Blog posts in Music for November 2008:

Music: Kontakte (Karlheinz Stockhausen)

Really, this is where it all started with me. Before Godflesh and Merzbow, before Meat Beat Manifesto and Suicide, before John Cage even, there was Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Kontakte, recorded over fifty years ago and yet still sounding timeless. Our ears,...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/11/19 01:41
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Really, this is where it all started with me. Before Godflesh and Merzbow, before Meat Beat Manifesto and Suicide, before John Cage even, there was Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Kontakte, recorded over fifty years ago and yet still sounding timeless. Our ears, as Cage himself said, are now in excellent condition.

Aside from being a groundbreaking piece of electronic music—probably the single most important piece of its kind, second only to Stockhausen’s earlier Song of the Youths (which isn’t nearly as impressive or ambitious to me)—Kontakte has something of the flavor of an epic film that would be unrealizable on any budget in today’s world. The whole of Kontakte had been made by taking electronic pulses and manipulating them on tape, processing them with a limited battery of studio effects, and then splicing together and re-recording the results—a process which took two years of work in the WDR Köln studio to pull off. Given that the piece runs 35 minutes total, that meant the average day’s work for Stockhausen yielded up maybe two and a half seconds of sound. It was the sonic version of stop-motion animation—or maybe Stan Brakhage’s filmmaking, which he accomplished by painting and etching directly onto the film itself.

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Tags: John Cage Karlheinz Stockhausen electronic music


Music: Kokkyō Junreika / 国境巡礼歌 (J.A. Seazer)

It’s like a cross between a funeral procession, a live performance of The Doors’s “The End” taken to its furthest possible extreme, and the incendiary rantings of a street-corner prophet. J.A. Seazer’s Kokkyō Junreika (“A Pilgrimage Across National Borders”) distills...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/11/17 13:57
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It’s like a cross between a funeral procession, a live performance of The Doors’s “The End” taken to its furthest possible extreme, and the incendiary rantings of a street-corner prophet. J.A. Seazer’s Kokkyō Junreika (“A Pilgrimage Across National Borders”) distills most if not all of the glorious excess from the career of one of Japan’s counter-culture rock gods. It’s not a compilation record, but it might as well be—most everything you’d hear in a J.A. Seazer production is all here, in one 53-minute package. Invocations to the gods, tantrums, chants, Buddhist mantras, cries to the heavens, fuzztone guitar vamps—it’s all here.

And yet it all doesn’t sound like an embarrassing leftover from the acid era; it sounds ageless instead of aged. I’ve argued with friends about whether or not this is ethnocentric—i.e., does it sound that much more powerful and exotic by dint of simply not being in English? I don’t think so. There’s something about the way Japan continually transmutes its spiritual roots into popular culture of one kind or another, all without seeming to cheapen it or turn it into just another roadside attraction. When “outsider folk” artists like Shuji Inaba, Kazuki Tomokawa or Kan Mikami (a frequent Seazer collaborator) step up and deliver with speaker-cone-tearing vigor, they transmit something not only deeply felt but deeply believed. It’s not slumming.

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Tags: J.A. Seazer Japan psychedelia


Music: The 150 Murderous Passions (Nurse With Wound / Whitehouse)

“the listeners of these recordings will always enjoy the most intense reactions of all because they are the most violently repulsive records ever conceived” So read the text that accompanied Whitehouse’s Buchenwald album, an LP so loud that I feared...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/11/05 10:33
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“the listeners of these recordings will always enjoy the most intense reactions of all because they are the most violently repulsive records ever conceived”

So read the text that accompanied Whitehouse’s Buchenwald album, an LP so loud that I feared for the needle flying right out of the groove. The same disclaimer might well have been applied to 150 Murderous Passions, a 1981 joint project between Whitehouse and Nurse with Wound which works for reasons other than pure volume overload. It is genuinely frightening music. I bought it and played it on a day when no one else happened to be in the house, and it almost drove me out into the street. It was and still is as emotionally battering as Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” or Ligeti’s “Atmospheres”.

Now that I think about it, Passions has a good deal more in common with the works of those composers than anything else Whitehouse or NWW did before or since. The fact that “Hiroshima” or “Atmospheres” used nothing more than orchestra to accomplish what they do is astounding, but that doesn’t make Passions’s use of tapes, found sounds, noise and studio techniques any less fearsome. It is one long, undulating shriek of horror—or maybe ecstasy, given that the title and many of the references within the record trace right back to Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom. Excerpts from the book can be heard read here and there, but the text isn’t crucial to appreciating any of the emotional effects generated by the record—it’s just the starting point, maybe something to meditate on casually while you’re being bludgeoned by what you hear.

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Tags: Nurse With Wound Whitehouse noise


Music: Pathétique (Hisou / 悲愴) (Fushitsusha)

The flaw itself which has been borncan become bigger than the flaw which bore itBecause I myself loved too much the universe itself,saying "I love you", I will continue to curse myself … The legacy of Fushitsusha ("The Unlost") and...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/11/02 00:06
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The flaw itself which has been born
can become bigger than the flaw which bore it
Because I myself loved too much the universe itself,
saying "I love you", I will continue to curse myself …

The legacy of Fushitsusha ("The Unlost") and Keiji Haino spans over thirty years, with a trail of recordings that even the most die-hard record collectors have had trouble following. The jet-black sound (and look!) of these records is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Haino himself resisted the CD re-release of the legendary original PSF 3/4 album for quite some time, presumably to preserve the mystique associated with it. When it came out on CD at last, however, none of the Haino mystique was diminished in the slightest. In fact, each subsequent Haino/Fushitsusha release, old or new, only serves to enhance it all the more.

This isn't to say that every piece of Haino/Fushitsusha vinyl (or polycarbonate) is perfect. Some of them are downright boring and self-indulgent—and I'm sorry if I'm stepping on any Haino-worshipper's toes here, but there's a line to be drawn between "exploration" and "wankery." I thought Watashi-dake? was a tough sell, a very primordial Haino gagging and whispering—too "formative years" for all but the most devoted, something to experience after . Pathetique isn't perfect, but it has a huge helping of the same energy and fire that fueled their very best albums (like 15/16, for instance).

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Tags: Fushitsusha Keiji Haino PSF


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