Pumajaw

•March 27, 2009 • 1 Comment

Originally published in Plan B magazine, January 2009 – www.planbmag.com/shop

Pinkie Maclure – From Memorial Crossing (Liquid)

Lumen – This Day And Age (Ghost Train)

Pinkie Maclure & John Wills – Cat’s Cradle (Trefingle)

Pumajaw (aka Pinkie Maclure & John Wills) – Becoming Pumajaw (Trefingle)

pumajaw

This batch of re-releases charts the emergence of Pumajaw, red-haired brainchild of Loop drummer John Wills and prolific folk singer Pinkie Maclure, in the wake of this year’s quietly triumphant album, the tempered and textured Curiosity Box. Scotland’s Fence Collective, the Fife-based aggregation of folk types (of whom most famous alumnus KT Tunstall is far from representative) has produced some interesting work of late, in particular the increasingly krauty folktronica of James Yorkston, and these four albums go some way to contextualising the increasingly harmonious marriage of two distinct musical heritages.

Pumajaw is derived from a phonetic pronunciation of PMJW, the initials of Maclure and Wills, and such a literal interpretation of the process of collaboration is a useful way into the pair’s ethos. When folk and electronica have historically met, they have tended to read one another, to interpret an already-agreed set of values from another point of view, or to borrow and re-contextualise recognisable gestures; think of Rustin Man’s work with Beth Gibbons on 2002’s Out Of Season, of Four Tet’s Pause, or even of Ultramarine’s Folk. Rarely is the opportunity taken to contest the ground – the values, the tropes, the scope – of either genre, but this is what Maclure and Wills, in their various guises, have succeeded in doing.

Each brings considerable chops to the deconstructive process. Maclure’s range and technical ability as a folk vocalist are both extensive, and her lower register is particularly substantial. Though best known for his work in dronerockers Loop, Wills’s take on avant-noise found a new severity and abandon in later project The Hair And Skin Trading Company. The pair’s first collaboration, 2000’s From Memorial Crossing, finds its early consensus in borrowed otherworlds; the album contains renderings of Tom Waits’ ‘I’ll Shoot The Moon’ and Lynch and Badalamenti’s ‘Sycamore Trees’, from the Twin Peaks soundtrack. Further tracks are entitled ‘Blue Rose’ – another Twin Peaks reference – and ‘Fellini Overdrive’. Maclure’s voice swoops through and nestles in these adopted landscapes as though indigenous, but from her lair she scrolls out alien narratives thickly illustrated by Wills. Gradually, feelings of familiarity are subverted, and the pair seem to lament that loss even as they impose it.

The tendency to set up a familiar construct, only to paralyse and undermine it, is carried through their subsequent work, though they no longer need the world on loan. This Day And Age allows itself considerable license with the basis of folk; the vocal and its accompaniment take turns to illustrate and to thwart one another. “I am stranded in language”, Maclure intones repeatedly in ‘Stranded’, in a tone sometimes pleading, sometimes gloating. There is little prettiness, little storytelling, but much feeling here – the sound is reminiscent of later Swans – and an urgency that was to return from sonics to narrative in later work. Once upon a wickedness, I fell into some arms”, begins ‘Buttons’, “bigger than my belly, tighter than a clown. The key was heavy in my little purse, and every penny burned when I turned and tried to run.” Maclure drags her voice reluctantly along a frightening path, overhung with briars of noise that turn her narrative here and there. On both Cat’s Cradle and Becoming Pumajaw, dream-lore such as this is interspersed with more classical fare, such as the traditionals ‘Rosemary Lane’ and ‘Fine Flowers In The Valley’. Pumajaw point out the dark inconsistency, the fluttering at the heart of folk: its ability to recite, and then forswear a point of view, the abruptness of its tragedy, the abandonment of its swift conclusion. Into the silence after, into the meaning-gap, Pumajaw pour their capricious sound, and they mean to leave the listener no reprieve.


Video game music

•March 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Originally published in Plan B magazine, February 2009 – www.planbmag.com/shop – and many thanks to Louis for the edit.


manicminer

Formative influences being what they are, it’s little wonder that a generation raised in darkened rooms, eyes transfixed by bouncing sprites traversing blocky mazes, should now be found recreating video games culture in their art. Marnie Stern’s looping runs and baroque lack of variation in tone should be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever wielded a joypad, while Wizardzz – a side project of Lightning Bolt’s Brian Gibson – made an entire gaming concept album with 2006’s Hidden City Of Taurmond. Look deeper, though, and you’ll find a thriving subculture of games-influenced musicians that’s broad in ambition and scope, encompassing everything from emulation, remixing, cover bands, and original composition – projects borrowing not just from the games themselves, but from the culture, music and community that has grown around them.

In the US, this culture is traceable back to the late Nineties, when

bands such as Generic (later the Advantage) and Jenova Project

(later the Minibosses) began to arrange and cover popular game

music themes, touring often, making recordings freely available, and

encouraging others to join the remix culture – a growing scene of

musicians dedicated to re-recording game music.

It’s a culture that grew directly from the ranks of gaming fanboys. “I

met some kids that were learning 8-bit songs in my high school,”

explains Spencer Seim, drummer for The Advantage (who also

count amongst their number touring Marnie Stern guitarist Robby

Moncrieff). ”They were playing along to some previously

programmed drums, but I’d just bought a drum-set, so I asked if I

could play along. It was something I’d thought about doing a bunch

but had no idea in going about it, but they’d already taken all the

nerdy steps to go about learning all the stuff.” Many of these bands

typically gravitate towards Nintendo games, attractive for their instant

recognition, insistent and repetitive lead melodies, distinctive tones,

over-layered arpeggiation, and frequent modulation – many of the

staples, of course, of prog-metal and math rock. Game music is, in

short, noodle heaven.

Yet outside of its stories, there is little of the fustiness of prog or the

arcana of math-rock in game music. As a form, it’s progressed from

a classically Japanese foregrounding of melody towards the greater

textures brought by FM synthesis and multi-channel sampling, each

innovation giving rise to its own heroes, foremost among them Koji

Kondo, author of generational earworm the Super Mario Brothers

theme, Koichi Sugiyama, whose Dragon Quest 3 was the first game

music arranged symphonically, and Nobuo Uemura, whose Final

Fantasy soundtracks have synthesised Japanese and Western

traditions to such popular effect.

