It’s my bonobo side to my chimp half of my soul. My Bloody Valentine has flowed back into the now.
Such postmodern spaces are “anexact,” as Deleuze & Guattari put it: “zones of indeterminacy” whose topology is inconsistent, whose contours are vague. But this indeterminacy is not a subjective illusion, not the result of insufficient precision. Rather, it is a perfectly objective indeterminacy: aneffect that is well-defined in its own right, and that must be carefully produced. So too for the blurriness of My Bloody Valentine’s sound. What they’re after is not a rigorous musical structure, nor even a particular sonic texture, but something stranger and more evanescent: say a change in the atmosphere, an inflection of the ambiance. It takes place neither in the noise itself, nor in the performance, nor even in the bodies and minds of the audience; but somehow in between all these. This music isn’t about virtuosity, or rock ‘n’ roll songcraft, or pop formalism. It seems very much an aberrant outgrowth of the punk ‘do-it-yourself’ aesthetic: even though nothing about it is the least bit spontaneous or improvised, and indeed the band is notorious for taking years in the studio to cut a single album. It’s all in the way that everything’s diffused, displaced, obliquely addressed. This music is all medium, and no message. On the Loveless CD, for instance, you don’t get a sense of distinct, individual songs, since each track tends to bleed into the next. In live shows, the disorientation is still more radical. Glaring lights are trained upon the audience, making the band extremely hard to see. Indeed, the musicians seem scarcely to acknowledge the listeners’ presence at all. Kevin’s hair hangs down over his face, and Debbie Googe plays bass with her back to the auditorium. The four of them stand far apart from one another on stage, so that the band doesn’t come across as a collective unity. But neither does any one of them come forward as a frontperson, to provide a point of visual and musical focus. Bilinda and Kevin eschew the cliched roles of virtuoso guitarist and lead singer; they trade instrumental and vocal lines unostentatiously and continually. In any case, there are no guitar solos to speak of, and the vocals are too indistinct for you to make out the words. Even Colm O’Ciosoig’s drumming is nearly inaudible, buried deep in the mix. This band isn’t driven by its rhythm section in a conventional rock ‘n’ roll sense. The usual hierarchy of rhythm (at the bottom, the steady foundation), harmony (in the middle, providing the armature) and melody (on the top, with leading lines and hooks) gets broken down, and reshuffled into new combinations. Often it’s impossible to determine which of the musicians is producing any given sound, or even which sounds are being played live, and which have been pre-synthesized. In short, all the usual cues are missing; you are brought into forced contact with the gritty texture, the raw materiality of the music, because you can’t organize your experience of it in any pre-programmed way. Your attention is continually being diverted and distracted, even as your senses are stimulated into hyperdrive. This sound is “cool,” precisely in McLuhan’s sense of the word: ubiquitous and all-enveloping, but at the same time so non-directive, so fuzzy or ‘low definition,’ that it compels you to become actively involved.
Their sound works not so much to ironize performatively upon those old gender binaries, as to fritter them away into inconsequence. You can no longer tell which traits are male, and which are female. Aggressive noise and ethereal lyricism, for example, are not hard and fast opposites, but delicately different degrees along a single continuum. You slip so quickly and easily from one into the other, without even noticing the transition. And so with all the attributes that we ascribe on the basis of gender.
Every time the previous video stops and the next one doesn’t fade in, it’s like I’m getting kicked in the head and my guts empty out.
I might need some Social D. later. Na.