Saturday, 10 April 2010

ABSINTHE


Band: B-MACHINA
Title: Absinthe (oder das andere Licht der Wahrheit): A tribute to Georg Trakl
Format: CD pressing on the Beverina & WAR label in 2009, catalogue reference BW013, with absinthe-green colour CD and inlays designed by Chris H. at Kunstgalerie. A split album with individual tracks (and one collaborative work) between B-Machina and Israeli band Kreuzer.
Edition: 50 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:
01. B-Machina * Der Abend 7.38
02. Kreuzer * An Einen Fruhverstorbenen 4.15
03. B-Machina /Kreuzer * Im Osten 8.56
04. Kreuzer * Die Verfluchten 6.01
05. B-Machina * Die Nacht 5.51

It's been a while since we've had a B-Machina release here on Honour And Darkness, but you know what they say: "Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder." Yes....? No...? Oh well, enough with Nazgul's feeble attempts at humour and on with the post!

This 2009 release on B&W came in a slightly surprisingly limited edition of 50 copies: surprising as (i) the release had taken quite a while to be released since being initially advertised, so presumably there was quite a groundswell of anticipation for it, and (ii) it's had the full treatment in terms of it's production (excellent covers from Chris H, and an innovative wrap-around page from a Georg Trakl book to complement the theme of the album). You feel more than 50 would have been snapped up by the discerning readers of this Blog alone, let alone the wider music-loving public at large....? Then again, B&W (much like W.A.R. Productions) is known for the red-carpet treatment of its releases, so perhaps the excellent packaging herein is to be expected for even small volume releases.

Nazgul's copy bears the cover of the book of Trakl's poems as its insert, so that's probably a good excuse for calling this copy #1 of the 50, unnumbered or otherwise!

Now, Nazgul's pondering aside, you're probably already keen to learn the answer to the obvious question - who is Georg Trakl? Well, allow Nazgul to enlighten you...

"Georg Trakl (1877–1914) was an Austrian poet and dramatist. While the eminence and influence of Georg Trakl's poetry has been widely discussed, his work is best known for its lyrical qualities. His controlled use of colors, sounds, and ciphers blending into brooding meditations, as well as the exquisite tone of his cries against man's doomed existence are two hallmarks of his work.

These tendencies closely align him with German Expressionism, and both Ranier Maria Rilke and French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud were inspired by his work. Conversely, Trakl's writing exhibits many of the techniques and themes employed by the Imagists, Surrealists, and Impressionists, making his work difficult to classify. Many critics believe he was a modernist before his time, citing as evidence his paratactical lines which break free from traditional poetical modes to follow musical forms and expressions to a great degree.

Trakl, born in 1887 in Salzburg, was the son of affluent parents. His brief, troubled life spans years of great upheaval: the apex and decline of the Habsburg monarchy, the Jahnhundertwende of 1900, and the outbreak of the first World War. While this period gave rise to much artistic and cultural innovation—Freud, Mahler, Wittgenstein and Klimt were among Trakl's contemporaries—this turn-of-the-century era was in spirit marked by an awareness of the decay of all social structures and of the danger this change posed to the future of mankind. In this vein Trakl's verse proceeds: he was exceedingly aware that his world, personal as well as external, was "breaking apart," entzweibricht, a term he coined, causing "Leid," a state of suffering. This mood prevails in his poetry. The disparity in ages between his parents, his mother's opium habit, or the Catholic schooling he and his brothers and sisters received although growing up in a Protestant household—these may have caused deep disturbances in Trakl's personality, and contributed to the schizophrenia from which he suffered. This condition, coupled with his drug and alcohol use, led Trakl quickly to his end.

By age fifteen, Trakl was experimenting with chloroform and had begun drinking heavily; by 1905 he had left school prematurely. Both he and his sister Margaret, the sibling to whom he was the closest, found the paths of middle-class life unendurable compared to the towers of their art. Their relationship, debatably incestuous, haunted him even as it nourished him. Her figure appears often in his work as "the sister," an alter ego, a beloved, a mirror-image or doppelganger. Even though she married and was able to play the role of the bourgeois wife, she herself committed suicide a few years after Trakl did. After being forced to leave school, Trakl began an apprenticeship in a pharmacy that, unfortunately and ultimately, fed his future addiction to narcotics. From this point onward, events in his life are inextricably woven into his poetry.

His increasing addiction to narcotics is reflected in his use of images, synaesthesia and an inscrutable personal mythology. Likewise, his experiences during World War I also gave rise to a prolific period, but eventually proved too much for his fragile mental condition. In August of 1914, Trakl went to Austrian-controlled Poland as medic under the command of incompetent Austrian generals. After a bloody defeat at Grodek, Trakl was left to care for ninety wounded throughout two days and two nights, and without supplies or attending physicians. The battle at Grodek caused Trakl to suffer a psychotic episode upon the unit's retreat. He threatened to shoot himself in front of his fellow officers but was disarmed and restrained, and in October, ordered to the hospital at Cracow for observation. His mentor, Ludwig Ficker hurried to Cracow to secure his release because he knew that confinement would only cause Trakl's condition to deteriorate. Unable to secure the release, Ficker later received a letter from Trakl and a copy of "Grodek" and "Lament," Trakl's last two poems, the former considered to be one of his greatest lyrics. A week later, Trakl died of an overdose of cocaine.

Most critics concur that Trakl's work had a major impact on German Expressionism. Many others agree that his later works were modern in nature, exhibiting an aggregate of rhythms, grammatical structures like musical scores, and poetic logic of colors, phrasings, and figures all his own. As he developed in his craft, his poems become more impersonal, devoid of the first-person pronoun, employing what some critics call "mythic objectivity." Indisputably his work is despairing, violent, obsessive, even perverse at times, but many argue that his Christian faith may yet serve to provide possible redemption in his work. Trakl saw himself in a hell from which he had no "absolution" to leave, his visions of heaven always too distant from earth. The nearest Trakl comes to expressing an affirmation of life comes from his pantheism, learned from Hölderlin, which imbues his work with compassion."

So there you have it - quite the character! The music on this release mirrors the nature of the poetry to a significant degree, being in turn a myriad of influences and textures in its own right. The Kreuzer tracks are more narrative driven (Nazgul presumes the the quoted narrative throughout all of the tracks are drawn from Trakl's work, although not being a scholar of the man's poetry he couldn't attest to this for certain). Kreuzer as a band, incidentally, cite on their MySpace site that they "make noises of history and drones of art." Worth checking out, at http://www.myspace.com/kreuzermusic.

In respect of the B-Machina material, the opening track 'Der Abend' is redolent with sound effect and industrial noise, charged with staccato flamenco guitar from Max that is very similar to that heard on the band's "Other Visions" release - no bad thing there. Final track 'Die Nacht' is a classic B-Machina affair, echoing effects and vocals, strange soundscapes hanging in the air and defying all logical interpretation, again augmented with the flamenco acoustic strummings that takes the music to different levels.

It's not always an easy listen, this release, but then as philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Trakl's patron, once said of Trakl's poems, "I do not understand them; but their tone pleases me. It is the tone of true genius."

Very appropriate...

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