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an interesting read. and an uncomfortable one.
some acts on BEB and Death In June (I try not to pay attention to any of the politics surrounding DIJ, really).
I remember reading in Rip it up and start again about lots of the punk and post punk groups flirting with fascist imagery, wearing swastikas, etc. I think some of them were fairly mainstream as well.
I'm not too familiar with Cut Hands but the writer's POV seemed to be fair- I do wonder what the difference sometimes between taking influence from different cultures is and exploiting them. Sometimes it seems like a thin line.
Kind of related, I've noticed a lot of supposedly progressive younger acts using a kind of neo-nazi aesthetic even though they're most likely not aligned with the ideologies. Like the Scandinavian groups like Lust For Youth, Ice Age, etc.
I just think it's interesting these acts who are basically flirting with really quite dodgy stuff.
Someone say something more eloquent.
But that doesn't mean they should be excluded from the debate. I'd like to think that it's ignorance (which the anecdote in the article maybe suggests) but without a firm statement it looks a bit iffy. Ignorance shouldn't be an excuse.
Never really liked Cut Hands after that first record and decided never to see them live following what I heard, I like that the writer acknowledges how much he likes the music before stating how problematic the concept and imagery is. Feels more honest than a lot of the soapboxing and dogma that surrounds these issues when they're covered by music journalists.
Blackest Ever Black and Downwards happily welcome fascists into their orbits
seems like a bit of an overstatement
he is that much of a give a fuck nihilist.
However I think both have set their stall out as welcoming artists who are somewhat dubious and unclear in their politics, knowing full well the sort of comment such a position will attract, so I don't think there's any reason to feel too sorry for them (same is true for Cold Spring too).
speaks pretty glowingly of Death in June. Urgh.
or has influenced.
I really dislike Burzum and vast swathes of BM as it is.
recently i was wondering whether i should be bummed out that a bm band i like are quebecois nationalists. more snp than bnp i think.
and have never bought anything he's released. but I do have some things by some fairly dodgy people, and I'm really not sure what I think about this kinda thing overall.
does it make a difference that Kiran Sande isn't white?
i don't really understand how re-contextualising african rhythms/melding them with techno or whatever is "erasing the work of black musicians". i'd probably take the exact opposite tack to the writer, bennett probably is a fascist/boring troll man but i've got zero problem with the concept behind cut hands.
"Cut Hands is the musical equivalent of blacking up. For Bennett, Africa is a plaything; something from which he can snatch aesthetics while ignoring the ethical implications of what he is doing"
disagree with the blacking up idea too, there're historical connotations to blackface which make mocking pretty much guaranteed & explicit. they're just not there when co-opting drum patterns.
not sure how much i disagree with the general thrust of it as opposed to this paragraph:
But the records draw heavily on Haitian vaudou tradition, recasting its polyrhythmic percussion as the foundation for distended, techno-esque maulings – and it is in this appropriation that Bennett’s work as Cut Hands becomes unpalatable.
the appropriation is absolutely fine, pretty much the basis of all western popular music. Bennett seems to have been pretty unpalatable for the past 30 years or so, if you want to make a decision not to listen to his music based on his character then that's cool. don;t think there's anything to answer for in the idea behind cut hands.
maybe in the way he presents it if the videos behind him in the youtube live clips are representative. But I know naff all about the rituals etc and he isn't really providing any context at all as far as I can tell?
Muslimgauze did the same sort of thing musically but explicitly wanted a free Palestine and people didn't have as much of a prob with that.
Anyway if you want sort of famous sort of industrial/noise man doing a solo project inspired by rituals this is the gravy
loads more power and weight than Cut Hands musically for me.
Daft that the main thrust of the article is quite interesting but as this argument was quite early on I was ready to write it off. Prob why it hasn't been picked up by any of the publications the author says he's sent it to
I'm far more disturbed by the notion that musical appropriation is a thing to be avoided, that certain melodies, rhythms, etc. are only to be used by certain people. Not just in relation to Cut Hands, but anything really.
more like it's problematic for him to do it when he's got such problematic views on things. Rather than for anyone to do it? I thought thats what he was saying anyway. Because as you say all music is inspired by someone somewhere often from other cultures. But becuase he has these sketchy views it adds another dimention to him using those sounds in his stuff.
I don't really know much about this guy or any of the labels though to be honest.
But the problem is always that music is primarily an aural art form, and you can say and express ideas that are morally questionable while the music itself remains compelling.
