Return to Nothing
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