Dispirit’s Rehearsal at Oboroten (2010) sounds like a garage recording of black metal stuffed under a blanket of noise. That duvet hides unsightly coitus of doom and black metal, percolating a vocal that could be the low groan of a distorted, low frequency synthesizer but instead is the oscillating larynx of John Gossard. Gossard was the guitar player and vocalist of another SF based black metal band called Weakling and his influence in Dispirit is obvious. I almost used the word “clear” instead of “obvious,” but these recordings, similar to Weakling, have as much clarity as putting your head into a brown bucket of pond water with a plugged in thrift store radio. Weakling’s only record, Dead as Dreams, crackles, audio cutting out, like the master tapes went through something terrible before being delivered to the press. Not all the parts of Dead as Dreams are audible and the guitars often blend together into one rhythmic note. The entirety of Rehearsal is like this. Only when the guitars are playing in distinct frequency ranges does their duality emerge. All the same, the scene often measures up to noise with a focus on a piercing arpeggio or Gossard growl, a single drying tree in the savannah.
Rehearsal has two tracks on it, together lasting for about a half hour. “Ixtab’s Lure,” at almost 19 minutes, is the less focused song. The guitar harmonies of the “Lure” rise and retreat to a sense of false accompaniment and mislead one to believe that there is ever an end to the madness. The melodies seem to flow randomly and help themselves to no musical resolution. This is slightly ironic given the fact that Ixtab, as the Mayan goddess of suicide, guides its followers to a concrete end, roped in by the neck. The “Lure” is more likely from a Siren, naked palm urging us forward into a mysterious fog and shallow harbor. At fifteen minutes the song reaches the final apex with double bass, all guitars, and screams.
The track following, “Bitumen Amnii,” is of a more traditional black metal soundscape. The guitars hardly ever revert to noise and often are well synchronized, aflame in unison or attending to subtle harmony. There are many pauses in drumming that guide changes in the song or bringing to the forefront a flourish of guitars in the classic metal approach. The biphasic nature of this record makes itself apparent in the contrast of these two songs. Oboroten is the Russian word for werewolf and this recording is indeed a shape shifter: the first song is snarling and noisy while the second is more classically composed, black metal in a suit on its way to work.
Metal is a fascinating genre, fascinating even more is fringe metal such as Dispirit. Rehearsal has evil parts that tie together only as a soundtrack to a horror film. But even if we recognize this fact, the parts are hardly easy to discern. The guitars are a mess of feedback and scaly frequency, the vocals only come in from time to time—barely audible, forget melody—and the drums are quiet and merely present a suggestion of rhythm. The enjoyment provided by such forms of art is low as perceived by the reptilian brain. The subjection of one’s self to misery is certainly part of the Dispirit experience. These songs are depressing at best and repulsive at worst with most listeners ending up in the latter mind set.
Still, there is something to be said about pushing a mind to some limit, discomfort, or even pain. Much of contemporary human interaction is done from a bubble that glows warm on the inside. We donate much of ourselves to ultra-personal cyberspaces, devices, and the internet. However, these advances in technology are existential condoms. The bubble encourages selective description of the self and events as we exercise full control of what we divulge. The new medium creates and recreates individuals and environments that are most comfortable, where the path of least resistance and most pleasure perpetuates a feedback loop of the designed interpersonal space. The more comfortable others feel with what we expose, the more reinforcement our expositions receive. Generally, others feel best when we do not let go of too much. Thus, the human retreats to existential safety, welcoming the inane and safe: hot chocolate, what they paid for airplane tickets, or why they are tired of ants. The interface is sleek, blue and glossy but does not need to give much encouragement. Absolute humanity, the one full of desire, uncertainty, disease, and rejection, given the choice would rebuild itself to be shiny and unafraid.
In listening to Oboroten there occurs a regression to the old humanity, into late nineteenth century Russian novels, the depressed French, to before the glossy revolution. In the same way computers cradle us before the monolith of perfection, art has the ability to reduce us to the parts which we are so humbly composed of. No doubt the good and glossy have always been a part of us, but in no time past have we been so close to completely disregarding life’s less pleasant facets, diving into constructed reality. There may be no imperative to choose humanity over The Network. Most, myself included, would prefer to avert their eyes and focus on the warm light ahead. Nevertheless, there is still a choice and Dispirit kindly sacrifices themselves to provide us with it. The bubble lulls and whispers sweet nothings, closing our eyes to our most fundamental imperfections. But as long as there are some that invest themselves in rediscovering primal human nature, not focusing on the hypnotic glow of a machine and bringing to the surface that which has been long desired to vanish, we can from time to time know what it is like to be.
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