Rehearsing anew

A couple of weeks ago I decided I’d like to return to regular ballet training, which I haven’t done since I destroyed my knee and achilles. With Dasniya away, I purloined some of her dance floor and ended up buying a David Howard ballet class piano music album, planted my feet beside the window and relearnt pliés, tendus, and all the other tortures of the barre. This, coupled with a lengthy maintenance routine chewed up three or so hours as well as left me sleepy and in need of chocolate – or lamb curry, either or – and caused some rethinking of things.

abjection was stuck with too many ideas and not enough doing of the ideas until it was grotesquely unmanageable. There were so many works it had been and could be, so many notes and possibilities and rewrites and reworkings; it had become its own black hole into which everything could be poured and nothing would emerge (at least on any human timeframe). Ignoring that even, the eternal orbiting around Julia Kristeva and her abjection theory was going nowhere, it’s just not interesting to me in a philosophical way. So, I decided that was enough.

Training in a different way brings to the body this difference, and brings to any work that follows this difference. I’d never done ballet as a preparation for my own rehearsing, and found the strict defining of time, tempo, musicality, brought me to a very different state from a warmup where I’d do what I think I needed. There is a subjugating of self in ballet, in each exercise, it is like a training of speech. The focus now on large, slow, strenuous movement, and now followed by small, accurate, rapid movement causes a particular physiological state that modulates over the time spent at the barre. Respiration and blood change their flow, neuromuscular and endocrine systems adapt and change also. It is an experience of different particular states of endurance and exhaustion.

I begin rehearsing again. A small few ideas remaining I carry over, as with all works one after the other. It is much simpler now, and I don’t need to convince or trick myself into believing it is or should be more. It has a new name also, being a new work. Maybe it will change, but for now it’s called when your last breath frees your soul, I will be there to inhale it.

On Sunday, I showed a little to three friends, just to find out what would be revealed when eyes were watching, and to talk it through a little. It seems to make sense. Tonight, more of the same.

Abjection again

Back on the rehearsal bandwagon. I’ve made a geas, or maybe curse with myself, that until I get abjection finished, no more taking other jobs. Yes, solos are horribly awful for me and I could continue to the end of the universe and still be working on this but let’s be a little more efficient, practical, realistic with time frames here. Rehearsing again, gently because it’s potentially brutal and I like that my body is mostly in a state of coherency. And downstairs in Alte Kantine. At night, yes.

Three nights for a couple of hours each, most of which was going through the usual warmup, which seems fairly useful and applicable to the movement, so just getting comfortable with that again, not over-reaching myself, remembering what it is I do. Isabelle has turned out to be an influence – on my shoulder blades at least, and later this week shall come and have a watch (also part of my geas, having what I’m doing seen; seeing and so making it real). I started working on the text verbal spoken throat-lung vibrational noise words mouth tongue front of face dance stuff. Julia Kristeva, that is. Then I discovered her text from Powers of Horror is nice to read within one’s head, or even perhaps reading while moving lips silently, but is dead horrid as a piece of monologue text. Butchery, then. As easy as one of that employment swinging a sharp knife through the gristle and joints. Now it looks like there might not be enough text.

Then there’s how to say it. I have a feeling it goes into something in the general phase space of Black Metal vocalities, wondering if it will become incoherent, wondering if that matters, wondering if I can make enough sounds. That’s for tonight, anyway.

Gallery

Ropes in Monty

I was trying an approximation of Isabelle’s wrapped fabric scene from Der Bau, having previously attempted something like the fabric fluttering which created quite a tangled mess. Trying to wrap myself in rope, something also of Gala, Lewis, and I from our time in ROSAS. Not enough time to find much besides the possibility this can be something for abjection. I think it solves or describes some of the things I’ve been thinking about here.

As an aside, watching Gala perform in Anuschka’s dark glam rock piece was also inspiring for technically how to consider a work that celebrates black metal. Shall begin rehearsing again later this week.

abjection Rehearsal 12 (or so)

Back at Theaterhaus Mitte, and not sure what number I am up to in rehearsing, so let’s make approximate. I rehearsed Thursday also, but that was a washout, mostly did yoga and rolled around and eventually watched a movie so I wouldn’t feel like I’d done nothing. Not so much uninspired as just physically feeling in a dead-end street.

