Return to Nothing

Misanthropic Agenda

dmittedly, ‘extreme’ music—yep, Metal incl.—perilously walks an undulating Iommian low D-string oscillating above a lifetime’s (s)well of heavy-metal vomit parties. Typology, whilst seeming the totalizing all-inclusive, ain’t: there’s no spandex, or misused fluorocarbons; there’s not a Flying-V in the lot, and you won’t catch Tim Wyskida anywhere near a stick-twirling, tongue-wagging, audience-exhorting persona. And, when you’re going to be talking about categories, or types—especially in relation to Metal—it’s best to go back to nations northern, or the Scandinavians, specifically to Norse mythology’s heavy boughs that were eventually broken down and processed into paper to hold the Eddas—two tomes of records that provide Metal proper with enough material to render the lot of Newtonian and Leibnizian space-time theory as futile as futility itself. Yet, the via negativa finds place here: when use is useless, it’s best to grip the armchair argumenta based not on what X is, but rather on what X is not.

Ginnungagap is THE Void—the one that predated all the let-there-be performative polysyllabic spew; the selfsame chasm as Hesiod’s chaos, as the Pre-Socratic void-as-some-sort-of-gap principium sapientiae, as a pinprick of a point affixed to a Euclidean Plane where matrices decide its transformation in an axis wholly arbitrary. Pre-universe, pre-particular, pre-pre’s basement’s basement, there was the neuroscience drenched Nordic yawn, the reaction involuntary to a Boredom disseminated from the Gape of Nothingness. Whilst reading the Eddas, one’s clued into cosmology’s state pre-cosmology: there was once this boundless boundlessness; a period of no heaven nor earth placed at the end of a declarative sentence devoid of syntax, or judgment—logical or illogical. There was only Space. —Space w/out top nor bottom. Space populated only with a mist/fog that flew from a central fountain; an origin that originated twelve rivers that ran upon one another; and in the grip of the Great Cold, froze, filling the void as water weighs its well. Contra Newton’s notion of Space as absolute, as the great Unchanging Unchangeable, the Nordic Void altered out of alteration itself; boundary belted across the waist of the Primordial. —Hence Ginnungagap. Thus Ginnungagap, once keeping Muspell (flame’s locus) and Niflheim (mist’s locus) seemingly contained, loosened its grasp: warm winds wore down ice and birthed Being: Ymir. Like the Christians’ Christ, Ymir was ‘blood ransom’: for the Earth to be rendered extant, he was slain. Ymir’s body became terra firma; bones broke into ranges of mountains; blood slipped into seas; hair hardened into trees; his skull split into the clouds and became the heavens. Common dictum: To make, one must have material. And with Return to Nothing, we have three folk with wood, steel, string, plastic and electricity working one long piece (i.e. “Return to Nothing) ex nihilo—something out of nothing into nothing out of something’s remix (i.e., “Nothing to Return” [Gerritt’s remix]). Decidedly, the yield is a coruscating and difficult music. And it’s not metal. It’s not ‘drone’; and Christ-on-the-Cross, it’s not ‘stoner rock’. It’s merely workmanship that walks well beyond its workings.

Simply having to preface Ginnungagap’s music with so much spew is indicative of how truly loaded this stuff is; one can ‘unpack’ moniker, recording title, etc. and be left still with baggage unmolested. But, when you’ve got a personnel as geologically massive as O’Malley, Wyskida (both incidentally, from the God-bothering quartet, Khanate), and Gerritt (as in Gerritt Wittmer: salty sound-sculptor of Misanthropic Agenda ilk), discursiveness is more at circumscription: one ends up writing around the topic; there’s so much to cover it’s like having the job of sewing a skin on the universal skeleton. —Musculature is only a bundle of deflated bags, viscera’s as multivalent as an augur’s anecdotal evidence. With your hands a slave to the meaty workings, your ears are left on their own. And when the inner ear’s malleus quivers within it’s tympanic quilt, its incus’ enacted: turning the cochlea out to absorb sound as object-specific religion eternally digests the people’s fear. —So, I digress: when Roger Penrose was swimming out of his study of Black Holes in the mid-‘60s, he surfaced with what was/is known as the ‘Cosmic Censorship Hypothesis’ or, the ‘God Abhors a Naked Singularity’ hypo, as Professor Hawking calls it. And when Prof. Hawking sez ‘singularities’, he’s talking about big B Break-Down, about Gravitational Fucking Collapse. —This is most definitely not a house of cards crumbling down; this is a rather grave giving away: we’re talking about holes in SPACE, not moth-fodder. But Penrose went on to amplify his position; one can be safe hitting the hole bottomless; there’s always the possibility of worming one’s way through a/the wormhole and wiggling out of one of the Universe’s innumerable asses. If you can wrap your head around this notion, you might be receptive to the sound on Return to Nothing, which is akin to watching Form fill itself out, and fall eventually into reality antinomic, i.e., formlessness.