It’s perhaps no surprise that game sound technology, driven as it

was by composers pushing the envelope of both hardware and

programming, for some time became a staple of home electronic

composition. The Amiga and Atari ST were widely used by

contemporary Western musicians – the Amiga for its sequencer, the

ST for its MIDI – as affordable, state-of-the-art kit unavailable

elsewhere. Use of game consoles and chips – particularly, but not

exclusively, the SNES (or, for the faithful, the original Famicom) and Game Boy –

has since given rise to the thriving chiptune and 8-bit scenes, inhabited by the

likes of Nullsleep, Bit Shifter, and Unicorn Kid. “I was pretty fascinated by the

texture and mood of video game music as a kid, and the economy and

efficiency of these programs has really spoiled me,” said Bit Shifter

to digizine Chaos Control of his decision to reach for 8-bit

technology over traditional musical tools. ”It’s a pretty abstract

system, which to me is really a plus. It forces you into an unfamiliar

mode of conceptualising music and sound, which can lend well to

happy accidents and unexpected results.”

The chiptune scene is beginning to be popularly influential, as we

saw with last year’s global crush on Crystal Castles’ punk 8-bit. But

as evocative as the tones are, the majority of the chiptune scene is

remarkably futuristic; less a feint at kitsch than a passionate

advocacy of the power of polyharmonic bleeps, assembled like

edifices, yet retaining the plasticity and innovation of the best

interactive in-game music. Chiptune has instituted its own annual

bonanza, New York’s Blip Festival, while Two Player Productions

has documented the scene in the excellent Reformat The Planet,

which toured international film festivals in 2008.

Far from the filesharing and DIY shows of chiptune and remix is the

orchestral performance tradition, which has arisen primarily from the

lush scores dominating game music since Dragon Quest 3. Koichi

Sugiyama instituted his ’Family Classic Concert’ in 1987, bringing

the most popular game music compositions to the stage. The Final

Fantasy soundtracks are perhaps the apoetheosis of orchestral

game music composition, and the first to break the international

market. Since 2002, these compositions have been performed

orchestrally to concert halls all over the world, while 2007, the 20th

anniversary of Final Fantasy, saw the start of a world tour which

continues into 2009. Game franchises are wise to the remix scene

too: in 2003, Uemura recruited the Black Mages, a prog metal band,

to perform new arrangements of the Final Fantasy themes. The

Black Mages are as much a part of the Final Fantasy franchise as

Uemura himself, appearing at official concerts and events.

The symbiotic relationship between game music and Western music

cultures has come full circle with the institution of music-making

games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band saturating Western gaming

markets. When players pick up the controls to wail along to Blue

Oyster Cult, they are, wittingly or unwittingly, parodying two decades

of video game music culture by learning new, game-oriented

arrangements of rock staples. Game music is an evolutionarily lively

form, replicating and variating, inviting participation and innovation

by its very nature.

PJ Harvey and John Parish, A Woman A Man Walked By

•March 27, 2009 • 1 Comment

Originally published on the Quietus website, February 2009 – www.thequietus.com

pj-parish1

PJ Harvey and John Parish, A Woman A Man Walked By (Island)

PJ Harvey surprised many last year by bringing out an album so small in scale, so finnicky and chilly, that many critics saw it as a stubborn step back into dilemma by an artist who flourishes there. Though Harvey’s recent larger albums, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and Uh Huh Her, have seen the majority of her commercial success, stylistically White Chalk saw her taking more risks than at any time since her first solo record, 1995’s To Bring You My Love. Working principally on the piano, until then an unfamiliar instrument, Harvey’s compositions became a specialist lens through which to view spectral characters and stories otherwise lost to view. Both To Bring You My Love and White Chalk were produced by John Parish, his approach a dextrous combination of flexibility and sureness of touch perhaps needed by such brilliantly static and abhuman records.

The release of A Woman A Man Walked By sees the pair’s second collaboration with Parish in the songwriter’s chair, the first being Dance Hall At Louse Point, the 1996 album into which Harvey retreated after the effort and exhaustion of To Bring You My Love. Louse Point found Harvey sending her narrators out to wander the sinister mazes of Parish’s songs, an approach she clearly found liberating; her subsequent album, Is This Desire, contained some of her most accomplished, confident character writing to date, finally seeing off the biographical readings that had dominated critical response to her work until then.

Once again in A Woman A Man Walked By Parish has provided the settings for Harvey’s lyrical and vocal explorations. Perhaps fittingly after such a long wait, here the overriding feeling is one of glee; there’s a familiarity in contending for space among Parish’s often laden tonal picture. Where the lyrics might seem bereft or even hopeless, the tone is often contrastingly bold, even knowing. Harvey plays syllabic guessing-games, chasing from phrase to phrase of Parish’s arrangement. ‘Pieces, pieces of my love,’ she sings almost triumphantly over the swelling, urgent piano and percussion break of ‘The Chair’, before abruptly settling down into a set of descending phrases like a nesting duck. In the song’s final moments, to no accompaniment, Harvey tells its whole secret story: ‘..washed away in the water that took my son.’

It’s a cold heart or a brave black humour that can abandon such a line in the reeds, and elsewhere on this album, a piratical swagger lends distance to Harvey’s almost Von Trierian penchant for feminine extremity. Whether daring her lover to outblacken her heart (‘Black Hearted Love’) or squealing and barking in animalistic protest (‘Pig Will Not’) , Harvey’s gutsy take on genderfuck is literal and particular, an organic critique. The title track is especially explicit: Harvey explores the ‘lily livered little parts’, the ‘chicken liver balls’ and ‘damp alleyways’ of a cowardly ‘woman-man’, joyfully enumerating his various lacks, his premature balding, his inadequate ‘little toy’, before concluding ‘I WANT HIS FUCKING ASS’. Parish’s skewed, simple little riff gradually yields to thunderous drums that counter the vocal rhythm. This is no mere murder ballad; this is torture stomp. Harvey’s sexual aggression and gendered body horror owe much to Diamanda Galas, whose blithe take on sexual revenge is possibly best captured in The Sporting Life, as she chatters and cackles her way through the rape, torture and lynching of a trick by prostitutes.

