Boyd Rice – Back to Mono on Mute Records
Boyd Rice isn’t the type of musician you ever entirely forget.
Darkfloor: Please welcome to the Darkfloor writing team: Brant Showers. Better known as one half of San Diego’s dark and mighty AAIMON.
Nor does one like to expend much energy mentally debating his pantheon either. Even personality-issues aside (as dismissively as one can push aside propagated Nazism and blatant misogyny), his creative output doesn’t lend itself to much of an analytic viewpoint either. Rather it invokes a much more immediate and visceral sensation that effectively posits the listener into the present moment. Reactionary listening. Which is wholly what I find most rewarding in Back To Mono‘.
Every bit of press-release info and accompanying artwork herald this album as a return to Rice’s noise roots, and it certainly delivers the noise. What strikes me as the most fundamental aspect of this release though, is the personal development of threat from which Rice commands us. Making the grand statement that cultural dissent and true underground art movements are dying away, Rice writes
“noise music is part of the ‘cultural wallpaper’, as ineffectual now as it was threatening in the late 70’s and early 80’s. It can still be great fun (at times) but has joined the ranks of blues, punk, and reggae as a bankrupt genre. Or at least a predictable cliché.”
So is Back To Mono an appropriate level of response to the co-opting and eventual bankruptcy of his original art-terrorism ideology? Yes, it actually is. At least in as much as this particular expression of misanthropy deserves advocating.
With the album’s opening track ‘urn Me On, Dead Man we are immediately re-familiarized with Boyd Rice’s penchant for mistreating “found” sources of lo-fi jazz records through the development of confrontational waves of unpleasant tones and subversive rote. However, with “Watusi” and the following Back To Mono, this formulae begins to play out in an altogether new format.
Instead of the dichotomy of jazz and noise, we are presented with Boyd’s own material from the 70’s newly over-laid with amazingly produced demonstrations of catharsis. This re-appropriation of his own recordings fills out the rest of the album in a sort of ritualised intent. The dichotomy now being enforced between the past and the present – seamlessly layered to the ceremonial disruption of a man’s own personal continuum.
Listening through ‘Back To Mono‘ (or even perusing the track annotations) reveals that Rice is balancing a great deal of time within these works. Given the benefit of Rice’s occult interests, this seems to carry an explicit intent. I’d like to imagine it as not only Boyd’s own return to his first love but an empowered invocation of the dangers that loom, impending over our straw society.
A purpose especially hinted at in the use of excerpts from Carl Jung’s Seven Sermons For The Dead; a text ascribed to Gnostic influence that reflects on the interest and concerns of individuation and unity with God – the Gnostic concept of the living God within us psychologically attributed here to the unconscious. The parallels within Jung’s teachings of the Pleroma (or fullness) and Boyd Rice’s subjective concept of Self definitely makes for an excellent setting from which to offer a new perspective to this album.
“I begin with nothingness. Nothingness is the same as fullness. In infinity full is no better than empty. Nothingness is both empty and full. As well might ye say anything else of nothingness, as for instance, white is it, or black, or again, it is not, or it is. A thing that is infinite and eternal hath no qualities, since it hath all qualities.” – C.G. Jung
Despite all these possible intents of purpose however, ‘Back to Mono’ would still be just another noise record if it wasn’t so clearly set apart by the perfection with which it utilises the sonic spectrum within its compositional perspective; every nuance is so clearly defined as to allow each visceral tone to play its role to full effect on our senses.
A trait especially evident in the ominously weighted rumblings of Man Cannot Flatter Fate as it cuts dramatically into the ear-shredding assault of the high range outbursts in Scream. I’m willing to attribute a good deal of the credit to Rice’s collaborative choices. Wes Eisold (Cold Cave), NY producer Bryin Dall (Thee Majesty / Hirsute Pursuit), and Z’ev each having taken on the various roles of producing, recording, and mixing.
And they have done so to excellent results, but I shouldn’t imply that Boyd Rice’s own compositional skills don’t carry their own inspired message to the material. Hearing the child-like dissonance of a simple melody in Obey Your Signal Only seems to act as a brief reminder of our own fallibility – and equally, our right to make mistakes as often as we may. Followed up by the aforementioned ‘Man Cannot Flatter Fate‘ destroying any joy in this consolation by suggesting hints of the bleak consequences inevitable from such an erroneous society.
The dark under current of Turn Me On, Dead Man (Reprise) certainly feels like the appropriate ending to the themes present throughout Back To Mono; especially in context with the rather weak delivery of the following Fire Shall Come and Warm Leatherette.
Whereas the collaborative version of Boys Keep Swinging from Hirsute Pursuit’s Tighten That Muscle Ring album succeeded from a brilliantly genuine misogyny, Warm Leatherette features a tired Boyd Rice simply completing the journey home. Still I accept it as very necessary for the efficacy of the proposed ritual.
Boyd Rice explains
“I bought that single fifteen minutes before meeting Daniel (Miller of Mute and The Normal). And that meeting changed my life.”
We are to understand that this connection is on a personal level and as such makes for an appropriate ending tribute to the start.
The Ouroboros eats its tail.
I’ll admit a bit of hyperbole in elaborating a mythos behind the prospects of this record, but by and large Back To Mono is absolutely successful in offering undeniable proof of the direction by which the noise genre can still be exceptionally viable.
However I absolutely hope this album does indeed act as a Sermon To The Dead and offer to inspire a sincere return of threat and danger back to the diminishing underground.
Boyd Rice – Turn Me On, Dead Man
Boyd Rice – Watusi
Boyd Rice – Back To Mono
Boyd Rice – Seven Sermons To The Dead
Boyd Rice – Obey Your Signal Only
Boyd Rice – Man Cannot Flatter Fate
Boyd Rice – Scream
Boyd Rice – Back To Mono (Live)
Boyd Rice – Turn Me On, Dead Man (Reprise)
Boyd Rice – Fire Shall Come
Boyd Rice – Warm Leatherette