exponentiation ezine
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exponentiation ezine: issue [1.0:culture]

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Blood Axis & Les Joyaux de la Princesse - La Folie Verte (Athanor,

"I Am The Green Fairy My Robe Is The Color Of Despair I Have Nothing
In Common With The Fairies Of The Past What I Need Is Blood, Red and
hot The Palpitating Flesh Of My Victims Alone, I Will Kill France,
The Present Is Dead, Vive the Future..." 

As shocking or confusing may it be for a Blood Axis fan to listen to
Michael Moynihan introducing their latest album with the exact words
"I Am The Green Fairy", this is quite indeed the case. The forbidden
beverage of the damned romanticist artists of pre-war Paris,
absinthe - the Green Madness, inspires Blood Axis for a fast trip,
along with their French collaborators Les Joyaux De La Princesse,
into the emerald abyss of a world wrapped up and drowning into
decadence. Diverging from the Nietzchean, will-to-power aesthetic
and musical explorations of their first album, The Gospel of
Inhumanity, this particular album will suprise and bring forth a lot
of questions to the listener. However, such is the virtue of great
artists; their unexpectedness and unwillingless to conform shall
always be the backbone of their success. 

The bitter drink of Absinthe, also called artemisia absinthium
(apsinthion = undrinkable in Greek), is mainly wormwood, a poisonous
herb that was mixed with wine and given to Olympic winners long ago
to remind them of the biterness of defeat. Not to mention, of
course, the 80% alchohol. Absinthe's effects are brutally
intoxicating and hallucinogenic; many absintheurs described their
experience in terms of opium or cocaine usage. As a result, this
drink first brought to France by troops who fought in Algeria and
used it as a pain-reliefer, was popularized in Paris during the
years 1880-1914 and quickly become the favorite of avantgarde,
bohemian, or disaffected artists that found in it a source of
inspiration. Van Gogh's dazzling, trembling pictures were inspired
in part by the liquor's effects, along with the blackened visions of
Edgar Alan Poe, Verlain and many others. 

The album's first sounds are as peculiar as one would expect;
Moynihan declaims the poem which opens this very article while a
heavy echo effect causes the verses to clash with one another; a
violin steps in to comment with a tragic melody, but it is played in
a manner reminding of an drunk absintheur trying to put some notes
together moments before passing out in a Parisian bar of ill repute.
As this fades, a chaos of various sounds of singers in crescendo,
war drums and orchestras all passed through reverb and echo filters
emerges, but slowly the chaos is organized and the samples are lined
up correctly so that the first industrial track of the album is
produced. At this point, an experienced listener of neo-classical
industrial music will recognize the dreamlike soundscapes of the
album as the work of the French avantgardist in charge of L.J.D.L.P.
While there is no mention over the (luxurious and exquisitely
adorned with old absinthe advertisements and even government flyers
showing alcoolique degenerres types) booklet over who is responsible
for the music, the resemblance between this recording and "Die
Weisse Rose" and "Croix De Feu" is striking, not only in the use of
samples and keyboards, but in the general longing for 1900-40 music,
ideas and ideologies (a characteristic of Blood Axis and the other
bands in the neofolk/industrial scene).

To portray in a poetic but also realistic way the influence of
absinthe into the psychic world of its fanatical consumers, the
collaboration chooses poems from artists of the time that provide an
insight from a personal view to the delights and horrors of being
addicted to the drink. Moynihan's voice is crucial to this effect,
as he retains the vigorous and epic quality characteristic of all
Blood Axis recordings, while its fierceness makes an interesting
antithesis to the tragical, self-destructing tales of the poets.
Moreover, popular music of the 1900s is used throughout the album,
either performed as small piano interludes, or directly "borrowed"
from LPs. There lies a defect of not only this disk, but of most in
its category; the fact that a great deal of the music is being
ripped off from other recordings may annoy some listeners, but we
must understand that the artists here function as a radiophone of
some kind; they exhibit the atmosphere and the "soundcolours" of the
time, in the same way as a documentary or a radio show would. 

