Thursday, January 01, 2015

That Other Band I Was Going to Write About

The obvious problem with re-starting is a blog is that you have to, like, keep blogging. Which, as usual, one always intends to do, but then time passes (as it will do). Before it's too late, then, let me get to Deafheaven, the Abbot to Liturgy's post-black-metal Costello. As a refresher: black metal is really noisy music that not very many people like.

I think these two bands group easily because they're both trying to find something not uninteresting to do with the sonic textures of a generally goofy sub-genre of metal. Where Liturgy's interestifying (do not confuse with interesterifying) moves are horizontal (rhythmic), Deafheaven's are vertical (harmonic). Let's have a listen:

The key to liking music (or other cultural products) that you don't necessarily like (I'm talking to the "you" out in the world here, not "you" as myself; I actually really like this kind of music) is to find a way to make it into something that you do like. This can be a bit of a trap, because you wind up doing a lot of work on behalf of works that aren't really worth the effort, and you might occasionally mistake things that are bad for things that are good. The best example that I can think of at the moment is when I went to see the movie Push in theaters, and the friend that I went with and I spent most of the conversation afterward talking about how the ways that it could have been a good movie, even though it was actually pretty bad (and not so bad it's good). But if you do this, it becomes a thing that you want to talk about, hopefully with other people, and than it becomes a focal point for the community that forms around that conversation.

I mention the above because it becomes pretty apparent, pretty quickly, that even though this whole post-black metal genre isn't my favorite (I listen to deafheaven way more than Liturgy, though), it is one that points out things that I think are interesting and worth talking about and sharing. To get to a, if not the, point: if Liturgy's horizontal intentions mark them as being most interested in cathexis, than Deafheaven's search for vertical space comes out of the desire for catharsis. Which also marks them as more distant from the roots of black metal than Liturgy, since one of the defining characteristics of black metal in the first place is the all-climax (or, more accurately, no-climax) structure. We've already discussed that Liturgy's attempt to make the genre's music more complicated is ultimately limited in actual complexity, so we should apply the same test to Deafheaven's attempt.

Actually, if I want to be even more accurate about it, I think that the roots of Deafheaven lie more in what I think would be called "shoegazer" music than black metal, and that they're usage of black metal sonic textures is more an artifact of either a) them being metal kids that started to seek out catharsis, or b) as shoegazers who were interested in the sonic possibilities of black metal without ever being committed to making metal music as such. There are a lot of other bands to compare Deafheaven to (since I'm really to old for all of this shit, let's pick one of my favorite examples from back in the early 2000s, Majority Rule (trust me that there are a bunch more). They're coming from a background that's more hardcore-based, but I think they were looking for pretty much the same thing that Deafheaven is now:

), so in a way I think they are less unique than Liturgy at the same time that they are more successful.

But look at how it comes out in performance as well. Could this look any more different than Liturgy?

Why so opposite? Where Liturgy needs to prove to its audience that they aren't even trying, even though what they are doing is very technically difficult, the lead singer of Deafheaven, who has a very easy job--his screaming is very monotextural--he needs to bring his audience into a community of believers, in order to lead them to the catharsis that Deafheaven has designed for them to reach (e.g. the release of all the tension built up in all that black metalling when the texture finally breaks).

So is Deafheaven better than Liturgy? Is it even possible to make that comparison? I hate it when things come down to taste, which is way more often than I like to admit, even though I'm better at admitting it now than I was in, say, 2003. Is Deafheaven theatrical and Liturgy anti-theatrical? Or are they both still operating in the same sphere? Liturgy wants us to believe that they are the outsider artists to Deafheaven's high modernists, but I don't know if that's the case. I think both bands are trying to obliterate chronos (narrative time) through opposite means. But where Deafheaven are essentially Orthodox is their desire to bring their masses into the Kairos through essentially narrative means, Liturgy wants to not only deny Kairos but obliterate the potential for meaningful moments from their music entirely. Both are interesting, right?

I suppose my parting thought is that the cultural industry seems to driving further and further down a cathexis-driven path, and that just seems immature to me. Device-driven cathexis overtaking the communal catharsis available in focal activities. Of course, at the same time, since Deafheaven's vertically-expanded music is more like the music that I've liked for a long time, it really could just be this model of taste -- and liking something that I would have liked just as much 10 years ago makes me feel really immature, so maybe I've got it backwards anyway.

Which brings me to my usual parting thought of expressing my concerns about how pretentious and misguided I might be in trying to talk about any of this. I guess I could have just said "read Artistotle's Poetics" and left it at that. But why re-start a blog just to do that?


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