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.