So yesterday, a daytime rehearsal, another five hours of which the first two are always spent doing a yoga-Pilates-Klein-kinesiology thing. Much time spent on my Psoas and Piriformis. I’ve been having some excellent physio on my achilles which possibly has been what I’ve needed all along – the orthpædic at Charité said, “It’s going to hurt, are you sure you want this?” and I think most people would probably run away screaming, but I’ve always liked the pain of a hard massage even though this is pain proper and not just intensity. She said, “Ja, heute ist bisschen mehr weich,” probably because she’d tenderised it like a steak under one of those spiky mallets.

Still, two ballet classes this week (yay, Dasniya! showing uncritical bias as I may be, she is a very good teacher), much yoga, two rehearsals and achilles looked surprisingly normal last night.

And what did I do? Music veered between Sunn O))) (of course), Company Flow (what the fuck, Frances?), and a video of Marquese Scott, who I can’t stop watching at the moment. In-between, much silence.

I’m not sure if I’m rehearsing at the moment, or just working on things; things as in how I move, and hour-long analysis of very simple movement. I seem to have a regular warm-up and progression through things that is useful for the actual work, but I often get distracted by ideas, and so, for example:

All this swinging stuff. Penduluming? Oscillating? What’s inherent to walking that can be used as a template for making coherent any other movement. It seems like such a hippy-ish ‘pedestrian movement’, ‘post-modern dance’ idea, but I have such a disinterest in that. I’m not trying to find a ‘natural’ movement, or ‘release’ or any of that other old stuff; I think it’s fairly mechanical, insofar as a body can be said to be mechanical, which it obviously isn’t (the kilos of bacteria in my gut would at least resent the label). Maybe it’s procedural. So penduluming is a useful-ish word, because it is the weight of the bob that keeps the oscillation going; acceleration and velocity, periods, equilibrium and all.

Turns out walking is “defined by an ‘inverted pendulum’ gait”. Maybe it’s the gait that I’m interested in? The gait of moving, and the part-gait of say, swinging a leg (part-gait as in there’s no locomotion, but a leg-swing can be seen as a section of movement that does travel). So, leg swings. Also this comes from many, many hours on a wobble/balance board and the slow-dawning realisation that while it’s great for calf muscle definition and some kinds of balance, proprioception, fine motor skills, it’s also static, and balance is always coupled with movement; for dancing at least.

So from Dasniya’s ballet class, with an exercise that had a 2nd developé, demi-rond to fondu attitude devant, and grande rond to fondu attitude derriere, which for me was wobbly, I thought of this as another kind of leg swing. So if I’m just standing there and I swing my leg lazily on the floor in a semi-circle, front, behind, knee bent-straight-bent, what’s going on? What the walking-equivalent oscillation of this?

One thing is that unlike walking in which the arm, leg swings and other movements do not require additional input to attack or retard in order to maintain a rhythm, any more complex movement needs little flicks and accelerations here and there, because the leg and arm swinging, knee bending and all the rest cannot keep in sync otherwise. And it’s where these flicking attacks come from that determines how much like walking any movement can be, or conversely how tense, uncomfortable and horrific.

I saw a nice drawing of the diaphragm, and we’ve all heard the simile of the diaphragm as an umbrella or balloon, but this illustration reminded me in shape and in it’s central hole of nothing other than Curiosity’s supersonic retro parachute, and breathing is endlessly talked about in dance, how to use one’s breath, how to ‘dance like you’re breathing’, but how to use one’s walk (or rather, gait), how to dance like you’re walking … yes we hear the latter a little but more often within the release or post-modern dance vocabulary, that is to say the method is used to engender the aesthetic or style of movement. I’m not interested so much in these aesthetics, nor in the contemporary dance fixation on ‘having a process’ or branding myself with a technique or style; this is simply about learning to move, and the more I do it, it seems this isn’t really taught.

We learn an awful lot about learning phrases. Every day, new phrases, more phrases, different phrases, new and more and different instructions and corrections on how to do this and them, but to go away from that, to just spend time alone and try and work out what the fuck happens when I try and stand on one leg, when I try and swing it, to try and consciously analyse how the finite constraints of a body’s anatomy lead to a specific gait within which all movement must happen – whether or not you go with it or against it – I think there’s both an absence of doing this in training and more importantly an absence of conceptualising how this can be done.

