metal mangle
Tools of the Trade.
Promoting metal_community for my application.

I have some friends in there and hey, it's been a while since I've tried joining any such communities. Why not?

No words
White Light.
Swans are not dead. Actually, I'd say they never were, and that as a band who seem to be illustrating a cosmic cycle of destruction and renewal with the religious fervor of self-flagellation, this was bound to happen one day no matter how many times Michael Gira insisted it wouldn't. Sometimes these things are out of our control.

During both of the Swans shows I saw with Garance in Brooklyn and Manhattan this last weekend, Gira would wave his hand in a circular motion whenever he wasn't working his strings, almost as if he was winding up the planet's rotation or some invisible force of birth and annihilation revolving around everyone in the room, everyone alive.

Gira's entire body of work — Swans, The Angels of Light, his solo output, etc. — all seems to fit together in some kind of oscillating wave, where segments interlock as Gira finds a path of cohesion and everything fits together. At the outside of those curves, though, he's busy expanding his sonic vocabulary: albums like The Burning World, White Light from the Mouth of Infinity, Love of Life, Sing "Other People", We Are Him, etc. might not seem to mix perfectly well with the more honed sound present on Gira's most defining works, but they're an important part of the process. Imperfect, but always straining for something greater. With The Great Annihilator I feel like Gira was attempting to infuse the starkly empyrean power of his recent albums with the bleaker destructive force of Filth, Children of God, etc. And then, on Soundtracks for the Blind, he achieved a kind of apocalyptic transcendence, disintegrating and elevating the state of flesh. In moments like these, that oscillating wave seems to unfurl into time and space, making us eternal. And yet for a while, shortly after, Swans were (seemingly) dead, and a new cycle began.

The Angels of Light's oscillation had a slightly different curve, but the effect was similar. Gira had several reasons for adjusting his approach for that project, but there were always qualities that unmistakably belonged to him. Fittingly, after a few albums he seemed to be going astray in the same way he did with The Burning World and subsequent albums. The end of that phase, however, arrived more abruptly. Listening to We Are Him and the latest album, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky (let alone the bonus disc entitled Look At Me Go) one after the other is a rather jarring succession. At least we have Gira's solo disc I Am Not Insane to provide the skeletal outline of the transformation, but things have shifted quickly. Gira has rediscovered his need for brutally edifying maelstrom, swiftly discarding anything that doesn't belong in his current vision of Swans — at the nexus of the interlocking wave — and now we have an album that sounds like all of Swans' best qualities (with, naturally, flourishes of The Angels of Light) channeled into something very focused at the center of everything. Maybe it's something like prayer, or actual nirvana. "We are like the spider. We weave our life and then move along in it. We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. This is true for the entire universe." (From The Upanishads.) Gira also says that hearing Norman Westberg's sweeping guitar again is "like going to church."

If Gira's body of work is a spiraling monolith, Swans' live performance during this tour is its current pinnacle, towering and ruthlessly majestic. It's just another way for Gira to levitate, to feel his body atomize. If you're there to witness it, you probably feel this way, too. During the greatly extended opening song "No Words/No Thoughts" I certainly felt this, along with waves of inexplicable emotion welling up inside. The song, like several others, had taken on a slightly new shape, further illustrating the metamorphosis for which Gira endlessly strives. Later, an unspeakably intense version of "Beautiful Child" took the audience by its throat; we're lifted up and then beaten down. And then we're lifted up again. That's Swans.


passing through
White Light.
Ever look back at LJ entries you made years ago, and suddenly find yourself reminded of things you'd all but totally forgotten had ever happened? Or maybe there were things you knew you'd never forget, but looking back at whatever words or pictures you had to share at that time just puts your life in some kind of perspective—it stretches out before you, and you can feel its texture. I get that a lot when I look back at certain things, mostly from the time I spent living in San Francisco. Beyond that, aside from some very noteworthy times I definitely should have written about in some manner, I think my life slipped into a void of sorts. I stopped wanting to document the events of my life, and preferred to live in relative solitude. I still reached out to the world in other ways, but suffice to say I had lost the desire to talk about myself, at least around here. For a while I felt it was better this way; I had failed, after all the talking I used to do about my touristy dalliances and absurd aspirations. I felt like a fraud. So many people I talk to on LJ are Real People with interesting jobs and artistic inclinations, and I was always just a pretender, not even good enough to call himself a "critic" of anything. And yet, still, I feel like I've seen my share of things. I don't know how much more I have to say just yet, but I believe I've passed through this particular void.