For all its cocksurety and buttlust, this album deftly isolates some moments of dreamy uncertainty. ‘Passionless, Pointless’ is a photographic re-examination of an ended relationship, casting slight variations of perspective on the same small, telling events: ‘I slept facing the wall; I dreamed of buildings in pieces. You slept facing the wall, and you wanted less than I wanted.’ No modern songwriter is more capable of enumerating heartbreak’s immersive power than Harvey; snapshots of memory are examined for clues and flicked to the floor. But the pictures change for the looking, become meaningless. ‘I don’t remember,’ sings Harvey quietly. ‘How did we ever…?’ Parish’s guitar shimmers a chordal cloud of disquiet over the verses, then picks a silver thread through the refrain, and discordant flutes contest one another for a way through the confusion. Musically as much as narratively, the song argues persuasively for the phantasmagorical turmoil in everyday tragedy, the awful specialness of common loss. It’s Harvey’s good fortune that in this collaboration she can make such characteristic work, and Parish’s loss that his contribution may well be overlooked by fans, frustrated by the trenchant experimentalism of White Chalk, who are waiting for Harvey’s return to the blues-based rock idiom.

Antony & The Johnsons

•March 27, 2009 • 3 Comments

Originally published in Plan B magazine, December 2008. http://www.planbmag.com/shop antony

In gradually dawning light, I’m in the front few rows for the Halloween performance from Antony And The Johnsons. Nestled in among the London Symphony Orchestra, members of the Johnsons lead new arrangements of songs stretching back as far as the first album. ‘The Rapture’ and ‘I Fell In Love With A Dead Boy’ are freshly stately in this environment; the Barbican is ghostly-new, fingers of sound penetrating through heavy curtains. ‘For Today I Am A Boy’, from 2005’s I Am A Bird Now, the album which managed to shock the music industry by winning the usually predictable Mercury Music Prize, is confident to the point of abandonment, the centrepiece ad-libs bubbling out irrepressibly, as strings sob joyfully all around.

Antony, robed and Junoesque, is measured and gentle, his movements deliberate gestures. With an entire orchestra to flow through and compete with, his voice sounds more daring and beautiful than ever as it presents the otherworldly tableaux of songs from new album, The Crying Light. This is far from the intimate, confessional performances of the I Am A Bird Now tour, nor is it a return to Antony’s former incarnation in performance art and genderqueer cabaret. This is something else; and it’s something else.

The glow lasts. A couple of days later, I arrive at Antony’s hotel, where I am met by his glorious travelling companion Joey, one of the NYC Beauties that Antony and Charles Atlas (1) immortalised in the ‘Turning’ video art project, and justly cast as a goddess in the video for Hercules and Love Affair’s ‘Blind’. I feel I’m still radiating what the performance has given me, that characteristic openness to idea and feeling that it inspires. Antony picks through his breakfast, and we gradually wake up together.

Antony’s work since I Am A Bird Now in collaboration with other artists is some of his strongest work, vocally, particularly the aching, hopeful ‘Blind’ and his collaborations with Björk on Volta. ‘The Dull Flame Of Desire’ demonstrates stunning range, and despite the repetition of the poem (the lyric was taken from a poem by the great Russian Romantic poet Fyodor Tyutchev), each pass he makes at the refrain makes the whole song feel larger, to the point of bursting.

“It’s such a challenge singing with Bjork because she’s so expansive. That’s where that bursting feeling comes from, I think. I have literally never seen someone so full-on in the studio. She’s totally committed every moment that she’s there. She pushed me out of self-consciousness.”

Hercules and Love Affair’s take on queer-positive disco seems to have really taken off.

“I’m so happy about that. It’s great that Hercules And Love Affair are emphasising that side of it. Apparently they’re doing really well, in Italy in particular. Andy [Butler, DJ mastermind of Hercules And Love Affair] and I recorded ‘Blind’ before we did the rest of the songs. It was a real experiment. We were messing around, he had this lyric he wanted me to work with – I think he wanted me to be his Alison Moyet [laughter]. I liked the challenge of trying to sing to a beat, trying to literally move people with the vocal. It’s a very different goal. I hadn’t ever done that before.”

‘Blind’ is a moving lyric in the figurative sense too. The story is alien and familiar at the same time – the landscape seems unknown, but the hopes of the main character provoke so much feeling. Is that Andy’s lyric in its entirety?

“Absolutely. There are other lyrics on that record that I wrote, ‘Time Will’, and ‘Brace Me Up’, but they’re far thornier; ‘Blind’ has an innocence that’s really important and as you say, it’s empathetic. I focussed on that, on telling that story, on remaining true to it.”

The new performances seem to draw on some of these new experiences too. The symphonic arrangements are very idiosyncratic – are they [producer and composer] Nico Muhly (2)?

“Nico and I arranged all the songs for the LSO. Most of the older songs are the ones Nico did by himself, but the newer songs we did are also on the album. I’m not classically trained, I can’t read music – I’m self-taught. So we have very different skills sets, me and Nico. I have simple ideas about melody and countermelody, voice and tone, and we go from there. He has this panoramic sense of the possible, like, working with a symphony – I would never have known how to approach that.

“The older songs, those that he arranged that we’re performing on this tour, are fantastic, but they’re interpretations. My intention was to record the newer songs definitively, as opposed to interpret them – I wanted to be the sculptor. Performing them now with the symphonies is tremendously exciting.”

At the Halloween show, the LSO was such a gigantic noise generator, and you were playing with it like a kitten.

“[Laughter] It’s like being on a really big river. A flood. Such energy being generated, and I’m being carried through it. I’m more used to having to be the river.”

***

The crying light/A sanctuary that can hold me/Allow me to come awake/Allow the child in me to rise and gaze upon the world with open, shining eyes/I am safe here, dancing my brokenness/I know my joy/I step into myself and become a shadow/Remember when I was my grandmother, when I was a fish/I remember who I will become/The crying light comes from the crystals in the dark hearts of mountains. – ‘The Crying Light’

The embodiment of nature is a perpetual theme of new album, The Crying Light. In these songs, the barrier between the self and the world is dismantled. Limbs become water, leaves become eyes, sunlight becomes crystalline emotion. ‘Everglade’ describes a moment of connection with the natural world that resonates throughout the physical and spiritual being of the storyteller. It’s a bodily journey that’s in a different dimension entirely to the gender-transformative narratives more familiar to Johnson listeners.

“They’re actually entwined, those two ideas – being born into the transgender community, my experience of being in my body has been quite alienated. I felt I was stuck inside this thing. I have been searching my whole life for a place where I belonged, and ‘Everglade’ is about my realisation that I do belong. I am at home. I am a part of the sunlight and the water and the trees. My body stopped crying for home, I stopped feeling alienated. I stopped having such cruel thoughts in my head, that I was alone and would always be alone.

“A few years ago I was lying in a canoe at a friend’s house in upstate New York, flat out on the water, and looking up at the trees above me, and suddenly was struck by imagining that each of the leaves was an eye. ‘Everglade’ is addressing that alienation, seeking to re-connect with that perpetually watching world.

“I know it sounds crazy, but for a while I was so afraid of rocks. In Catholic cosmography, human beings have souls and everything else is a question mark at best. We have a unique spirit content, and everything else is consumable. That in itself has a huge effect on what we think of as sacred – that the soul, which we have and nothing else has, is inconsumable. But for other civilisations and cultures, that’s not the case. Aboriginal Australians believe that their dead become rocks – that there are families of rocks, that rocks are family. Their ancestors are these sacred containers, the rocks.

“I visited the North Pole, and I was standing on a slate hill in Svalbard, and I really felt a tremendous sense of energy from the hill. I think perhaps it was because it’s such a remote place, so far from civilisation, there were no distractions. But I felt the life inside the mountain. I felt it so strongly, and it was a real turning point for me, the idea that I could imagine that within the stone there was such a joy and spirit and freedom – energy dancing inside of it, even in something as still as a stone. And I wrote ’Dust And Water’ about that experience.”

The stillness of rocks can be misleading. My name means ‘rock’, too. I come from a little seaside town called Hastings, which is basically a medieval fishing village between two giant hills to the west and east. The East Hill has a nature reserve on top of it, up over vast cliffs. There’s a private, rocky beach that you have to climb to reach. I would go there all the time, even in the middle of the night, freezing cold, I’d go there and sit on the rocks, and watch the sun come up and reveal all the different kinds of stone – flint and slate and sandstone, all these seams of stone gradually crumbling and falling down. The cliff face is different every day. And where those stones and the sea meet and correspond, I feel absolutely at home. That’s where everything that I know somehow begins.

God, I’m sorry.

“No, Don’t be. I’m always crying when I sing Dust And Water. That’s the idea – that when water meets dust, life begins. It’s about me being afraid of being stuck in the stone, that the stones are lifeless, but then – oh no, even the moon – the ice is coming, the water is coming. Nothing is stuck forever, everything is changing, always. Thank you for doing this with me. I’m right there with you.”

There’s such a sense of urgency to this record. Where does it come from?

“I wanted to make a marker in time, marking the incredible loss we’re all feeling as we deplete the world, the only world we know, the only world we will ever know. Heaven is not elsewhere; this is all we have. We’re at such a critical point with it, not only in the physical sense but also on a threshold of feeling. This has preoccupied me throughout my adult life, and it has reached critical mass in terms of my wanting to take it as a clear theme for this group of work, at this particular point in time. I set myself a task to be really clear about it, to write and talk unmediatedly, to set down a marker in time to show directly how I’m feeling, and that’s what Another World is.”

The version of ‘Another World’ used on both the album and EP is far from a bald statement. It conveys both presence and distance, a commitment to the world and a sense of its demise. In the recitation of what will be missed, there grows a vision of paradise, both present and lost. What is unequivocal is its grief; the vocal gradually submits to tears, wavering at the edge of sustainable tone. There’s a palpable sense of farewell that feels almost suicidal, and this new album spends much of its time talking to the dying and the dead.

“Yes, to an extent. For me what’s more interesting though is how those people and worlds are still alive, the way that all things are alive, the presence of all things. Everything is available, all the time.

“‘Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground’, which is a lyric that could easily be interpreted as being about death, is a song that at first I thought was about my mother. Later, I realised it’s a song written by my mother about her mother, through me. I believe we’ve got our local sense of self, the personal life of each of us, but I also imagine I carry all the lives that came before, the line of life that goes back to the beginning of time, that you can tap into or give voice to, or find inspiration from.”

An understanding of the self, and the enlarged set of representational possibilities it brings, are borne out visibly within the within the new symphony show. As Antony sings, small and graceful choreographies of feeling carried out through figurative gestures, powerful and characteristic, though rarely drawn from the singular source of personality.

“When I’m on stage, I’m always seeking the imagery that will carry me through, and oftentimes that’s not a particularly personal imagery. As I perform more it’s rare that I’ll be indulging personal details of my life a as a source. I use more abstract sources like a flock of flamingos flying through my body, or a ghost stepping into me from five generations ago, coursing through my arms.”

“It’s an idea that comes from studying butoh, the dance form that was developed by Kazuo Ohno(3), to whom this album is dedicated. Dance was more than a form to him, it was a spirit form. He would cast a circle of light around himself, and in that safety, some very precious part of his spirit would emerge. This part of him was feminine, childlike, filled with wonderment, as though everything was discovered for the first time. He made his masterwork as a dancer between the ages of 79 and 95, so obviously it wasn’t about acrobatic prowess. It was about this movement of essence from one state to another, that you witness when you watched him, that is tremendously moving. I studied with one of his students. Maureen Fleming, a wonderful dancer from New York. A lot of my process is very informed by his work; I’ve tried to apply the lessons he taught around finding movement to finding a voice.”

Is it important to you to equate that essence with the feminine?

“Well, I think the album definitely addresses themes of mother and father in terms of masculine and feminine forces. The song ‘Aeon’ is a song about the father, but it’s also about the brokenness of men in general. I believe men have to undergo a transformation in order for the way we’re living now to shift. They’re operating at a disadvantage, hormonally. It’s a different kettle of fish, testosterone [laughter].”

Speaking to trans men who’re taking hormones, I hear a lot about the effects of testosterone. They find it can be a really big change to have testosterone in their bodies.

“There’s no one who can teach us more about being a man or a woman than transgender people. They’ll tell you what it’s like to take those hormones. If you talk to trans men, that transformation they go through, you hear how radically it affects their person, their whole spiritual and psychic makeup, and their emotional and behavioural makeup too. I’m not saying that’s the entire directive force in a person’s manifestation, but it makes a huge difference. In terms of the way society’s set up, I feel that we’re coming to the end of this crazy male-dominant, patriarchal era of thousands of years. That has to shift if things are going to go forward. Does that sound crazy to you?”

No. It doesn’t sound crazy, but I don’t think it’s just men who are in need of change. I think gender is showing itself to be unstable, and I look to trans people as being pioneers of gender. These are people who embody unavoidable questions about where gender actually sits. Where is it really alive? Does it sit in other people’s perceptions? Does it sit in your physical body, which is changing all the time? Does it sit in chromosomal identity? Is it about the hormones in your body? Is it about who you have sex with? These issues are very present for trans people – and they’re issues that are actually there for all of us, but we don’t think about them because patriarchy sets out systems that we think with instead.

