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"Fascism and colonialism in the work of Cut Hands and Blackest Ever Black"


Gretsky 3D
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http://joshhall.net/post/81578386910/fascism-and-colonialism-in-the-work-of-cut-hands-and

 

I was wondering what watmm makes of this (the ethics about musical influences, titling, etc in general and the Bennett/BEB example in particular).

 

It's an interesting read, though it's difficult to separate the writer's objective research from the strong activistic overtones (many of his conclusions have a very accusing tone and this combined with the fact that, as a reader, you're likely to already be sharing the writer's point of view from the start, the text borders on getting witch-hunt propagandistic itself - despite his good intentions that's not the way to go).

 

 

Bennett is clearly rather taken with Africa’s colonial past. In 1997 he released a record calledExtreme Music From Africa, ostensibly a collection of tracks offering “a totally unique vision of a totally unique continent”. The artwork features an image of what appears to be a horrifically mutilated black woman, bleeding through bandages across her face. The liner notes, meanwhile, begin with the following paragraph: “Africa – the dark continent of the tyrants, the beautiful girls, the bizarre rituals, the tropical fruits, the pygmies, the guns, the mercenaries, the tribal wars, the unusual diseases, the abject poverty, the sumptuous riches, the widespread executions, the praetorian colonialists, the exotic wildlife – and the music.” This is the language that ‘others’ Africa, that sexualises it, that reduces it to violence, that casts it as a dark, unknowable, hostile place. It is the language on which racist violence is based - language that has a real and potent danger.

The notes also give “special thanks” to a man referred to as “Jonathan Azande of the University of Zimbabwe”. Two tracks on the record are credited to Azande. The only traces online of a man by that name point either to Extreme Music From Africa, or to a 2007 mix called Noise Retrospective 1913-2007, on which Azande also features – along with Whitehouse. Indeed, ten of the artists on Extreme Music also appear on Noise Retrospective, and there are no other records of any of those artists in any other context online. Some of the artists’ names, such as Petro Loa, make explicit reference to vaudou tradition. There is widespread speculation that Extreme Music From Africa is entirely the work of Bennett himself.

 

This is a bit where I found the article to be maybe reading a little too much into it all. These are all clear narrative techniques. The guy is influenced by African music, appropriates it and just creates a fictional context for it, obviously influenced more by schlocky exploitation movie trailers than anything even remotely authentic. It's a make-believe Africa he's describing. People really do have a strong sense of disbelief, that they only suspend consciously and temporarily to watch the movie or listen to the music. Sure, there will always be a handful of fascist idiots who actually take the fictional setting seriously and use it as fuel for their views, but I don't believe that means the music itself is "dangerous".

I mean, should we conclude that artists like AtomTM or Legowelt are being insincere or unethical in some way by having aliases that suggest they're making music from a different ethnic background than they do?

 

Later on in the article there's also a line where the writer suggests a male doesn't have the right to appropriate feminist imagery because the meaning of it get turned around somehow an becomes misogynist instead... I dunno. I sort of get the logic, but it seems more preoccupied with pointing fingers than with the question of equality (I mean doesn't the act of declaring an image, a concept or a right exclusively to one gender support a form of gender inequality; are males by default excluded for actively supporting or discussing feminism). That's a delicate subject and there is so much material to read up on that a somewhat objective reasonable discussion is difficult.

 

 

Anyway, many things related to the writer's core concern have popped up on watmm in the past (in Vatican Shadow and Muslimgauze threads for example, even in the Vaporwave one), so maybe a more focused thread would be interesting?

 

I have some Vatican Shadow records/tapes and one particular track is a beautiful piece of music and then I look at the title and it's called "Bin Laden's Corpse". What does that mean? Is it some sort of cynical critique? And of what? Why are these particular military officers on the covers? What do they stand for and what, then, does the music stand for? Maybe making you uncomfortable enough to ask yourself these questions (and maybe read up on any politics behind the iconography and track titles) is the only thing VS wants to achieve with it? Forcing you to at least question certain things in contemporary society?

