Named for a period of Mongol rule, New York City’s Khanate was not a band for few; they were a band for no one. Guitar snarled, spat, heaved and shrieked; horizon wide riffs revealed their selves only to contort into thorny scrabbles of feedback, broken harmonics, dog whistle whine. Drums stalked and plummeted and perforated; stabbing, clubbing, knocking craters into each song’s structure deep enough to fill with the pain that “vokill” troll Alan Dubin must carry with him. Whispers—words given in confidence; screams—declarations of the state of affairs; converse—talk taken into worm-infested graves and worn as a beard of bees. Bassist James Plotkin was an essential part of the Khanate ritual, turning nothing into something; realizing presence in empty rooms via boiling bass rattles, and laptop mad science.
“I wear a human shield—shh-shh.”
Dubin sometimes screamed so shrilly he went black; passing out from the power of his own breath. Plotkin blew four bass heads in one year; O’Malley plumbed the darkest depths of A minor, his strings nearly disconnected from their neck. Whatever heads drummer Tim Wyskida hammered have passed the terror test; that skin company’s practically got a goldmine of an endorsement ad waiting in the wings. Significantly, the gear fails to acquiesce most of the time, beaten into the void as a beachhead by tidal torrent.
Khanate’s sound was palpable textbook ratio; output over input realized in grievous amounts of gain that shook the gonads of Gaia itself. Gong, cymbals, toms; an aluminum necked Travis Bean; three vintage Sunn Model-T 120-150-watt heads; a cadre of 4X12 cabinets; an Ampeg SVT head; various reverb and delay units. Muscle, breath, electricity: Khanate allowed the basic elements of structure to separate. Extremes are more extreme when they number; aural anvils anesthetize. Physiology has no recourse but to react to sound of this stripe.
Things Viral, Khanate’s 2003 release, showed a different approach, more reactive – and interactive. Viral’s first track, “Commuted,” breaks down into call and response improvisation about three quarters of the way through: Dubin’s ribald vocals spin webbed Digitech strands; Wyskida flails his sticks like a blind swordsman. O’Malley patiently sits back, burning a slow fire. A rumbling floor tom fusillade finally seals the circle. And Plotkin’s bass drops like Goliath. Khanate refined their use of space on their first two records; they’d done everything they could do with it. Silence was practically eroticized; there was a ritualistic devotion to sonic absence. How effective it was: When sound did seize the air, it was fucking feral. With Khanate’s penultimate recording, Capture & Release, silence was cast aside; two long pieces provide point and counterpoint in a bestial din whose horror factor was increased tenfold with Dubin’s lyrics laid overtop; not a killer’s confessional, but the act itself.
The first track, “Capture,” cut clearly to the chase: Dubin’s voice rises. Even as he implores his object to “come closer,” the listener couldn’t be further from the prey; Dubin’s dwelling on commands occludes the object. Rheumy riffs flow unimpeded around Wyskida’s pounding percussion: snare presses take flight slowly, like big black buzzards indifferent to an automobile; they decide to pick at a blacktopped carcass one last time before slipping into the air. O’Malley and Plotkin work independently and as one, making good on Quantz’ assertion that A minor is most suitable for morose music. When the entire outfit comes together, “Capture” ensues its excruciatingly linear motion. Once the harmonic statement’s made, the pieces fall away, as Pathetique era Fushitsusha erected guitar totems only to tear them down. Wyskida is content with small flourishes; cymbal’d clatter that apes Tibetan rolmo – Buddhist brass reserved for ritual. “Capture” closes reluctantly, with a confusing storm of thundering low end and vocal squall.
