popculturebomb

Just another WordPress.com site

Monthly Archives: August 2012

Giles Corey – Deconstructionist

There is some negativity in deconstruction. I wouldn’t deny this. You have to criticise, to ask questions, to challenge and sometimes to oppose. – Jacques Derrida

The shaman is the great specialist in the human soul; he alone “sees” it, for he knows its “form” and its destiny. – Mircea Eliade

 

Giles Corey – Deconstructionist
$5 Digital Download
Release Date: 08/24/2012
Enemies List

After an attempted suicide, Dan Barrett recorded Giles Corey’s self titled debut. In 1611, Giles Corey, the person, was crushed to death under stones in an attempt to have him confess to witchcraft. This bleakness – the attempt to force someone to confess something due to moral panic (in effect, being killed for perceived strangeness), and suffering a painful death in protest at the very idea of it, became a figurehead of sorts for the project. The album is, as the press page suggests, “An intensely personal study of depression and the afterlife.” Songs such as “I am Going to Do It” and “No One is Ever Going to Want Me” deliver an expression of deep depression, which for the listener can be identifiably therapeutic. Stylistically, I suppose you could say that this was a “folk” album. Though I’d imagine that most traditional folk fans would find it unlistenable, partially because of its experimentality and partially due to the fact that it dives head first into the sadness that most Americana music tends to be aware of, yet skirt around, in hopes of better times. For Giles Corey, there are no better times.

Barrett enlisted the help of internet to help review his latest Giles Corey album Deconstructionist with the warning that it was “weird.” I jumped at the chance to review this new album not only as a huge fan of Barrett’s work and the artists of his label, but as a dedicated fan of “weird” music.

What I got was something rather unexpected.

In 2005, there were rumors of the black metal band Sigh recording with experimental sonic warfare techniques that were developed by the Nazis during the second World War. The album experienced great delays, according to these rumors, due to the aurally-derived illnesses of Mirai Kawashima, the frontperson of Sigh. This came as a warning to listeners and developed an intense authenticity of the release – a metal album that could actually harm you. Later it was revealed that the delay and the rumors had the same cause – a disappointed record label that dropped the band, causing them to need to find a new home for the release. The dangers were not really there, just a somewhat disappointing album after their critically acclaimed Imaginary Sonicscapes.

In essence, this release is a couple of steps further in a different direction. And it is not simply a rumor.

Many of Barrett’s releases come with paratexts (novella length album booklets, building an additional narrative to each body of work). While Sigh’s Gallows Gallery is an album that came with a warning (though based on a false premise), nothing comes to mind in terms of albums that have come with instruction manuals (besides casual lines about listening to it “really loud”).

A text file came with the zip of the album, reminding us that the “booklet *must* be read before listening to the music. Seriously.” The instructions, 34 pages in total, are an undertaking on their own. Before getting to Barrett’s how-to for listening, we get a treatise on the concept of identity – or, at the very least, the conflicting relationship between the Western concept of identity and cultural relativism. I am who I am versus I am what culture has made me.

This manual is part of the namesake of the album, Deconstructionist, as it is partially an attempt to deconstruct the very nature of identity and our understanding of consciousness. Barrett is correct on many levels with his writing, we are a product of the culture that surrounds us, and that includes our mindsets, our ideologies, and our concepts of truth. Barrett highlights this through various case studies and scientific experiments. His ideas have merit and are grounded in scientific and anthropological studies (though, somewhat ironically, it is a Western science objecting a Western expression of consciousness). He is not making this stuff up, either. The skeptical can easily google any of the names or studies he mentions.

Beyond that, Barrett is touching on something very shamanic, regardless of his lack of addressing the idea from outside the grounded world of tested scientific principles. For example – consider the words of Grant Morrison from his speech at the Disinfo Conference in 2000:

Morrison, a counterculture icon, practicing magician, and self-ascribed shaman, alludes to the same ideas – the idea of the individual is a false one. Though the scientific approach by Barrett may ultimately be a more identifiable one (and thus making his experiment more believable), it (perhaps on purpose) ignores the spiritual and the shamanic, except for in metaphor or example. (If you want to watch the whole thing (and I suggest it), click here).

