It’s already November, dark times are upon us. The Light is Leaving us All, the new album by Current 93 (check out the MV for Bright Dead Star here), one of my all time favourite bands, suits the mood and topic well. After a few listens I’m tempted to call it a return to form. While that would be a somewhat inaccurate statement for a number of reasons, mostly for the fact that it’s almost impossible to identify what “form” means for a group with such a diverse output over the years, but also because while there have certainly been weaker and stronger albums, some I like more and some I’m not as keen on, it would be wrong to say that David Tibet and whoever joined him in the various incarnations of Current 93 were “out of form” at any time recently. But what I mean is, that this new album pleasurably connects with what is not only my personal favourite era but is widely considered among fans and critics as their finest period, that string of seminal albums from the 1990s, from Thunder Perfect Mind through to The Inmost Light Trilogy and on to Soft Black Stars and the brilliant Sleep has his House. Gone are, again, the rock influences, drums and distorted guitars or industrial (dancefloor?) drums that imprinted much of Black Ships at the Sky and Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain and beyond. And yet this is no step back: all the familiar elements are there, the wheel hasn’t been reinvented, but has gained a new spoke here and there and new grip and it securely travels its path through an alternate English pastoral. While more opulent in both music/sound and also lyrically, in a way it reminds me most of Of Ruine and Some Blazing Starre… which, in my book is their best album.
It was, hence, a great treat to get to see Current 93 see perform the album as well as a selection of other tracks on my recent birthday at the Shepherds Bush Empire. With special guest Nurse With Wound, the group of long standing Tibet collaborator Steven Stapleton. Sadly I missed some of the beginning of their set, but the bits I heard were rather decent. If, at that, maybe not quite loud enough. (I can hear in my mind, as I write this, my mother protesting: “Does everything have to be so loud?!”… alas. Not everything, no… and really, it wasn’t loud at all. That’s why I wanted louder… but let’s not indulge in this interjection any longer!)
After a short interlude ,spent on a pilgrimage to the merch table and then the bar Tibet & company took to the stage.
I must admit that I was slightly apprehensive and not sure what to expect, after I had left the previous concert of theirs, and also my first, which I had attended some years ago slightly underwhelmed and disappointed. Not so this time. Despite not having listened to the album before I quite enjoyed hearing it for the first time played live. Accompanied by subtle, minimalist projections which I, not generally a big fan of visuals, found nicely contributed to the mood. After a short break they played a few more songs, with Niemandswasser off Sleep has his House and All the World makes Great Blood from Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre being the highlights of the set for me.
A great history of Current 93, Nurse With Wound and another favourite group of mine, Coil can be found in the form of England’s Hidden Reverse.
A few days later, on the 23rd, another London year had passed, making it 6 years since I took that fateful flight and started my life in a foreign land, in a foreign town. It might be worth to write a reflection on this at some point, if I can find the time and willpower. I won’t go into any detail here, because there’s still a lot to write about in this post. I’m just going to say that things took a different turn to what I had planned or expected, but by and large I’d say better:
Also I became a Zen Buddhist (or Zen practitioner as I prefer to say… but, as I read in a pretty solid argument, that’s splitting hair. Or rather, and I quote: “‘Buddhist’ just points to a practice Not a definition of identity”) This was from the appendix to Susan Blackmore’s Zen and the Art Of Consciousness where her Zen Master John Crook points this out in response to her remarks on the topic of practising Zen without affiliation to (a) religion.
(As an aside: I found myself rather amused at John’s quib: “It is easy to pass through the eye of a needle but difficult to pass the knee of an idol.”)
I’m myself not outrageously religious myself – ironically I harboured the strongest beliefs during the times I identified as a Militant Atheist- but my usual avoidance of straight out calling myself a Buddhist stem from my awareness that I know very little about Buddhism and the teachings of the Buddha as well as the fact that in many aspects I hardly live a life in tune with the precepts.