“Right, but for me, it’s been a process of unlearning gender. I feel I’ve been raised in a world that’s male-neutral, where god is male, or devoid of the feminine, if not male; that’s very clear in Catholicism. The power systems are male. Capitalism is based on values that are associated with very masculine archetypes, in our own system. The male patrols the perimeter, is territorial, is competing and hoarding resources for his own family. All those things come from a desire to survive and protect one’s own, but there is a different time now. There are seven billion of us, and all the other life forms are disappearing. Now what we need is the wisdom of the inner circle, of the feminine. Not that the feminine is always gentle; Johanna [Constantine](3), who’s my lifelong creative partner, portrays femininity as quite Kali-esque.

“But that’s the next phase – to discover how we are part of this world, as opposed to how to dominate it, and eke from it the things we need. It’s almost as though we need to have a paradigm shift to the feminine neutral, to the ways that we are collective, and connected to the world. No more building the fort and fighting off and killing intruders, killing food and hoarding fuel. There’s nowhere to go with that process anymore. We’re at the punch-line of that particular joke.

“Being born transgender, we’re very lucky, to be able to swim against the prevailing current of the culture. No matter how intimately something’s put on you, you have something inside you, that tells you are something else. And you know that, in a way that few people are gifted with. There’s something in you that tells you to fight that imposition. I will always have more in common with another tranny from Bangladesh than I do with my next-door neighbour.

“We are at a point now where that kind of consciousness is about to emerge. I think trans people’s experiences are very important to that; trans people have experienced being socially positioned as the opposite gender, we are acutely aware of how gender works in society, in the family structure and in the prevailing culture. I think there’s a really practical, useful purpose for trans people in society – to bridge the gap that is there, that painful gap that’s been imposed by societal ideas of gender.”

You’ve spoken about Catholicism being an imposition on you, but I don’t think there’s such a gap between the magical thinking of Catholicism – that sense of being perpetually surrounded by angels, demons, saints and martyrs, of the world being driven by a metaphysical struggle – and the kind of feminine-neutral animism you’re talking about. It might not be such a leap; it might be a natural next step.

“So much of Catholicism is lifted from Paganism. I remember the May Day parades as a child; the Maryan imagery was very pagan and obviously, in terms of the calendar, was lifted from the pagan celebrations of Beltane. The pagan panel of deities, a lot of them also were transferred over to martyrs and saints; there are so many parallels. The ritual remains – the name changes, but the soul is alive. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of magical thinking.”

FOOTNOTES

1. Charles Atlas: filmmaker and video artist Charles Atlas has worked in New York since the 70’s, documenting and elaborating the city’s dance and club scenes. He has had long and fruitful relationships with many figures in the dance and performance worlds, including dancer and choreographer Michael Clark, co-creator of the Fall’s I Am Kurious, Oranj, and renowned performer and designer Leigh Bowery.

Atlas has also collaborated with avant-garde musicians, including Diamanda Galas and Fennesz. In 2006 he and Antony Hegarty created and toured ‘Turning’, a set of collaborative portraits of New York women and trans women in live video and sound, including performances by Antony & the Johnsons.

2. Nico Muhly: a prolific young composer and arranger whose work is influenced as much by Reich and Glass as it is by Byrd and Tavener, Nico Muhly has worked with both Bjork and Antony & the Johnsons for several years, first providing live piano and string arrangements, and later collaborating with Hegarty on his own duet for viola and voice, ‘Keep in Touch’, from his 2006 collection, Speaks Volumes. Recently Muhly has contributed symphonic arrangements for the Antony & the Johnsons tour, and co-arranged several songs on The Crying Light. He is currently working on an opera, due to premiere at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 2009.

3. Kazuo Ohno: Ohno’s iconic career as a dancer and performer began in 1949, at the age of 43, when he held his first recital. Rejecting Western forms that dominated dance in Japan at that time, Ohno at first sought an authentic means of expressing the great turmoil he had witnessed while serving in the Japanese army; one of his early recitals described watching jellyfish feed on the bodies of soldiers buried at sea. He worked with Tatsumi Hijikata in developing an entirely new form of dance, ankoku-butoh (the ‘dance of utter darkness’, now known as butoh), which, though formally very controlled, dealt in surreal grotesqueries. Despite this, the techniques of butoh are transformative in intent, allowing the expression of essential aspects of the spirit. At 102 years of age, and having performed well into his nineties, Ohno is still alive; his son, Yoshito, runs his dance studio.

4. Johanna Constantine: a founder member of the notorious Blacklips Performance Cult, a high-gothic avant-garde troupe of self-described ‘downtown artists, gender mutants, and drug addicted hybrids’, performance artist and dancer Johanna Constantine has been a collaborator of Antony Hegarty’s since their time studying at Santa Cruz. From there, the pair moved to New York to study in NYU’s prestigious Creative Theater program, and to immerse themselves in the city’s genderqueer performance scene. When Hegarty went on to form Antony and the Johnsons, Constantine became a Johnson. Constantine’s style is transgressive and intimate simultaneously; her performance often involves using blood and bodily fluids, either real or fake, as adornment.

Nadja

•March 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Originally published in Terrorizer magazine, April 2008

Nadja – Written On The Body

nadja

2007 was the year Nadja emerged head and shoulders above their peers in ambient doom metal, dragging behind them an extraordinary pedigree and a reputation as an incandescent live act. In advance of their Roadburn appearance, and with re-releases from their huge back-catalogue selling like chthonian fairy cakes, Nadja discuss their new record, ‘Desire In Uneasiness’, and their personal history, with Petra Davis.

I traced along the length of your forearm,

Can you hear me?

…at least (it seems)

your flesh, your body,

can hear me.

From Fingerspelling, by Aidan Baker

From text on the body to the body in the text, it seems Aidan Baker, one half of improvisational doom duo Nadja, is concerned with the boundaries of the physical, with what sound can do to the body. The textures contained (and barely) within Nadja’s characteristic euphonic blast – what Baker playfully refers to as their ‘wall-of-sound approach’, referencing Phil Spector’s riproaring chorales – are each discernible in themselves, singularly and in interaction, in their sensual swoop and sway, their proximity and distance; and finally, in their merging, in their unison. While Earth allow light to play over their sinister landscapes, while Cobalt call down their limitless thunder, Nadja allow the listener to witness distinct and graceful skeins of sound working to cocoon a mysterious entity, conspiring its inevitable transformation.

