What I am about to review represents a great deal of why I go through the trouble of blogging and why I have been involved with playing, producing, and promoting music since the 80s; an effort that stands out asthetically with some provocative vital messages tied to music that also slaps listeners out of complacency to inspire small and large scale /immediate and long term fighting against existing conditions to ultimately passionately/creatively reorganize the possibilities of life for humans and the rest of the planet. German mutant Mattin released one of the few recordings of 2018 that can be considered avant garde and revolutionary not only because this project calls itself stylistically “unfree improv,” “rational noise,” “hell jazz,” “conceptual punk,” “post-non- music,” etc. and it is confrontational lyrically as well as aurally but because it is historically and dialectically examining the 21st century challenging us now with past early 20th century anarchist and communist attempts at revolutionary efforts ; Songbook#7 evokes the notion that Albert Einstein might’ve been onto something(and maybe on something if he encountered Freud snorting grams of inspiration)with theorizing time as an accumulation of now moments without a past or future(also in line with many non European and indigenous cultures).
This is a unique recording that defies easy categorization which is in line with efforts to go beyond the limits of capitalist hierarchical society. Some similar minded recordings include earlier releases of The Ex such as Spanish Revolution or Marxist art and revolutionary theory project Art and Language https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_%26_Language combining “counter productive” (as in insurrectionist Italian anarchist Alfredo Bonanno’s definition of counter production as social activity counter to capitalist commodity relations of alienated labor and alienated leisure) forces with Mayo Thompson’s 70s post punk influenced version of Red Krayola/Red Crayola (initially an avant garage 60s band on the infamous Texas label International Records which also unleashed The 13th Floor Elevators on the rest of the world) . However with The Ex didn’t make the kind of provocative connections that Mattin does here and they still performed as a punk rock band rather than as mad scientists somewhere between sound art and improvisation music ; Mayo Thompson’s collaboration with Art and Language had whimsical moments while Mattin is more upset, frustrated, puzzled, etc. as if he was confronted by spectres of dead anarchists and Leninists with his back against the wall for demanding better today.
I will let Mattin himself explain the M.O. for Songbook #7: “In a time of war and fascism, those were two very different answers: a collective attempt at social transformation and a desperate lonely gesture. Neither response really managed to succeed to overthrow capitalism but they had a motivation and a clear way to act, something that seems to be lacking right now. If previous songbooks dealt with the tension between improvisation and song structure, between an emphasis on the production of the moment and having a conceptual framework, here the tension is produced by conflating the present with the past, and in doing so the tension between communism and anarchism is also explored…”In times of increasing desperation here emerges a strange record: a disintegrated manifesto exploring the truth of disagreement. ,” —Mattin.
It should be noted that Western anarchism and Marxist communism since the 19th century have overlapped more than some would care to admit (usually ideologues that carry on the mistakes made by separating revolutionary theory and practice thus farting out ideology disconnected from their own lives and other they reach out to). It would take another blog or a think piece to dig deep into how anarchism and Marxism overlap in such efforts as communization, communist-egoism, Italian 70s autonomia , Dada and Surrealism’s embrace of anti-capitalist revolution which led to The Situationists, Black Mask-Up Against The Wall Motherfucker, the Chicago Surrealist Group, etc. and lesser known avant garde projects, gender nihilism and moving beyond it, etc.
Songbook #7 needs to be absorbed all at once I feel. Read the lyrics as well if you aren’t trying to relax or aren’t at work with electronic and biological eyes upon you ready to crush moments of deviance. The tracks are titled with the first seven months of the Russian Revolution so January – July. The one two punch of the sounds and lyrics play better if you can read and listen. For example from “January” :
“If religion served as the opium of the people in the
conspiracy theory is crack cocaine for the age of hopelessness”
or “March” :
“Punk meant not to get back to any origin
but to explore how rotten life is in this ashtray
Sexual fantasies reproduced in stereo
while a subject tries to understand what it is
and what is not
hitting its increasingly solitary head
against a cupboard full of ressentiment
Conditioning our own understanding
by understanding our conditioning
voting for something that every passing day makes less sense
How to believe in democracy when there is no equality?
According to Bordiga,
Communism did not happen in the Soviet Union
Russia was indeed a transitional society
but transitional towards capitalism ”
Yes Songbook #7 is loaded with levels of stimulation but the kind of stimulation that questions rather than escapes into mazes of spectacular garbage about the latest celebrities and their bloopers while another “police action”news alert happens ,something about more angry Black mobs and police “allegedly” killing somebody in their hood, but don’t worry you will get to see more of the drunken celebrities again! This also inspires a revolutionary ludic look at moments happening currently such as the Yellow Vest Movement and whether this and other movements are a meme gone wild and/or liberatory possibilities will open up for further open ended yet anti-hierarchical/ anti-capitalist/internationalist/extranationalist/transversal because of it or will some weaknesses in the movement just let it fizzle out. It is hard to say right now since all of our activities contain contradictions but the element of surprise and the need to play infinite games for the play/adventure itself without reducing them to finite games with definitive endings which often includes reproducing the bullshit we were trying to move away from( ex. the whole spectrum of capitalist politics electoral and vanguardist or authoritarian) also are elements occurring (at least among many if not consciously affirmed by all the participants of this movement). Mattin and his collaborators give us one of the year’s best that will be useful over the years and right now (but if you agree more with the indigenous people and scientists such as Einstein then you will celebrate our past victories and future victories as inevitable while hoping we make the same mistakes better and better to move into better paths).
Nostalgia for an age yet to come?