“Release” takes its time coming up. Dubin finally lets the listener in on what’s taken place. As the first 18 minutes found one floating in appositional locutions, “Release” is “performative;” a world weaved from words. Making the utterance makes it the case:
And everything you are
Is on the ground
You are blood
This isn’t description, this simply is. Whereas descriptive statements drench the intellect in addled adjectives, performatives are psychoactive pliers, pulling the will into unwanted exile; there are no blinders for the brain. Like A Clockwork Orange’s Alex, the eyes are forced to feast on the will’s inclination. Cracked open like clams, they rest unprotected; silty shells provide no solace from intent. O’Malley, Plotkin, and Wyskida paint purpose in heavy handed hue behind Dubin’s recitation. Layer after layer, the sounds issue. O’Malley’s guitar relaxes into a repetitive thematic; as Slint salted song with dynamic figures, O’Malley makes better on the process, walking slowly with Wyskida’s hi-hat clicks – spurs sounding from the boots of a dead man. Dubin screams: “You are blood! Nothing more!” This isn’t material reduction; this is fucking failed metempsychosis. Dubin’s narration is gleeful; the passing is utterly incomplete. Of course what better way to enunciate the failure than with a gong; Wyskida complies with a vegetal shimmer that rots over the last few seconds of the piece. Closure? No. But perhaps now with the ultimate offering, Clean Hands Go Foul.
Someone get me a motherfucking promo, please.
Dans le cadre de l'exposition
I∆O. Explorations psychédéliques en France, 1968 - ∞ (28 novembre 2008-8 mars 2009)
le CAPC présente une soirée satellite "Psychédélisme & minimalisme"
Eliane Radigue, "Naldjorlak" (création mondiale) – avec Charles Curtis (violoncelle), Carol Robinson & Bruno Martinez (cors de basset).
Paul Sharits : "Apparent Motion" (1975), "Analytical Studies I-IV" (1974-76), "Declarative Mode" (1977)
Samedi 24 janvier 2009
CAPC Musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux
La coïncidence est trop belle pour la passer sous silence : Eliane Radigue, « sculptrice sonore française » pour reprendre les mots de Daniel Caux, offre en création mondiale sous la nef du CAPC, "Naldjorlak", pièce acoustique aux résonances tibétaines, le jour même de son anniversaire.
Après plus de 30 ans de musique électronique « infiniment discrète » (Michel Chion), la trop rare compositrice bouddhiste, ancienne élève et assistante de Pierre Schaeffer puis de Pierre Henry, proche des minimalistes américains (son chemin croise celui de Terry Riley, David Tudor, Phill Niblock…) a abandonné son instrument de prédilection, le synthétiseur modulaire ARP 2500, pour se consacrer à la composition acoustique exclusivement depuis 2004.
Monumental par sa durée (2h30) et délicat par son traitement acoustique de sons continus, pulsés, bruissés, "Naldjorlak" est pensé comme une trilogie où harmoniques, subharmoniques et partielles se répondent avec une incroyable subtilité. La pièce est portée par trois musiciens virtuoses, interprètes privilégiés des répertoires de La Monte Young, Giacinto Scelsi, Morton Feldman : le compositeur et improvisateur Charles Curtis au violoncelle, la compositrice et improvisatrice Carol Robinson ainsi que Bruno Martinez, soliste de l'orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris, aux cors de basset.
Suspension du temps, dialogue avec l'éternité, voisinage avec le silence, appel à la contemplation, concentration exceptionnelle : ce qui qualifie la musique d'Eliane Radigue depuis 1970 est plus que jamais d'actualité. Mais "Naldjorlak" emmène encore plus loin la compositrice dans son voyage musical, puisque avec ses trois interprètes, la musicienne admet avoir trouvé le meilleur moyen d'approcher plus encore la « musique impalpable et irréelle » qu'elle appelle de ses rêves.
Maxime Guitton (ali_fib gigs)
Artiste américain apparenté à Fluxus, Paul Sharits (1943-1993) s'est imposé comme un des cinéastes expérimentaux les plus singuliers de sa génération, multipliant les modes de présentation de ses travaux, sous forme de dessins-partitions, tableaux de pellicules (Frozen Film Frames), projections multiples et installations.