The best parts of the album are the long industrial/ambient tracks,
in which the talent of both bands is unfurled. The dismal, noisy and
crowling Absinthe (D' Apres Emile Duhem), the nightmarish Poison
Vert, consist of repetitive sampled melody, noisy loops in the
backround and long keyboard notes drowned into multiple layers of
effects. The keyword describing this style is Ambience, in part
because the concept is a hallucinogenic drink.

After the singing of the tenor in the last song fades out, the
initial question is left unanswered: What prompted these particular
artists to undertake such a project, especially when it is
associated with the fall rather than with the rise of spirit? Apart
from the obvious fact that the artists are themselves are
absintheurs, whatever opens new borders for human thought can be
studied, not embraced but looked upon. Artists are necessarily not
philosophers or politicians, but mostly storytellers; they depict
elements of thought we may have not experienced by our own, and
sometimes no judgement or aphorisms are needed from their side; what
we shall gain from them is our own matter. It seems, one can sing
warmongering praises to the Pan-Germanic spirit and at the same time
hold a bottle of glowing opaline in his right hand... - Lycaon


Biosphere - Cirque (Touch, 2000)

From Norwegian ambient artist Biosphere comes this follow-up to the
heavily acclaimed 1997 album "Substrata." As in that release, a
naturalistic theme pervades this work although this time it is based
on a story of a man making an ill-fated venture into the Alaskan
wilderness. With no lyrics or text, the story is more something to
be musically alluded to than told in any concrete way. That being
said, Biosphere's characteristic style works well with the subject
It is a depiction of lone human elements journeying through a vast,
desolate and gently chaotic world only to find harmony and
transcendence within it. A surging pattern falls within a
deceptively complex texture of fragmentary, subtly divergent melody.
Thematically conflicting two and three note figures may come
together and pull apart in repeating cycles as one asserts itself
over the other to disorientating effect and then fades and echos
into the other melodic idea.

The use of found sounds from nature and modern technological life is
a frequently used device in Biosphere pieces, and "Cirque" is no
exception. They are the alienated traces of technological
civilization existing within naturalistic landscapes of sound. While
some things have stayed the same, other things are different than
the last album.

Keyboard lines have a definite rhythm as opposed to the liquid
divisions of notes heard on "Substrata," and to some people's
disappointment, there are actual beats. This criticism is relevant
for some tracks. While the percussion can be tasteful, understated
and even musically essential, other instances use more conventional
drum and bass and house beats that would have better been left out
because of their intrusiveness.

Fortunately, this complaint is a minor and should not detract the
listener from the excellent taste in melody, tone color and
arrangement displayed here. If unpretentious, spirited ambient music
that is actually musical is your thing, this release may appeal, as
will "Shenzou," a reworking of ideas from Debussy pieces into
Biosphere's characteristic ambient form. - Sothis


Tangerine Dream - Phaedra (Virgin, 1974)

The 1974 album from the German electronic legends Tangerine Dream
broke ground and still stands as an example of a controlled and
visionary work, proving itself with each passing year to be an
eternal art work of high importance. This is high art in every way,
influential beyond words, bringing with it a whole slew of creations
that had bands in the electronic fields playing catch up and
following in line. "Phaedra" is a passionate sound stream from
idealistic visionaries, which explores experimental realms with the
new electronic sequencers that were new to the decade. Where "Atem"
established the band as a visionary force willing to explore the new
synthesizer and electronic musical tools that were emerging
throughout the 1970s, "Phaedra" established the band as a perennial
and everlasting musical force and logically picks up the soundscapes
laid out by "Atem" and helps further develop what would become known
as the classic Tangerine Dream sound.

Four tracks lasting a total of 38 minutes comprise this album, which
takes one on a celestial voyage through art and time. Recurring
conceptual sound motifs weave their way into the blend of electronic
sound mastery, along with harmonic innovation making this album a
complete conceptual piece broken into four tracks, much like
Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" or Gustav Holst's "The Planets" in those
respects. The sounds of this album wander into the paradoxes of the
surrealists, grasping their sense of absurdity and ability to evoke
a dream state and Tangerine Dream extract these things with the
focus of a Zen warrior.

