Sunday, November 17, 2013

Archive interview: Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire

An interview conducted by Andy Black Forest in 2010, thanks for the permission to reprint.

Stephen Mallinder Interview 2010

You (Cabaret Voltaire) are often cited as pioneers of electronica/industrial, how do you feel about being referenced as such a major influence on modern electronic music?..
It’s very flattering and good to know that what we created had impact and longevity. I think you have to put it into the context of the time and the place as well and acknowledge how a lot of things were coming together at the time - in the mid to late 1970s and beyond into the 1980s. This was the last time that we could really identify the scenes and cultures that were emerging, the volume of music created now and the way it is heard work against the way we evolved – basically it was easier to see and hear us.

Although CV's influence is acknowleged, do you ever feel that theres a whole period thats been overlooked? Nag nag nag seems to be the 'trendy' Cabs song people reference, but theres so many good tracks on say, Covenant and Microphonies, aside from the singles.. You had a really unique sound and take on the electro/pop/industrial crossover.Do you think sometimes there's too much focus on the obvious singles? ....
I think it's inevitable that certain tracks and periods are picked up on ... In large part due to the media. Current media has reduced a very rich and complex period of music to a series of ‘must have’ tracks and iconic acts. Much as I love New Order, and similar bands, the way its is portrayed in the media is that was all there was. That same reduction goes on with bands like us where only one or two tracks ever get mentioned. But that’s the way it is always is ... A lot of history gets squeezed out.

Whats your personal favourite Cabs record and why?
Oh blimey, that’s a tough one. We seemed to cover so many phases of music so I’d have to give a few: From the very early period Sunday Night in Biot; from the independent days This Is Entertainment and Sluggin Fer Jesus; I liked Crackdown and Digital Rasta from the Some Bizarre period and then later clubby stuff Easy Life and from our own Plastex period the Colours EP.
Reason? Oh, I think all of them seem to distill the ideas and the vibe of the periods in which we made them more than other tracks. Having said that I loved the mashup of us with Public Enemy and Air which came out recently called ‘Sensorair’. That’s a good representation of where things are at like it or not – we live in a creative interactive culture, it’s other people’s jobs to recontextualise the music.

The audio visual element in the evolution of cabaret voltaire was a key and unique element … you helped pioneer the industrial aesthetic and 'look' … What was a big influence on you musicially or filmwise? … Obviously you started making music in a very political time ...
Film was always important, we always considered ourselves visual, as in the music had that cinematic quality – textures, moods, ambience etc. We were always a mirror reflecting back what was happening and visually the political images were thrown back in a new setting with sound as the manipulative force ... I’m just about to do a talk on some of this and I singled out the Coppola film The Conversation. Obviously it was the name of our last real album but also it encapsulated the idea of ‘sound’ as an almost forensic application – sound as alchemy - I love the idea of how sound worked in this context. But there was much more as well with film – loved things like Popol Vuh soundtracks for Werner Herzog, Henry Mancini’s music for Touch of Evil and the way Bernard Herman soundtrack worked with Taxi Driver ... Having said that I loved the music in
 American Graffiti and in Vanishing Point.

When and how did you meet Genesis P Orridge and become involved with industrial records?
Kinda goes back to the answer in the first question - There weren’t that many people making this sort of music and these statements back then so we all found each other like heat-seeking missiles. We wanted to do something with Gen and TG for Industrial and the early attic tapes seemed the most likely thing as it was at a slight tangent to the Rough Trade/Factory releases and seemed to fit with the label’s vibe.

Are you still in touch with Chris Watson?
Sadly no and our paths seem to just miss – at talks or festivals, but very pleased to see the work he’s done and proud of the work we did early on.

The house music explosion that happened in the late 1980s was embraced by yourselves and psychic tv..Tell us about your projects post Cabaret Voltaire - .Sassi and loco etc …

I wanted to run the label – Off World Sounds – and my albums were part of that. I have always had a very cooperative approach to music and wanted to give other people an avenue to release music and do gigs .. I hated the idea of it just being about me. Doing the label and the promotions side (Off World Productions) was the best way for me to achieve this. I was doing lots of other things – a producer of a number of radio programmes, writing for magazines, Djing. Doing the label with Pete Carroll let me diversify. Mind you, we never made any money.

Any particular stories you wish to share, amusing or otherwise from this period?
Probably lots but I’d be here all day ... And that would just be talking about the Shaun Ryder album.