Edited by Gretsky 3D
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nice post, mate.

 

I'm not really familiar with blackest ever black but I may check out the article in any case. in the mean time i just wanted to point out that it's nice to see that thoughtful and interesting stuff can still be found on teh watmms.

 

peace

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I've never understood the amount of hand wringing that takes place over so-called cultural appropriation. Bennett isn't blacking up and pretending to eat human hearts, he's making tunes. It seems to me he's well within his rights to draw upon any musical tradition he likes. The accusations of misogyny in the Madwoman artwork and his live show seem just as misguided, and more reflective of the writer's personal baggage than the Bennett's intent.

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Anyway, many things related to the writer's core concern have popped up on watmm in the past (in Vatican Shadow and Muslimgauze threads for example, even in the Vaporwave one), so maybe a more focused thread would be interesting?

 

I have some Vatican Shadow records/tapes and one particular track is a beautiful piece of music and then I look at the title and it's called "Bin Laden's Corpse". What does that mean? Is it some sort of cynical critique? And of what? Why are these particular military officers on the covers? What do they stand for and what, then, does the music stand for? Maybe making you uncomfortable enough to ask yourself these questions (and maybe read up on any politics behind the iconography and track titles) is the only thing VS wants to achieve with it? Forcing you to at least question certain things in contemporary society?

 

I like some of Vatican Shadow's releases but some of them are hardly different musically than his work as Prurient or his many other aliases. In fact, the very deliberate use of "War On Terror" references is the only clear way to distinguish his work, but it's completely on the surface. It's a bit annoying honestly. It toys around with provocation, it doesn't commit to it nor make a bigger statement.

 

Muslimgauze on the other hand was very open about his politics and ethos and literal about his influences: he used ethnic percussion and had an agenda about his views/perspective on the Middle East. Fatima Al Qadiri is another artist I respect more than Vatican Shadow. As artsy-fartsy as she comes off she's been very clear about her ideas behind her music, and likewise has a personal connection to the imagery and aesthetics she explores with her music.

 

 

It's named after a Sega Megadrive game from 1992, based on Operation Desert Storm from the first Gulf War in 1991," Al Qadiri told Ruth Saxelby. "The record is dedicated to this sci-fi period of my childhood-- surviving the invasion of Kuwait, the war, and then playing a video game based on those events a year later."

 

 

It's a lot more sincere than throwing together some EBM throwback music and releasing it on a cassette mentioning Chechnya or Iraq or Bin Laden or whatever the fuck without any further explanation.

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I guess my short answer is, if you're going to dive into controversy and provocation, be prepared to back up your intentions and goals.

 

Otherwise it's dressed-up gimmickry.

 

Same goes for listeners (ex. oft debated genres like black metal, homophobic rap/dancehall, music made by convicted murderers, etc) especially if the music itself is questionable in quality and relevance.

Edited by joshuatx
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this article must be making the rounds because i just addressed it on another forum.

 

personally, i think this is a witch hunt- or perhaps there just isn't enough interesting stuff to write about so someone decided to go after uncle william.

 

the first thing that irked me was the part about this project being another example of a white person profiting and exploiting black music. does this mean only black people are allowed to make "black" music? what if a black guy does something like heavy metal or punk music? also, he did skirt past the fact that bennett was looking for people to be involved in this project and when he was unsuccessful decided to go about it himself. i wonder why. it's the classic "i wish this kind of music existed, and since i know of none, i guess i'll make it myself so i can hear it" should he however be limited in what he makes because of his skin color and (unfortunately?) the music he wants to hear/make exists purely for people of another race? the hypocrisy in that logic is amusing.

 

right now, in oakland, there is a group that that makes asian music (particularly thai, vietnamese, korean and cambodian). this band consists entirely of non- asian people. in fact, the girl that sings on all the songs is white. is this group also guilty of exploitation, or can we give them a pass since they don't have a cover that has a half nude woman holding scissors with a provocative title (something i doubt has ever been done before right?)