The production is clear and roomy, reminiscent of a crystal ballroom
or an underwater aquarium. Listening to the sounds of the album is
like dipping one's head into a cold water and listening to the
dinging of chimes. The synth work creates a cosmic condition, a
whole universe in which the music echoes and explores itself freely.
The listener becomes like the astronaut floating in the void of
space. At times during this album it is reminiscent of sonic
interpretations of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." At
times it feels like what it must be like to sit on the edge of a
glacier as it starts to crack and slip into the ice, since a
chilling mood chips away at the subconscious and then finally breaks
away entirely into a world of its own, a dreamlike condition.
"Phaedra" effectively suspends the listener gut wrenching state in
which transcendental emotions arise.

The album induces translucent trances where the primordial meets the
cosmic, which is perhaps not too far from William Blake's visions
when he stated "eternity knows not the production of time." That is
the essential paradox of Tangerine Dream: a symphonic bliss that
both emanates traditional tribal elements along with progressive
musical elements and in doing so screams out that history is an
organic system in which the past is the future and the future is the
past; time is not a factor to these sounds, they are somehow
otherworldly and transcendental. "Phaedra" is a piece of musical art
that will withstand the test of time. When trends and music that is
merely social entertainment fades into dust with the coming of the
winds, Tangerine Dream's masterworks will stand strong in the vast
abyss like the Sphinx out of the timeless desert sands. - phantasm


Allerseelen - Gotos=Kalanda (AOR, 1995)

Few bands have showed originality in industrial music matching the
Austrian masters of (in their own words) technosophic avantgarde,
Allerseelen. Headed by the charismatic Kadmon, an occultist
researcher (whose zine, Aorta/Ahnstern, covers pagan Europe and
religion) and experimentalist musician, Allerseelen broken through
with an album that has initiated them into the elite company of
neoclassical/traditionalist/ethnocultural industrial bands. 

"Technosophic," imbuing techno(logy) with sophia (wisdom) by using
the inner soul (Aller - Seelen), making ends meet, tradition and
technology, the achievements of the present age and the ideology of
the past: in this album it is manifestated thematically by the
writings of Karl Maria Wiligut, an Austrian poet, mystic and runes
initiate of the second world war era. It is a collection of twelve
(as many as the tracks of the album) symbolic, almost codified poems
dedicated to the twelve months of the year, an apotheosis of
nature's eternal and cyclical form. No wonder the pagan symbol of
the black twelve-rayed sun adorns the cover.

Consequently, the Austrians gradually underline the passing of the
seasons in the mood of their music and convey the spiritual and
mainly, mystical value of the poems. A demanding challenge, indeed,
as the reader could observe the similarities of the case with
Stravinsky's "Rite of the Spring" and apparently the precedent under
which the artist's work could be judged.

Contrasting the typical industrial formula of structuring music in
layers of noise loops or melodies replacing each other randomly for
the sake of rhythymic variation, Allerseelen maintain either a
steady but compound and intricate drum beat that is reminiscent of
trance music, or more simplistic patterns of traditional techno when
the rhythym reverts to "austere", typical Indo-European ritual or
marchlike cadences. Under it a series of events take place, either
providing the musical element of the tracks in the form of ambient
keyboard melodies, sampled strings or with Kadmon's characteristic
bass and voice, creating impressionistic soundscapes of aggresive,
psychedelic, trancelike sounds coming from a variety of samples of
natural sounds (frogs croaking, thunders striking and the like),
human voices, distorted loops of orchestra instruments or even
metal/hardcore guitars utilized as noise sources rather than
structure. Harsh production focusing on high frequencies enhances
the anti-commercial quality of the album and further expands the
occult and, often, militant feeling.