Any future plans post this release to release anything under the Cabaret Voltaire monicker?
I think the worst thing that could happen would be to tarnish, or devalue, the name by using it as a brand. Everything has a time and a place we should respect that. BUT you never say never.

Any projects you are currently involved in you want to tell readers about?
I did some stuff with Billie Ray Martin out of Berlin and I’m in the studio finishing off the Light Programme release which is myself and Steve Cobby – from Solid Doctor and Fila Brazillia – sounding really good. And the other project I’m currently doing is Wrangler – with Benje and Phil from Tunng – very electronic and much fun to do. I’m always open to stuff and when I get chance I collaborate – I’m sorting out doing some tracks with Celebratory Murder Party next.

Are you active politically in any sense ?
I’m in favour of direct action so give me a cricket bat and access to Rupert Murdoch, David Cameron and ... Is Margaret Thatcher dead yet?

Lastly,what are your views on the current electronic music scene? Any artists you'd like to mention or recommend?
Its all there in the present and completely subjective so I don’t think its possible to see things as new, just new to me. Yeah love a lot of the West Coast electronic stuff – Vibesquad – and Autechre still. But it's so vast and so available its hard to navigate. As David Toop said ‘an ocean of sound’ or perhaps sadly as Eno said ‘there’s so so much of it and it all sounds so familiar’. Still never be disheartened 'cos there’s so much more to hear and do.

c. ANDY BLACK FOREST for Black Forest, 2010

Friday, June 21, 2013

Interview with Ken Holewczynski of Epoch and Carbon 12 Records

Epoch is an American martial-industrial project which defies many of the expectations that label might produce. It's work is thoughtful and politically relevant and doesn't present illusions of a return to a glorious past in that way that much music in this style does. Epoch recently released the album Purity and Revolution, which bears traces of SPK, Front Line Assembly and other important artists, but updates the old styles to make them relevant to the current crisis. It uses historical samples to draw parallels between the previous Great Depression and the current day, illustrating the tragic potentials of the present and near future.

We spoke to Ken Holewczynski to get a better picture of Epoch's agenda and his thoughts on the continuing controversies surrounding the industrial scene.

Do you see Epoch as continuing the tradition of socially critical North American industrial associated with Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy, Die Warzau and others?

Very much so. One of the initial reasons I was drawn to industrial music and culture was the fact that many of the early the artists involved were writing lyrics and music that were geared towards critical thinkers. They didn't write traditional music with traditional pop sentiments. I came across FLA around the time Corroded Disorder came out at the original Wax Trax! Records store in Chicago. I live close enough to Chicago and I made plenty of pilgrimages to the store to get my industrial music fix. They played videos that were on the cusp of the MTV era, except they played good ones. Front 242, FLA and other European artists were featured, as they did most of the importing of industrial music into the US. I think the one video that really struck me on one visit was FLA's Digital Tension Dementia – the visuals were so striking.

This is also how I came across Laibach as I saw the video for Life is Life at Wax Trax! and immediately began to research and follow the band and more so, NSK . I'd say idealistically, Laibach had more influence on what I am doing content-wise, but musically I draw from all of my influences from EBM, experimental and 90's industrial.

I saw in Laibach a sense of showing a system for what it is, with their process of over-identification. However, I don't think that method would necessarily work in the US. Many Americans are already over-patriotized (is that even a thing?) and wouldn't recognize the sarcasm or irony of that method.

The album has a sense of epic tragedy that's reminiscent of early Front Line Assembly – was their work of this period an influence?

I have always been drawn to music that tends to have some sort of “melancholy” overtones, whether it's lyrical or musical. Prior to diving into the industrial scene, I followed bands like Ultravox and additionally, John Foxx with his solo material and everything they did had this grand sound that was both tragic and beautiful. Ultravox's early work had a sense of longing for a time lost, while Foxx sang both of great personal and cultural dystopias.

Luckily as the entire short-lived “New Romantic” period in music ended, I came across industrial to move on to.

FLA definitely was an early industrial influence. The dark sounds, deep vocals and open sonic spaces continued that epic electronic sound that I still try to project. I know that style of industrial music is still reflected in my compositions as Epoch and music I wrote back in the 90's was probably more directly influenced. I hadn't composed in a very long time and I think the distance now has allowed a development of a more personal style, but you can still hear that early sound in my work.

Epoch - Capitalism, from the Purity and Revolution artwork.