Regardless of the science and audio technology behind the music, the album is an experiment in the shamanic. As Barrett points out, “This is not really ‘music.’” He uses audio frequencies, chants, drums, and “cultural connections” in order to create a technique of ecstasy (ecstasy, in this spiritual and magical sense, not to be confused with the idea of pleasure). In this creation, he is pushing the very limits of the listener and his fan base by going against the expectations of a Giles Corey album, as it isn’t an album at all. It is an attempt to invoke a trance state in the listener through musical meditation.

What we get is 3 audio tracks. Each track is 20-40 minutes long. Because of this, you will most likely never see it as a vinyl release (sorry fans). And due to Berrett’s insistence that it needs to be listened to in order and as a whole, there is no way it could be a CD release either. Not only that, but it must be listened to with headphones in order to get the desired effects. I can attest to this personally, as I listened to it as an experiment with headphones and as a piece of music through speakers (you have to hear the left and the right directly in each ear, or it just won’t work the way it is intended). So, there are serious limitations for potential listeners. No physical copy, no real music, and required situational context.

As a piece of music, it will read similar to the dark ambient works found on Cold Meat Industries than as a piece of folk music. So, expect something more like Coil’s ANS, Nurse With Wound, or Wolfskin. As it was not intended to be listened to as a piece of music, it is hard to review it as one. If you like dark ambient stuff, as I do, it can be entirely listenable on its own. The songs, though lengthy, are interesting, droning, and have a surprising depth to their sounds. The experience could be rather tedious, if one is unfamiliar with ambient works.

As an experiment, though. That is a little more weird to talk about. I did as the instructions asked, turning out all the lights, blindfolding myself, becoming isolated, and putting on my big stupid headphones. Most importantly though, you need to want to try. Magic will not happen if you are unwilling to allow it to happen. My breathing became scant and a great stillness overcame my body. I can’t necessarily associate this with the music, as opposed to my relaxed state. But, I did experience visions and I was not sleeping/dreaming. In terms of what I experienced, the first song (Awake Now) had very natural, man-made images floating in my mind – statues, machines, political leaders, industry, and art. The second song (Death) was very dark. Black figures and bodies in total blackness. It was not scary, in fact, I think this part was the deepest experience of them all, but it was the most “dark” in terms of aesthetic compared to the other two. The final song, (Epsilon) was very natural. I saw animals and landscapes.

Again, I can’t necessarily connect this to the album or the experience that the album was trying to invoke. As an admitted piece of “not really music” its very essence begs the question of the very nature of music itself. I would image my willingness to be “into it” could have worked regardless of the music, as long as I was consciously working towards that end. But in terms of listening to music, in general I want more of an emotional or mental connection to it (which Enemies List is particularly good at). Deconstructionist purposely tries to connect the aural event to the emotional being of the listener, giving them something more from the experience. This idea of moreness is something Jeremy Wallach describes (in terms of listening to metal music) as affective overdrive. This idea, as Wallach states in Metal Rules the Globe, “can even fill one’s awareness to such an extent that, while listening, it becomes impossible to think about or feel anything else” (Wallach, Berger, Greene 13). Though I haven’t tried, I wonder if I could have a similar “ecstatic” experience listening to just about anything that I find emotionally engaging. At the very least, affective overdrive is used to explain when someone feels so passionately engaged with something that may be aesthetically questionable, challenging, or nontraditional – such as this album. It implies that there is an engagement beyond mere enjoyment – a deeper connection to the musical experience. Deconstructionist works on this same level, I feel. The paratext of the instruction manual adds to the idea of the album, and perhaps makes the experience more probable. (Though, I am entirely willing to try a few more times).

Can I recommend Deconstructionist? I am not entirely sure. But, one is not supposed to listen to this album for its aesthetics, so the idea of a recommendation is a moot point. Dedicated Enemies List fans will want to get it no matter what. Fans wanting another similar Giles Corey album may be disappointed. It is an experiment, something to try.

Does the experiment work? Well, I’ll leave that up to the individual listener.