And if he was claiming to have invented certain sounds after stealing them from more oppressed cultures then that would be an authenticity/attributability issue, for sure. But in general, him being a dick doesn't stop the music from sounding good.
that doesn't really matter much in all of this really does it? I don't have much of an opinion on his music.
Didn't he make a whole african noise compilation full of his own music with made up african pseudonyms pretending to represent artists in africa and a load of odd problamatic liner notes. Its in that essay.
there is nothing wrong with being inspired by other cultures and artefacts.
There is a problem of creating things yourself and then dressing them up in another culture's clothes, treating it like cheap plastic exotica. No-one would have complained had Bennett released a record of african inspired noise music... but releasing a record that purports to be something that it quite probably isn't is really morally and ethically dodgy.
with a made-up backstory etc is great and to be encouraged - most of the examples of such are things like British record nerds making Krautrock that purports to be some unearthed 70s German band. or Cliff Richard using a pseudonym so he can get radio play. objectively harmless stuff. Bennett's compilation kinda adds a different dimension shall we say - which, again, I would imagine was not lost on him
ah well. Think I'm going to try and write a response to this article actually.
when it evaporated on the grounds of the subject line having more than 100 characters. an exciting new development
Aside from not being 'real', there's nothing plastic about it. Like darts_players_wives says below, I think the creation of a backstory/ideology/mythology/whatthefuckever behind a record is just fine.
I think there must be some weird projecting going on in all this.
Personally I'm still leaning towards the 'William Bennett isn't a fascist' camp. I think the guy is a pre-internet troll of the highest order and is exceptionally good at providing doubt over the meaning behind his work. He always has been and I think Cut Hands is just the latest in a long line of projects which illustrate that.
I also tend to disagree with the suggestion that BEB and Downwards openly associating with so-called fascist musicians is unacceptable. If we choose to ignore musicians over their apparent extreme political beliefs, which tend to be riddled with contradictions and based on ignorance as much as genuine ideological affiliation, then we give their political side far more power and treat it with far more seriousness than it deserves.
I understand it makes people uncomfortable (certainly it does make me, a very typical example of the Guardian reading liberal lefty student, uncomfortable at times) but I think disassociating artists from their dubious politics and listening to their music without framing it in a political context is a more powerful statement than simply choosing to pretend that they and their music don't exist.
As an aside, there needs to be a lot more study on the use of political imagery and ideology in music. Maybe one day I'll get some funding to do it myself if I'm lucky...
it's a dangerous and violent ideology which poses an actual risk of being put in practice. people are actually members of fascists organizations which literally go around beating up people of colour, gay people, whoever else they hate.
I don't know enough about any of these specific people and can only go by that article but, on principle, what you're arguing is a really, really complacent attitude. you seem to be saying that we should pretty much ignore fascist associations in art/music because it doesn't deserve to be treated "seriously". when it's extremely serious and needs to be exposed and interrogated by articles like this.
no offence (and I have no idea who you are or what your background is) but these arguments do always seem to be put forward by the "the Guardian reading liberal lefty student" who is probably least likely to be threatened by neo-nazis.
I think you're rather conflating my 'not avoiding certain musicians because of their supposed political beliefs' with 'not thinking fascism is a serious threat to democracy'.
The main point I was trying to illustrate is that most supposedly fascist musicians out there aren't involved in putting their ideology into practice, nor do they actually espouse fascism in their work. In fact, most supposedly fascist musicians probably aren't fascists at all, and are merely trying to stir up controversy (like William Bennett). Therefore their dubious politics aren't really worth taking seriously because, most probably, they don't actually exist.
What even is a 'fascist association'? Is it David Bowie saying numerous times in the 70s that he thought Britain could benefit from having a fascist leader? Is it Death in June's use of the totenkopf as a band logo? Is it being like Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus and taking part in National Front marches?
Fascism is dangerous and should be combated where it produces actual political action (as has happened with increasing regularity in many European countries, not just Greece as is the popular perception, in the last few years). There are many musical cases against which I firmly would take a stand, and think it is right to do so. The obvious example would be to avoid National Socialist Black Metal acts, which I do to the best of my ability (it's not always very easy, as a cursory glance at the wikipedia page of many a black metal act makes clear).