The“narrative”of the tracks is constructed from the samples, many of which seem to be from the era of The Great Depression. What is your approach to sampling?

At this point I feel it's so obvious that media, world leaders, politicians, what have you, primarily mislead and redirect everyone. Not that everyone lies (how can you really tell?), but even though we live in an age of disinformation, if you actually hear and understand what has been said and planned since the dawn of the media, you will see a linear path towards control of central banking, consolidation of commerce and finances, the destruction of the middle class – not to mention the indifference to the poor and the advancement of the extreme viewpoints that I believe are in direct contrast to most people I know, who tend to be moderates, whether they are conservative or liberal. Of course there have been periods where the lives of the average person are improved through legislation and the political process, but we're at a point where globalization of commerce and finance are pushing back hard and seemingly waging economic war on the common man.

So in sampling source material, I look for sound bites that show, in their own words, the way this has been shaped. Roosevelt, Bush, Truman and even Oswald Mosley among others are intertwined to illustrate that there isn't much difference between the political “isms” of our time. The samples are interpretive and used to accent, confuse, warn or inform. Using historical samples reinforce the fact that we should have all seen the current socio-economic crisis coming.

How does your audience perceive you politically?

So far I haven't been perceived of leaning one way or another politically. Since re-entering the industrial scene and specifically the sub-genre of martial industrial, I've actually been corresponding with other bands and individuals with varying viewpoints, so I assume that for now, people find me open-minded to alternative cultures and philosophies.

How do you respond to the inevitable accusations that Epoch is advocating a right-wing agenda? (if you have actually received these)

While I haven't been accused of being right –wing or left -wing, I suppose you're correct in that given the chosen aesthetic for Epoch, and the fact that I am working within circles that have some bands with ring-wing agendas, that this association may be made.

Groucho Marx said, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

While not entirely apropos, Marx's quote might apply here in trying to associate me with one view or another.

Perhaps my own agenda with Epoch is a bit ambiguous and people will read into what they want. I have a viewpoint that focuses on global situations and corporate fascism that may be based on my American experience, but translates globally.

Getting back to Laibach and over-identification and my chosen graphic representation of Epoch, I didn't feel “going over the top” in an American sort of way was going to accurately convey the music. If I did, the cover art may look like a typical country music album. However, I think the chosen style is accurate. I doubt most people realize that for longest time, the US dime had the Italian fasces on the back, a symbol used by the Fascist party, and that the symbol is still in several government buildings in Washington DC. I find things like this both entertaining and disturbing.

What are the differences you see between American and European audiences for this style of music?

I honestly am not sure how much of an American audience there is for this, although again, Laibach has its fans here but there aren't other US martial or neo-folk bands here that I am aware of. The “mainstream” American industrial scene, and I get the impression the same holds true for Europe, has been homogenized quite a bit and I wasn't even looking at the American scene when I started composing as Epoch. Present-day American folk is simply a regurgitation of hippie culture presented for the masses and I think I'm treading in a completely different underground arena here. It would be good to get more exposure in the US and I have had some of the poster art I submitted to, and was selected for, the First NSK Citizens' Congress appear in a few area galleries. This may be an avenue I explore further in both art and music to reach a larger US audience.

Ken Holewczynski - Just Say Nein, from the NSK Folk Art selection presented at the First NSK Citizens' Congress, Berlin, 2010.

However, in Europe, I have been lucky enough to gain the support of Casus Belli Musica in Russia, VUZ Records in Duisburg (an old friend from when I ran my previous label, Arts Industria in the 1990s) and Castellum Stoufenburc, also in Germany. They are distributing the CD and through networking I am finding my audience there.

I have always felt that the more interesting music was coming from Europe and I even made it a point to go beyond the obvious British/American music connection to seek out music from other parts of Europe. I have always been especially interested in finding artists from Eastern Europe – I suppose it’s some sort of vague connection to my Polish heritage.

So I guess the underground has maintained its interest to me. You get a more individual voice from those scenes and for good or bad, at least it's preferable over pop music.

So to your previous point, I think Europe may be a better audience for me, but I may end up being categorized within the martial scene. I just find there is an audience there for the type of music I want to pursue and a market that already exists for it. We will see.

Can you tell us more about the Carbon12 label, its other artists, influences and agenda?

