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
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
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.