However there are actually very few examples of openly fascist musicians. Unless you delve headfirst into the world of nsbm, harsh noise and power electronics you will struggle to really find any. What you do get is a lot of artists using imagery in a staggeringly dull way to provoke a response, and, I'm not convinced that all this music should be ignored because of the imagery it uses. Having said that I try to avoid many bands this applies to, like Sutcliffe Jugend, purely because the associations within the music do make me feel so uncomfortable that I can't really listen to it.
What you also get, especially in black metal, a genre of which I am admittedly a big fan, are musicians utilising a deep passion for the traditions of their native cultures in an obviously nationalistic way. Very few of these examples can be clearly defined as fascistic in nature, but nearly all of them attract accusations of fascism. I'm not going to do hours of research into each case to decide whether I'm willing to listen to it or not. If I like the music then I'm going to listen to it unless I see some evidence that the musicians have actually been involved in hate crimes or fascist marches, etc.
There are also examples in which far right ideological ideas held by musicians are given insane amounts of attention by the liberal music press. I'm obviously talking about Burzum here. Varg's politics are ludicrous and immensely contradictory, to the point of actually being rather laughable in some places, and the only reason they gain any support (which they don't really, as they are scorned by what is probably 99% of people who listen to Burzum) is because people in the music business take them seriously. Things like the infamous Burzum Terrorizer feature a few years back do make me genuinely angry, because they purposely give Varg a platform for his politics instead of actually talking to him about music.
For the record I know it remains slightly hypocritical of me to listen to Burzum records given my avoidance of other far-right acts. I can't really offer a defence for that, other than to say that the Burzum records I like (the early ones) contain zero political content whatsoever.
Sorry that was such a long reply. It's an issue I'm very interested in and take seriously. I agree it's an 'extremely serious' issue and I think the lack of coverage it gets is baffling (which I did basically say in my original post). I'm amazed and frustrated for Josh Hall that whoever commissioned this particular piece decided not to publish, presumably because they were concerned about upsetting William Bennett (who, despite the fact I don't think he's a fascist, can't really complain about accusations given his musical track record).
Outside of the context of being associated with Whitehouse/Bennett, I'm not really sure how his opinion of Cut Hands really differs from a generic negative opinion on "world music" or chiding a white dude for playing blues. It comes off as a bit of over-thinking things and/or falling for the trollbait.
Especially in that it accuses him of something other than being a closet Nazi for a change. Think where it falls down is in a lot of the terminology chosen as much as anything else.
Props to the guy for writing it though. Not many people outside the Who Makes the Nazis? blog (which is regularly tedious in its style) write about this topic at all.
not really music i'm into but really interesting article cheers. the part about him getting nowhere with publishing it elsewhere is pretty troubling too.
Music journalism hasn't had the jounralism bit in it for ages now. It's rare you see real issues talked about in relation to music and it might be worse sometimes in electronic circles, it happens but not very much, there have been some quite good ones on sexuality this year on RA (http://www.residentadvisor.net/feature.aspx?1927 / http://lmgmblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/terrethaemlitzinterview/). But on the whole its just fans talking about things rather than journalists.
Then when someone does write something like this there aren't many places for it to get published becuase they're mostly blogs that just want to talk about new releases or put a mix up, whatever or just don't have the knowledge, confidence or know how to deal with issues like this because of the lack of any journalistic training I don't know. So it's wicked this is getting talked about.
I think the thing about confidence is probably key. If I was an editor about to publish a piece like this I'd be shitting myself knowing all the discussion it would generate and any criticism (including false "libellous" claims) would be directed largely at me. I do wonder if there's an element of not wanting to upset certain people though... obviously worsened by how hard it is tk earn a living as a music writer these days. It's a shame more music sites don't take more of a stance on stuff like this.
Also idk a lot of the issues are really complex and I think a lot of writers probably don't have enough confidence in themselves to push for stuff like this.
and Downwards are less so but Regis was a member of Sandwell District who were probs one of the most influential techno acts of the past 10 years. so yeah maybe could be not wanting to piss people off
I'm kinda surprised it's taken this long for anything to be said though, releasing stuff by William Bennett is always going to be controversial
lots of positive comments from some editors. maybe it's just trying to excuse themselves for rejecting it now that it has gone 'viral'
that i'd be very disappointed not to see weigh in on this and at least contribute to the discussion.