Allerseelen's main characteristic is the true folk (and apparently,
Germanic) character that heavily marks the spirit of the work and
its themes, not a stagnant imitation of certain melodies or use of
instruments but the transfiguration of the folkish soul to the
present age and its representation to the modern, alienated public.
Kadmon uses for such a goal simplistic and harsh melodies of an
adolescent, dionysian character that sometimes range only a semitone
back and forth, while the violent noisy backround pins down and
makes the listener subjective to the message, yet awakens and
activates in the way all non-decadedent and prolific art should
affect its subject. The best (among equals) part of the album lies
in the winter - beginning and end - sections; it is also easy to
observe that Kadmon keeps his coldest/harshest material for the
equivalent sections, while the spring/summer ones have a more
blooming, youthful, abrupt feeling.

As a whole, the work is representative of the German traditional
romanticist spirit; rather than adapting the rational, progressive
approach of classicism (in terms of structure) Allerseelen instead
choose to stress the boundaries of expression; not in the usual
subjective, random manner of "avant-garde" but with the strict,
disciplined and focused dedication to small parts of music that are
completed by all means of aesthetic and psychological development.
They are minimalist in a classical, adventurous and non-stagnant
way. This album may not be the least-affronting introduction to the
style of which Allerseelen are leaders, but it is their artistic
peak and defines it as the continuation of the spirit that pionners
of electronic music like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream have
introduced. - Lycaon 


Regan, High Priestess - Sellisternia (High Priestess Productions,

Dropping into the unsteady fusion between modern electronic music
and remnants of dark ancient cultures, this release from High
Priestess Productions is musically powerful when it escapes the
confusion of wanting to be both ritual music and pop at the same
time. Generalizing about these songs is not accurate, as they range
between degrees of the manifold styles comprising their complexion,
but the basic elements are a collision between Aphex Twin and Dead
Can Dance, with 1940s lounge music hiding in the wings. Showcased
most elegantly is vocalist Regan's singing, which is alternatingly
smoothly ascendant and breathily timbral, creating a rough edge
which bites into the smoother synthesizer sounds used as the melodic
basis of the music. Percussion of a digital nature provides
understructure in the way a techno band might use it, with layers of
accent within the same tempo structure zooming into and out of view
as each song moves through its sections.

Sequenced digital instruments fit tightly to this framework or
almost completely deny it, roughly echoing the two major motifs of
this band. One is the earthy and sensual, beat-fixed driving pop
music that alleviates any sense of pretense to the record, and the
other is the Dead Can Dance portion of its primal build, which is
wafting cloudbursts of slowly changing notes which sustain a somber
but gaily mysterious mood. Where this band is strongest is in
writing the hook-laden keyboard riffs that propel its more energetic
works, and in weaving together the darker melodic constructions that
give it some space for tantalizing obscurity; its weakness relates
entirely to its division between pop and something perhaps more
ambitious, as the drumbeats are too busy and altogether too present
to avoid interrupting the music. Often, some shortcuts are taken
that conform to existing styles of songwriting; while these aren't
incompetent, they aren't necessary either, and here is why: the
second half of this album is where the band shows an unbroken
stamina and latent creativity, writing songs in the style of lounge
acts from the first half of the last century, completed cryptically
with sultry but aggressive female vocals. 

These songs break from the verse-chorus mold entirely at times, and
use both rhythmic and textural interludes to create a vacuum ahead
of the arrival of each section, so that the listener is kept
suspended from anything finite as a full-on pop band would deliver.
Sometimes even the insistent percussion slacks off a bit, and
keyboard phrases get sparser, as if given a new sense of meaning and
cause in song. These are the works from this band that are openly
approaching excellence, and suggest a hybrid style that invokes the
mystery of both recent and far past, as Eastern scales and dissonant
vocals bend around lush yet realistic work. "Sellisternia" is a
first effort, and shows some struggle over defining sound, but as
the second half of the album illustrates, when its wide-ranging
parts synthesize a sublime power emerges. - vijay prozak


Hekate - Sonnentanz (Well of Urd, 1999) 

Hekate is a German neo-folk project masterminded by Axel Heinrich
Menz and Achim Weiler and backed by a generous staffing of
musicians. Hekate set themselves apart from a genre often
distinguished by mediocrity dressed up as "epic" moodscapes.
Eschewing academic pretensions for heartfelt musicality and tasteful
"filler" parts, this album merits a listen on artistic grounds

"To Break A Heart" lets synth, flute and acoustic guitar set the
mood for a spoken poetry recital. A seemingly personal grief is
transformed when the militant melody and snare cadence come in to
transfrom the feeling into a mixture of national lament and
warrior-like determination. 