Son cinéma échappe au mode conventionnel de représentation et de narration, pour interroger les éléments constitutifs de la projection et la matérialité du support filmique. Le film même comme objet est le vecteur d'une expérience élargie, où le photogramme, le défilement du ruban filmique, le grain de l'image, les perforations, les rayures... sont les composants d'une ontologie cinématographique.
Paul Sharits a appréhendé en particulier la dimension plastique et affective de la couleur, par le biais de l'intermittence lumineuse et des résonances chromatiques, selon un développement temporel inspiré par l'écriture musicale. Ses films - silencieux - sont des "récits de couleur" dont les modulations produisent une musique visuelle.
Les œuvres des années 70 projetées au CAPC offrent un contrepoint à la composition d'Eliane Radigue, proposant une expérience d'immersion où les films se déploient à la fois dans l'espace physique et sur l'écran mental de notre pure perception.
Films présentés :
"Apparent Motion" (1975 / 16mm / couleur / 28 minutes)
"Analytical Studies I-IV" (1974-76 / projection pour 4 projecteurs 16mm / couleur / 30 minutes)
"Declarative Mode" (1977 / projection pour 2 projecteurs 16mm / couleur / 39 minutes)
Avec le concours de Light Cone (Paris) et The Film-Makers Coop (New York).
Programmation / projections : Bertrand Grimault / association Monoquini
Nous sommes redevables au travail mené depuis de nombreuses années par Yann Beauvais sur l'œuvre de Paul Sharits. Il contribue à la monographie complète consacrée au cinéaste, récemment publiée par Les Presses du Réel.
Going up to 11 has long been a badge of honor in rock music. But there’s a price to pay for those decibels, as a number of musicians have found to their cost
By Mike Barnes
THE GUARDIAN, LONDON
Monday, Jan 12, 2009, Page 9
“We play with low frequencies that are nothing like anyone has ever heard before — it’s a chaos that sets off a kind of inbuilt alarm system.”
— Kevin Shields, My Bloody Valentine vocalist
‘I want to ask one fundamental question,” said Hans Keller after a Pink Floyd performance in 1967. “Why has it all got to be so terribly loud?”
“I don’t guess it has to be,” bass guitarist Roger Waters replied. “But that’s the way we like it. It doesn’t sound terribly loud to us.”
The Austrian-born musician and musicologist’s attitude to the group — severe, like a schoolmaster telling off naughty boys — made him look like the quintessential square on the wrong side of the generation gap: he just couldn’t get the high-volume psychedelic sounds that the kids were digging.
Wind forward 41 years to the Roundhouse, London, and My Bloody Valentine are about to play You Made Me Realize.
Guitarist Kevin Shields gestures for his already fearsomely loud guitar to be turned up — into uncharted territory way beyond 11 — and midway through the song they launch into the 20 minute “Holocaust” section of guitar noise and trouser-rippling sub-bass.
At this point, the plastic beer glass is buzzing in my hand and I am nervously recalling some of the known physical effects of sonic weaponry on the human body. I prod my earplugs in further and wonder what Keller might have made of it all: Why has it all got to be so terribly loud?
From prehistoric ritual to the symphony orchestra, people have always engaged with loudness, but the 1960s was the first decade when sheer volume became an essential part of youth culture. This was the time of the Who’s My Generation, with its famous lyric “I hope I die before I got old” drawing a line between young and old, a line often drawn in sound.
The Who went on, in 1976, to become officially The Loudest Band in the World at 126 decibels (dB)(A) (The “A” signifies an average or typical decibel level over the period of a performance).
Since then, the group’s Pete Townsend has suffered significant hearing loss, although he actually blames that on headphone usage.