Carbon 12 was basically set up as a collaborative type label. As I said earlier, I had created the label Arts Industria in the 1990s and gained a small amount of notoriety releasing international compilations though the mail and through newsgroups like AI was created to initially release my own music but I created many contacts in those days and all told about a dozen or so comps were distributed.

With C12, I was approached by long-time friend, Paul Seegers who plays live keyboards for Assemblage 23 about starting something similar since he had music he was wanting to put out and I was wanting to get back into it myself.

As the music scene is even more difficult to market to now, C12 functions as a marketing co-op more than a label. The releases we've done so far are financed by the artists and we simply assist each other with cross-promotion.

The core of this new beginning was Paul with his project “Thy Fearful Symmetry,” and Laird Sheldahl – previously in the band Thine Eyes and later on ML and myself. Laird is another friend from the Arts Industria days. Analog Angel from Glasgow were a connection made though Seegers and Assemblage 23 and we'll see what else may pop up as far as the label is concerned.

As we all have vastly different styles of music, Paul and I discussed the label not having a specific agenda – it just wouldn't work they way Arts Industria was an “industrial” label. All the bands associated with C12 are electronic in a fashion, but that's the only common thread. This may in itself prove to be limiting for projects like Epoch, but I haven't hit that wall yet.

Perhaps the label in some way, exposes me as a musical socialist, if the label has any agenda at all.

For more information check the Epoch website.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Alexander Nym participates in Leipzig Neofolk discussion

Grauzonen. Darkwave und Neofolk zwischen Landserromantik und Geschichtsverklärung

Montag, 13 May 2013, 7pm, Werk 2 Kochstraße 132, 04277 Leipzig

Panel: Miro Jennerjahn (Landtagsabgeordneter BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN)
Robert Dobschütz, Leipziger Internetzeitung, früher zuständig für Pressearbeit beim WGT (1999-2000) Frank Schubert, Forum kritische Rechtsextremismusforschung
WGT representative, tbc
Alexander Nym (Publizist und Autor, Kulturwissenschaftler)

Musik kann jungen Menschen den Einstieg in menschenfeindliche Gedankenwelten erleichtern und dazu beitragen, menschenfeindliches Gedankengut und Ideologien der Ungleichwertigkeit zu verbreiten. Dabei geht es längst nicht mehr nur um eindeutig identifizierbaren Rechtsrock und Vertreter wie „Die Lunikoff Verschwörung“. Wie zuletzt die Diskussion rund um den Dokumentarfilm „Blut muss fließen“ deutlich gemacht hat, sind menschenfeindliche Thesen und Motive längst auch abseits offensichtlich neonazistischer Musik im Musikbereich präsent.

Deutlich wird dies etwa am Beispiel der Südtiroler Band „Frei.Wild“, die sich dem Vorwurf gefallen lassen muss, völkischen Nationalismus in ihren Liedern zu verbreiten. Der angekündigte Auftritt der Band beim nordsächsischen „With Full Force Open Air“, der inzwischen aufgrund von Protesten wieder abgesagt wurde, hat ebenso wie die Echo-Nominierung der Band für Diskussionen gesorgt.

Abseits der großen medialen Aufmerksamkeit stehen einige Veranstaltungen des „Wave Gothic Treffens“ in Leipzig. Auch hier traten in den letzten Jahren immer wieder Bands oder Gruppen auf, denen eine geistige Nähe zu Ideologien der Ungleichwertigkeit nachgesagt wird. Dieses Jahr soll unter anderem die Neofolk Band „Darkwood“ aus Leipzig auftreten, die in ihren Texten und Ästhetik einen starken Bezug zum Militarismus und der Verklärung deutscher Geschichte aufweist.

Oftmals werden solche Bands schnell verurteilt und ebenso schnell entschieden im Namen der Kunstfreiheit verteidigt. Daher stellt sich die Frage, was Musik darf und welche Gefahr von sogenannter Grauzonenmusik ausgeht. Im Rahmen einer Veranstaltung im Vorfeld des „Wave Gothic Treffens“ soll mit Experten und GRÜNEN-Politikern sowie interessierten Gästen diskutiert werden, ob die Vorwürfe gerechtfertigt sind und wie ein angemessener Umgang mit Grauzonenmusik aussehen kann.

Das Augenmerk der Veranstaltung liegt dabei auf antimodern-faschistischer Ästhetik und Geschichtsrevisionismus in den Genres Darkwave und Neofolk. Damit richtet sie sich gleichermaßen an Kritiker sogenannter Grauzonenmusik wie an Besucher des Festivals, die sich mit den rechten Tendenzen in ihrer Szene auseinandersetzen wollen.

BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN, Werk 2 and L-IZ (Leipziger Internetzeitung).

Monday, March 04, 2013

SARDH - "Pop Music for Klingons"?

We present a text by Alexander Nym discussing the new album by Sardh – have they managed to extract new life from well-worn post-industrial templates?

Dresden-based art group SARDH explore soundscapes spanning the space between the archaic and the futuristic.

SARDH is the musical project of a group of established Dresden-based artists who have been active in a range of creative spheres including (sound-)installation and video art. Following their appearances with album-oriented show “ausBRUTH” at Wave-Gotik-Treffen 2010, the Wroclaw Industrial Festival and the legendary Morphonic Lab event taking place annually at Dresden's Palais im Grossen Garten, they advanced to becoming a hot tip not merely for avantgarde-minded scenesters (which might also be due to the participation of the notorious Voxus Imp).

The recently issued album Bruth thus draws all registers of sophisticated sound art at the audio-visual threshold between experimental electronics and cinematographic ambient expeditions without shrinking from using heavy, partly disharmonious post-rock guitars and martial psychedelia which contain splinters of majestic metal (“tessga tendur”). The vocals are amplified by harsh effects, reciting cryptic glossolalia or associative semantic constructions in accord with dadaist (anti-)poetics reminiscent of Test Dept. at their most impressive (“para elion”). On some tracks they are reduced to repetitively shouted warnings, but in general, the understanding of the lyrical content isn't much eased by the accompanying lyric sheets since SARDH's bruitist cut-up-texts seem to defy every attempt at intellectual deciphering, deploying exclusively sonic counterpoints reminiscent in their harsh scratchiness of some sort black metal poetry. The beats are focussed, sometimes slightly withheld in a dub way, and used with precise efficiency in a powerful and mighty way, creating an extensive and overall tension-laden effect before a backdrop of atmospheric ambiances and soundtrackish sonic-scapes not unlike those of pioneering dark ambient artists like Contrastate or Inade – yet the compositions consist of coherent, rhythm-based song structures, lending them appealing accessibility, pointedness and distinct space for development which is used with a love for detail making full use of the voluminous production.

Among the nine extensive, mostly mid- to downtempo pieces there are also a few dance-floor compatible tracks (assuming you're running a club on Jupiter, or a 22nd century bar, or are looking for a fitting soundtrack for a Matrix-style remake of “Eyes Wide Shut”) like the previously mentioned, stomping “tessga tendur” or the primitivist SF-hymn “asterloh”. So when not pushed against the wall by psychedelic photon-guitars or metal forcefields, moodily gloomy carpets of sound and spoken-word contributions invite listeners to stay in the – certainly not humourless – cosmos of SARDH. Within the richly textured sound structures, the ears are repeatedly surprised by acoustic ready-mades (field recordings and found sounds), used rather as stresses and mood setters than as sampled references; beacons on the path through the convoluted universe of SARDH. When looking for fitting genre descriptions, the musically minded journalist's brain is frustrated by Bruth's staunch defiance of any particular style, but Ritual-Industrial-Ambient-Rock might demarcate a frame of reference not entirely off the mark. However, this too is too poor a description to get close to the richness of ideas featuring on Bruth, which seems to draw its inspiration directly from post-apocalyptic and futuristic parallel dimensions.

The artwork and production emphasise this range between opulence and minimalism: the cover is adorned by a hand-printed silkscreen design showing an intricate pattern of jagged lines the connections of which seem fragile, but in its entirety gives a staunch and solid impression like the cancellous bone supplying both stability and flexibility to our musculo-skeletal system. Accordingly, the record labels show similarly minimalist illustrations depicting likewise fractured heads of extra-terrestrial visitors – possibly the portraits of SARDH's actual members?

The heavy, 180g vinyl discs offer plenty of space for the grooves, enabling great acoustic depth in sound reproduction which is made full use of by the production. Every detail of this album demonstrates the work of people aware of the means to realise their visions and their ability to use them. Bruth is an album coming across as bulky and in instances even plagiaristic on first listen, but uncovers its reflected eclecticism and the mature use of technology, ability, knowledge and enlightened creativity on repeated listening and can thus be recommended without hesitation not only to connoisseurs of electro-acoustic avantgarde music. A rare fusion of ideas realised with both archaic and modern techniques (ranging from monochord and kaoss-pad to an instrument named piss-pot) amalgamated with elaborate design to achieve a consistent all-round work of art, the quality of which should satisfy both sophisticated music enthusiasts and collectors of rare industrial culture artifacts. 