Nadja began in 2003 as a deliberately doomy and metal-influenced project. Baker is also a solo artist, having released more than 50 recordings under his own name on a variety of Canadian and international labels: something of a personal interest for him is dispersing his music among cultures very different from his own. While his eponymous releases tend towards ambience and experiment, with influences as widespread as Hendrix and Sun Ra, Nadja is a far denser proposition:

“It’s really an outlet for my interests in heavier and noisier sounds: it allows for a certain level of aggression that doesn’t always feel appropriate in my solo work,” Baker explains. “That may or may not be readily apparent in our sound. I know a lot of people consider Nadja’s music soothing and mellow, but an equal number find it dark and disturbing. For me there’s usually an element of aggression in there somewhere, even if only in terms of sonic obliteration. Part of our aesthetic is embracing those contradictions or ambiguities between heaviness and ambience, darkness and light.”

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at some point we become different something other than what we were simultaneously more & less than two at some point our languages change & the stroke of my tongue is nonsense against your skin

From Phage, by Aidan Baker

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As Baker points out, what sets Nadja apart from his solo projects is a shared aesthetic. Bassist Leah Buckareff joined in 2005 to allow the band to go on the road. But Baker and Buckareff share more than a tour bus: they have been in a romantic relationship since before Nadja began. Given the pair’s correspondence of ideas, the sensual interplay of instruments, voices and textures that characterises Nadja’s sound, and the onstage (and instudio) communion of their collaborative improvisation, it’s tempting to read Nadja as a relationship band – a Fleetwood Mac or an ABBA. Is that temptation deliberate?

“There is probably always a ‘me’ and ‘you’ in our music,” admits Baker. “Does that make us a relationship band? I don’t know! Perhaps it’s our Swans influence – Gira’s lyrics are so often about power relationships, master and servant, self and other, mind and body…”

So it’s about competing dualities, rather than a more personal relationship? The push and pull of an irresolvable difference?

“…well, I hope our ‘me’ and ‘you’ aren’t always locked in a love/hate relationship! Some of our songs do have positive ‘outcomes’, even if only through the element of transfiguration.”

“I suppose our being together does make this easier for both of us; we’re such compatible individuals,” Buckareff relents. “Aidan’s desire was to move Nadja away from strictly an ‘Aidan Baker’ project to an entity that includes us both. My involvement has grown in all aspects of what we do, from performing to songwriting to art direction.”

For a band whose imagistic palette is so rich and dense, it is perhaps not surprising that both Baker and Buckareff work in other artistic disciplines also: Baker is a prolific writer, having published several prose works, while Buckareff’s interest lies more in artisan forms. She recently gave a lecture at a Toronto arts festival on the maths of hyperbolic crochet – knitwear design based on Pythagorean geometry.

“How did you hear about that?” she laughs. “Math is what drew me to it, really. I promote all kinds of craft outside of Nadja, but actually the music we make is very much crafted – we improvise live around a solid structure.”

For Baker, too, there are thematic and structural correspondences between his writing and his music. Duality, animality, loaded sensuality, all are quite as alive in his written work as in the world Nadja constructs. The textual music of his prose seems close to the textural sonics at play in ‘Touched’ or ‘Corrasion’.

“Duality, the other, the self, perception – in the eyes of the self and that other, whoever it might be – are certainly recurring themes for my writing, and they are there in Nadja,” he agrees, “but I think my prose and my lyrics are fairly different; in terms of substance, at least, if not thematically. I’ve always considered vocals more like another instrument: they’re just another texture, rather than a focal point for a song. And my lyrics are usually pretty abstract. They’re meant to suggest an idea or an image or an emotion, rather than state it clearly. But because my prose doesn’t have music to lend it support, it has to be more specific – it has to embody a more concrete notion.”

But there have been specific projects which seem to correspond, not just thematically, but to be aware of one another, almost. ‘Bodycage’, Nadja’s 2005 release – focusing on the debilitative disease fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, which gradually encases the body with a bony exoskeleton – seems very close in its concerns to Wound Culture, Baker’s prose musings on psychosexuality and the body. A familiarly Cronenbergian mix of romance and horror stalks both works.

“I suppose it comes down to that fascination with “the other” – or fear of it,” Baker elaborates, “the idea of a mind/body divide, where the body is the other to the mind. With Wound Culture this manifests via an exploration of sexuality and how the physical affects the psychological (and vice versa). But in ‘Bodycage’ the mind/body divide is a more literal one; the mind imprisoned within the body by disease…the body imposing itself on the other…or the vagaries of natural selection, via a seemingly science-fictional disease, imposing itself on humankind.”

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I fall into you

& replicate

reproduce like a virus,

rearrange like a mutagen

– from Lysis, by Aidan Baker

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New release ‘Desire In Uneasiness’ is no less infectious – and no less brutal – than its more thematically dystopian precedents, but introduces a new sense of space and dimensionality to the band’s sound. At the core of many of the songs, the band’s characteristic heartbeat patterns remain, but around them, drones reverberate hugely across the stereo picture, and deliciously dubby basslines fade in and out of focus. It seems there has been a shift of perspective, from inner to outer space. Perhaps the shared internal world of Baker and Buckareff has been externalised somewhat by working with a live drummer for the first time. Jakob Thiesen joined Nadja to record ‘Desire In Uneasiness’ last year.

“We haven’t actually performed live with a drummer yet,” admits Baker. “The songs on ‘Desire In Uneasiness’ were less written than constructed – taken from jams that we did with Jakob. Some more so than others, but the majority of the tracks were chopped up from the original sessions and pieced together. Usually, we start out with a simple structure of riffs or chords, and then I build a drumtrack, so this was very different for us.”

Despite the manipulation of samples from various sessions, improvisation – moment-to-moment communication between separate, harmonious sonic textures – remains at the core of Nadja’s recording process.

“It is quite important to us, yeah,” Baker says. “Once we have the skeleton of a song down, we usually add layers and/or improvise soundscapes and textures over top. Often these parts will determine how a song or movement transitions into the next, so improvisation does play a huge part in the structure of an album as a whole. It’s not just for atmosphere, for texture.”

And how much of the live performance is similarly improvised?

“We usually have a couple of set songs which we play more or less the same way, but we do specifically leave some time in the set for some free-form, improvisational material,” Baker emphasises. “Live, things often sound very different anyway, songs can’t easily be transferred from a studio setting. “

“By improvising, we’re really allowing our audiences to witness the ‘making’ of a song,” adds Buckareff, “although I don’t know if anyone actually thinks about it that way.”