Bands viewed volume as a mark of connection to the primal forces of rock. By the late 1970s, the pro-hunting, gun-toting, heavy rock guitarist Ted Nugent told his fans: “If it’s too loud you’re too old.” Nugent has admitted that the story of how he killed a pigeon with a power chord at an outdoor show was apocryphal, but even so he is now partially deaf. The experimental metal band Sunn0))) spoke in an interview in the Wire magazine, with apparently straight faces, of their desire to play so loud that the audience would be lifted into the air by a carpet of volume.
It’s not only the myths about volume that have increased, however; so has the actual noise at gigs. By 1994, the heavy metal band Manowar claimed a reading of 129.5dB(A), at which point the Guinness Book of Records decided to stop encouraging such activity and abandoned the category, not that it has changed the attitude of noise mavens. In an admittedly statistically non-significant poll conducted for this article, around 100 musicians, journalists, photographers and regular gig-goers — from their 20s to their 60s — were asked to name the loudest band or DJ set they had experienced and whether they had incurred any hearing damage. Some interesting testimonies emerged.
One respondent said of a 90s gig by Tackhead: “Loads of hissing in the ears for an eternity ... but felt more like the spoils of victory.”
Others likened the experience of extreme volume to a rite of passage: That ringing in your ears could be likened to a bonding experience, recounted with the same sort of jocularity-in-adversity with which you might discuss a hangover with fellow sufferers.
But if the inner ear is damaged, the next-day ringing — temporary threshold shift — may become tinnitus, a hissing or whistling sound in the ear, which can be permanent. One guitarist and DJ who has tinnitus reckoned that it was as much “a badge of rock’n’roll honor as my Chelsea boot-squished toes or impaired liver functions.”
Certainly once volume exceeds 87dB(A) — significantly quieter than most rock gigs or clubs — there is a possibility, at least, of hearing damage. And with improvements in PA technology producing less distortion, that live show or DJ set can be cranked out at higher and higher levels. More bad news is that smoking and consumption of alcohol and drugs have been proven to increase the chance of incurring permanent hearing damage. This is not so much because a gig-goer might be trashed and put their head in a bass bin — although that certainly wouldn’t help — but because intoxication impedes the protective mechanisms of the inner ear.
David Baguley’s two favorite gigs were high-volume affairs by the Jesus and Mary Chain and Joy Division. He freely acknowledges the excitement of experiencing loud music, but 20 years of research into it — he’s the head of audiology at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, England, and professional adviser to the British Tinnitus Association — have shown him the downside.
“In my clinic I see some people where one concert or clear sound event led to them developing tinnitus. Last time that [Bob Mould’s 90s power trio] Sugar played in Cambridge, I saw two patients who had permanent tinnitus as a result,” Baguley says.
“I see other people who have been exposed to noise for some time and it’s seemed to make them vulnerable to developing tinnitus later. These days, I think it’s a false dichotomy that those of us who are saying take care of your ears are being over-protective or conservative,” he says.
Some of the musicians polled had damaged hearing, and not necessarily from years of standing in front of a wall of Marshall stacks. Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne, hardly a band associated with extreme volume, has tinnitus, which he puts down to going to loud gigs in the mid- and late 1980s — and to DJing without earplugs, which he now wears when playing. His story also exemplifies a current line of research: that some people are genetically more disposed towards hearing damage.
“When I’m in bed at night, especially if I’m in the countryside, I become very conscious of ringing,” he says. “Otherwise, loud pubs and restaurants can be physically painful, creating a mild nausea. I think it’s something other people don’t like to talk about as it makes them more aware of the problem — I mean, it is possible for me to go a while without even thinking about it. Nobody else in Saint Etienne has a problem.”
It’s true that one’s “level” of tinnitus partly depends on how it is perceived: Writing this article has made me more aware of mine. As did my exposure to the winners of the Loudest Band accolade in the unofficial poll, My Bloody Valentine. They beat Motorhead into second place, with other nominees including the Who, Black Sabbath, industrial dub band God, MC Hammer, Kaiser Chiefs, REM and, somewhat surprisingly, Malian singer Salif Keita.
Baguley is dismissive of My Bloody Valentine’s use of extreme volume.
