And the Maiden / Prayer Rope / etc

Much of the Summer has been dedicated to my noise music output, accordingly it struck me as a reasonable opportunity to list recent and future releases. I shall endeavour to :

And the Maiden – Obstructing Egress (Not On Label, 2019)

The first And the Maiden release, Obstructing Egress was a collaborative split, one might say, between myself and Jacob A. Matthews, a sonic Deleuzian contribution to the blue humanities, in direct reference to the gorges and falls of the Ithaca and Finger Lakes area. Jacob’s tracks were based around synths and field recording, whilst my own were sonic manipulations of various tourist home movies filmed at various locations and uploaded to YouTube.


Prayer Rope – “Better Soul” (ATTN:SPAN, 2020)


As with all other contributions to ATTN:SPAN’s compilation in aid of Cool Earth, “Better Soul” is a ten-second track. Despite its brevity, “Better Soul” was an early nod in the direction of Prayer Rope’s hagiographical construction, making use of heavily treated samples from two modern-day “saints,” who make similar appearances in the next release on this list – Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.


And the Maiden – Magdalen Burns (SGFF Records, 2020)

Magdalen Burns by And The Maiden

The first physical release, Magdalen Burns was a reflection on the toxicity of the TERF movement, particularly those based in the UK, and the power and beauty of trans and queer communities and organizations. The title is in reference to a mean-spirited retort I made when exhausted having being harangued by a TERF who had the deceased YouTube-based harasser as her twitter profile picture – a comment I immediately deleted and for which I felt ashamed. Nevertheless, the seemingly contagious toxicity of that encounter left a mark on me that I felt required addressing in the first “official” And the Maiden recording. Magdalen Burns was the last digital-based recording, although it also makes significant use of my voice, particularly in the final two tracks, “Knife to My Throat” and “Everything.” What noise is not digitally generated was made through heavily distorted recordings of me crushing and flattening aluminium cans – a trick taught me by one of my best friends, a fellow trans woman. Even such a small, silly thing took on, for me, significant relevance as a diminutive but very sincere avatar for mutual interaction and support between transgender individuals.


Prayer Rope – I Saw God in Whom All Creatures are Nothing (SGFF Records, 2020)

I Saw God In Whom All Creatures Are Nothing by Prayer Rope

The title for this, the first physical and first full-length Prayer Rope release preceded the recording by a good many months; indeed, it inspired the establishment of Prayer Rope as a noise project, separate from And the Maiden, even so soon after And the Maiden’s own formation. It also marks the beginning of my current approach to noise production, centered predominantly around use of guitar pedals, a shaker box, a circuit bent portable speaker, and a ten-track mixer. The album and its two 15-minute tracks are named respectively after a paraphrasing and direct quote attributed to mystical theologian Meister Eckhart: “I saw God, in whom all creatures are nothing” and “every creature is a word of God.” Superficially contradictory, the aim of this album was to address these statements from the perspective of the abundance and absence implicit in the apophatic tradition of understanding God (or, particularly for Eckhart, the Godhead) in terms of profound darkness, and the sonic representation of such an ontological enigma. The second track in particular has as the “core sound” a me breathing heavily into a speaker, circuit bent into a microphone, through a feedback-looped effects chain, as a tangible reification of that same breath or “word” of God – an approach that might, in any other context, appear wholly narcissistic. However, I believe this not to be the case in relation to Eckhart’s teachings, in which he stresses overtly a corporeal sense of univocal, ontological reciprocity: “The eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye is one eye, and one sight, and one knowledge, and one love.”


Pink Triangle Series – Janice Raymond (The White Visitation, 2020)

Janice Raymond by Pink Triangle Series

Sean E. Matzus did me the great honour of inviting me to release an album as part of his queer noise agitprop assemblage, the Pink Triangle Series, at the same time as he and his husband Richard Ramirez, who needs no introduction to my regular readers, dropped their newest creations under the name.

Each artist names the recording after and, to one extent or another, bases it around a particular icon of queerphobia and provides with the title a quote of theirs. Rather than drawing from the usual well of Republican preachers, politicians and pundits, I selected the lesbian radical feminist icon, academic and author of the original TERF bible, The Transsexual Empire: Making of the She-Male, Janice Raymond. A little closer to my Prayer Rope approach to production than my And the Maiden, Janice Raymond is an exercise in haunted wall noise, taking particular influence from both Sean and Richard’s solo projects and, above all, Sean’s incredible work as Thin Mountain. The second track contains within the mix me, reading out loud excerpts from the phenomenal responding essay to The Transsexual Empire by the woman most persecuted by and because of that hateful tome, Sandy Stone’s “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto.”


