On the front cover of their 2013 debut, Silence Yourself, UK quartet Savages seized our attention with a printed manifesto about seizing our attention: “The world used to be silent, now it has too many voices,” it began, “and the noise is a constant distraction.” Their remedy for distraction was disruption—that is, to make a spine-jolting, whiplashing, smartphone-shattering noise that couldn’t be ignored, coupled with uniformly stern appearances and a striking lead singer, Jehnny Beth, who can seem like she’s peering into your soul and draining you of your secrets even when she’s glancing in another direction. Savages assert an ironically severe, almost militaristic aesthetic for a band who says its primary objective is to promote “emancipation“ from cultural conformity and institutionalized oppression. But you can’t accuse them of not heeding their own advice: mere weeks after Silence Yourself hit record-store shelves, Savages were already eager to upset the expectations of anyone who had them pegged as that month’s post-punk pin-ups.
Words to the Blind is the name of a 37-minute, Dada-inspired concert staged at the Red Gallery in London, UK on May 29, 2013 in collaboration with locally based Japanese psych-punk outfit Bo Ningen. Or, rather, in confrontation: As Beth explained to me in an interview last year, “At Cabaret Voltaire [in Zurich], they would do simultaneous poetry—poems in different languages recited at the same time. We started from that idea and did this sonic poem with two bands playing a piece together simultaneously, [like] a battle.” To emphasize that aspect, the two bands were arranged symmetrically in a U-formation, so that their respective players were facing off against one another. But while the notion of two groups engaging in lawless sonic warfare—and listeners’ attention being divided between two oppositional entities—may run counter to Savages’ core philosophy of drowning out extraneous noise and sharpening our mental focus, this live document of the event ultimately serves the same ideal (albeit through a more meticulous, protracted, and sometimes punishing process).
The phrase “words to the blind” first appeared as a lyric in Silence Yourself’s caustic opener “Shut Up”, and thus serves as a sort of hyperlink from Savages’ ideologically driven art-punk attack into the sensory, improvised mode of communication at play in this piece. Likewise, the performance requires Bo Ningen to melt down their intricately constructed, hyperactive contorto-rock—the technicolor yin to Savages’ grayscale yang—into more mercurial form. True to the project’s original Dadaist-poetry inspiration, Words to the Blind begins with Beth and Bo Ningen’s Taigen Kawabe ominously whispering random phrases in French and Japanese, respectively, as if reciting an ancient spell to awaken their sleeping-beast instrumentalists. Over the course of the next 10 minutes, the recording stirs to life in a slowly mounting atmospheric swirl of eerie guitar squeals, rain-on-tin drum patter, random bass blurts, and frosty-breathed coos, before the two groups find a common ground on a stalking rhythm that eventually yields to a series of seismic, Boredoms-worthy psych-metal eruptions at the halfway point.
But while those sudden volcanic outbursts provide ample payoff for Words to the Blind’s distended build-up, and serve as the piece’s structural peak, its true climax is revealed in the ashen aftermath. As Beth assumes lead vocals in English, the final third unsurprisingly constitutes the most distinctly Savages-like passage, with a corrosive groove gutted from the same sludgy turf as Silence Yourself’s “Strife”. But in this context, Beth’s familiar references to fraught eroticism (“you are jealous,” “I betray you,” “We are friends, we are enemies, speaking our love songs in different languages”) speak as much to the tension that inevitably exists between two bands engaging in a musical experiment of this magnitude. In Words to the Blind’s deceptively peaceful dying moments, Beth repeats the phrase “The skin divides the broken hearts/ The love divides the lovers/ The beautiful song of the night/ Is a song of war”—before the two bands unleash one final round of cacophonous crossfire, like a gangland shootout from which no one walks away alive. For Savages and Bo Ningen, harmony is ultimately found in anarchy.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1xR9hea