Zen is, of course, quite fundamentally different to most other forms of Buddhism, although what exactly it is I still haven’t fully grasped. I get some of the basics, sure. And I’ve read books, listened to talks, formed some ideas (should I be forming ideas? Isn’t form emptiness? Aren’t ideas part of the very intellectualising that bars the way to intuitive insight?) and by now sat through many hours of Zazen – or meditation. I’ve got a Zenbook, I named this blog for a pun that refers to it but AM I Zen? (Heavens! Nope, I’m not! But I keep practising…)
And that’s why saying “I practise Zen” rather than “I’m a Zen Buddhist seems to me more truthful and not so much a matter of splitting hair… Maybe in a few years time, or after sudden, unexpected Satori I may update that description…
Fitting my three year anniversary of first stepping into the dojo and sitting down for meditation, on October 1st, I recently not only read the above mentioned Susan Blackmore book but am, at the moment, also about to finish D.T. Suzuki’s extensive and quite scholarly Zen and Japanese culture. In it, after a concise introduction to Zen, he looks at the influence Zen and the Zen monks and masters have had Japanese culture. Somewhat in general, but mostly focusing on certain aspects such as swordsmanship, Haikus, the Art of Tea, etc. While at times highly specific, I found it a very interesting and insightful text and definitely learned a lot about Zen from it which I might not have picked up from books written about it more directly. Not saying that there aren’t those, and among those plenty worthy of reading, as well. But, of course, it’s also not just about Zen why I read the book. As I delve deeper into my fascination for those islands on the Pacific rim (yes, I’m still slowly learning the language), expanding beyond Idol Pop – although the current daily Facebook “on location” updates from the folks who run the alt.idol podcast make it easy to ……. – looking to learn more about its (traditional) culture and history, this treatise seems a worthwhile angle.
While I’m with a group that follows the Soto school of Zen, as founded by Dogen, D.T. Suzuki himself is Rinzai Zen, the other big school. Likewise a disciple of Rinzai was the man most instrumental (besides Kerouac maybe) in kindling my interest in this eastern spiritual discipline, a certain Leonard Cohen who sadly passed away on November 7th two years ago, about a month after releasing his last album, titled – fitting to our current topic – “You want it Darker”. In one of those meaningful coincidences I happened to listen again to his I’m your Man album on the day of this anniversary, only realizing the significance of the date on the next day. I’ve been reading on and off in his recently, posthumously published collection of poems and other writings The Flame, a testament to a true master of easygoing profundity… Sadly I never managed to attend one of his concerts. Which is why these days I’m more inclined to go and see concerts, trying to strike a good balance between carpe diem and FoMo…
Which takes us to the next concert to write about:
‘Twas on all Hallow’s Eve aka Samhain – quite fitting and, I have little doubt, not by coincidence- that giants (pun very much intended) of 80s Goth Fields of the Nephilim stepped into the dry-ice mist copiously poured out across the stage of Shepherds Bush Empire. Playing a set consisting of songs from their first two album, the non-album single and cult hit Psychonaut and two newer songs as encore, the band which these days only counts original members Carl McCoy & Tony Petit in their ranks delivered admirably. The audience quite homogeneously clad in Fields…, some Sisters of Mercy and a few Bauhaus T-Shirts (no others were spotted in statistically significant numbers), many also dressed in reference to the band’s trademark spaghetti western look – man did I stand out sporting a Maison Book Girl T – took it all in with pleasure and thanked with plentiful applause. Compared to when I last saw them at the O2 Islington a few years ago, they were in great form and the venue sound was not too shabby either. From the travellers of inner realms (Psychonaut) to wayfarers of the cosmic expanses it is sometimes but a mere step, especially when Japanese spacerock legends Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. play three nights later in the same town. One of those bands quite randomly discovered on the net – via their Pataphysical Freakout MU! album – a couple of years ago in the halcyon days of soulseek, and despite never on heavy rotation always on my radar, I had missed at least one if not two chances to see them when I was still living in Vienna. And almost missed this chance also as, once again only random brought their London gig to my attention. Random, of course, is a strong force and the art of creating meaning from random and coincidence and by these means effect change, on a personal, societal or even cultural level, seems to me the purest form of magic. Jung, pardon me returning to the topic – although I shall not expand on it here, I’ve previously pondered this – was onto something with his idea of synchronicity. I would like to see that idea collide with Luhman’s Systemtheorie, see what emergence that would foster.
But back to Acid Mothers Temple/Outer space. A very enjoyable show. Psychedelic, at times bordering on disco… quite cosmic (or should that be “Kosmisch”?). As for cosmic, in a different context: Oumuamua is making headlines again, as a new paper questions whether it may be an artificial object. The details are out there (on the web, I mean), so I won’t go into those. But do we need to wonder about possible consequences of Earth having been visited by an alien probe? It made me think of the Three Body Problem Trilogy by Cixin Liu which I recently read, and which paints contact with alien civilisations in a less than desirable light (all hard Sci-Fi, though, so no simple “attack of the monsters” plot!). I found the Dark Forest theory, as presented in the second book (of the same name) a rather sobering thought, since it basically said the only way for a civilisation to survive in the universe is to make sure it isn’t detected by another civilisation. A constant threat of mutual destruction, rather than the cargo-cult idea of advanced civilisations arriving to bring peace and prosperity, so popular in Science Fiction and beyond. If both these things, the Dark Forest theory and Oumuamua being an alien probe were to turn out to be true, then even darker times than a November in London might be upon us…
But let’s not dwell on that thought! It ain’t over till it’s over!