Over the course of this last year I've been gradually mustering up a kind of hope I feel I've scarcely known in my life. This is both in regard to the way I perceive myself and what I want out of life, and in regard to what seems to have become a very real thing—a thing I thought I might never really experience. In short, this seems to be the year where I finally start to love myself again, and suddenly rediscover the possibility that someone else might actually love me (the way I've wanted to be loved), too. For a while it wasn't a sure thing, being a typical "talking on the internet" situation, but it has developed into something far more real. And I'm happier than I have been in about as long as I can remember.

I still have a penchant for writing about things a bit vaguely here, apparently. To be more to the point, I've met someone—her name is Garance, and she's amazing. There's more to say about plans I have for the near future (a quick run-down: I'm back in school, might have work soon, going to New York with Garance to see SWANS live twice in a couple weeks!!!), but this will do for now.

R.I.P. Satoshi Kon.

Fucking massive cosmic upswing.
White Light.
I will be (back) in Portland on the first of September.

Cannot fucking wait.

In October, I will most likely be in NYC to see Swans live. Twice.

There will be more to say later, but for now I'll just say I'm more excited than I have been in a long time.

First review of the new Swans album.

I can barely contain my anticipation.

Something else
Okay, I'm getting the feeling that some people who may have read my last post are thinking, What the hell? This guy used to be sort of cool, at least, and now he's coming back posting about Lady Gaga.

Hell, I don't know, maybe it's a phase. Something fun and frivolous. I've often been so uptight about my tastes in music that it's nice to cut loose and enjoy something that places style over substance and might be kind of contrived and a bit vacuous, yet just provocative enough to feel like a breath of fresh air from the usually tepid mainstream and (I would say) quite sexy.

Don't worry, I'm sure I'll be breaking out all the black metal again this fall/winter. Actually, I've been listening to a lot more post-punk, shoegaze, old industrial and such (again) lately. I think I've listened to more Swans, Coil, Death in June, and MBV in the last several months than I have in all my life. The best new albums I've heard all year are Kayo Dot's Coyote and Current 93's Baalstorm, Sing Omega. The new Burzum pretty much bores me, and in fact contributed to my faltering interest in black metal, I think. At this point I feel like I'm just waiting for the new Deathspell Omega to finally materialize. Last year was such an incredible year for metal, but I guess the cyclical shifting of my interests is inevitable. It's not as if I'll ever completely forsake the metal.

Deathspell O'Gaga
Turns out I somewhat uncharacteristically like Lady Gaga. Then again, perhaps not so uncharacteristically as I find that "Bad Romance" is an immensely catchy song as well as one with a video reminding me of one of my favorite film directors: Stanley Kubrick. Evidently the masks used in Eyes Wide Shut (which I love) were originally made by Parisian artist of the 1920s Kiki de Montparnasse (aka Alice Prin, or Queen of Montparnasse), and some originals along with meticulous replicas were used in the "Bad Romance" video. The stark white, illuminated set also reminds of the atmosphere of A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey. And then she's namedropping Hitchcock films in the lyrics...

My impression so far is that Gaga might be a bit of a pretender (the rest of The Fame Monster unabashedly mimicks ABBA, Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Queen, etc.), but she plays the role so confidently that she at least feels like the genuine article: the first true pop star for the 21st century, perhaps. The newly crowned Queen of Pop. I'm not the best judge of that, I suppose (usually I prefer artists like Kate Bush, Björk, Fever Ray, or stuff in a more shoegaze/post-punk vein), but hey. She captures a sort of backwards glamor that feels a bit surreal to me, much like the feeling I get from Eyes Wide Shut. Even watching the above video, or any of the live performances, I like how the dances aren't your typical hiphop-inspired choreography, but masked freaks dancing and jerking like marrionettes.

Especially when looking into her output as Stefani whatshername, I get the impression that this was a metamorphosis she was bound for. I'm reminded of The Angels of Light song "Michael's White Hands," which was supposedly an actual comment on celebrity -- specifically, Michael Jackson and the media's perception of him as an androgynous nymph and a materialization of glamor -- and how these people are really just archetypal manifestations of collective dreams or decadent desires or whatever. Of course, not without some patently apocalyptic overtones...

Speaking of Michael Gira, perhaps a bit more characteristically I am anxiously awaiting the new Swans album.

White light from the mouth of infinity, you say? That's the actual cover art, though the borders are shopped.

I can't wait.

Well, there. Some kind of post, finally. I'll try to keep it up.

The hero wakes up on the beach. He tries to remember...
Before reading this entry, for a laugh, go read The Anime Club. All three parts!

I've never belonged to any anime club, because most of the anime fans I've met irl have been intolerable fujoshi that I never felt compelled to meet with on any sort of regular basis. But this was also about seven years ago, and the world is a very different place these days. We are, you might say, living in a post-Adult Swim world?