Alexander Nym

SARDH: Bruth
Double vinyl-LP (Gatefold sleeve with hand-printed silkscreen cover and two inserts; numbered edition of 300 copies)
Label: self-produced (mysyc)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Luther Blisset on Laibach and NSK!

Despite some of the Blissets having links to Datacide, Neoism and others, it seems that at least one of the Blissets is able to view Laibach and NSK in a non-doctrinnaire way - "Now, hang on. Think about it a little. For me to admit to being a Laibach fan is not just a detail." Even now, mentioning Laibach in some activist/autnomist circles is a real transgression. In a sense, this is as it should be - if Laibach is ever totally normalised it will be a sign that it has lost its capacity for full spectrum provocation. Still, there's no shortage of authoritarian, knee-jerk responses to this subject, so it's interesting to see a writer from this end of the spectrum attempting to work through the issues (and kudos for pointing out the under-discussed political aspects of Iron Sky). It's a lengthy text that open up some new angles on the subject and while we may not agree with all of it it's a very refreshing text. Read it here...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Avi Pitchon on the Zion Sky compilation

Zion Sky, Topheth Prophet ‎– TP025, 2012.

We present Avi Pitchon's notes on the 2012 compilation Zion Sky, part of an attempt to apply Laibachian “over-identification” techniques to the Zionist cultural project. From an I.C.R.N. perspective the project is interesting not just because of the wide-ranging musical contents but because of the conscious ways in which it tries to (mis)-translate the aesthetic and conceptual strategies of European artists to the Israeli context. It is also intriguing (and no doubt perplexing for those with a one-dimensional SWP-derived worldview) to see European neofolk artists engaging with and perpetuating Zionist aesthetics – something which may offend elements of their audience as well as their long-term opponents. The project seems to represent dispersed techniques and strategies finding new homes in unexpected new contexts although in fact Israeli counter-culture is far more developed than many outsiders realise and Israeli artists have been active in industrial, martial and neofolk circles for some time now.

The Zion Sky project

The Zion Sky compilation album was produced as part of the 'Where to?' art exhibition, which opened in the Israeli Center For Digital Art in April 2012, and was released by the Israeli industrial label Tophet Prophet. The exhibition's theme was hidden/forgotten/neglected currents in Zionism. 
The compilation was commissioned and assembled by Avi Pitchon, aiming to appropriate Laibach's approach and tactic (without any limitation on musical direction besides perhaps a general desire for the sound, as well as content, to express a certain utopian awe) and apply it to Zionist history, thinking, texts and aesthetics. As opposed to the historical/research/archival approach of the majority of the exhibiting artists, 'Zion Sky' follows the intently a-historical clash of motifs demonstrated by NSK, as well as the revisiting of Zionism's aesthetic arsenal evident in the work of prominent Israeli artists like Yael Bartana and the Public Movement performance group. The intention was to speculate on utopian vectors whose trajectory never completed, to ask a 'what if?' about Zionism in particular and utopian ideas and movements in general.  

Full details and track listing can be found here.

Zion Sky: Saluting Those of Fair Hair and Features - Interim Conclusions

It might sound like clichéd curatorial squirming to claim that although the project did not achieve the objective it set out for itself, what actually happened instead is more interesting. Well, no, not more interesting, but surprising, to me at least. The compilation you hold in your hands was supposed to be something the former Minister of Culture Limor Livnat would listen to at home with pride. That former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann would feel comfortable with. Well, all right, I’m exaggerating. However, as underdogs of Zionist resistance in pre-state Israel, some Etzel and Lehi underground veterans might possibly appreciate its melancholy grandeur.
When I advertised the call to contribute to a compilation album, I asked for music that celebrates Zionism as a utopian idea, as if nothing had ever gone wrong along the way. Music that would connect with the original, sweeping, engaging power of a modern national movement from the school of thought of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe. I wanted to create a collective musical act of over-identification, that is, an act that would be ‘more Zionistic than the Zionists’, and thus remind contemporary Zionism, which is collapsing under the burden of its own erosion, decay, and the injustice it caused not only to the non-Jewish residents of Palestine, but also to the Jews who answered its call for realisation, that powerful, beautiful utopian grandeur was contained in the original idea. That power without beauty cannot be just. That beauty without power cannot be realised. I wanted to create a moment of power and beauty that would stand before a centre that is gradually losing its mind in the dangerous panic of a wounded animal. To face it, but not from a judgmental, seditious, curtailing, sectorial position that is itself mad with hatred and frustration, but from a position that states: you were not born in sin. You are not born killers. There was another way. What would have happened if.

