A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Sounds Like: Whitehouse jamming w/ Konono No 1 in a graveyard at midnight.
The world was supposed to end last year. Our bodies were supposed to burst into astral light, like the ending of the Celestine Prophecy, or our alien oppressors were supposed to land, like Childhood’s End. Technology was supposed to end, and we were to be thrust back into the Dark Ages, like A Canticle For Leibowitz. Something was supposed to happen, and the one thing we were not prepared for was nothing.
Part of the reason why futurism has fallen out of favor is that none of us have the slightest, vaguest, foggiest notion of what it could possibly look like. Things are progressing at such an incomprehensible rate, that we have, by necessity, been forced to deal with the present. Its somewhat ironic that to find the future, we turn to one of the underground’s longest-running experimentalists, the infamous William Bennett, one-half of Noise godfathers Whitehouse, and recent purveyor of ‘afro noise’, Cut Hands.
Bennett coined the term after growing interested in the mesmerizing hypnotic powers of repetitive rhythm and polyphony. He immersed himself in recordings of Haitian and Ghanain ritualistic drumming, and concluded that he was on to something after a powerful DJ set whipped frenzied club goers into a primal trance, using only vintage recordings of tribal drumming.
Since its inception, William Bennett has been making some of the most invigorating electronic music, combined with slick Vodoun graphic design, becoming one of the most fully realized conceptual projects around. He’s leading the pack of post-industrial shamen, the likes of Regis/Karl O’ Connor, Vatican Shadow, Alberich and others, who are all investigating life after the singularity. With Bennett’s solid concept and execution, mixed with the precision and effectiveness of his percussive workouts, Cut Hands are primed to bring ritualistic percussion to the masses.
One of the common philosophies of this new school of Tech-Head, is the rise of the Analog over the Digital Dust. We are all flummoxed by the potentials of Digital Art, and it is too easy to make something that sounds just like everybody else. Dubstep drove a final nail into the coffin of cleanly executed digital excess, with its formula so ferociously effective it began to attract the meatheaded, soccer hooligan, bro culture. A far cry removed from the moody, waifish bass freaks that started it all. Producers started to gravitate towards organic sounds and loops; focusing on the ephemeral, the unreplicable, showing a previously overlooked connection between Noise and electronic music.
With Madwoman, Cut Hands draws one step closer to the inevitable cross-over. It’s still full of raw and ragged field recordings of all manner of percussive instruments, creating insanely complicated polyrhythms, interspersed with analog electronics, whispers and shrieks, but the man’s machine-like rhythm has grown even more controlled, turning the quantization grid to diamond-like precision. Is this the final culmination? The place where machines replicate the soul? The fact that Madwoman is more measured and consistent means that DJs will have an easier time working with this one. The viral seance will continue to spread.
Recent investigations into musicology and neuroscience have shown that the most engaging listens strike the perfect balance between the familiar and the unpredictable. That’s why Dubstep has fallen out of fashion, or is mutating into something else at least; its bassdrops and clickety-clack percussion became too recognizable, becoming like audio wallpaper. There is no danger of that happening to Cut Hands. Listening to Bennett’s intense polyrhythms is like trying to count snowflakes in a blizzard. The mind is pushed to the extremity of its comprehension, letting the body move as it will. Bennett has always been about the FLESH, about freeing it from its prim and neurotic Western oppression, and we begin to see a hint of how the future might be; the return of the repressed.
These types of rhythms and sounds have traditionally used in magickal ceremonies of a number of different cultures. The repetitive nature of the rhythms TRANSPORT the listener, turning off the conscious mind and all the rules of society, and let another part of THE SELF take over, run free. Let’s call it inspiration. One wonders what the widespread implications of this type of magickal audio, permeating into the popular culture, might be. One waits, with eager anticipation and curiosity.
Listening to Cut Hands’ makes me think of cyborg witch doctors dancing beneath freeway overpasses in furs. It is a full-moon ritual in Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren. It is the Interzone’s national anthem. Here’s to the archaic revival. Let’s cut off our ties and shave off our heads. The specter of the past rises and walks amongst us, reanimated by primitive post-punk machinations. Ellegua, remove all obstacles. Papa Legba, give thanks. Dambhala, show mercy on us, yr footsoldiers, yr madmen and madwomen. William Bennett, keep doing what yr doing. It’s making a difference.
Madwoman is out now, on 12″ via Downwards Records.