 

second, i really love that this writer said mimsy deblois can do whatever she wants with the image of a woman (because, she's a woman) but william cannot. i suppose one's gender does give license to sexually objectify images of that particular gender and somehow nufflies the fact that it's still sexual objectification to begin with.

 

i suppose one thing i can be thankful of is the writer did decide to bypass the pedo-era of whitehouse: a messy and somewhat uncomfortable time i'm sure a lot of editors would rather ignore, but the "fascism period" is always fair game, especially considering that william has even addressed how much heat he still gets for this. i wonder if david bowie also gets similar flack

or does his marriage to an african woman dissolve that?

 

also, anyone that knows boyd rice would have known why he appeared on race & reason- and even if they didn't he has addressed it more times than william has written about the peter kurten album.

 

 

http://youtu.be/MajGEhSH-9o

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Could be the title of a Fluorescent Grey album.

 

it could be if I was retarded

 

I guess my short answer is, if you're going to dive into controversy and provocation, be prepared to back up your intentions and goals.

 

Otherwise it's dressed-up gimmickry.

 

this is pretty much all that needs to be said. And in the case of Vatican Shadow it goes beyond gimmickry to being completely indebted to muslimgauze, who was indeed someone who was ready to back up his intentions and goals whenever asked about the imagery.

Edited by John Ehrlichman
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http://joshhall.net/post/81578386910/fascism-and-colonialism-in-the-work-of-cut-hands-and

 

I was wondering what watmm makes of this (the ethics about musical influences, titling, etc in general and the Bennett/BEB example in particular).

 

It's an interesting read, though it's difficult to separate the writer's objective research from the strong activistic overtones (many of his conclusions have a very accusing tone and this combined with the fact that, as a reader, you're likely to already be sharing the writer's point of view from the start, the text borders on getting witch-hunt propagandistic itself - despite his good intentions that's not the way to go).

 

 

Bennett is clearly rather taken with Africa’s colonial past. In 1997 he released a record calledExtreme Music From Africa, ostensibly a collection of tracks offering “a totally unique vision of a totally unique continent”. The artwork features an image of what appears to be a horrifically mutilated black woman, bleeding through bandages across her face. The liner notes, meanwhile, begin with the following paragraph: “Africa – the dark continent of the tyrants, the beautiful girls, the bizarre rituals, the tropical fruits, the pygmies, the guns, the mercenaries, the tribal wars, the unusual diseases, the abject poverty, the sumptuous riches, the widespread executions, the praetorian colonialists, the exotic wildlife – and the music.” This is the language that ‘others’ Africa, that sexualises it, that reduces it to violence, that casts it as a dark, unknowable, hostile place. It is the language on which racist violence is based - language that has a real and potent danger.

The notes also give “special thanks” to a man referred to as “Jonathan Azande of the University of Zimbabwe”. Two tracks on the record are credited to Azande. The only traces online of a man by that name point either to Extreme Music From Africa, or to a 2007 mix called Noise Retrospective 1913-2007, on which Azande also features – along with Whitehouse. Indeed, ten of the artists on Extreme Music also appear on Noise Retrospective, and there are no other records of any of those artists in any other context online. Some of the artists’ names, such as Petro Loa, make explicit reference to vaudou tradition. There is widespread speculation that Extreme Music From Africa is entirely the work of Bennett himself.

 

This is a bit where I found the article to be maybe reading a little too much into it all. These are all clear narrative techniques. The guy is influenced by African music, appropriates it and just creates a fictional context for it, obviously influenced more by schlocky exploitation movie trailers than anything even remotely authentic. It's a make-believe Africa he's describing. People really do have a strong sense of disbelief, that they only suspend consciously and temporarily to watch the movie or listen to the music.

 

btw: josh forgot to accuse william bennett of also exploiting italian music (or maybe that's cool since it's white?)