As is tradition, find below a few pictures – this time mostly from mentioned gigs & autumnal London:
Well…, This is indeed the 10th post of this series. And it is morphing. From what was originally intended to be a Sunday evening write-up and review of the previous week, we currently seem to be moving to a post that get’s published a day or two (or more) after the date in its title. But let that, for now, not cause our hearts to sink but vialiantly… ah, I got nothing. Who cares anyway. Not many, I know. I have web-stats activated. But that’s fine. I’m doing this for myself. I’m happy to share and excited if others find my waffling interesting. But I don’t worry about whether I get enough page hits. I used to. On my first website I had one of those counters. As you did in those days. And some pages, to my amusement, still do. Sure, more page views must mean better content… So, of course, I hit refresh a ton of times to drive up that counter.
After all, they say there is power in numbers. That is, of course, usually understood that many people stand a better chance against an enemy, than few. But there are also powers – or meanings (will & imagination) associated with numbers. Think 666. Or 93 (if you’re aThelemite you will now!). Personally I like to sit on seat 23C when flying and use gate #42 wherever possible on London tube stations… These are small numbers… Let’s look at a larger one: 16.000
And thus, as the week ends, we enter the second half of 2018. No worries, this is still the Week that was I shall keep the review at that. Mostly. And this time I got a whole lot of pictures, so I might even get away with less text. But that we shall see… The regular reader, or those now heading off to do read up on the previous 4 posts, will have had opportunity to realise that these write-ups pretty much follow a stream of consciousness path. Therefore I myself usually don’t know what the week will have brought, once we’ve reached the grand finale. It is, of course, always based on a true story…
Talking of true story: True story – last week, I’m no longer sure if it was Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, all of a sudden the song The Timewarp from the Rocky Horror Show pops into my head. I have no idea why. And then, on Friday I’m on the phone with my mum back in Austria who tells me that she and my aunt went to see the musical last Wednesday. I immediately had to think of C. G. Jung’s concept of synchronicity.
Sure, things have happened in the world. Good ones, bad ones, the world keeps turning. I’ve spent enough text ranting on politics in last week’s post, this week I’ll keep it short. After all a lot of things have been discussed at length elsewhere. Just to say that I, too, am of the opinion that anyone who separates children from their parents and then puts them into detention centres with the sole purpose of fighting migrants – you are not fighting migration, you are fighting migrants you worthless excuse for human beings – is a/are fascist(s). We can discuss politics of controlling/preventing migration, but treating migrants as second class humans is beyond discussion. Whether this is in America or Europe. (Btw. The Guardian released a list this week of the know casualties of the European Migrant crisis. Here.)
OK then, that off my chest, let’s, once again, look at the wonderful world of not politics. There was a story making its rounds that we may be the only advanced civilisation in the observable universe. Personally I would, even in that case, put “advanced” in quotation marks. But that may be just me. Anyways, this raises a bunch of questions: Are we really alone? Are we, as Arthur C. Clarke pondered a while ago, maybe the first such civilisation with others to follow? Do we not know how to look properly? And if the latter, why? Is it that we are simply not capable to find a civilisation like ours with our means? Or could it be that an alien civilisation is so fundamentally different from ours, that we wouldn’t know if we saw one? This speculation makes me think of examples thought up by Stanislaw Lem – Fiasco or even Solaris come to mind – or Fred Hoyle’s The Black Cloud. Either way, we mustn’t forget the Fermi Paradox & Drake equaton. And we mustn’t forget that a story such as the one that we’re likely to be alone, coming from some scientific study, is a great treat for any sensationalist media.
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if this theory that sometimes pops up on the fringes of weirder ideas, which states that time is actually accelerating, might be true after all. And would that, considering what the General Theory of Relativity says, even be felt? Or are matters rather subjective? But let other speculation-inclined minds ponder this for now. Hit me up when the results are in!
Meanwhile, there never seems enough time to do all the things one wants to do. Even less so when you want get a proper night’s sleep, or two, in there as well. And after last week I had to prioritise that for a bit – less successful as hoped. In part I have my lovely cat Schnitzl (Full name & title: Tiger, Lord Schnitzl. Best of Cats) and his nocturnal activities to thank/blame for that. But, honestly, my tendency for night-owling are strong and seem to be coming to the foreground again recently, miraculously shifting bedtime to later and later hours in the process.
Later today I will be flying to Austria to visit family for Christmas and meet friends. But yesterday’s events cast a somewhat dark shadow over things. Of course, nothing about my visit will have fundamentally changed. I will not suddenly find myself in some Man in the High Castle style state. But I am about to travel into a country – my home-country – that has a right wing government.
So, Austria has a right wing government – not just a right wing party in government, but a full blown right wing government. Because, as far as I’m able to judge, I think Sebastian Kurz’s conservative party is far from being a center-right party these days.