Friday, 26 September 2014

Arika 12, Episode 2 @ Tramway, 24–26 Feb

After a weekend of intellectual argument about the intrinsic horror of the universe – it's hostile, it's too big, and the individual self is either a delusional side-effect of human subconscious processes or a product of capitalism – Keiji Haino's vocal solo conjured up the deep dark in the most immediate manner. Tooled up with effect and loop pedals, he looped his wails and grunts and screams into a sound sculpture that suggested a black hole devouring innocent galaxies, a rotating hell of tormented souls or mysterious rituals straight out of H.P. Lovecraft.

Haino's music – he has spent the last forty years deconstructing rock bombast, defining 'noise music' and treating audiences to gigs that are in that bewildering space between intelligent, imaginative parodies and shrill, ear-drum shattering bullshit – is unashamedly aggressive. Episode 2's gig placed Haino next to artists like Meredith Monk, who use the voice not to sing lyrics but as a versatile, emotive instrument. But where Monk is often full of life and love, Heino sculpts sound into menacing, immersive shapes.

The previous night, Junko tried a similar trick. But where her screaming took the sound of a female in pain and turned it into an improvisation tool – with all the tricksy skill of a saxophonist on a free jam – Haino's intention is clear and brutal. Harsh growls attack his more melodic interludes – claps and breaths are warped into stabs and moans. Layering his voice through loop after loop, Haino builds towards his finale, a soundtrack that shared the scale, ambition and terror of a medieval depiction of hell.

Arika's new direction may be to ensure that work like this has a context – after 48 hours of constant banter about the positivity of nihilism, one man howling up a void makes perfect sense; or it may be to push certain ideas into wider circulation by associating them with well-known artists. Either way, Kaino's gig is devastating, suggesting that apocalyptic art did not disappear when we survived the millennium bug.

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