—Formlessness, funny that. Hermeneutic washes away like coastline in the face of a hurricane when the Physis ain’t the physical: it’s becoming physical, like the action-painter’s aesthetic, or Plato’s sensual realm—the locus of Becoming, a place paved/paid by/for the senses that’s so perpetually in flux one could/would never be inclined to hang a hat on a particular, or clothe a concept. Yet, this is the Physical World: You’re walking and talking, sleeping and waking, living and dying in this world. And so enters Alexius Meinong, an enigmatic semiotician, who seemed to straddle these ‘worlds’ that, appropriately, seem/appear to be something of a condition rather than concrete: Meinong offered a tripartite menu of Being from which any/all items were available. You can order up something concrete, ideal, or abstract; nothing’s kept separate. —Sure, they’re categorized and held in their cell as jam in a jar, but they co-mingle: I can talk about smashing chairs (a concrete thing), Nabokov’s Lepidopteran hobby (i.e. classification, which isn’t real per se, but nevertheless is a part of the world), and, in the Meinongian tradition, golden mountains. Gold mountains aren’t real, that is, we can’t touch and clutch it/them, but they subsist—albeit in an abstract way.

So when there’s only formal analogy, or a congruence of structures logical that incessantly point to music proper as analogue of emotive life, we’re inclined to relent, and agree. When Stephen O’Malley plugs in his Les Paul Custom and crafts a repeating figure out of thin air, something as linearly oppressive as A. Crowley’s indecisiveness in Diary of a Drug Fiend where he is perfectly able to do anything required, yet the idea of doing it stands like a twisted epistemology articulated into a palpable demon, disallowing physical advance of any sort, we are confronted with this music’s aspiration; and it’s so terrifically hairy that we all just may grab our worn copies of the Bardo Thodol and break like the wind wafting from the ass of God. Apropos of the most effective torture, this music is extremely patient: it’s a contest between these three to see/hear who can progress at the slower click. And I suppose that’s why O’Malley’s scribbles over the strings in writ automatic manner sound nearly reluctant, a sort of stoic hesitance in which we hear sound signifying nothing so much real or part of anything we might attribute to phenomena; we’ve got sound as a remnant of nothing previously extant; this is self-nourishing; this is extrapolative without extrapolating; there’s no inferring here, it just is, like a stock boiled off, and turned into the fond fastened to the bottom of a pot. There are analogues, sure. We can say lots of names. Names like Feldman and Schoenberg and Webern and Fahey, even. —But what’s the thrust of this? This music’s adrift and sparse but punctuated, and often rhapsodic, even. —And what’s this do? Truthfully, these guys sound so completely far from the aforementioned folk that prior mention should be erased, deleted, forgotten. Interpreting or describing my sense of the sense is that this stuff is pretty fucking heavy; it’s contradictory (dense ‘n’ sparse) in all the right ways; it’s communicative (more at listening than talking) in all the right ways; and it’s of the large-canvas ilk (Broad, and I mean forget the action-painter mention: think Delacroix, as in sit-yr-ass-on-the-musée du Louvre’s-floor-and-take-it-all-in) in all the right ways. Of course, Tim Wyskida’s Thus Spake Zarathustra bonging gong ‘n’ tympani don’t decrease the massiveness of what’s transpiring. If anything, when Gerritt’s G4—which vibrates like a ten-thousand lb. hive loosed of its bees—relocates some of the preponderance issuing from O’Malley (i.e., tonal ascension w/out cessation [= an aural blue balls]) and Wyskida (who intently—and happily—taps away on his gong like a Tibetan monk rubbing his rolmo together) we’re lifted of a load we’re physiologically incapable of bearing. Gerritt’s sounds warble and seize up; and fall like an aural sauce over and around O’Malley’s torrential ringing and Wyskida’s earthy bronz’d shimmering. By the time everything comes together, it’s fucking eschatological; it’s as if all of Meinong’s categories have confused one another; and, in this deception is only death: the break-down is cosmically perforated; there are more holes than fabric, and your best hope is to not slip.