 

http://italoblack.blogspot.com/

 

That made me think of 70s Mondo films/exploitative docs which lets me segue to this:

 

 

This film is fascinating because it's brutal and fucked up, and many would argue racist and pro-fascist/pro-colonialism; that said it's all real footage and the makers have defended it's editing and scope as a means of bringing the reality of post-colonial Africa violence to Western audiences (keep in mind this was the 70s: Rhodesia and South Africa were still white-controlled governments)...this seems like something Cut Hands would reference or be compared to.

 

The point of this essay is a valid one but I feel it's wasted on William Bennett, who is self-aware of his works shock value, in fact I think most would see it's clearly using such themes as a context for extreme music, not a pro-racist agenda.

 

Personally I feel so much pop culture is NOT called out: double standards in gender, cheap titillation, violence in hip-hop, pandering or complacency to 2-party politics and corporations, misogyny in dancehall and rap, flirtation with facist and racist views in metal, shameless selling out in EDM, etc.

 

For example, a group like N.W.A. have rarely been criticized for espousing what is arguably cheap shock value in their lyricism, partly because of their musical influence (which is valid), and partly because it's a lot more difficult to criticize and question black musicians compared to white ones. People always praise or excuse violent and misogynistic lyrics in rap with vague terms like "nihlist outlook, grim realities, etc." or they go overboard and dismiss the entire genre.

 

There's plenty of more important things in music to debate and discuss than an obscure project of a prolific noise/experimental musician.

Edited by joshuatx
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speaking of vatican shadow, anyone familiar with dominic's (quick) attempt at making some afro noise of his own? that didn't work out to well, but at least he did include the (obligatory) 'cut hands' images from the king leopold years of colonialism just incase you didn't get it

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speaking of vatican shadow, anyone familiar with dominic's (quick) attempt at making some afro noise of his own? that didn't work out to well, but at least he did include the (obligatory) 'cut hands' images from the king leopold years of colonialism just incase you didn't get it

 

FFS

 

I dunno, it would irk me at all if it wasn't the fact that he's been made a posterboy of contemporary noise. There are people who know Hospital Records because they like noise/experimental (for example, my acquaintance who loves Prurient is a huge extreme metalhead), and there are those who only listen to Vatican Shadow because Boomkat and P4K name-checked it. There's a wealth of peers not being checked out, as well as those overlooked.

 

I mean c'mon, there's Vatican Shadow, and then there's this from 1994. Only difference is 20 years and the power of online promotion.

 

Edited by joshuatx
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This film is fascinating because it's brutal and fucked up, and many would argue racist and pro-fascist/pro-colonialism; that said it's all real footage and the makers have defended it's editing and scope as a means of bringing the reality of post-colonial Africa violence to Western audiences (keep in mind this was the 70s: Rhodesia and South Africa were still white-controlled governments)...this seems like something Cut Hands would reference or be compared to.

 

 

interesting you should bring this up. when i met william (long time ago during whitehouse years) i asked him whether he had seen this film because i knew he loves cinema verite, mondo movies and found footage type cinema (this film is basically a precursor to all that) to which he answered he was actually experimenting with "sound" that evoked that type of image.

 

a few years later whitehouse released 'bird seed' which was the beginning of the african influenced whitehouse production (if you were to ignore the extreme music from africa compilation).

 

oddly enough, i think a bigger influence for cut hands was maya deren who actually became so obsessed with voodoo that she pretty much converted to voudun and was practising to become a mambo (priestess) as well as early french documentaries on west african customs that pretty much have "afro noise" as the soundtrack. i forget the title, but there was one that william showed me which was pretty much this guy catching a snake by offering his leg as bait, waiting until the snake had swallowed most of it, then had his peers pull him out of the hole so they could skin and kill the snake. the music in that documentary is beyond insane

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OsEVltJVk4

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I am a total noob Vatican Shadow bandwagon-jumper, but I always read the imagery as being like, doubly-referential. Like, at least to me, as an American or whatever, all these terms and militaristic ideas are already part of the soup of media and general discourse and we have already become incredibly desensitized to them.