“The attitude that ‘the louder the better’ is very last century and I’d expect it from Ted Nugent, not from artists that aspire to be groundbreaking,” he says.
The stance of My Bloody Valentine’s vocalist, Kevin Shields, comes over as somewhat paradoxical: unapologetic and yet concerned. He played at levels that forced some people to leave the venue; but the band also made earplugs available at the door for all who wanted them. He’s a tinnitus sufferer himself.
“I got tinnitus falling asleep listening to mixes of [their 1991 album] Loveless,” he says. “It was only for about two hours, but when I woke up I could hear a high-pitched sound but wondered where it was coming from.”
He is also aware of how volume can affect the organs that control balance, and can in turn be used to create a state of disorientation.
“We play with low frequencies that are nothing like anyone has ever heard before — it’s a chaos that sets off a kind of inbuilt alarm system,” he says. “We use psychoacoustic effects so it sounds louder than it actually is in sound pressure levels. When we played at the Roundhouse we were hitting the resonant frequencies of some parts of the building and so things were rattling and shaking and dust and plaster falling down.”
But is he not concerned about using potentially harmful sound levels?
“It does bother me, that’s why I made sure earplugs were available and that we play within tried and tested sound pressure levels with a limit of 119dB(A). We also never overdrive the PA, which can provide spike of distortion up to 130dB. We’d like to say that it is cool to wear earplugs; it’s not cool to get your hearing damaged. And anyway, feeling the music is a great experience,” Shields says.
Some poll respondents who saw My Bloody Valentine last year thought it was the most amazing thing they had ever seen, others were physically distressed and left. Afterwards I felt exhausted and was yawning constantly. The only thing I’d ever experienced like it was a drum and bass club set that left me feeling like I’d been beaten up. Describing their noise section as like a jet engine is more than fanciful journalese, as 119db(A) is, indeed, the sound pressure level of a jumbo jet taking off experienced at a distance of 6m.
It is also way over the suggested limit of exposure to the audience of 107dB(A) in Britain’s 2005 Control of Noise at Work Regulations. But those were put in place to protect employees working at music venues and only serve as guidelines for the audience, whose exposure is deemed to be voluntary. Given the ignorance of what to expect and the likelihood of staying to get your money’s worth, that is surely unsatisfactory.
One employee of a major London venue — presumably wary of litigation — complained that their responsibility to people coming to see loud bands was unclear. He refused to be quoted on any aspect of their policy regarding noise, even though the venue in question has put up warning notices and made earplugs available.
The management of the Roundhouse was more forthcoming — even though the My Bloody Valentine gigs provoked the first complaints to the venue about noise. The Roundhouse is keen to provide information in order to allow people make “an informed choice” about whether to stay for the whole gig, by displaying warning notices about volume at the venue entrance and on tickets if exposure is likely to be continuously at a level of 96dB(A).
Professor David McAlpine, Director of the Ear Institute at University College London — who developed noise-induced tinnitus after a pub gig — feels there is a need for professionals to supply information to work towards a reduction in sound levels that would make a difference in reducing the numbers of gig-goers who suffer hearing loss. The problem, he accepts, is that most punters probably wouldn’t notice, and if they did, they’d pay little or no attention.
“If you say, ‘Hey kids, don’t go out, stay at home, go to bed early,’ — that’s never worked for the past several thousand years, so it won’t now,” he says. “Sometimes you’ve got to protect people from themselves without being finger-wagging about it. But a lot of people can’t make their minds up because they don’t have any information.”
“My view is, would you go to a nightclub where they were shining extremely high-powered laser lights into your eyes, so you could see spots that would not go away? I don’t think you’d do it. I don’t think that people take their ears so seriously,” McAlpine says.
Play Time (1967)
& hopefully unrelated sober architecture of today.
Thanks to everyone who came out for the KLAT opening & my solo last night in Paris. Mysticism & Alchemy.
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