Episode 2: A Special Form of Darkness, Tramway, Glasgow, Sun 26 Feb
A mixed bag exploration of pessimism, decay and banality
So, is everything just a bit fucked? Dissecting pessimism, decay and banality is the theme of the day on the Sunday of Arika’s weekend, Episode 2: A Special Form of Darkness, with opening talks by writer, theorist and blogger Evan Calder Williams and occult philosopher and columnist Eugene Thacker.
Williams questions the notion that there is in fact a total lack of depth in how and what we perceive as darkness. Rather than simply a layer of black, it’s a multifaceted, grey area which never ceases once it’s stripped bare. Cue a sleuth of Lovecraftian dissections regarding repetition in horror literature along with film extracts from the likes of John Carpenter’s underrated headburner In the Mouth of Madness. A well-presented and intriguing diatribe, if you can cope with the teen angst of it all. Thacker’s discussion on ‘Cosmic Pessimism’ certainly lacked the assertiveness of Williams, but made up for it in content regarding the universal insignificance of the human race on a planetary level, building some celestial link between that of Robert Anton Wilson and Arthur Schopenhauer.
Iain FW Campbell’s two panel show-inspired performances aided with the help of various cohorts has an amusing but somewhat Fringe Festival vibe about it. Its jovial content included moaning about Beckett, loops of the soul singing sensation Adele and the panellists telling one another to shut up unilaterally.
The most testing event of the day was Taku Unami’s ‘Inhuman Grand-Guignol Theatre’ piece, also inspired by Lovecraft and the modern horrors and absurdities of our everyday actions. The main theatre is darkly adorned with highly mounted cardboard boxes, slowly knocked over by Cthulhu-esque cranes from above, operated by a barrage of ropes and pulleys, assisted with an organ soundtrack akin to something that Wendy Carlos would have left on the cutting room floor. Taku’s piece is sluggish, un-enchanting and utterly pointless; but perhaps that's the point?
Japanese noise legend Keiji Haino then takes the dimly-lit stage of the theatre for the day's highlight, slowly building up his primordial vocal set with some gentle voice cracks and light shrieks before heading straight for the jugular. He flips into a death grunt and gargles between his mics, straddling sheer volume with silent undercurrents. As stripped back as it may appear on paper, the sound generated on stage is purgative with the same hypnotic physicality apparent found on his guitar and electronic compositions.
An operatic interruption via a loop pedal builds a layer of calm melody half-way through this exorcism, with shifting key changes and falsetto harmonies interlocking in an unexpected moment of tranquillity. Twisted wails and microphone clicks storm back onto stage with some full-on body contortions and vocal percussion which eclipses the already sensitive frequencies within the Tramway’s tweaked PA system – eventually abandoning the mics all together with an acapella wig out on all fours. Despite bordering on the farcical at moments, it’s an endearing display of physicality and an appropriately long-winded end to ‘Episode 2’.