For example, last night during my English class (yes, I am finally back in school) we were told to interview a classmate and write a paper about them, which we'll be reading aloud next week. So we drew numbers, and since there were an odd number of students I was one of three who drew 10. The other two who drew 10 were a couple of extremely attractive girls, probably much too young for me (early twenties at the oldest), which is evidently one of the downsides of going back to college when you're almost thirty years old. But anyway. We interviewed each other clockwise, and while I was doing my interview and the girl talked about how she moved to the U.S. from Honduras when she was five years old and wants to design videogames and likes anime (and wants to prove that these things are and can be art because breaking down cultural and generational boundaries (her parents are very negative toward her aspirations and she was actually once flunked out of an art class because she was told that "cartoons are not art")), the other girl chimed in and mentioned Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, and how of course that stuff is very artistic...

I will have fun writing this report, I must admit.

Ah, videogames. I haven't thought much about them for a few months now (and I have good reason for that), but today I thought about how videogames have either changed my life, or simply changed my way of thinking about videogames. So, let's see. If none of this means anything to you, well, you have my apologies. I'll list games chronologically, and the year that I played them (not necessarily when they were released).

Frogger (1983-'85?)- Get to the other side and survive.
Super Mario Bros. (1987) - Get to the other side and survive. Run and jump, stomp goombas.
The Legend of Zelda (1987) - Get to the... huh. Wherever. I'll just explore.
Metroid (1988) - Explore, but it's different. The world isn't wide open and earthy, it's dark and cold. Just as lonely, though.
Ninja Gaiden (1989) - First encounter with "cinematics" in a videogame. Like moving comics between stages.
Super Mario Bros. 3 (1989) - "Get to the other side," but now it feels more like an adventure. Overworlds.
Wolfenstein 3D (1992) lead to Doom (1993), adding new dimensions visually and in terms of sound and atmosphere.
Final Fantasy VI (1995) - Videogames can be beautiful and emotional, and tell a story more involved than Ninja Gaiden's "cinematics."
Chrono Trigger (1996) - Everything that FFVI did, but better, and more instantly nostalgic.
Xenogears (1998) - I could write too much about this. Flawed as it was, it changed my way of thinking. I was immature enough, myself, at 18. This is the first videogame that I would say actually changed my life. It influenced me to start thinking about what I wanted from life in a way that lead to me abandoning a couple of childhood friends that I no longer felt had anything to offer me. Hell, I learned the word "antitype" from Xenogears. It was used differently in this game, but it means "that which represents another thing." The type is the thing, and the antitype is its image.
Metal Gear Solid (1998) - Obviously, it drew from all the sci-fi/action flicks I'd grown up on. It was more deeply immersive in a tactile sense than anything yet.
Half-Life (1999) - Better than Doom?
Silent Hill (1999)- Reminded me of Twin Peaks. Hadn't seen Jacob's Ladder yet.
Chrono Cross (2000) - Felt like a dream in the summer, vaguely surreal. The hero awakens on the beach in a world where he never existed.
Final Fantasy X (2001) - They'd finally killed the wonder and destroyed everything good about these games. Left me utterly jaded.
Ico (2002) - Completely redefined what I look for in videogames, aesthetically. When I read Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland... I kept thinking of that castle.
Rez (2002) - It was like a vector-graphics arcade shooter elevated to sensory overload on rails. Awe-inspiring.
Cave Story (2005) - Hadn't played videogames very much for a few years. This reminded me of why I loved them.
Katamari Damacy (2005) - Whoa. What have I been missing? That's all I could think.
Shadow of the Colossus (2005) - No, this reminded me of why I loved videogames, and where I had left off with Ico.
Killer 7 (2005) - I didn't pay too much attention to this one's political allegory. I just loved it for being surreal and subverting videogame design traditions.
Dragon Quest VIII (2005) - My first DQ, I hate to admit. Its wide-open world left me wanting more, leading to...
World of Warcraft (2006-2009) - And I have somewhat mixed feelings about my experience with this game, but ultimately a lot of regret and I wish I'd never started playing.

I think I'm still recovering from that last one. The hero wakes up on the beach.

Most of you are probably familiar with this trope, typical of Japanese console RPGs like Final Fantasy, or The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The hero wakes up on a beach. As he stands up and dusts the sand off his clothes, blinking into the sunlight, he lowers his eyes to the horizon and realizes the water seems to blend in with the sky, almost as if it's not even there. The reflection must be perfect—not even a ripple. He leans forward to look into the water, expecting to see pebbles and maybe a little hermit crab skittering by. Something white is moving... Gulls fly in circles below. What? He realizes he's falling. The sand crumbled under his feet. Oops.