“We connect with the sound rather than performing or presenting it”, agrees Baker.

So far, so exceptional. Is there a significant or influential context that makes sense of the Brobdingnagian ambition and alterity of Nadja’s work? Do the band’s roots lie in metal, in drone, in noise, in avant garde?

“People are totally divided over that,” deadpans Baker, “they don’t know whether we’re metal or noise. Or shoegaze or experimental, or WHAT.”

What do you think you are?

“Whatever. I guess we’re something else,” he grins.

Boredoms – Super Roots 9

•March 26, 2009 • 1 Comment

Originally published in Plan B magazine, April 2008 – www.planbmag.com/shop

super_roots9

Boredoms – Super Roots 9 (Thrill Jockey)

The Super Roots series of EP’s, spanning 15 years of the band’s history, is usually accepted as being the best introduction to the various guises
Boredoms have taken. From the skronky exhibitionism of their early work,
through their mid-period acid rock, to the urgent, lush soundscapes they
currently inhabit, via multiple lineup-changes, Super Roots marks out the
various territories Boredoms have traversed. This ninth release in that
series, after a gap of 8 years, captures a performance on Christmas Eve
2004 which saw the band joined by a live 20-piece plainsong choir,
performing a single, 40-minute long piece. Of the EP’s so far, this is the
most exuberant and generous yet: a gorgeous offering both musically and as
an artefact, with a bound booklet of the score and suitably psychedelic
artwork by eYe himself, all wrapped under the tree and heralded by
reindeer. Hoofbeats clop. Sleigh bells ring. Are you listening?

It’s been argued that to read the Super Roots EP’s as a progression is to
denigrate the band’s previous incarnations and impose a false sense of
evolution, and it’s true that Boredoms’ early work stands up independently;
but there is such movement in their current sound, such a sense of
propulsion, that some notion of momentum cannot but suggest itself. This
recording, however, works carefully to subvert expectations of forward
motion, both structurally and sonically. It begins by ending: immediately
following the arrival of Dasher, Dancer and friends, the choir introduces
itself with a major arpeggio over two octaves, repeating and extending it
for long minutes until, urged ever faster by cymbal crashes, it becomes an
exaggerated concerto finale, almost a musical joke. It’s not until the
choir has thoroughly bidden a farewell that eYe swirls in sythesisers and
shouts a demented greeting in response, and Yoshimi, Yojiro and Muneomi
start the unstable tattoo, so far removed from the steady motorik of Super
Roots 7
, that signals the beginning of the first movement proper. The
effect is of being folded back into the tonal heart of the chorale; of
moving backwards or towards a centre, rather than outward into space.
To match this false beginning, there’s also a false ending, 27 minutes into
the piece. With explosions, phased reverb and shouted encouragement from
eYe, as the choir moves ever further up the scale, the drums begin to pass
a pattern around their circle in a manner (familiar enough to those who
have seen Boredoms play) suggestive of imminent climax; the synths conspire with the choir, once more referencing the language of classical finale, and the piece shudders to a temporary halt. It fools the crowd, in any case, until their shouts are interrupted by the resumption of the drums’ central, deconstructed theme, this time in half-time, before the drums follow eYe’s delayed synth, his tone-generation toybox briefly abandoned, into the
full-on psychedelic freakout that dominates the last movement. The synth
works in and out of the tonal picture so dimensionally, above and below, in
front and behind, pitch-bending into the attack of the choir, sliding forward from behind its decay to lead it elsewhere or provoke it to outburst.
Super Roots 9, then, is far too careful and referential to fit easily into
the critical expectation of FAR OUT SPACE RACE. This is not the Sun Ship
that John Coltrane conjectured in 1965, although it borrows some
polyrhythms from Elvin Jones. Nor does it ape Reich or Gibson – it’s just
too abundant, although again, it owes is repetition and variation, and its
manipulation of classical motifs, to the minimalist tradition. Yet despite
showing its workings, this record, as with much of Boredoms’ recent output,
maintains a sense of ecstatic celebration. The plainsong here suggests a
pastoral rather than ecclesiastical worship, a celebration of all things,
everywhere at once; something close to the Universal Consciousness of Alice Coltrane, the celestial made personal, the perpetual affirmative beaten out of a thousand hearts.

Boredoms

•March 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Originally published in Terrorizer magazine, May 2008.

boredoms-live-sml

Boredoms: dance for the dead

Latterday psych-trance drum troupe Boredoms have been beating out the rhythm of the unknowable for 20 years, set against unbearable noise, incomparable riffs, and now pastoral-classical minimalism. Ringmaster Yamantaka eYe talks to Petra Davis about history, purity, and music as violent ceremony.

More than five centuries ago, Mokuren, disciple of the Buddha, was concerned about the fate of his dead mother. He had become convinced that she was suffering in the afterlife. Mokuren used the powers he had acquired in his studies of the Buddha’s wisdom to gaze into the afterlife and discover the fate of his mother. He found that she was, indeed, suffering greatly; she had fallen into a shadow realm, becoming a preta, or Hungry Ghost – a restless, vampiric spirit envious of the living, suffering insatiable hunger for human substance.

Horrified, Mokuren returned to the Buddha to ask for help in liberating his mother’s spirit. On the advice of the Buddha, Mokuren made offerings to the priests returning from summer retreat, and by means of his work and sacrifice, saw the spirit of his mother released. In his happiness, he attained realisation of the many sacrifices his mother had, in her turn, made for him, and the great love she had borne him all her life. Transported, he danced with joy, his feet beating an ancient rhythm on the ground, giving rise to the bon-odori dance.

The bon-odori is still danced today all over Japan, at the summer festival of Obon, the Japanese equivalent of Mexico’s Dia de los muertos, which sees families visit the shrines of their ancestors to tend the graves of those gone before, to celebrate their lives, loves and achievements, and to save them, through careful ritual, drumming and dance, from the fate of the shadow realm.

Bon-odori dancing is what makes our shows so physical,” explains Yamantaka eYe, singer, programmer, choreographer and master of ceremonies for Boredoms, referring to the intense physical discipline of their shows. (For the uninitiated, Japan’s Boredoms, consisting of three drummers – Yoshimi P-we, Muneomi Senju and Yojiro Tatekawa – as well as eYe, can perform their tribal ecstatics for hours at a time, facing one another in a circle they liken to a spinning turntable of energy, drumming constantly.) “The way these drummers utilize the space in between sounds and their breathing techniques inspire me. Sometimes during a performance, I feel like I am in contact with my deep inner self. When I’m able to do that it is very liberating.”

