February 25, 2007

Po-faced versus PoMo


Reader Alex Williams on metal and hauntology:

    Structurally the real black metal hauntologists/doom-gazers are Sunn0))), their last album (Black one)liberally quoting (but in almost unrecognizable, expanded forms) classic black metal riffs, their live show almost a crystallization of the ghost of metal (in its most evil/ceremonial forms and equally its camp ludicrousness)... but a metal reduced, boiled down, vaporised in some hellish longhair's bong - a single gesture remaining, (a raised satanic salute, as a guitar chord drones on and on...) Whilst they have begun to quote from black metal (whose hallmark is tinny atmosphere, and in its modern non-fascist form depressive nihilism let us remember) the form remains distinctly that of doom metal (hallmark: massive tritone drone) but again a doom metal divested of its "rockingness" (i.e. - rhythm and blues, percussion, climax) and purified into a form which has almost nothing to do with metal at all, for all its signifiers and quotations... but at the same time, whilst in some respects it works in a similar fashion to Burial, the analogy fails because even as it is a sonic ghost-image of metal, (nothing but reverberating amp hum and ritualistic imagery remains) it is not an elegy (is an elegy even possible in the culture of metal - the genre itself kept in eternal forward aesthetic motion so nothing to mourn, alive, yet death/doom fixated - indeed revelling in jouissance, as you say, at the terminal?)

In that case, Black Metal could be lined up more with what we might call the 'mainstream' of Dubstep (with which Burial has very little in common). Dubstep's relationship to jungle doubles Sunn0))'s relationship to Metal. Like Sunn0))), Dubstep has produced a non-elegiac 'ghost-image' of its source-inspiration (which in the case of Dubstep is Jungle). At one level, Dubstep and Sunn0))) could be heard as a (literal) continuation of their inspirations: a sound constructed entirely out of a distending of the after-effects, the traces (echoes, reverberations) of a departed sonic body.

What Metal and Dubstep (and Noise, for the matter) have in common is a philosophy, a metaphysics. At one step back, what they share is a commitment to the idea that music should come out of a philosophy. What is absolutely refused is the hegemonic Indie-endorsed ratification of commonsense, with its - usually implicit - insistence on the smallness of music, its ultimate irrelevance. Irony is repudiated. Music is not 'just music'. It to be taken extremely seriously, even at the risk of seeming absurd. It is perhaps the absence of any fear of ridicule that is most to be treasured in (Doom and Black) Metal. Xasthur's nihilism, which bleeds out through all their titles ('Arcane and Misanthropic Projection', 'Through A Trance Of Despondency') is unrelenting, unrelieved by any raised eyebrows, while Sunn0)))'s return to costume and performance in the most po-faced, ritualistic sense are a repudiation of the dressed-down Indie assertion of an continuity between everyday life and the stage.

If you want to hear the Metal/Dubstep, parallels, the Distance/Vex'd Breezeblock mix (available to download here) is well worth a listen.

Posted by mark at February 25, 2007 11:54 PM | TrackBack