And the Maiden – The Last Mask (Basement Corner Emissions, 2020)

The Last Mask by And The Maiden

This was a release entirely inspired by its own artwork. This striking illustration, printed on the front page of the Dayton Daily newspaper announcing the death of Lon Chaney, titled “His Last Mask” spoke to the fascinating little ironies of covering the life of a man whose life was so closely associated with representations of death. Lon Chaney’s remarkable penchant and skills regarding facial and bodily transformation, earning him the name “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” so excellently illustrated, speaks to the nuanced elusiveness of identity in performance, and the logistical mise-en-abyme or, indeed, feedback loop that is generated under such circumstances. The tape opens with a sample from The Unholy Three, Chaney’s only talkie picture, in which he plays a ventriloquist, hailed – of course – as “The Man of a Thousand Golden Voices.” With Chaney’s own identity thus reintegrated into the narrative, indicative of his unique bridging of the division between the image of the “character actor” and the “star,” transposed to celebrate not simply the still-recent introduction of talkie films, but his introduction to them. Accordingly, the conceptual groundwork for the challenge of engaging in sonic representation of this all but exclusively silent actor felt already laid.

Out Tomorrow: And the Maiden – Magdalen Burns

My new EP under the And the Maiden moniker, Magdalen Burns will be coming out tomorrow through SGFF Records. I’ll be doing a couple of radio interviews in the next week or two to discuss it in full but, suffice to say, Magdalen Burns is a  noise / industrial ambient exploration of the ugliness of the conflict with the TERF movement, and the beauty found in self-actualized queer and trans liberation.

The first run is limited to 10 physical copies, so don’t wait to get one!


An Urgent Plea to My Readers

Dear readers,

I apologize for a relative reticence in the past while – normal service will be resumed as I complete outstanding work for the end of this semester, as well as some other publications, all of which will make its way to Wyrdsystyr eventually.

However, for the moment, I have a sincere and urgent request for your help.

A couple nights ago, my London home of five years, still home to my partner, Jennie, and our beautiful and beloved cat Rainflower, went up in flames. Thankfully, they both managed to escape with their lives and their health intact, but they are effectively homeless. Jennie’s sister is housing them, a 2 hour-commute away from Jennie’s place of work, with two other cats, when Rainy has spent his life as an only child. Because the flat was privately rented, the building association is denying any obligation to help with their re-homing. Because he considers their contract to be legally “frustrated” by this fire, the landlord has similarly abdicated himself from any such responsibility.

As you know, I am in Ithaca, New York – approximately 3500 miles / 5633 kilometers away from the two lives most precious to me in all the world. The only thing I’ve really been able to do to help is email a local representative, and set up a fundraiser to help with replacing damaged items, compensating for lost work, travel expenses, cat food and assistance with securing a new home for them, if nobody else can be convinced or compelled into accepting the responsibility that is assuredly theirs.
I beg anyone who has ever enjoyed any of my writing, my photography, my DJ sets, my music, to give anything they can to this fundraiser, and share the link on social media, encouraging others to do the same.

I know these are febrile times for us all, and there are many worthy things to which one could donate, but I cannot stress enough how much it means to me.


Album of the Day: Keiji Haino / Jim O’Rourke / Oren Ambarchi – In the Past Only Geniuses Were Capable of Staging the Perfect Crime (Also Known as a Revolution) Today Anybody Can Accomplish Their Aims With the Push of a Button

The ninth, (as time of writing) most recent and perhaps most successful of their seemingly annual collaborative releases thus far, Keiji Haino, Jim O’Rourke and Oren Ambarchi’s In the Past Only Geniuses Were Capable of Staging the Perfect Crime (Also Known as a Revolution) Today Anybody Can Accomplish Their Aims with the Push of a Button feels like something of a throwback, in the best possible way.

The comfort the three artists clearly now feel with one another allows for the dynamic to depart from the typical mode in which Haino-san forever appears as the master, supported by artists who in any other context would be top-billed as giants in their field, now dwarfed by his singular presence (indeed, the only time this dynamic has ever felt reversed was in Haino-san’s collaboration with Derek Bailey). This is not to caste Haino-san as an ungenerous improvisational partner, but to acknowledge the extent to which co-conspirators, particularly those playing instruments that qualify as the typical rhythm section can find themselves naturally aiming toward the subordinate position, especially when faced with such an icon as Keiji Haino.