The bon-odori carries connotations both of celebration and of mourning; it is a rhythmic sacrifice to the elders, an acknowledgement of their work and an amelioration of their suffering. The rhythms of the bon-odori, the insistent pounding of its drums, are designed to transport living and dead alike, to distract the pretas from their longing by sheer percussive bliss. Similarly, Boredoms seek to move the hungry ghosts of their audience to the altered states to which they themselves aspire.

Throughout their 20 year career, through numerous changes in line-up and a near-constant evolution in their sound, Boredoms have retained an unshakeable faith in the spiritually transformative properties of ancient forms of music, perhaps akin to the faith inherent in nationalist pagan or Odinist metal traditions, though more open to adaptation. “Music can’t be seen or touched, and it passes you by. But it has the power to leave an imprint and keep on reverberating in your mind,” says eYe. “When you’re communicating with an animal, it feels natural because you’re not in a surface level of consciousness or using verbal language. You’re communicating through your mind, which is the same power that is inherent in music.”

From such transcendental musing, one might suppose that the roots of Boredoms lie in meditative, gently synaesthetic traditions, but the reverse is the case. Bon-odori may be a celebratory form, but it is also fierce and deathly, its polyrhythmic attack considered a highly effective means of communicating with Japan’s most fearful ghosts. In more modern terms, too, Boredoms spring from the gritty theatre-of-cruelty experimentations of no wave. eYe’s former incarnation was in peerless thrash confrontationists Hanatarash (with Mitsuru Tabata, latterday axe-maniac of Zeni Geva), whose performances pushed sonic and physical boundaries to the extent of imperiling both the audience and themselves. One memorable show saw eYe hot-wiring a bulldozer which he then used to demolish the room; another involved chopping up a dead cat with a machete. Recordings were sporadic, sometimes consisting of a limited edition of one, packaged with a tooth pulled from eYe’s mouth. Shows were equally confrontational sonically. Preempting the Japanoise movement by several years, Hanatarash used machinery and power tools to produce almost unbearable frequencies, extending them far beyond the comfort zone of their audience. Boredoms sprang from that same wish to jolt the listener out of an imaginary safety.

“When you drop a physical object on the ground, it makes a sound. Confrontation is similar to that,” explains eYe, linking the shock tactics of Hanatarash to the more conscious challenges of Boredoms. “It’s something that I perceive as being percussive – like drumming. We’ve been screaming and banging on stuff for the past 20 years! And we still play tricks and games on the listener, when it comes to the way we record. We definitely explore those dimensions. “It’s a paradox, but extremity will eternally exist in all things that are universal. It’s possible to feel unbearably loud in perfect silence, or you might feel complete silence in noise,” he muses. “Such extremity might be a doorway in getting closer to a state of nothingness, a zero point.” The earliest Boredoms shows expanded on the idea of that nothingness, either pushing feedback so far that the signals flatlined at the boundaries of human sensory possibility, or else evoking the shock of silence (one show consisted of eYe gesturing with a hooked hand over a near-imperceptible drone).

boredoms

These more conceptual live performances (eYe admits to being influenced by the media art concepts of Laurie Anderson) gradually settled into their noise/thrash sound, showcased on the early Anal Series recordings and their first studio album, Osorezan no Stooges Kyo. At the same time, the band began quietly releasing their more thoughtful, musically referential series of EP’s, the Super Roots releases. This series, now in its ninth incarnation, swiftly began to borrow from a wide array of traditions and genres, including deep house, techno, doom, and free jazz, as well as more traditional drumming styles such as oodaiko, wadaiko, and gagaku, all Japanese classical or shinto ritual forms.

“I see ‘Super Roots’ as a blank canvas, that’s the only thing those recordings have in common,” says eYe. “They’re a place where I can freely experiment.” In fact, while mid-period Boredoms albums began to move gradually away from the abrasion and fracture characteristic of Osorezan no Stooges Kyo or second album Soul Discharge, Super Roots was already preempting the band’s latest incarnation as a psychedelic-tribal drum troupe led by eYe’s tape-loop manipulations. “We’re still influenced by no wave,” insists eYe. “But it’s more the DNA-type stuff, that tribal percussiveness. Our sound has grown organically; we’ve never really concentrated on any one style or genre. I’m as influenced by Merzbow as I am by early hardcore techno. People can categorise us as they wish – noise, alternative, whatever.”

Boredoms’ latest release, Super Roots 9, sees Boredoms look to classical minimalism for inspiration. The EP’s single 45-minute track sees an expansion on the band’s celebratory psych, incorporating new structural games borrowed from Steve Reich and Jon Gibson, and eYe’s pitch-shifting tone generation gives way to a live choral arrangement throughout the piece, consolidating eYe’s role as composer and conductor of a very measured chaos. “I was messing around on a turntable with a Jon Gibson record, and changing the pitch to make different phrases,” explains eYe. “It started to sound like human voices to me, so I decided to have those sounds written out as a score, and actually have a choir sing the score for a performance.” The confidence and complexity of Super Roots 9 is the mark of the band’s increasing ambition. On 7th July 2007, in Brooklyn, Boredoms played their ’77 Boadrum’ show, performing for 77 minutes with 74 other drummers (including, among a considerable cast, Andrew W.K., Taylor Richardson of Sunburned Hand of the Man, and Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale) arranged in a perfect spiral of 77 drum kits, playing a composition which was (did you guess?) a meditation on the number 7. The effect was mesmerising, a twisting harmony of rhythms and tones giving way to a stunning unison of beats. It is Boredoms’ most ambitious project to date, and one that eYe is keen to expand upon. Though critics had expected a ’88 Boadrum’ for the 8th of August 2008, it seemes eYe has even grander designs: “Doing ’77 Boadrum’ was one ambition of mine it was important to fulfil. Now I want to do a ‘777 Boadrum’ show. That would be incredible,” he enthuses. Presumably, decoding the relation between numbers and dates, that would place the performance on the 7th July 2077, making Boredoms almost 100 years old, and its members considerably older than that. Perhaps Boredoms have chanced upon a rhythmic alchemy, the secret of immortality, training their hearts to beat out an unending dance; or perhaps, finally, Boredoms will take their place once again at the centre of the spiral; this time they themselves will be the hungry ghosts of the bon-odori, immortally pining for the pounding drums which are their solace, and their salvation.