It might also be a lot of things at once, and I’m failing to remember cum hoc propter hoc, correlation does not imply causation; all the things I’m doing in rehearsal might simply be returning me to a dancing state, and nothing more. And yet, the endless variations of swinging arms gave me the idea the same could be applied to legs, which led me to infinitesimal leg swings (half and hour of alternating legs for minutes at a time and swinging no more than a finger-width off the floor anyone?), and other ‘standing on one leg, doing something with the other’, and yesterday, doing this attitude rond swing (funny how I still think and write and talk in ballet terms) for a long while, it just came together. Whether on the floor or at grande rond height it became uncomplicated and as simple, inevitable as walking.

Which is the point. Not that all this left much time for the point, being rehearsing abjection, but once I got to it, actually moving in any way I decided to had this same method. It’s like when you’re standing on a train for a long time and the swaying influences your body so when you get off, it echoes in your body.

Not much time for the point, indeed. All this chewed up a good 4 hours, so I spent another hour going through the obvious stuff but was feeling a little unfocussed because I hadn’t done my homework, so to speak. Homework being going through all the videos and working out what works, what doesn’t and assembling into general ideas.

As an aside, yesterday Dasniya was rehearsing and came in with a load of rope on her head like a beehive or termite mound and was moshing listening to Venom. This, Sydney and Lismore is what happens when anarchists get hold of rope and listen to heavy metal.

Post-BRX/TIL

Back in Berlin with the usual pouring-of-day-down-toilet that is economy airlines. Really, I’d get the train everywhere if Deutsche Bahn (and others) weren’t so scandalously overpriced. I’d get work done for a start, and Brussels to Berlin is only a couple of hours longer by train door-to-door than the ‘1 hour’ flight (for values of ‘1 hour’ that include 2.5 hours check-in and .5 ‘waiting for suitcase’).

So! Tilburg, Daniel, ADT. Brussels, Hans, Anuschka, Mokka coffee, piadina at the market (twice!). No shopping in Antwerpen because despite being a 40min drive from Tilburg, it’s 90+ minutes on the train, and I just wanted to get back to Brussels.

Last time I was in Brussels, Hans was just building his new studio in Workspace Renold (wow was really middle of last year I was last there). This time, it’s finished and it’s dead cozy, wood-fired heaters and all. The pictures don’t do it any justice; it’s much bigger (I’m standing about half-way along the length) and is charming – with a lot of natural light even for such small windows. I saw Hans and Anuschka … not enough! but at least four times, and as always become very tempted to make the move over to Brussels.

Anuschka asked me why I don’t write more, which reminded me, I’ve been working on a science-fiction(-ish) novel for the past year, and hit a god-almighty 13,000 words (at this rate will take me another decade before a rough draft is finished). I’d not touched it for a few months, and felt well-inspired, so bashed out / am bashing out several more scenes. Having never written a novel, and never got past a couple of thousand words on any previous attempt, I have no idea what I’m doing, so am proceeding by writing in the hopes it will become clear.

And now returned to Wedding, properly seeing Dasniya (compulsory lazytime), some rehearsing this morning (strange and glorious to get up at 8am to stumble downstairs at 8:30 and spend the morning working, me on abjection, Dasniya on whatever she’ll perform in Australia), finger is mostly healed – it looks funny with a row of stitches going a third the way round … pictures!

SOIT Workspace Renold, Brussels
SOIT Workspace Renold, Brussels
One of those ADT nights (Tilburg)
One of those ADT nights (Tilburg)
Slow train from Tilburg
Slow train from Tilburg
Obligatory parting-Brussels shot
Obligatory parting-Brussels shot

Abjection Rehearsals – Brussels

Neither Gala nor Ivo are in Brussels, which makes this decidedly weird being here; eating Piadina alone, sitting on the Metro alone … Hans and Anuschka are here though, and we had an excellent dinner on Thursday, and at least three coffees in three days, and I saw what they’ve done to their studio in Renold Space: wood-fired heating! It’s really, really beautiful, and I’m very envious as well as inspired. And now I depart for the impossible Tilburg. A mere long hundred kilometres away, it still takes 3 hours to get there. But once there, I get to see Daniel for one more time on ADT’s tour (and maybe Emile, fresh off the jet-lag run from down under).

