality in favour of security.

The mark of the quality of this book is the low-key way in which these ideas are presented. They seem to occur naturally to you as you read, rather than being explicitly stated in a grand authorial polemic squeezed into the mouth of one of the characters. Many authors would not have had the self-control to avoid lengthy diatribes on such an emotive subject. Coetzee gives you the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the Magistrate and allows you to draw your own conclusions about what he witnesses and how he acts.

January 07, 2008

Music: Crass - Penis Envy

Crass
Penis Envy

[Crass Records 1981]











Despite the influence of women like Siouxsie Sioux and Poly Styrene in the first wave, punk did develop a whiff of testosterone about it (see "Slut" by GBH for the apotheosis of lad-punk misogyny). Crass, as always, were as ready to rebel against the increasingly regimented punk scene as they were "The System" and this record firmly rejects laddish aggro in favour of foregrounding the voices and concerns of women.

The album kicks off in a typically Crass choppy, rhythmic punk style, but soon develops into other areas - some parts of "Poison In A Pretty Pill" reminded me somewhat of Neu!. As is always the way with Crass, they feel free to experiment: "What the fuck?" kicks off with noise and multitracked speaking voices and is probably the most "experimental" track, "Berketex Bribe" introduces itself with some tribal-style drumming and almost poppy guitar and vocals before kicking into the main punkier body of the song. The drumming really deserves a mention, as it is excellent throughout. Penny Rimbaud managing to fill the rhythm with detail, but still keep things focused - he's loose enough to sound great, but controlled enough to keep things moving in the right direction.

That said, it's the voice of Eve Libertine that drives a lot of the tracks forward - her delivery is incredibly tight and focused: you can hear the anger and drive. Lyrically, many of the songs deal with the social control of female images (through the media and cosmetics industries) and the repressive nature of gender roles (though these are not the only areas covered).

In summary: it's one of the best things Crass did and leaves most other punk bands for dead.