KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Music

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

by Chad Parkhill , July 3, 20141 Comment

At first blush there’s not much to connect the worlds of dance music and black metal. Dance music is primarily rhythmic, communal and hedonistic in intent, and historically associated with black, latino, gay and trans cultures; black metal is primarily textural and atmospheric, individualist and cathartic in intent, and born from a subculture of white and straight Scandinavian males – violently white and straight Scandinavian males, several of whom have been convicted of hate crimes.

Much of the appeal of The Soft Pink Truth’s new album, Why Do the Heathen Rage?, therefore comes from the frisson generated by the juxtaposition of these two very distinct musical genres and scenes. As its subtitle, ‘Electronic Profanations of Black Metal Classics’, indicates, the album is a collection of key songs from the black metal corpus reinterpreted as some explicitly queer and techno-tinged house anthems. However, there’s more to Why Do the Heathen Rage? than the pleasure of hearing po-faced, corpse-painted black metal turned into a vehicle for very queer forms of musical pleasure.

First and foremost, Why Do the Heathen Rage? demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Both are oppositional musics born out of resistance to oppression: dance music as we know it emerged in New York City discos where a racially diverse gay, lesbian, and trans community celebrated its existence in spite of the visceral animosity that the dominant culture showed towards it; black metal began as a means to critique a form of Christian modernity prevalent in Scandinavia, and, in so doing, negatively articulate a neo-pagan or satanic nationalist alternative.

More than that, though, they share similar musical features: a disdain for traditional verse/chorus song structures; a fondness for repetition and extended duration; and an interest in deploying vocals as a texture or instrument rather than as a song’s focus. Why Do the Heathen Rage? makes explicit these connections, and in so doing implicitly poses the question of what historical contingencies made the two musical scenes so different – indeed, almost antithetical.

The conceptual sophistication in bringing together these two musical forms isn’t surprising when you consider The Soft Pink Truth’s pedigree as the dance-oriented solo project of Matmos’ Drew Daniel. Daniel is a latter-day polymath – not only a member of one of Björk’s favourite bands, but also an assistant professor specialising in Shakespeare at Johns Hopkins University and the author of an excellent book about Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats.

Importantly, he is also a gay man who has worked extensively in the field of dance music while also being an ardent black metal fan despite what he sees as its very dubious politics. Why Do the Heathen Rage? comes with an essay penned by Daniel entitled ‘Confessions of a Former Burzum T-shirt Wearer’, which goes some way towards articulating his unease at being a fan of black metal and in some sense complicit in its less savoury aspects. Daniel has also put theory to practice by dropping a cover of Burzum’s ‘Rundgang’ from the album’s tracklist in order to deny Varg Vikernes any royalties from the album (the cover has instead been released online for free with the subtitle ‘Fuck Varg’s Racist, Anti-Semitic Bullshit Politics Forever!’).

As you might hope, there are some incredible moments of cleverness in Why Do the Heathen Rage?: a snippet of audio from gay bareback porn has been spliced on top of the line ‘Riding hell’s stallions/bareback and free’ in Venom’s ‘Black Metal'; a guest vocal from Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner transforms Sarcófago’s ‘Ready to Fuck’ from an ode to heteronormative sex to a house anthem about a strap-on dildo; and there are any number of samples scattered throughout these covers that enter them into an intertextual dialogue with core songs from the house music canon (plus, erm, Snap!’s ‘I’ve Got the Power’).

It even concludes with a parodic inversion of an existing parody of black metal (Impaled Northern Moonforest, a jokey side-project from AxCx’s Seth Putnam), and its cover – a line drawing featuring black metal longhairs in an orgy of gay sex and butchery – is entirely consistent with its premise. If there’s one criticism to venture of Why Do the Heathen Rage?, it’s that its hand-in-glove fit between concept (capably articulated by Daniel himself in the liner notes) and execution leaves the listener very little interpretative room. Daniel has contructed an impressive metatextual edifice, but one tightly and rigorously controlled, where the only sense of play possible is in Daniel’s own queer profanations.

Chad Parkhill is a Melbourne-based writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Australian, Killings, The Lifted BrowMeanjin, and The Quietus, amongst others.

ACO logo




9781926428239

Abigail Ulman

Cold Feet and Hot Little Hands: Abigail Ulman on writing – and not writing – her first book

Post-book deal, every time I sat down to try to write something, I felt paralysed by some kind of literary stage fright. I had shown my work to other people before – for writing workshops, and submissions to literary journals and competitions – but I had never before written a story while thinking This story is going to be published in a book. Or, more accurately, This story idea is nowhere near good enough to be published in a book. Read more »

9781926428239

Sian Campbell

Girlhood and The Woman-Child in Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands

Each of the stories in Hot Little Hands navigates girlhood in some way, from the lives of high school-age teenagers to those of young twentysomething women. ‘Girl things’ such as horse camp, gymnastics, feminised bodies, clothing, periods, crushes, yoga and gossip weave through the fabric of the text. Though the subject matter is often adult – the girls of Hot Little Hands navigate abortion, sex trafficking, young motherhood, drugs, and deportation – the girls themselves are not… even when they technically are. Read more »