In the meantime, I’ve slipped in a couple of days rehearsing in a secret location which shall remain nameless. More of the same from me. I think my ‘warm-up’ now constitutes much of the actual rehearsing, and it seems to be useful. It’s very methodical, and honestly if I turned up to a class of this, I’d probably hate it (unless it was perhaps Benoît or it was what I expected). I’m still turning up strange, lingering habits from when I mashed my knee last year, something to do on one side with whimpering meniscus not wanting to go into certain positions, so Gluteals don’t work and Psoas takes over, and a straight line between wonky Achilles tendon and Piriformis really not knowing what it’s doing.

The interesting thing is that all of this is quite small and built up from years of habits, but the process of finding these peculiarities and minimising them requires this methodical, patient workflow – spending an hour just working out what happens in my hips when I’m in child pose and would be about to roll from one side to the other.

And it’s never absolute either. What works in one situation at one speed isn’t entirely applicable to another, or even a different rhythm at the same speed, or different initiation of movement or attention. What is possible though is a phase space for particular movements, for example if I’m walking, there’s a variety of possibilities in how the movement happens, and through repetition I can build up a general representation of this, and subsequently which ones tend towards aberrance.

As for what constitutes aberrant movement for me at the moment, I just keep thinking of walking, which is more or less uncomplicated for anyone to do, whereas dancing is complicated, and so keeping in mind the uncomplicated physical feeling or perception of walking (which is not to say walking is simple or easy), I try and find what this is in any dance movement. Which leads me to lie on the floor for an hour analysing whatever is going on when I roll, or endless combinations of arm-swinging, leg-swings, or embarrassingly simple movement patterns.

Mainly I think that if walking is swinging, as in a pendulum movement, then so too must dance be, because it’s done with the same body. What’s come up so far is that it’s applicable across levels of complexity of movement; not just the ‘more things happening at once’ complexity, but the perhaps more interesting edges of movement, the ones where things get weird and awkward and usually get bashed through or otherwise cause horribleness. It also seems to allow for significantly more speed with less effort. All of which is the obsession of contemporary dance, and I don’t really want to contribute to that with some essentialist ‘natural’ movement programme, which is why I’m pointedly not reading or looking at any of the obvious similar techniques, be it release, or Klein, or whatever, even though I can’t escape them because that’s my training history and I can only ever work within what I know, or in reference to what I know.

Maybe to say it’s just me working out how I move, which is curiously something I’ve not done so much of; yes, plenty of thinking about it, but doing has largely been confined to other people’s classes and techniques. So it’s a little like messing around with a musical instrument and teaching myself to play, and it’s really not a technique or a style or a process or any other dressing up of what’s fundamentally me fucking around on my own for hours in a big room.

Which segues into my rehearsals. Which of course was most of my rehearsals. Music! From Abruptum and Gorgoroth and Mayhem to … Pulp! Jarvis Cocker. Oh Jarvis Cocker you are a dirty rocker. And the album is Different Class, which did lead to some useful reconsiderations of what I’m doing with my fingers, and also illuminated how distracting it is to work with popular music. Distracting as in it takes me out of my body, I no longer can feel moving because my ears are too busy. Black metal doesn’t suffer from this so much as it’s pretty incomprehensible and not very melodic. Which then made me think of all the classes I’ve ever done where the teacher puts on their favourite music and we dance to it, and that we’re not really dancing because we’re just doing the equivalent of Pavlov’s dogs drooling response because the music interrupts the physical process of experience of dancing. As nice as it was to dance around to Common People and Sorted for E’s & Wizz, it was unsettling to think that this habit of using music like this actually got in the way of training one’s self in moving.

All of which merits further musing, but I have a train to catch. More rehearsing next week, and quite a bit of going through videos and assembling stuff before then.

Abjection Rehearsal 11

My Thursday night rehearsal, after which I went to Stadtbad Wedding with Hartmut for !K7-27’s Subkultur / Berlin 80, swapping from metal to industrial. Music for me for the night was Abruptum’s Evil Genius, which is a fine, subtle, and brilliant album, and was entirely appropriate for my evening’s activities.

