Saturday, September 6, 2008

Too Close For Comfort

I really enjoy searching out difficult and challenging music, and every so often I happen across something which totally blows you out of the water. I usually steer well clear of metal as it's not a a style of music that has ever impressed me much, so excuse me for coming across the style of doom/drone metal really late. Just recently I have been exploring this type of music and a lot of it I really like. I've always been quite a fan of drone in general, for example Spacemen 3, Coil's Constant Shallowness Leads To Evil and their release as Time Machines as well as ambient/atmospheric drone such as just about everything by Lustmord as well as lots of stuff post-rock is all music I have a lot of time for. So the other day I happened upon the new album by the Fuck Buttons, which has to be a classic drone album as well as contender for an album of the year award.
Anyway, being in the mood, I typed in the tag "drone" in that most wonderful of websites Last FM and apart from being introduced to Have A Nice Life, Rosetta and Nadja, early yesterday morning the drone tag stations just happened to play a track called Too Close Enough To Touch by a doom metal act called Khanate. Wow - talk about something else. How to describe these guys? I guess you could say that this is the band you might go see live at the local on a Friday night if you were living in the pits of hell. Khanate take difficult music to whole new extremes. Their stuff is despair, ugliness, hopelessness, depression, isolation and brutality violently mixed up, shaken around and vomited out through your sound system. There is nothing redeeming, nothing cathartic, nothing affirming about anything they do. Their most important work - 2003's Things Viral - is a chaotic mix of horribly downtuned grunge guitars, subwoofer exploding bass and extremely.........................bloody.................slow........................drums. In fact against Alan Dubin's vocals, the rest of the band sounds like it's lurching around in the final throes of death, ready to collapse into and drown in its own abysmal aural void at any given moment. And when the album draws to a close it does not do so with some kind of purging, cleansing wall of noise - it simply disintegrates altogether into a screech of feedback and desperate drumrolls as Dubin makes his last stand, wailing over and over "Visions! Sicken! Sicken!!" Then, suddenly without warning, it's all over.
Yet, it works. Sparse, minimalist, totally ugly and agonizingly slow (the album only has 4 tracks, 2 of which near the 20 minute mark in length) there's a crispness, a dichotomous, paradoxical cleanliness to the production and arrangements which may be the only dim ray of light and hope which marks this work. Hope banished to the badlands of pure structural function, now there is something really special. Against this, as I wrote, fight Alan Dubin's tortured, menacing vocals, and he is really something else when he sings. Constantly at the forefront, he keeps what's left of anything that remotely sounds like music together from total collapse, sounding something like a cross between a manic depressive Bon Scott [AC/DC] sedated with Serapax and Peter Jackson's Gollum in a really dangerously foul mood. Dubin screeches and screams, then suddenly he whispers and then disappears altogether for a minute or two, letting James Plotkin and fellow band players stagger and falter inebriatedly onwards, only to return screeching, his voice now run through processors, making him sound almost unbearably sinister; reminiscent of a demon on LSD. Yep, Khanate are really something else. 
Of course, the question begs to be asked - Why would anyone want to enjoy something that is so dark, down and depressing? 

It turns out it's in the structure of the sound after all - there is a glimmer of hope there. What I like about Khanate is what they do with pure energy, and whether it's dark or bright, happy or depressing is ultimately irrelevant and of little consequence- exactly what a sage of the Tao te Ching might suggest. In fact, this is Zen meditation music for people who know the dark is just as important as the light.
The Tao doesn't take sides - it gives birth to both good and evil...When the great Tao is forgotten "goodness" and "piety" appear... I think this goodness and piety is in the spirit of mauvaise foi which Khanate totally smashes to bits. If they have one virtue it's a kind of extreme ontological honesty. They are the best antidote to pretentious and insincere compliments and moral platitudes. Okay, I might be getting a bit pretentious there myself, invoking the Tao and all, so I think I'll leave you to conclude for yourself.

What I really like about Khanate though is that just when I'd actually given up hope, just when I thought there was nowhere else to go with rock 'n' roll, that it really had all been tried before, along comes along a band that just blows you right away.

Check out their video for Too Close Enough To Touch just below, and see what you think.

No comments: