fuck do you start with something like this? a gordian knot of text and noise, improv and rhetoric, concept and execution, the absurd and blank.
my initial contrarian urge for an album this dense was to write the entire piece around june, where two thirds in, the record grinds to a halt. seven awkward minutes of stilted discussion – are we succeeding at disobedience? – presented as metaphor, self-sabotage or plain old discord.
you have nothing to say? i have nothing to say. i love the silence.
i like making sounds, is what feels the most honest of the statements.
it threw me, and after weeks of listening still infuriates / disorients, niggling like a toothache (which may be the point) as there’s little sense of conversational flow or the back and forth of improv (which again might be the point).
but i started again…
there’s a line in january that stands out, thrown away amidst the tumult of situationist hollering, historical pamphleteering and shrieks of despair:
liberals listen to leonard cohen
now i’m chewing on words, the musicality of language. it’s such a pleasingly meaningless sounding, tongue-rolling line, on an album where they’re frequently rendered incomprehensible. the accompanying text, a burroughsian cut up of historical textbook and crass lyric sheet, is not so much an explanation as a puzzle piece.
it’s a track that starts with the workers strike and jumpcuts to cambridge analytica, child abuse and conspiracy theory, and here i am mulling over what feels like a smart-ass tweet…
but it gets me thinking, words have a tendency to collapse into generalities and banality, revolutionary rhetoric reduced to the glib, subsumed, consumed, shat out as 280 characters or t-shirt print. and it feels like the level of political discourse we currently have.
so i’m chuckling
at the hardcore punk sloganeering ‘dark / darth vader / dick cheney / satan’ till i remember that so much of history and present is framed like this, comic book villainy disguising very real threats of fascism.
at the ‘bannon the leninist’ chant in february, till i remember
lenin wanted to destroy the state and that’s my goal too. i want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.
bukharin: the state had to be destroyed as a condition of socialism. unless it is destroyed society would be reduced to a servile atomised mass under the heel of the new barons of finance capitalism.
mattin: the state will come down. the establishment will be dissolved. and all your racist beliefs will be crushed down.
and it’s the spider-man pointing at spider-man meme writ large. all sides presenting themselves as revolutionary. as an album it’s not a manifesto, more a mirror, broken, reflections upon reflections upon reflections…
that’s been another distraction / digression. so, if not words then story.
the narrative? there is no narrative, and there is nothing but narrative. overthought, overwrought, overstimulated, overwhelming. 1917 via 1923 via 2017. chronologically and geographically all over the goddamn place. all is fractured. echoing the incoherent / inchoate nature of these post-millenium years.
bukharin, child poverty, venezuala, abdication, lenin’s home, punk’s arrived, democracy’s done and greece is fucked. all transition’s beyond capitalism. so it goes…
considering this as some bastard concept album it’s hard not to trace lines from pre-october revolution to germaine berton to now. we want, we need, to impose a logic to past present future. deserving of one or not.
are we talking history or ahistory?
we’re forever trapped in loops of destructive failure and in spite of assassinations, strikes and politicking nothing changes. the past failures of communism and anarchism as framed here, have left us resigned to capitalism (in whatever form it takes) as the last man standing of political / social / economic system.
and i think of ibsen’s ghosts, the revenants, the cycle of things.
i am half inclined to think we are all ghosts, mr. manders. it is not only what we have inherited from our fathers and mothers that exists again in us, but all sorts of old dead ideas and all kinds of old dead beliefs and things of that kind.
things we see, we know, but can’t seem to understand or discard or oppose.
the past offers no answers, no comfort, which leaves us what? the now, the theatre of the absurd and the spectacle.
well this is a live recording so let’s focus on the performative aspects of noise. the action / reaction / interaction. except it’s relatively inscrutable – we (i) aren’t (amn’t) / weren’t (wasn’t) there. even if audience dependent i guess it still plays out in our heads as story, as film, as screed, as score.
so fuck history (there’s a theme developing…) let’s lazily fall back on the one-sheet listen-if-you-like.
the liner notes make reference to luigi nono and i dig the sense of music as politic, as radicalism manifest. a nod at nono’s 68 via billy bao’s may 08 might make more sense here given the paris / musica manifesto parallels going on now. even if those recordings, of that time, don’t quite align here, which is of no particular time.
we could get into red crayola / art & language’s kangaroo and their dislocative pop-marxism and soviet conceptualising, which is way more fucking polite and a lot less interesting than this.
but i guess if yr objective is making records that are difficult to categorise, that play with the concept of what’s meant by music or concert, that are as much about the politics and process of making music as the sounds contained within, then this idle analogising seems somewhat redundant.
which is odd because (june excepted) this is one of the more musically coherent works i’ve heard from mattin recently. with the stumbling jazz reed hoom, garbled vox, broken beats and machine noise it’s almost (lazy, i know…) like wandering in on later period wolf eyes / stare case.
there’s no exquisite corpse at play, just a mush of language and electronics, drums and clarinet, vomited out by a gleeful disruption of group dynamic. because christ knows who’s doing what (drums and clarinet scrawled across it all, but y’know half the collective’s on sampler).
(really, why separate bao / mattin / the group / the improvisation)
and throughout this faceless stramash, vocals are destroyed, distorted, buried, bled. i’m guessing intentionally, symbolically.
sonically, it can’t decide whether it wants to build and explode or disintegrate around itself, frequently doing both, and dragging me back to the history lesson.
the music? there is no music, there is nothing but music. overthought, overwrought, overstimulated, overwhelming. everything about this record is too much. strains, whines and rumbles like tanks down streets. birdsong, gabber, newtons cradle, pop phrasing, break through concrete on occasion but generally, it’s an inexorable howl.
it ends as all things must, circling the drain, falling apart. the 7th track abandons the 7 minute length (is 10:43 significant? i gave up at bible chapters and police codes) and as july rolls around we’re back to the transformational possibilities of destruction.
someone states earlier
your world is crumbling, ours is being built up.
fitting with the ambivalence smeared over everything here, i wonder whose world?