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Forced Exposure Records, P.O.Box 9102, Waltham, MA 02254-9102

by AjD

Buy The Book of "Eternity Set Aflame"

You develop your own language when you're alone for too long. The words you say become more complex but outwardly more simple. Everything you do becomes significant and slower. Everything away from you becomes simplified and stranger.

Keiji Haino has developed a language that doesn't exist outside of himself. He creates noise richer with emotion than anything else recorded, using a vocabulary that could only drive people away.

He really does create noise. "The Book of 'Eternity Set Aflame'" opens with seventeen minutes of machine-room sound of raw washes of amplifier noise through which he sends a single line of guitar... melody? but you could never hum it. It contains all the bad dreams you can't remember, but still remember how you felt then. It is a form of screaming. It's a sort of primitivism that could not have been hundreds of years ago.

See, the common notions of primitive don't really relate to anything you know. Take away your teevee, computer, and car, and you think you're living a primitive lifestyle. What do we know about the simplifying and stripping-away of things? What do we know about our basic feelings that we could state simply? Primitivism, then, maybe means imbuing what we do with a certain intentional crudeness. Not a return to fundamental ideals but a removal of the glamour.

Japanese culture has fostered a sort of culture of noise, at least to gaijin ears. Their theater and musical traditions contain a great deal of sound following rules honed by centuries of refinement and richer comprehension. It doesn't seem like music in the western sense; each sphere's notions of melody, rhythm, and tonality are utterly alien. Two blocks, a flute, and a singer can express a certain sad, transient beauty more richly than any European orchestra could.

Making this sort of noise could become facile. But instead of mastering the simple making of noise, Haino's mastered the enriching of it with emotion. The music is primal, but not primitive. Too complex to simply be considered fear, hate, or despair. With the noise he makes, he creates brutal or complex tapestries of many emotions. He cries, screams, and yells. Or he croons gently. Exhortations that might be Japanese, or might be idioglossia.

Haino's been performing like this for a couple decades now: a guitar, a wall of really loud amplifiers, and his voice. He dresses in black, wears oversized sunglasses, has long hair cut in bangs over his eyes. I've never seen a photo of him wearing anything but a blank, expressionless face, except for shots of him in concert, where he's crying, as often as not.

If there's ever a performer too alien from me to understand, yet whose work moves me most, it would be Keiji Haino. "The Book of 'Eternity Set Aflame'" is difficult listening in a most literal way, but can be the most rewarding if you dare to try.

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