A Journal Of The Dark Arts
visions of serene and timeless joy
Festival Of The Dead is the 3rd long-player from William Bennett’s afronoise project, Cut Hands. Festival finds Bennett returning to the dark and fertile soil of Blackest Ever Black, finest purveyors of gourmet audio terror and existential dread, with 4 tracks previously issued – ‘Damballah 58’, and ‘Belladonna Theme’ from last year’s Damballah 58 ep, also on BEB, and ‘Vaudou Take Me High’ (an album highlight) and a “festival mix” of ‘Madwoman’, both from Afro Noise Volume 4, alongside 8 new tracks. For those that already possess these 4 tracks, it’s great to hear them again, and to have them in one place, and for those coming across them for the first time, yr in for a treat.
Festival Of The Dead is being released in time with “harvest or autumnal customs across the world, it’s both a harbinger of darker, winter times and a commemoration of shared ancestry and traditions common to many cultures across the world – All Saints Day, Samhain, Feast of Ancestors, Pitru Paksha etc,” coming from Boomkat, which goes on to say “computers are the new drums, so to speak, hence a swingeing celebration of programmed percussion designed to induce and release madness from all who hear it: whether that’s raving lunacy, hatred, or joy, they’re all apposite reactions.”
Now we’re at it: madness, possession, ritual. Repetitive rhythm and motion, designed to freeze the conscious mind, and let the darkness of the subconscious/collective unconscious out to play.
I think it’s this tendency which made African drumming and religions so dangerous to the Western/Christian mind, which is all about conquering and subjugation. They knew the only way to control the native populace they were taking over was to take over their religions, to control the symbols of their subconscious. The conquerors knew that drums and dancing were dangerous (just look at copoiera for examples of this).
I feel like, in a lot of ways, what we know of as history (his story), the last 2000 years, has been white men eradicating anything that does not fit into their Christian/rational/linear way of thinking, with all of the subtlety of a drug cartel spiking heads, pushing underground any current that didn’t jibe (we must remember that the actual definition of “occult” means “hidden or obscured”). In light of this, it seems like the history of the 20th century (starting in the late 19th), and the trajectory of widespread knowledge and access to information has been what Freud/John Fahey referred to as “the return of the repressed”. Basically, The Man (The Hierophant) has done his damnedest to put his foot on the neck of the freethinker; to make them comply, to make us happy little cogs in the machine.
So, of course, at first we had to break down all the institutions, until nothing was forbidden and the playing field was leveled, giving rise to schools of thought like Artaud’s Theater Of Cruelty, and the late ’70s obsession with transgression, a tendency that began (or at least was popularized) with De Sade and his libertine philosophy.
Now that we’ve had a good 40 years to get used to this way of thinking, to become suitably desensitized, it becomes possible to see the entire career of William Bennett in a more clear light. He’s been called a fascist, a racist, a cultural appropriator, and probably every other thing under the moon. It’s all to easy to dismissively label Bennett the “ex-Whitehouse provocateur”, like this Pitchfork review, which then goes on to criticize Cut Hands as “looking at clubland and saw an emptiness eating away at it from the inside—an interesting and possibly valid viewpoint, but not one that needs repeating ad infinitum.” This leads one to assume that this reviewer’s not all that familiar with this style of music, the history and purpose of percussive trance rituals, and the subliminal philosophy of noise/philosophy.
For anyone that’s been paying attention, or knows how to listen, Bennett has never championed or endorsed any of the atrocious events he references in his long history. Instead, the unceasing barrage of volume and horrific imagery served as a kind of air raid siren, shocking the fragile small mammal nervous system into submission, to let something else shine through. He uses sonics as a way to speak directly to the flesh, to the labyrinthine corridors of synapses and guts, and all of the trauma and servitude that lies therein.
Because society is a slavemaster, make no mistake. And every slave must be whipped, when they get out of line. Just think, how many times have you been told that yr dreams are unrealistic? That it’s all well and good, as long as you have a Plan B. Basically, you can do whatever you want, as long as you submit and work at The Factory.
The truth of the matter is yr dream MIGHT be possible – you’ll never know unless you try. What might be more realistic to say is that it’s going to be tremendously hard, thankless work, blocked at every turn by the landowners, and you have to be half-mad to even try. Basically, if you can have an even somewhat peaceful life working a counter or in a cubicle or for someone else, you should probably do that, but it’s going to be a helluva lot more pleasant. For those of us with no choice, we’re out in the wilderness, 3/4 starved, afflicted with mad visions. We’re the Boo Radleys of the world, or Euchrid from And the Ass Saw the Angel; certainly not something to be aspired to. But there are truly awesome and magnificent sights in the wilderness, the hot blooded passion of the jaguar, the loyalty of the wolf, the beauty of an unbroken snowy glen on a moonlit night, that do make it worth it, if you can hack it.
But enough filibustering, back to the music. Cut Hands has never sounded finer, thanks in large part to a beefy mastering job by Noel Summerville: the low end is fierce, but tight. It reminds us that Cut Hands’ original inspiration was when Bennett spun a set of vodou rhythms at a club night, and noticed the potent results. I defy DJs to bring it full circle, and drop some of these workouts in their sets. Let’s bring the invisible aboveground; let the panic begin!
Album opener “The Claw” is a stand-out track, being particularly ferocious and potent. It seems like the festival truly begins with “I Know What I Must Do,” a slow ‘n ominous temple stomp, which gives way to the blood frenzy of “Damballah 58”, with piston-like percussion joined by formant lo-fi electronics, that sounds like a Gameboy trying to speak prophecy. “Parataxic Dimension” stops the percussive onslaught for a moment, sort of, focusing on some apocalyptic ambiance, like some giant death machine from the other side of hell lumbering through the streets of Detroit. Squealing horror strings meet Tibetan horns, in a true liturgy of the dead, as well as an invocation of an Angel Of Retribution.
“Festival Of The Dead” is a more structured outing, what it might sound like if a footwork DJ were to mangle some Ocora records, which is then shellaced with starburst electronics and radio static. It’s one of the more straightforward tracks on here, and might be a good place for the adventurous DJ to begin. “Belladonna Theme” truly takes you to the underworld, in a surprising moment of timeless ambiance, and “Vaodou Takes Me High” is like this record’s high mass.
As per usual, Festival Of The Dead is almost entirely rhythmic/percussive, putting it in line with acts like Vatican Shadow or Muslimgauze. Let it serve as the soundtrack to your season’s black masses, and free yrself from the tyranny of yr oppressors (mental or otherwise).