Well, it doesn't usually go quite like that.

Videogames seem to be going through some kind of phase right now. Or maybe it's just people. The last decade has been a rough one. Faithless (aka Heather Campbell), an old regular of the insertcredit and selectbutton forums, comedian, and writer for Play Magazine, among other things, wrote an article on her site The Call to Adventure about how, um, love does not exist. She's had a bad year, she says. That's fine—2009 was painful for me, too.

"I think few of us ever revisit games. I'm beginning to believe that this industry is driven by novelty alone," she posts on selectbutton.

Interesting, but I seem to be among the few, then, since revisiting stuff is all I do anymore, as far as videogames are concerned. I don't have any desire to invest too much time or money in this stuff right now. I'll eventually play things like Demon's Souls, which seems to be one of those games that people will keep talking about for years, but I no longer have any interest in skimming release dates to see if there's anything novel worth picking up every month (like I used to), or that sort of thing. I'd rather open up an emulator and remember what I loved about Final Fantasy VI, if I'm going to play anything at all. Maybe give Shadow of the Colossus another go and soak it in. I think "novelty" is about the last way I look at videogames anymore. Or anything, really.

I mean, I agree with some things that Faithless says. As humans, we are often creatures of novelty. We find something new, and we get excited about it. That much is true. But her entire article seems to be arguing that we obsess over these things very briefly, and every infatuation ends as we hop to the next, never to be touched again, never really becoming part of us like movies or books do, because we never really loved any of it. And if we think we have, we're liars. I don't agree with that at all. We're also creatures of nostalgia.

Another poster says that more than nostalgia, he thinks that looking into the past becomes a pathology, a sickness. He keeps "feeling for a pulse," and "trying to recontextualize the past," as if he's looking to gain some perspective on what his life has become.

I don't know if it's a sickness. It's pretty common for people to want to run their fingers over the contours of the past, memorizing every detail and breathing in the dust. Even when it seems empty and absurd—it's your life. And you have to keep living and moving forward otherwise you're only somewhat living... but we all want to bring the past with us. I think Faithless lives a life of novelty because, as I look over her site and her resume, she's a really busy person, and she lives surrounded by the wreckage of all that novelty as she forges ahead. (That, and she plays Street Fighter, which is not really my thing with its apeshit mash-button asskicking—The Legend of Zelda and its broken heart pieces scattered around the world, though, that's my language.) Maybe she's not as mired in the past as some of us who are more habitual. We all feel our own kind of sickness and emptiness.

The hero wakes up on the beach. He's no hero at all, having been adrift for so long.

2010: Earth is still Earth.
It's the year Two Thousand Fuckin' Ten and I have the hangover of the decade (literally).

Where's my hoverboard and flying cars, robots, and space travel?

At least we still have a plenitude of booze. Also, music.

01. Portal — Swarth
02. Katharsis — Fourth Reich
03. Teitanblood — Seven Chalices
04. Arizmenda — Within the Vacuum of Infinity...
05. Peste Noire — Ballade Cuntre lo Anemi Francor
06. Mono — Hymn to the Immortal Wind
07. Arckanum — ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ
08. Rome — Flowers from Exile
09. Grave Miasma — Exalted Emanation
10. Tenebrae in Perpetuum — L'eterno Maligno Silenzio
11. Aluk Todolo — Finsternis
12. Yoga — Megafauna
13. Drudkh — Microcosmos
14. Beherit — Engram
15. Aderlating — The Nectar of Perversity Springs from the Well of Repression
16. Urfaust — Einsiedler EP
17. A Place to Bury Strangers — Exploding Head
18. Stabat Mater — Stabat Mater
19. Ulcerate — Everything is Fire
20. Arktau Eos — Ai Ma Ra
21. The Ruins of Beverast — Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite
22. Current 93 — Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain
23. Dreams of the Drowned — Thanatotropic Principle
24. Amesoeurs — Amesoeurs
25. Gnaw Their Tongues — All the Dread Magnificence of Perversity
26. Funebrarum — The Sleep of Morbid Dreams
27. Ben Frost — By the Throat
28. Ignivomous — Death Transmutation
29. Diamatregon — Crossroad
30. Blut aus Nord — Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With the Stars

Honorable mentions for decent/good records:
Krallice, Wolves in the Throne Room, L'Acephale, Skagos, Njiqahdda, Caïna, Miserere Luminis, Graveland, Immortal, Khanate, Martyrdöd, Deströyer 666, Denial, The Chasm, Aosoth, Fluisterwoud, Nazxul, Embrace of Thorns, Diocletian, Infinitum Obscure, Vorum, Karjalan Sissit, Slagmaur, etc.


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