"Findhorn" is a haunting ambient piece. Eerie, simple melodies
harmonize and grow off each other from the two note phrase at the
beginning, to the flanged-out vocal line subtly making its presence
known. Percussion keeps a tasteful distance but is effective in
adding an ominous element. 

"Fatherland" is probably the most overtly nationalistic tune on
here. Each stanza of vocal melody suspends itself into space and
leads back into itself for a reiteration of an increasingly
desperate tone. On the last stanza it concludes with a stable
cadence, but suddenly the song breaks into a triumphant celtic folk
romp. The unique tension reminds me of hearing someone lost in a
state of sad recollection of their world and reaching a profound
conclusion of its signifigance. In essence, it is the confronting of
loss and confusion to find something in it joyful and transcendent. 

"Danse de l'obscurite" may be the best song on the album. Male and
female vocals trade parts while an underlying melody is given
periodic room for development between singing. Inventive chord
progressions are simple but give a nice harmonic backing to the
compelling melodic interplay. Strangely enough, college-town REM
comes to mind hearing this. 

This is one of the rarer Hekate releases, but it is worth the
search. "Sonnentanz" is an absorbing drama with a knack for hooking
the listener in with inspired, melodic songwriting. - Sothis


Sol Invictus - Lex Talionis (Tursa, 1989)

It is not easy to ascertain what in the aesthetic of early
industrial music triggered the neo-folk movement; how could the
aggresive, anti-moral and nihilist nature of that music appeal to
the same artists who appreciate gentle and modest traditional music?
Sol Invictus answer that question as not only adepts but for the
most part innovators of the neo-folk style. 

Sol Invictus mastermind Tony Wakeford already had a history in the
underground London scene before forming his own band; anarchist punk
band Crisis and neo-folk pioneers, Death in June, formed his basic
ideogical and thematic principles: a dissident, furious opposition
to the modern world and its values on the one side and the embrace
of the wisdom of tradition and tribalism on the other. The title of
his first album with Sol Invictus serves as a declaration, as it
invokes the title of Baron Julius Evola's cornerstone book on
traditionalism and re-introduction to the archetypal spiritual and
societal forms of the Indo-European people.

The third Sol Invictus album defined the genre and caused the
explosion of numerous similar bands and a whole new aesthetic for
the industrial scene beyond doubt. The cover of the 1989 "Lex
Talionis" album would disturb the uninitiated: four figures of men
with a large phallus and a club in their right hands placed
anti-diametrically so that limbs and clubs form a swastika. The
meaning can be easily derived, since the phallus and the club
symbolize the eternal archetypal forms of power and their
conjunction forms the symbol of the Sun, the symbol in common among
Indo-European people worldwide who retain the ancient pagan
tradition of Sun worship, from the Roman Empire (Sol Invictus) to
the Norsemen and the Hindu Indo-Aryans. The symbolism is a rough
reminder of the ancient ways and principles of our tribe, however
foreign and repulsive to the modernized, decadent people of
humanitarian society (a society morally enslaved by a foreign,
desert religion and a political system that devours its best
elements, dissolving the most fundamental instict, that of

The music of Sol Invictus attempts to materialise in sound all these
aspects, the grief and pain for the loss of the pagan spirit, the
hate for the massacres that followed the Christian domination of
Europe, the longing for the old times. Wakeford's former involvement
with industrial is still obvious, especially in the begining of the
album, while the basis of Sol Invictus is the acoustic guitar and
voice, fortunately accompanied through the album by other musicians
who offer a variety of instruments such as cello and piano to build
instrumentation on which ideas can unfold. Sol Invictus choose
simple foms of songs to allow lyrical messages to be expressed
clearly, not to make an impression of technical virtuosity. However,
integrity and passion characterise this band. Combining the warm,
introvertive quality of the acoustic instruments and the agressive,
distorted sounds and samples, the band succeds into creating unusual