Aside from the odd blog that focuses on this stuff most places seem to avoid the subject as much as possible.
but I think dark, difficult themes are part and parcel of the more experimental end of electronica. If you're actively seeking out the kind of art the vast majority of people would find unpalatable then it follows that you've probably got a certain fascination with the extremes of the human condition. Throbbing Gristle were fetishizing rape and murder back in the '70s, and although their music disturbed me I'm glad they confronted me with these themes and forced me to think deeply about them. That kind of art isn't for everyone but for those that can stomach it, it can greatly enrich the way you see all other art and by extension other people. The stuff about erasing the history of black music is just hand-wringing piffle; white artists, or traditionally white forms of music have long taken inspiration from traditionally black music and vice-versa. It doesn't take away from what already exists.
when he talks about eradicating the work of black artists are Bennett's noise compilations which feature native artists who don't seem to have appeared on any other releases.
It's one thing to be influenced by music from a particular region but if he was, as suggested by the article and by others, merely repackaging his music as the work of native artists it would be quite suspect and would suggest that he's perhaps quite ignorant of the artists who he's claiming to represent.
which I always assumed was at least part of the point of him doing that album. not that this stops it from being quite a... curious thing to do
La Bruha Desi La who wrote into The Wire following a review of Afro Noise, alluded to the fact that there are several musicians whose work fits this description, who perhaps could have featured on such a compilation.
plus Extreme Music From Africa came out 15 years before he wrote that letter
I mean I hope my assertion is wrong in a way but nothing which might counter it is coming to mind rn
which was released in 2011, and it's his belief that Afro in this instance, although it could be arguable, relates to the ethnicity of the artists as much as their actual location.
some I can remember:
Sid Vicious famously wore a swastika onstage, as did Siouxsie Sioux... think some of the members of the Damned may have done, but I'm not sure. Sex Pistols also had that 'Belsen was a Gas' song... Joy Division are named after a death camp prostitutes (and possibly used some other Nazi stuff?), and Throbbing Gristle had loads of Nazi references.
probably be able to think of some more...
might post some less interesting things if i get time soon tho
So not sure why that's relevant
but I don't have a problem with it. In art, things are always more fun at the extreme ends of the spectrum.
I've followed the likes of Whitehouse/Cut Hands and their offspring for quite a while, have seen them live on numerous occasions, and have put on Consumer Electronics (Philip Best of Whitehouse's other project). I know what they do that upsets people, and I know why those people get upset. It just doesn't bother me.
For me, it's the rank offensiveness of it (mucically as well as the imagery) that makes it #appealing'; makes it so vastly different from day-to-day life. For me at least, it's so extreme that it becomes ridiculous - not something to be taken seriously in the slightest, even if the topics covered are very serious in themselves.
Do I care if William Bennett actually is a fascist? Not really. I've supported by art by lots of people I don't agree with politically - from both the extreme left and extreme right. I'm glad they exist, and i'm glad I put money in their pockets. They're the people that keep things interesting.
But the main thing to remember, I think, is that William Bennett has pretty much zero reach and even less influence. You don't come across him or his music by accident. You generally know what you're getting yourself into before your musical enquiries go that far. If you found Bennett, it's because you wanted to find him. I don't reckon anyone's been 'converted' because they listened to a Cut Hands record, and if they have they are clearly impressionable enough that it would likely have happened anyway.
I mean the article states that "much of that controversy stems from a 1982 ‘manifesto’ he wrote for art magazine Force Mental". This is being put forward as a key piece of evidence against him, but how many people even know of this 'manifestos' existence, or have even heard of Force Mental magazine, let alone read it - even more so an edition from 1982?
In short, there's nothing to worry about.
or at least reaching people he probably wouldn't have had before
i'm not entirely sure if this makes a difference though
I think the techno scene is only just really catching up with him. I had heard of Cut Hands but had no idea it was him until this article, you just hear his tracks in sets, on the radio, see the name in tracklists without any other context for the most part in techno. I'd heard the guys name and some of the controvesy surounding him before from the odd thread but he'd never come up on my radar much until he started getting plays in techno sets. Its prob the same for a lot of people really.
been thinking about this cause they're often misinterpreted as being fascists cause so much of their iconography and stuff deliberately makes people think that (including some idiot fascists). But they're actually great.
Seems like double standards to me after you criticized Bennett for his use of that kind of imagery above (or at least questioned his understanding of the seriousness and possible ramifications of it). You could take either artists' use of that kind of imagery as endorsement of its values if you didn't take the time to really research what they're about.
Never engaged in any way with any of the artists mentioned in this article (as I said). What I've said is that these associations in their work need to be interrogated (as do Laibach's) rather than ignored.