05

Sadness and Ecstasy

“Here and there one is separated from despair only by a thin partition, since one experiences one’s own life as useless, as unreal, or as absent. Despair, however, can appear as a means of recuperation on condition that it becomes a matter for reflection. To recognize this absence is in some way to transmute it into presence.”

Gabriel Marcel, Metaphysical Journal. Paris, April 24, 1939.

There are shared anti-social tendencies in post rock, shoegaze, and black metal that allow for an easy settling of similar motifs within if not entirely dissimilar, certainly distinct forms. Distortion across instrumentation, abstract and repetitious forms, a sense of elegance in (or at least some dedication to) vulgar maximalisms, introspection, moodiness, etc. While the latter genre’s more memorable points of social resonance have a fairly recognizable and distinct cultural and historical memory, the sort of transhistorical formations of post rock and shoegaze, lacking the ‘ol faithful tropic collection of culturally transgressive signs to encourage their own anti-social tendencies, are understandably elusive things. Yet close examination shows us some clear threads. Both indeed wade into transgressive forms in the discussion of life and death; both use technology to push instrumentation to various limitations and to, one can imagine, place primacy on the evocation of emotive forms not wedded to the traditional presentation of popular musical texts (stronger narration); both have enjoyed their own modest commercial successes; both are easily explained away in the late-80s and early-90s turn toward an after-punk (not to be confused with the genre) motion blur that stretches into our contemporary moment and plays loudly through our ready-to-blow speakers. As with other forms in rock/aggravated guitar music of which I’m quite fond, post rock and shoegaze tends toward the uncommunicative in sometimes unflattering ways. Unlike the ‘youth-culture driven’ braggadocious attitude of a post-nowave Sonic Youth declaring punk broke (we do love breaking things don’t we), the aforementioned genres’ attempts to aggressively bear down on depressive forms to color an already shattered world in surprisingly distinct hues of gray is still displaying its relevance during this strange extended neoliberal tailspin we find ourselves in. For good reason, I’d argue.

Sadness (Damián Ojeda) has frequently stood above the occasionally inspiring but often on-the-nose blackgaze/dsbm thing by finding healthy interplay between these subgenres, but Ojeda’s most current release has reconstructed these tripartite forms into an exceptional pop modernist motif that bends, explodes, shatters, and again makes whole the experience of misery. The universalizing experience of despair takes on a newly embodied value and depth, a musical convulsion that defies understanding by bending and stretching in several directions. Over 7:25, late spring true love masterfully and artfully brings experience into the commons again. 

The answer to despair is not its inversion but its sublation — elation manifests as a constantly unfolding process of celebration. The celebration of the consecration of our plenitude demonstrates that, perhaps as Sadness suggests, ‘our time is here’.

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