The music I received is full of power, awe and beauty. However it could be said that not one of the participating musicians managed for even a moment, even jokingly, to forget the present and remember parallel probabilities that have vanished into oblivion, to the quantum superposition bureau of lost souls: presence, but not in our backyard. None of the pieces on the CD managed to sift out the sound of mourning, of regret. Perhaps the fact that they did manage to shake free from the rage and frustration for a moment is an achievement, a first step.

Even my own contribution to the compilation did not escape this fate. Maybe because I recorded my track (the naked, minimalist cover version for the Eurovision anthem, Kan [Here], by Orna and Moshe Datz) after I’d already received all the other pieces, and the noble, colossally melancholy nymph clung to me too. The piece by Anat Ben-David is perhaps the closest one in the compilation to be virtually free of elegiac elements, musically speaking (yet the lyrics still mention blood and tears). The romanticism of the non-Israeli participants (tracks 3, 4, 6, 7, 11) comes from musical traditions that lament the fate of Europe, whether because of its surrender to globalisation, or its surrender to Judeo-Christianity. Even Na’ama Bat-Sarah, a skinhead member of the Jewish Defense League who lives in the JDL's birthplace of Skokie, Illinois (and appears on the CD under her moniker, Hadar), in a piece from an instrumental album devoted to the festival of Hanukkah, is more influenced by the dark industrial ambient music that was born in the old continent, than the triumphant rejoicing of the festival songs we are familiar with. The piece by Yarden Erez (originally part of the soundtrack for The Dining Hall, an installation by prominent Israeli artist Sigalit Landau constructed around the communal washing machine at the back of every Kibbutz' dining hall) imprints echoes of the Yishuv (pre-state settlement) days in mechanical, motoric noise, a mechanism that has lost its way but maintains its routine, clinging to it, incapable of stopping and restarting itself. Even Alma Alloro’s rendition, on a primitive Casio keyboard, of a Navy Troupe hit (indeed, military band songs succeeded in hit parades of the '60s and '70s) doesn’t sound joyous even for a moment. The two archival pieces – by Ma’atz and Duralex Sedlex, both from the '80s – are important for the compilation as representations of art that spoke a political language but with the same aesthetic force of those it confronted. The power of Hasha’on Hahistori (The Historical Clock) is in its detachment from the whimpering of the sanctimonious Left of the city squares, and its mobilisation of the ‘move, move, destroy’ (as goes the iconic Hebrew sample of Six-Day War orders shouted through military radio communications) momentum driving the pioneering sample-work that lead the piece and directing it against the movers and destroyers. Had the piece not possessed monumental grandeur, merely only opposition and defiance, it would not have been included in the compilation. Shir Hagiben (The Hunchback Song) achieved the original objective of this CD twenty years ago when it was performed in a Trojan-horse act of malicious over-identification at a 'Jabotinsky Quiz' TV broadcast toward the end of the Shamir administration, in 1992. Thus it marks a probability of endeavour that I believe can still be continued. A torch worthy of being picked up.
The song is the point of departure of my work in Where To? from the start, and the entire CD departs from the forgotten moment it created in actuality, for the purpose of commemorating and continuing it. The pieces by Seven Morgues and Poochlatz, Israeli representatives of dark ambient and power electronics, genres born in a Europe that looks back at the abyss of 1945, are filled with the static noise of collapse and destruction. The sweet rendition of the children’s song that concludes the CD is a lullaby of what was, the tears flow on their own, absorbed in dementia-ridden soil, sprouting the desire for the lost grandeur of belonging, the justness of the path, for realisation embodied in the golden orange fruit my mother, a seven-year-old Holocaust survivor, was handed as a welcome present as she disembarked from the immigrant ship, as it was manifested in warm Saturday afternoons of my childhood, playing football on the banks of Tel-Aviv's Yarkon River, my late grandfather standing behind, watching over me with a proud smile, wearing his suit as always, the Thessalonikian that he is.
Avi Pitchon