Advertisements

Stapled Copy – 08/21/2012

Harbinger #3
Joshua Dysart, Khari Evans, Lewis Larosa, Ian Hannin
Valiant


Every Valiant series is worth reading. Period. Harbinger  is not only my favorite of them, but also perhaps my favorite series out currently. Perhaps because Peter Stanchek is a weird little shit like I was. Peter is a creepy, angry teenager whose childhood has lingering trauma that have deep emotional hooks. While everything new in his life is shiny and perfect, he rightfully is dubious of the intent of the most profitable corporation on the planet, noting that he and his new peers are an “army in training for a corporation.” At the heart of this book is a nature vs. nurture debate – will fate or experience overcome Peter? While a company is hoping they can change fate, they seem oblivious to the fact that they are pacifying the human condition. While thinking they know what is best for an individual or society, few take the time to actually listen to a person or understand their individual situation.

 

Captain Marvel #2
Kelly Sue Deconnick, Dexter Soy
Marvel


Continuing to breach the canon of Marvel, issue 2 of Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel further establishes the idea that women have been a prominent and important part of not just Marvel’s history, but the history of human culture within the world of Marvel. In this instance, particularly in war. While the Howling Commandos are the de facto military squad for a Marvel book, Captain Marvel asserts that, yes, there were women at war was well. And smartly so. If the Commandos are in Europe battling the evils of the Axis, who is at the Pacific Rim? This book isn’t about replacing male characters, or women proving themselves as heroes, but demonstrating that they always already have, but without the recognition and acknowledgment that men received from history. I’m thrilled that Marvel and Kelly Sue care so much about the culture and history of the world within Marvel’s pages.

 

Bloodshot #2
Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia, Arturo Lozzi, Matt Ryan
Valiant

One thing in particular that I find rather smart about Bloodshot is the way it shifts art styles to deal with conflicting identities and diegetic realities of our silver-skinned hero in question – perhaps most-so because of how the actual reality of the book is the most improbable for both the hero and the reader to comprehend. Therefore, the reader, much like Bloodshot, must try to make sense of the world we are slowing learning about. Bloodshot puts his mind and body through horrors in order to assemble an concept of truth to his humanity – the interesting part of this series is that while the truth may be difficult for him to discover, there may not be one at all. So, while there is great military-industrial-complex action, there is also great mystery and debate. A smart action book.

Victories #1
Michael Avon Oeming
Dark Horse


Early on in Geoffrey Harpham’s Shadow of Ethics, he discusses literature in association with “place” by stating that, “there will very likely be a sense of moving stillness at the core, a ‘place,’…that animates and grounds the imagination itself…[and] take narrative form.” While this idea is easily applicable to the great cities of DC Comics, the moving stillness takes a firm hold in Victories. The dark skyline of dimming infrastructure hint at a political climate. The affluent in a carriage ride through a park hint at struggles of class. The delapitated apartment complex hints at the instability of the protagonist. All of these come together to form a structure of what promises to be an interesting and dark story from Oeming.

Stapled Copy – 08/15/2012

Hi. this is Tim. I’ve been trying to get myself to write regularly, and have gotten back into buying single comics. So, I will be writing these weekly. These have been comics I have been thinking about for the last month that have inspired this series, so this is a bit of a catch-up post. I’ll hopefully have “this weeks” reviews up and online within the next day or so. My reviews (if you can even call them that) are not about whether I think something is “good”. In essence, this will be more micro-analysis of comics as they come out in single issue form. I will try to not let my opinions or enthusiasm lead my critiques and analysis.