Nevertheless, here, the degrees of space and engagement afforded to and between each musician feels to be of the utmost equity. The often grippingly pensive ambiance effected by the piano skittering of Ambarchi’s cymbals and the deliberate yet restrained sporadic chords on O’Rourke’s six-string bass / Hammond organ don’t simply leave a gap that is forcefully pervaded by noise emanating from Haino-san’s guitar, electronics or vocals. Rather, there remains for the grand majority of this ~90 minute piece a tangible lacuna, a great unsaid. At certain points, above all in the second track “Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously To Make Something Beautiful And Then Smash It Decorously,” this takes on an element of blues and jazz-fusion, with a generative bass hook on the part of O’Rourke that may only be rivaled by Michael Henderson’s on Miles Davis’ “Sivad” in terms of cool, that feels entirely reminiscent of the greater degree of rock’n’roll orientation in 不失者’s first eponymous release, not least of all とどかない. At others, it achieves the manifestation of Schopenhaueran nihil negativum with which Eugene Thacker attributes such solo Keiji Haino records as So, Black is Myself (I would personally proffer I Said, This is the Son of Nihilism).

In the latter half of In the Past…, we do, slowly and with great trepidation, build to a crescendo. Haino-san’s reverb-drenched guitar, in conjunction with his vocals, deliver an oneiric quality that is both sonically and affectively reminiscent of Kevin Shields and Patti Smith’s performance of The Coral Sea. Similarly, the only impression we really have of the build here is for it to become subject to absolute entropy and dissipation. That the accompanying video Black Truffle Records have released for the YouTube promotion of the second part of the titular track is compiled stock stills and footage of domestic vignettes, giving way to imagery of apocalyptic planes, subject to the Push of a Button to which the title alludes is entirely apposite. Throughout his decades of unchallenged avant-garde oscillations between precision and chaos, Keiji Haino has forever manifested as the paradox of the being so detached from the world, that he feels and expresses all its emotions at once. Such a phenomenon has the effect of flattening time to a degree that each record in which he is involved is a uniquely world-creating-and-destroying experience. And yet, though there (gratifyingly) appears to be no indication of Haino-san stopping any time soon, In the Past… has a peculiar sense of the ultimate in its finality, and therein lies its remarkable success.


Film Review: The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (Stan Brakhage, 1971)

(Originally published 29th June, 2016)

Though I’m unsure how many times I have seen this film at this point, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit this was the first time I had realised the meaning behind the title: that “autopsy” (derived from the ancient Greek autos meaning “self” and optos meaning “seen,”) can in fact be translated to “The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes.” This information massively contextualises the content: rather than the film providing us with a typically unseen vision – corpses – in a manner one might describe, for example, Mothlight as doing, Act of Seeing instead places the kino eye within the morgue as locus of the revelatory event of autopsy. The reality of the film itself merely provides an entrance to a very literal unveiling. Stripped away is skin, fat, muscle, organic matter and what is left is… hard to say. But impossible not to see… and that, in a nutshell, is Brakhage’s game.

Such discomfort that I endure during Act of Seeing is not on account of gore; rather, much like sea-sickness, which is the visceral response to cognitive dissonance between perceptions of balance and vision, the nausea arises from the cognitive dissonance between the loss of these human bodies living, experiential subjectivity, and the addition of their objective potential as containers of mystery. Perhaps most disturbing is seeing the removal of faces, peeled away like a mask, revealing largely un-individual skull. The barrage of graphic imagery inducing a certain nigh-intoxicated effect, I mused, stoner-like, about the etymological meaning of “person” – mask. I recalled Alan Watts’ discourse on “who am I?” in which he discussed the ways in which one may not know oneself, in the same way one may not taste one’s own tongue or indeed see one’s own eyes with one’s own eyes, without the use of a mirror. How interesting that what we use to identify one another, read one another, be attracted to one another, is that about ourselves we are unable to see unaided…

I could go on but, as an act of mercy, I shan’t.

That Brakhage is able to elicit just as much wistful navel-gazing as he is pure revulsion is highly impressive, but perhaps also to be expected from his mastery of camerawork. Act of Seeing performs a certain phenomenological Cubism: flattening, thus relativising, the relief of subjectivity by stripping away the outside world, as so too is stripped away the flesh of the bodies, vision once again becomes an act of holism, just as it did in Dog Star Man. When the body of a larger woman is wheeled in near the end, green, the whiteness of the fat revealed as her chest is sliced open giving the effect of mattress foam more than anything as shocking as body tissue, it becomes ever unclear through the juxtaposing montage with other corpses of hues white, brown and grey, if the green-ness of this body was an effect of decomposition, or a trick of the light. The universal eyeball of the kino eye makes no valuation. Not this time. The final conflict between the lyrical hand and the Bazinian objectif in this film ends, I believe, in the latter’s favour. Though these corpses may no longer possess the subjectivity of the anima of their former living hosts, the gaze in the Act of Seeing feels considerably more akin to that expressed by Todd McGowan than by Laura Mulvey: this is no controlling gaze. Neither Brakhage’s eye, the camera’s eye, nor our eye has anymore say in what happens to these bodies than the bodies themselves; all we can do is see them, or turn and look away.