 

So I always figured the point was to stop and re-consider the words and images and how intense and savage they really are, once again. Like this one really does it for me:

 

http://www.discogs.com/Vatican-Shadow-Operation-Neptune-Spear/release/3708576

 

I dunno. Something about that is so intense, just like how it makes clear how real the gap is between the veneer of Joe Biden on TV struggling to justify something or another, and how savage the actual subject matter is.

 

I get the point that that idea REALLY isn’t addressed in the music, but I guess that’s fine with me? I guess maybe what I feel is supposed to happen is that you are supposed to regress and re-experience how intense the words and images are at a base level, without the sanitization of mass media context to paper them over. And that’s why the music is only vaguely evocative and somewhat “primitive”, not more explicit.

 

Or maybe I just want to be a VS apologist because I like the couple CDs I have. Where does one start with Muslimgauze?

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I am a total noob Vatican Shadow bandwagon-jumper, but I always read the imagery as being like, doubly-referential. Like, at least to me, as an American or whatever, all these terms and militaristic ideas are already part of the soup of media and general discourse and we have already become incredibly desensitized to them.

 

So I always figured the point was to stop and re-consider the words and images and how intense and savage they really are, once again. Like this one really does it for me:

 

http://www.discogs.com/Vatican-Shadow-Operation-Neptune-Spear/release/3708576

 

I dunno. Something about that is so intense, just like how it makes clear how real the gap is between the veneer of Joe Biden on TV struggling to justify something or another, and how savage the actual subject matter is.

 

I get the point that that idea REALLY isn’t addressed in the music, but I guess that’s fine with me? I guess maybe what I feel is supposed to happen is that you are supposed to regress and re-experience how intense the words and images are at a base level, without the sanitization of mass media context to paper them over. And that’s why the music is only vaguely evocative and somewhat “primitive”, not more explicit.

 

Or maybe I just want to be a VS apologist because I like the couple CDs I have. Where does one start with Muslimgauze?

 

Thanks for the response, these reflect how I've interpreted the project as well. But man, I feel like that's given more credit than is due. I'm hard-pressed to think the whole aesthetic is anything more than a way to categorize his work without putting out dozens of releases under ONE name and with monotonous packaging. (For the record I have enjoyed VS and Dominick's material in general, just not engrossed by his work) Someone like Merzbow on the other hand has put out very articulate and direct releases in terms of themes and inspiration.

 

But it's such an odd case...huge discography and very large side-project output (versus a plethora of one-offs) but it's all very quantity > quality. I applaud his work ethic, he's dabbled in a lot of forms of noise and industrial, and he runs his label and store. As much as it's been covered in the press all the acclaim has been moderate...he's not getting BNM nods or end-of-year list nods. He's like a underground noise/tape scene crossover artist into "broaded" indie.

 

As for Muslimgauze, seriously I've enjoyed everything I've heard by him. This is a nice intro, but you'll have plenty of luck just browsing spotify or youtube, releases came out long after his death. Some of his archived music was (is?) coming out for the first time just last year.

 

His discography is huge but it's rich and varied and every recording is usually quite fascinating, they have a lot more character considering his varied recording methods and standards. Lot more real percussion and sampling too. As far as contemporary producers I think Shackleton is closer to his ethos, not just in the superficial overlaps of Arab/middle eastern samples (and sincerity in using them) but also in terms of musical quality and rhythmic exploration.

Edited by joshuatx
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This film is fascinating because it's brutal and fucked up, and many would argue racist and pro-fascist/pro-colonialism; that said it's all real footage and the makers have defended it's editing and scope as a means of bringing the reality of post-colonial Africa violence to Western audiences (keep in mind this was the 70s: Rhodesia and South Africa were still white-controlled governments)...this seems like something Cut Hands would reference or be compared to.