The album starts with a dark, minimalist piece on a piano that soon
gives its place to the title track. A ghastly noise loop with a
vibrato effect continually increasing in volume sets its, soon to be
followed by melodic bass, piano and a low pitched war drum. "The
world is full of Gods and Beasts, some to serve and some to feast,"
"And even forests once lush and green, have the stench of murder and
children's screams," Wakeford comments on the eternal power struggle
in nature, the conquering of the European lands by Christians, and
finally fortells the bleak future of them. "But bird of prey in your
eyes is where our future lies" - the tragic destiny of fighting each
other throughout all history at the delight of their enemies ("No
more wars amongst brothers...," he says later) in the darkest song
of the album. "Black Easter" in contrast is an Dionysian, almost
orgiastic call to the pagan spirit; the noises, the melodic guitars,
the cellos, the samples, all reach a ritualistic frenzy in which Ian
Read (of Fire and Ice) triumphantly cries the Nietzchean aphorism;
"God is Dead!" 

The other songs of the album have a more rationalistic, calm
approach in which Sol Invictus release their more melodic,
melancholic material. From ballads to slow pieces with an ambient
flow like "Tooth and Claw," "Abbatoirs of Love" to aggresive, epic
songs like "Hero's Day," this album justifies its impact on the
neo-folk scene of the 1990s. 

"Lex Talionis" is more than music alone; it is a statement of an
intent toward ideological awakening. Sol Invictus revive the heroic
ethos of the European spirit, wake up long forgotten memories of
pagan imagery and religion, mourn the decline of its values and
finally foresee the rising of the phoenix from the ashes. Those than
saw in it just a collection of romantic, "gothic" tunes made to fill
out the repertoire of "dark" nightclubs must have been badly
dissapointed. - Lycaon 


Kraftwerk - Paris 1981 (Undead Silence Records, 2003)

This recording from the beginnings of their elusive middle period,
in which they first mimicked bisexual British electropop and then
became dysfunctional over the issue of technology in their music,
reveals Kraftwerk caught in internal conflict and electing for a
course of quality tinged with popular appeal; however, this appeal
is degenerative to the core of the music, and thus for those who
depend on such things it does not have enough novelty, and for those
who seek content independent of aesthetic, it is too humbled. It
shows us muses without Viagra attempting to reconcile their success
with their ambitions, and in the confusion, holding ground and
waiting out the changes in the world of music that appeared around
them; once one becomes famous, it is impossible to see the world as
one did as an anonymous struggling, because suddenly one is titled
and everyone either filters what they tell you or only markets
themselves. You cannot walk the same streets, have the same
discoveries, or even browse without calling attention to yourself,
thus you are cut off from the raw feed of data that tells you what
occurs in the world of music, and dependent upon contacts and (ew)
record labels for information. 

This recording is bouncy and vocals have become contorted to give
added emphasis and stylized drama to the lyrical presentation, like
a Hollywood musical. One can sense a pandering to the crowd, but
also a mastery of it, and a sense of a strong desire to make a
normal version of what the British bands had for the most part both
successfully promoted to wide audiences and retained its essential
character. Kraftwerk have changed their character here: showmanship
is not their forte; that is the logical and robotic math-pop that is
both mechanistic and brilliantly soulful in its composition and the
insights it has on the core of our human qualities in the situations
of which it writes, brilliantly, without propaganda or moralizing or
really ego. The result is a distortion of music that is so
well-staged it is horrible to say an error of aesthetic judgment
brings it down, as this band hams it up just a little bit too much. 

Instrumentalism is near-flawless as usual and selection of songs is
good, moving through the classics to newer material, but its
over-emphasized energy and stylized percussion and production gives
it the feel of an American stadium concert. Maybe they should have
sent the robots instead. Regardless, the songs are brilliant and in
the strain of a band pushing for clarity in vision, one can sense
history. - vijay prozak
copyright © 2005 mock Him productions