Which involved more highly repetitive making-coherent of simple movements, for example, one hour spent on rolling from side to side gradually coming up to squatting; the aim is to find what other movement is necessary to make the movement as smooth and inevitable as walking. Of course it means, “it depends”. Wherever the priority is given, or wherever the impetus or whatever other defining thing, this changes everything else. But it’s still possible to generally establish the phase space in which this occurs. It’s a bit like riding a bike sometimes, the same thing over and over, loosely and … putting in the effort without bashing; being relaxed while attacking.

And a lot of working on this section; almost half an hour of it, over and over. Making more sense as ever, and later this week I have some more time to spend on it. Maybe some video again.

Abjection Rehearsal 10

Another night in Alte Kantine Wedding, which is beyond convenient for me; when I started the ground outside was lightly dusted in fine snow, and a few hours later was cloaked in three centimetres or so of white. Last night was also special because Valquire joined me to watch and film a little. We’re planning on making something of a dance film of the black metal scene I’ve been working on, so this was a a first watch, talk, bash some ideas around.

The usual warmup preceded, and it’s gratifying that the last few weeks of a daily hour on my wobble board has given me more than just calf muscles (which are also nice). Still doing arm swings, which are progressively getting more complicated, and just beginning to thread their way into the movement. There were some useful things that came up though it feels a little approximate and sparse at the moment, things that will resolve themselves through some concentrated repetition.

And the ropes have been lurking in a bag also. That for next week as well.

abjection rehearsal 9

I didn’t rehearse last week. Conjoined laziness and taking a short pause after getting Dasniya into car for her journey to Thailand which grew to a three-day bender of doing not very much at all. I hadn’t been able to get many days at Theaterhaus Mitte either, with all the danceable studios booked out for three weeks in advance. Lucky a fortuitous arrangement arrived, which means the distance to rehearsal studio is substantially shorter.

So, rehearsing in the vastness of Alte Kantine Wedding in Uferhallen. This was my first proper rehearsal, and I seem to have a work process that has become consistent. Besides my daily hour on the wobble board (yes, I have a high threshold for repetitiveness), I’m starting with some floor yoga, bits of pilates, sort of Klein stuff, some of Benoît’s exercises, and finally getting to standing after about an hour. I’m not really warm in the sense of sweating buckets, but reasonably loose and have paid a lot of attention to the smoothness of movement in my legs and hips.

Then I do pliés. Nice loose ones which don’t go beyond demi, but I’ve taken to making sure my heels come off, to encourage not perpetuating the poor technique of trying to get the deepest demi plié possible. It’s like being washed in waves coming in and going out. More foot stuff. I think my general approach is singular movement patterns done over and over, far beyond the standard eight counts. A lot like walking. So I do leg swings barely off the floor until there is a synchronised rhythm of swinging and weight shifting in arms, torso, hips, legs, a couple of minutes on one leg, then the other, back to the first a bit higher, until I find a way to do full leg swings with the same inevitable rhythm of movement as walking.

And the same with arm swings. Which have become deliriously complicated. Yes, I can swing my arms from fingertips, the standard way, which is nice, or I can initiate it from my hips twisting one side forward, the other back, or that plus sinking into one hip, or throwing my leading arm (or throwing my trailing arm which is dead weird), or using shoulders, which has a side-effect of inducing breathing. So, arm swings and other arm-ish movement. And then more physical, a couple each of Emio and Forsythe, either building up tension and releasing it, or loosely improvising through all limbs and joints, until after another hour or so it just feels like it’s time to put on Sunn O))) or Gorgoroth or Mayhem and channel the goat.

Which I did a little of, not really pushing or trying to find anything new, just looking to repeat the familiar. Tomorrow, again.

Black Metal and Emergent Behaviour

Last night, while at Dasniya’s simultaneous departure gathering / private watching of the documentary video of Die Geschichte vom Soldaten, a friend remarked on how she needs to explain to over-enthusiastic lefties, brought on by a somewhat moronic person wearing a Burzum t-shirt at a queer shindig, that no, her Sunn O))) hoodie does not connote a crypto-facism. Oh, black metal, the empty signifier of all that is deliciously, seductively other.