Dont-Try-This-at-Home-_-cover_-FINAL1-300x460

James Tierney

Subscriber Stories: Angela Readman’s Don’t Try This At Home

As a subscriber to publisher And Other Stories’ distribution model, I am in the unusual position of reviewing a book – Angela Readman’s short story collection Don’t Try This At Home – that thanks me by name for making its existence possible. Read more »

amy-schumer

Rebecca Shaw

Amy Schumer and the equal right to be funny

I don’t think men should be banned from making jokes about contentious subjects. I am of the belief that anything can and should be laughed about, and if done right, it can be beneficial. But more often, women are doing it right, and women are doing it better. Read more »

womens-home-companion

Kate Iselin

Trivial Pursuits: The media and ‘women’s interests’

Women, especially in public life, exist as a part of men’s worlds – a big part, sure – but still a part. Even as women become more vocal in demanding accurate and respectful representation, we are kept at arms length by a mainstream media which struggles to catch up. Read more »

SGbTsPQ

Rebecca Shaw

Command and Control: Trophy daughters and overprotective dads

There is no doubt that an overprotective parent is better than a parent who couldn’t care less what their child gets up to. And there is no doubt that most overprotective mums and dads are well-meaning. But paternal ‘protectiveness’ shticks often boil down to fathers not wanting their daughters to have sex, and by extension, get pregnant. Read more »

kstew

Joanna di Mattia

Kristen Stewart Through the Looking-Glass

Kristen Stewart is an actress who has been criticised, maligned even, for an acting style that transmits from set to screen as sullen, adolescent, wooden, blank, fidgety and inelegant. But perhaps she’s an actress concerned with authenticity, and the defining feature of her style is to show us herself by appearing like she’s not acting at all. Read more »

it-follows-4

Anwen Crawford

Behind You: The subtler horror of It Follows

I don’t watch many horror films. Lifelong victim of an overactive and slightly morbid imagination, I regularly envisage disasters, natural or otherwise, that might befall me, without requiring the added stimulus of cinema. Read more »

anne-dorval-and-antoine-olivier-pilon-in-xavier-dolans-mommy

Joanna Di Mattia

All About His Mother: Xavier Dolan’s fierce women

Xavier Dolan has created an exuberant body of cinema that privileges women (and others on the margins) as complex, chaotic beings. Dolan’s fierce mothers are cleaved from the pedestal that so much of cinema places them on, so that they may dig around in the dirt that is life. Read more »

Struggle+Street+KEY+IMAGE

Anwen Crawford

Shame and Stigma on Struggle Street

Struggle Street framed poverty as a combination of genetic inheritance and natural disaster – a barrier to be overcome only through ceaseless positive effort. Those who sabotage themselves through bad choices are therefore fair targets for our scorn, while those who gain employment or remain sober deserve praise for overcoming the odds. The deserving and undeserving poor, in other words. What an old story. Read more »

TheSlap_Show

Genevieve Wood

The Slap: What’s lost when a cricket bat becomes a baseball bat?

‘A cricket bat wouldn’t make sense in an American context’, says Tony Ayres, executive producer of the US adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. He’s right, of course – it wouldn’t. But when, in US playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s version, the eponymous slap occurs as the result of a swinging baseball bat, something’s not quite right. Read more »

empire-tv-review-fox

Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

DUKMRUTRHLU31425064919799

Katie Williams

The Currency of Games: The real world cost of in-game purchases

A new item introduced in World of Warcraft lets players purchase a month of playing time for the real-life price of $20, which they can then sell to other players in-game in exchange for virtual currency. It’s an exchange of real money for a virtual currency that has in-game value but none in the physical, ‘real’ world – and it makes me incredibly uneasy. Read more »

Arts House_Image_10c_Oedipus Schmoedipus (post)_Credit – Ellis Parrinder copy

Jane Howard

A Case for Diversity in Theatre

Attracting different audiences to the theatre is about many things. It’s about accessibility for people without high disposable incomes, but it’s also about marketing and publicity; about creating venues which are physically accessible for people with disabilities; and about ensuring the performers on stage are as diverse as we want their audiences to be. Read more »

2909252617_1f456d0c81_b

Jane Howard

A Working-Class Mythology: Ironing boards at the theatre

In theatre, there is perhaps no prop piece more mythologised than the ironing board, which came to signify the birth of contemporary British theatre. Read more »

ForceM6609

Jane Howard

Witness and Connection at Melbourne’s Dance Massive

In a city where it feels not a day goes by without an arts festival, or three, happening, Melbourne’s Dance Massive is resolutely unique. Australia’s largest dance festival is by necessity heavily reliant on Melbourne-based companies and shows that will go on to tour independently of the festival. The festival is undeniably of, and for, the dance sector in Melbourne. Read more »