Captain Marvel #1
Kelly Sue DeConnick & Dexter Soy
Marvel

Captain Marvel does several interesting things with its first issue. It analyzes and applies the fluidity of the character’s name/rank to an already-existing Marvel property and by doing so it not only re-launches an old franchise (Captain Marvel), but also revolutionizes another (Ms. Marvel). A previous Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) introduced a sense of mortality to the Marvel universe and an unwavering sense of courage. Captain America rightfully suggests that Ms. Marvel becomes a part of (and take over) the legacy. This issue has several bold things going on. We have a woman character who is not “Woman” or “Girl” or “Ms.” in namesake – a rarity but also a completely obvious and sensical change that has been seemingly staring Marvel in the face for years. Yes, it takes Captain America to help legitimize her, but that is what he does. In doing so, Marvel creates what potentially could have been stuck as a “girl comic” (which is not necessarily bad, but needlessly limiting and somewhat culturally problematic). This comic simply considers their women readership to be an equal, prominent, and important part of their customer base. This isn’t to say that Marvel masculinized Ms. Marvel or that the only legitimate form of superhero comic is that of a “boy book,” but rather it shifts the idea of the gender-essential superhero canon to something that everyone has always already read. Which is true. Both genders have always read superhero comics, so their very being is not inherently more masculine, but was culturally constructed that way. Captain Marvel tries to shift that mindset in many ways. The comic establishes Carol Danvers as an important hero to the world/universe. It lays the groundwork for a history and development of the character, creating a deep relationship between the reader and a character many Marvel readers may have ignored over the years. This history shows us Danvers’s personal hero, an aged pilot named Helen Cobb. A woman hero with a woman hero. A woman superhero with importance to the Marvel canon with a woman hero who has historical and cultural importance to the diegetic Earth. This gives female readers the potential for the same sense of importance to the character as Danvers has for Cobb – a privilege male readers have had for decades.

 

Archer & Armstrong #1
Fred van Lente, Clayton Henry, Matt Millia
Valiant

I have been very impressed with all the Valiant relaunch titles, and the latest #1 had me really tickled. I didn’t read any of the original Valiant books and quite frankly don’t know anything about them. So, each one of these titles has been a rather joyful surprise. What is introduced with this title is a rather absurd yet completely recognizable representation of American Neo-Conservative culture and a rather biting satire at that. The series opens with a flashback – a pre-known humanity culture arguing over whether to turn on a device. A brother vowing its usage and one suggesting more thought. The device is switched on and (seemingly) destroys all life on Earth. Within the first few pages, the series sets up an ideological tone to the comic’s world – Relativism versus Objectivism. Rationality vs. Absolutism. We flash forward to a Biblical Realism amusement park opens the series and we learn of the training of Archer, a perfect image of a blonde hair/blue eyed ubermensch teen. He is set forth on a secret mission to assassinate the source of ultimate evil – who we learn is the whiskey-slugging, broad-chasing, hangover-dodging, poetry-quoting, heavy-hitting, and seemingly immortal Armstrong. To Archer, he represents the sins of Humanity that must be wiped clean of the Earth. But they stumble on a greater conspiracy that will surely cause the boy a great deal of personal conflict. The book’s reality-as-conspiracy theory has a deeply metaphorical representation of how ideology controls and hegemonizes worldviews and lifestyles. I can’t wait to read more.

 

Harvest #1
A.J. Lieberman & Colin Lorimer
Image

Harvest is a bleak book, particularly in aesthetic. Gray, black, murky greens and blues make up the majority of the color scheme, save for the nostalgia of flashbacks and the viscera of human gore that scatters the pages. A deadbeat playboy surgeon is disbarred and is forced to participate in illegal, underground operations – both to save the unlawful and to generate huge profits from organ harvesting. Deeply tied to America’s current economic crisis, the book shows the desperation of uncertainty and the flexibility of morality – both in the gluttonous over-abundance money and in its horrifying lack.

 

Think Tank #1
Matt Hawkins, Rahsan Ekedal
Top Cow

There is some interesting stuff going on in Think Tank. Dr. David Loren, young genius, works in research and development for future weapons and technology for the American military. David is famous in the department for creating the technology necessary to make drones a functional and effective tool/weapon/force for the military. Faced with the weight of his inventions – arm-chair killings, the overly-easy justification for military force (ie: person-less battle – zero casualty, zero risk, so why not?), domestic surveillance state, etc.., David reverts to transgression as protest. That is, until the military threatens to ruin his life and the life of the only person close enough to him to be considered a friend. The premise is interesting – a person morally objecting to his own work and creations is forced to continue to invent future technology and future violence. His subversion is comical (using military tech to get laid) – but the story is establishing itself to be more. The fact that the comic is presenting a reality of drone-based warfare serves both as education for the readers and as well as possible protest by the creator. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.