This morning, taking the day off after absence of weekend, The Physics arXiv Blog brings me Moshers, Heavy Metal and Emergent Behaviour, where a bunch of researchers find that a mosh pit resembles a disordered 2D ‘gas-like state’, and a circle pit an ordered 2D ‘vortex-like state’. Though I’ll be picky and say I associate pits more with punk and hardcore, and various forms of headbanging and ‘hail satan’ arms with metal (I suppose the bro-ism of American nu-metal (hmm, should that have an umlaut? nü-metal … probably a ‘k’ or ‘v’ somewhere also. NÜ MKTVL?) crosses over substantially though being primarily concerned with appropriating displays of aggrotainment). Nonetheless, we shall overlook the link to the A7*cough*nümktxvl*cough*X moshpit … oh god fucking Hatebreed?). Maybe to say their physics is good but music preferences … This winter, I are mostly listening to Striborg.

(Parenthetically, I put Bolt Thrower and Crass on Dasniya’s iPod, in-between Munir Bashir and her ballet class music.)

And while mooching around in the early afternoon, Black Metal Theory gave Guido Seger’s master’s thesis, A Blaze in the Northern Sky: Black metal as an expression of extremist politics in modern day Europe. Oh dear, back to aforementioned empty signifier.

I was thinking of Žižek’s Tarrying with the Negative, the cover is a flag with a circular hole cut at its centre, where the coat of arms with red communist star had resided; the flag of the anti-Ceauşescu revolution. The hole is an absence of the prior, yet not yet reified into the (sadly predictable) subsequent; Žižek describes it as “‘sublime’ in the strictest Kantian sense'”, an open void where the “symbol standing for the organizing principle of the national life” once lay. It is both an inchoate sign of opposition, and a convenient dumping ground; that is to say, whether we wave the flag or interpret it, this empty signifier is the ideal repository for all meaning; it is never full, nor, curiously, contradictory.

Guido says his thesis asks the question, “What does black metal tell us about the resurgence of nationalist politics and racial violence that emerges under pressure of the European Union and what is the underlying cause of these sentiments?” A pertinent question, and to be unfair, I’ve not read it yet, and this isn’t a commentary of his thesis. Rather I’m stringing together a few things from the last few days which have metal – specifically black metal – and neo-nazism in common.

“What does x tell us about n?”, where n is ‘plague of fucking nazis’  and x stands for the unknown quantity, an empty signifier. Why, specifically, black metal? What is fascinating, enchanting about it that, say, the nazi skinhead/punk scene isn’t? Both are established around an identification with a particular culture where music, bands, record labels, venues form the locations in space through which the protagonists move. Both also have clearly delineated visual codes, either overt or subtle; clothing, appearance, demeanour as pictograms or acronyms that are not legible to outsiders: an anarchist punk might have a Crass bum flap, while a nazi skinhead white laces in their steelcap boots. Both nazi skins and black metallers have engaged in arson; the latter of churches, the former of immigrant asylums.

Perhaps more germane is that irrespective of the culture, various forms of fascism, extremism, and bigotry reside latently within, and simultaneously the culture as a whole is always ripe for appropriation and acquisition by these forms. How these manifest, and how they are discerned from outside is perhaps a function of the theatrical and symbolic within the culture. And black metal has both in abundance.

Conversely, the further ‘right’ one goes, the greater the uncritical and unreconstructed flirtation with symbolism becomes (I would say that certain aspects of the ‘left’ are also prone to this, which is perhaps a symptomatic of how close they are to their supposed opposites), which goes hand-in-hand with a peculiar appropriation of symbolism rather different from the one that cut the hole in the flag.

Metal again. Christian metal this time. Stryper anyone? To Hell with the Devil illustrates for me horribly and enthrallingly these internal and external forms. Without their christianity, they would likely still be metallers, perhaps not as famous. Regardless, as much as they were manufactured, their ‘metalness’ is is genuine, in that they came from within the culture. Their ‘metalness’ is simultaneously false, the visual codes wrong; it looks right, but then it doesn’t, and the demeanour of the music similarly so.