Reviewed by: Stewart Voegtlin

Reviewed on: 2004-09-27

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Posted 09/27/2004 - 12:20:24 PM by helmet52:
 say what?
Posted 09/27/2004 - 01:37:33 PM by tttTJ3ttt:
 Dude, you freakin' lost touch with reality. Write a review like a normal critic for once...don't loose your voice or nothin' but be direct and to the point and stop using this a forum to show us all you love philosophy and SAT words. Your reviews are like a Lexus without wheels; sure it looks nice, but in the end it's useless.
Posted 09/27/2004 - 02:39:55 PM by dubidet:
 Oh. You again. OK. Last time (was it the JD cd?), it was that there wasn't enough 'description' about the music, what it sounds like, its quality in relation to other versions studio/live, etc; and now it's that you've got a problem w/ the vocabulary or the paradigm(s) (i.e. 'example(s)' [---not too good on the ol' college boards, huh?]) utilised. So you want a 'normal' critique that's direct & to the pt? OK, I'll bite: what in the hell is a 'normal' critique? You mean like SPIN or ROLLING STONE or EVERY-OTHER-GLOSSY-OUT-THERE-ON-THE-MARKET-STAND? &, furthermore, you write about 'utility' in terms of a/the review. . . . Do you REALLY base a potential music purchase on a slew of [my] sentences? If so, I'm shocked, b/c I should be seeing a hoard 'o' green from all these labels for packaging them all purty (like a, uh, 'lexus w/ no wheels) and making the marketing frenzy frenzied. Don't you think? Talk about losing touch w/ reality. . . . ---This is entertainment---not a product jingle, pitch, or slogan. Either you enjoy it, or don't. Get it?
Posted 09/27/2004 - 02:44:19 PM by bjornw:
 ehehehe; excellent 21th century post ironic writing. ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;
Posted 09/27/2004 - 03:31:25 PM by tttTJ3ttt:
 "So you want a 'normal' critique that's direct & to the pt?...You mean like SPIN or ROLLING STONE or EVERY-OTHER-GLOSSY-OUT-THERE-ON-THE-MARKET-STAND?" Uh, no. I mean like your Stylus cohorts or the bulk of the lot over @ /////////////////////////////// "Do you REALLY base a potential music purchase on a slew of [my] sentences? If so, I'm shocked, b/c I should be seeing a hoard 'o' green from all these labels for packaging them all purty..." Uh, no, I do not base my music purchases on your empty autodidactic pontifications...further, I don't know of any reviewers from Spin, RS or any other glossy magazine that supplement their income buy publishing what the record company's want them to say...By utility I am simply stating my belief that the review and therefore the reviewer must always take a backseat to the album being reviewed. ///////////////////////////You genuinely think what you are doing is of ANY WORTH TO ANYONE ??? I was trying to offer some friendly criticism, which I thought was part of the mission statement on this freakin' site!! You don't want to take heed to my comments and suggestions, fine...When I see "Reviewed by: Stewart Voegtlin" I'll know not to bother wasting my time.
Posted 09/27/2004 - 04:06:29 PM by dubidet:
 Like other stylus writers? why? so we all approach a recording in the same way with the same voice? like pitchfork media? why? is stylus so uncomfortable w/ itself that it must ape (i.e. imitate) other web music sites? Not basing yr music buys on my spew? Then why does it get yr goat so? You spoke in terms of 'utility'; if something's deemed 'useless' (as you said of the review), then it's implied that yr 'using' it for something? So, what is it? Blowing off steam? Putting all these folk in their place behind the shield of yr 'puter? Are you kidding me? As you concluded, sir, if you know i'm not going to write like 'a normal critic' why DO you bother?
Posted 09/27/2004 - 05:09:00 PM by phuett:
 I'm not sure if I'm completely on the same page as tttTJ3ttt, but I personally do make some of my record purchasing decisions based off of reviews, as much of this music is hard to find to preview, I have made several decisions my trusting sources such as Stylus and Pitchfork. Anyway, I would just like to say that, as a reader, I would appreciate more specific details about the album being reviewed, what it sounds like, what it is comperable to, etc. So, do whatever you want, they're your reviews, but just remember that some people do try to use reviews as guides to spending our scarce dollars.
Posted 09/27/2004 - 06:23:53 PM by dubidet:
 Phuett: This is where I'm just sort of confused: the first paragraph delineates what 'type' of music this is; the second does more of the same and explains the origin of the band name, ginnungagap; the third & fourth are my opinons about what this music evokes; andthe fifth is a 544 word sprint on the music proper ([1] plays on it, [2]what it sounds like, [3]who it sounds like (schoenberg, feldman, webern, etc.), and [4] how the sound of this music coincides w/ my opinon about what ideas said music evokes (see third and fourth paragraphs). I understand yr position and think it is helpful; but when my review does all the things you ask for, I'm left w/ no other option than to not give my opinion(s), or explain any pertenient info regarding a recording. All I can say is that IMO, this is difficult music, and it demands intelligent analysis.
Posted 09/27/2004 - 08:47:08 PM by IanMathers:
 "By utility I am simply stating my belief that the review and therefore the reviewer must always take a backseat to the album being reviewed." But none of us do that! Obv. I don't write like Stewart, but I do like his style; it's a tough row to hoe avoiding both nonegagement with what he correctly identifies as a difficult thing to write about and spiralling down into complete insensibility (as most people in this style do); to me Stewart stays on the right side, but then again I'm a philosophy major. But then again again, I really don't think he's lost touch with reality. This sort of thing may take a little more mental sweat than (for example) my style (who else's would I be justified in comparing?), but I honestly think he gives you a better idea of what the music actually feels like (which is why I confess phuett's post confused me) and by the time you're done, your brain heady with dense imagery and reference, I feel like I got more out of it than I could hope people got out of, say, the "Antics" review. I wouldn't be so forceful about this except that I've read (many) writers who I feel _do_ engender the kind of charges you guys seek to bring, and I really feel this ain't that.
Posted 09/27/2004 - 08:50:14 PM by IanMathers:
 And furthermore, although I think both sides should quit having a contest to see who can take things more personally, the question is valid; if a writer doesn't do what you think they do, why read them? It's not a forgone conclusion, though, that's not just a rhetorical question. Think about it.
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