 

 

interesting you should bring this up. when i met william (long time ago during whitehouse years) i asked him whether he had seen this film because i knew he loves cinema verite, mondo movies and found footage type cinema (this film is basically a precursor to all that) to which he answered he was actually experimenting with "sound" that evoked that type of image.

 

a few years later whitehouse released 'bird seed' which was the beginning of the african influenced whitehouse production (if you were to ignore the extreme music from africa compilation).

 

oddly enough, i think a bigger influence for cut hands was maya deren who actually became so obsessed with voodoo that she pretty much converted to voudun and was practising to become a mambo (priestess) as well as early french documentaries on west african customs that pretty much have "afro noise" as the soundtrack. i forget the title, but there was one that william showed me which was pretty much this guy catching a snake by offering his leg as bait, waiting until the snake had swallowed most of it, then had his peers pull him out of the hole so they could skin and kill the snake. the music in that documentary is beyond insane

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OsEVltJVk4

 

 

That sounds fucking intense. This doc you posted is crazy as well, read the background, interesting backstory.

 

Listening to some of Bird Seed, some fucked up stuff, it really hones in the disturbing contents of so many documentaries that you could easily flip past on cable. I suppose besides the album use of African percussion it was also drawing on "found" sound in terms of vocal clips.

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Vatican Shadow "inspired" playlist I made awhile back on Spotify...all influences and similar peers, some widely acknowledged and some not:

 

http://open.spotify.com/user/1255714607/playlist/4JqWBlRalMtlbmnUFoxT7C

 

outakes:

 

http://open.spotify.com/user/1255714607/playlist/4dwpTMnO4LfLFdaCA7tRW1

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Vatican Shadow "inspired" playlist I made awhile back on Spotify...all influences and similar peers, some widely acknowledged and some not:

 

http://open.spotify.com/user/1255714607/playlist/4JqWBlRalMtlbmnUFoxT7C

 

outakes:

 

http://open.spotify.com/user/1255714607/playlist/4dwpTMnO4LfLFdaCA7tRW1

 

awesome. your playlists look rad, i can't get wait to get stuck in.

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speaking of vatican shadow, anyone familiar with dominic's (quick) attempt at making some afro noise of his own? that didn't work out to well, but at least he did include the (obligatory) 'cut hands' images from the king leopold years of colonialism just incase you didn't get it

 

FFS

 

I dunno, it would irk me at all if it wasn't the fact that he's been made a posterboy of contemporary noise. There are people who know Hospital Records because they like noise/experimental (for example, my acquaintance who loves Prurient is a huge extreme metalhead), and there are those who only listen to Vatican Shadow because Boomkat and P4K name-checked it. There's a wealth of peers not being checked out, as well as those overlooked.

 

 

Thank you, you've articulated the same feeling I have about the Prurient guy.

 

And yeah, it's criminal how Merzbow get's written off despite how vast and varied his discography is.

 

I was always a little wary of W Bennett's stuff until I read an interview with him in The Wire a few years back. The dude is on the ball and knows what he's doing.

 

Here's a free and legal to dload Muslimgauze LP that I enjoy greatly: http://www.muslimgauze.org/releases/wish.html

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Vatican Shadow "inspired" playlist I made awhile back on Spotify...all influences and similar peers, some widely acknowledged and some not:

 

http://open.spotify.com/user/1255714607/playlist/4JqWBlRalMtlbmnUFoxT7C

 

outakes:

 

http://open.spotify.com/user/1255714607/playlist/4dwpTMnO4LfLFdaCA7tRW1

 

awesome. your playlists look rad, i can't get wait to get stuck in.

 

 

Hah, thanks. I need to clean up and finish a few. Instead of getting all miffed by artists I have a bad impression of (i.e. seemingly derivative or rip-off aesthetics) I just compile music I find that's similar. It's fun. The Darkside one came out of my friend and I trying to find music of the same vibe, and he wasn't as familiar with electronic music as me.

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