Perhaps a better illustration – back to fucking nazis, and German ones at that – is a recent piece in Der Spiegel, YouTube Neo-Nazis: The Far Right Updates Its Online Image. Ignoring Spiegel’s usual sensationalism, and regarding solely the accompanying image, we see a group of burning torch-wielding, black-clad marchers wearing expressionless white masks. There’s a lot of acquisition of symbolism going on here. Aside from the tired cliché of burning torches and their history with nazis, romanticism, and 19th Century nationalism, the black is specifically appropriated from anarchist / antifascist, Black Block / Autonomism, while the masks copy a far more recent socio-political movement, Anonymous and V for Vendetta.

What’s striking and material is how it is unsettlingly wrong. The components somehow do not sit properly together. Perhaps also there is a sense it is too serious, lacking in humour, self-aware irony, or just a certain lightness. This, I think, demonstrates one part of what separates right extremism from the culture within which it seems to reside.

The second part is that contrary to the culture itself, the comparable nazi version always comes after. That is to say, whether it is punk, skin, metal, or any other genre and its associated culture, irrespective of any always already present and latent fascist tendencies, in no case have these emerged from a prior existing right wing or nationalist music; the nazification always comes after and always requires this sub-genre to build an ill-fitting appropriation of and affinity with the existing theatre and symbolism.

Black metal has perhaps become ideally suited for this at the moment, as the empty hole into which all fears are dumped. Nazi skins, however much they dominate the stereotype are just that, and their imagery is tired, as evinced by the pseudo-Anonymous Immortals, (Die Unsterblichen – sounds like a German Evanescence bland metal band) and similar attempts to remake the not-so-far right. In black metal our desire for a perfect right-extremist Other can be found, and does not all the symbolism, all the acts prove this? After all, is Burzum not the perfection of black metal in its entirety, made explicit? The propaganda of his deeds preceding the manifesto.

Perhaps too, there is a fear of the theatrical, the corpse paint, the hair and clothing; the peculiar, almost embarrassing obsession with satanism, paganism, and romanticism that disturb maleness in a way the hypermasculine of skinheads, or the anonymous normality of Die Unsterblichen doesn’t and can’t. And let’s be clear, even the queer left privileges certain masculinities over femininity, the former always more genuine, more real, less troubling than the latter.

Well yes, there is something inherently untrustworthy in black metal, exactly as there is in industrial music with their crypto-fascist costumery (Throbbing Gristle and Laibach are obvious examples), which slithered uneasily over into either genuine neo-nazism, or ‘taking it far too seriously with an absence of critical distance given the subject matter’ (Death in June), and the commensurate hysteria of the media, government and left groups in response.

There is also something entirely unsurprising that music and its surrounding culture can produce Crass or Wolves in the Throne Room on one side, and Skrewdriver or Burzum on the other. A more realistic attitude might be then to maintain a certain scepticism towards all music and its surrounding cultures; an expectation that all will always at some place devolve to result in a nationalist sub-genre, and indeed from even before the ur-genre always already have.

Which is a very unsatisfactory place to finish.

It might be worthwhile to note that black metal is not unproblematic within the right extremist, national socialist world either.

What still troubles me is why specifically black metal? Why over all other genres is the real and presumed neo-nazism such a site of critical importance? And why now? It’s not as though it’s new, Varg Vikernes and the original Norwegian black metal scene is 25 years in the past. It’s also abundantly clear if, for example, I say I like punk or ska I’m not talking about the nazi offspring of either, and there is no confusion – whether or not such an absolutist statement is true – that the former is to its core opposed to the latter. The obverse in respect to black metal, and metal more broadly is curiously also the case. To say, “I like black metal,” is to be held suspect, it requires of me an explanation that is never sufficient; there always lies suspicion that I’m going off to burn down a church, and light a burning swastika off the embers.

Admittedly I do this also. Hold black metal slightly suspect that is, not burn down churches, etc. Perhaps because the signifiers of National Socialist Black Metal are not so clear for me, in the way that, say nazi punk is. Though come on, Google NSBM, if the heavy-handed ‘Nordic’ symbolism doesn’t immediately give it away, the obvious band names or album titles will; that’s if there isn’t an swastika or some other silly neo-nazi sigil. As with Stryker there’s predominately some subtle or glaring identification which doesn’t allow much confusion. So despite the clarity of NSBM signifiers, guilt still spills out and accrues across not just black metal, but all metal.

Which still doesn’t address the questions, or come any closer to framing them coherently.