Now, we've all filmed ourselves having sex and uploaded the videos to amateur porn sites so total strangers could masturbate to our pale, out-of-shape exploits, but the duo behind the awfully named Nymphomatriarch (think about it, then cringe) wanted their boning to be considered art by more than just BDSM_Luver_69, the middle-aged accountant who goes out of his way to say nice things about all the amateur porn he watches. So while I'm happy just to know that my ejaculate looks beautiful when it catches the light of the morning sun, that wasn't good enough for Venetian Snares (real name Vincent Snares) and Hecate (creator of the Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children winners Hecate Jacks Off the Jackal and The Magick of Female Ejaculation).
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"My favorite song is 'Necrosadistic'!"
So the pair recorded themselves having sex and used samples from their ... sessions to write the album's songs. And we're not talking "We're tired but I guess we haven't done this in a while, so go ahead and disinterestedly hump me for a few minutes" sex -- in addition to "straightforward copulation," we hear the charming sounds of oral and anal sex, S&M and, uh, "microphone insertion." They didn't specify precisely where the microphones were inserted, and I didn't go out of my way to find out.
While you might be expecting an album of porno grooves, the tracks are pretty much your standard electronic fare (or breakcore, because electronica is almost as bad as metal) with some moaning and ball-slapping popping up in the background. It's like being in a club bathroom and trying to guess what sex act is going on in the stall next to you.
It's a little uncomfortable at first, but considering at least half of all songs ever written are about sex on some level anyway, you get used to it quicker than you'd think. Hell, the biggest problem with the album is that it's boring. I expect a song called "Hymen Tramp Choir" to be something I can masturbate to, not something that sounds like a 15-minute remix of a Zelda dungeon theme. If this is what sex sounds like, I've clearly been doing it very, very wrong.
"OK, so this is my first time, but I'm pretty sure we're supposed to moan like a zombified Gregorian choir for a quarter of an hour."
But don't you dare think the sex aspect was just a gimmicky marketing stunt. "At this point I don't care how or what people think of the album, we made it for ourselves really, a kind of personal investigation," Hecate said, of her album that was released on a label called Hymen Records, had multiple press releases focusing on the sexual aspect, and was featured in Playboy. And indeed, how can love get more personal than that?
I once went to a Swans concert that left me partially deaf for two days. It was like getting punched in the eardrums by sound. I mention this because I want to sound cool, and also because the albums released by Stalaggh make the loudest, heaviest band you can think of sound like nursery rhymes sung by unusually innocent children.
Stalags, of course, were Nazi prison camps, while the extra "gh" stands for "global holocaust," suggesting that the band members either are misanthropes or have a serious misunderstanding of World War II. Considering that one of their albums is called Projekt Misanthropia, it could very well be both. It's not music so much as an attempt to destroy the very concept of music. Listening to it is like screening a horror movie in your brain, and playing it publicly violates at least two human rights conventions. Enjoy!
For those of you who don't have the time and/or mental stamina to listen to 35 minutes of what sounds like a recording from one of the crappier levels of hell, let me explain what you're missing out on. Stalaggh decided they wanted to work with people who have serious mental illnesses -- schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, etc. So they got a bunch together and spent several hours recording these people beating the shit out of the contents of abandoned buildings, screaming their lungs out, and moaning and jabbering in fear and pain.
The end result is a nightmare in aural form. It is primal and surreal and will suck every last bit of joy from your body, which is of course why I've brought it up on a comedy site. These aren't heavy metal musicians who scream as loud as they can on stage and then go off to snort cocaine and bang groupies -- these are people suffering from serious anguish, and it comes through in every godforsaken second.
After releasing three albums, the anonymous metal musicians behind the project renamed themselves Gulaggh and upped the terror by working with 30 children from a youth mental hospital. Oh, and they started using classical instruments. You know, to keep things sophisticated. Here's a brief sample from an album that goes on for 45 grueling minutes:
You might think that this is exploitative, but most of the patients they worked with enjoyed it, and some even considered it excellent therapy (they had permission from both the patients and their asylums). Don't go too far in the other direction and think of these guys as artists making a statement on mental health, either -- they want to "penetrate weak minds with pain and fear" using the genre they've dubbed "Nihilistik Misanthropik Audio-Terrror." They plan to release two more albums -- one will be done with people who were born deaf, and then for their grand finale I assume they're going to open up the gates of hell and invite every sinner in human history to form a billion-man-strong choir of the damned.
#1. Portsmouth Sinfonia
OK, so things got pretty dark in that last entry. Let's end on an optimistic note, with a stirring rendition of that powerful, classic work Also Sprach Zarathustra.
You just listened to a performance by the Portsmouth Sinfonia, and no, they're not an orchestra made up entirely of deaf people with wooden hands. It's comprised mostly of rank amateurs, who are backed by a few professionals playing instruments they're completely unfamiliar with. The end result makes dogs howl, babies cry, and grown adults laugh their heads off.
But don't think I'm just making fun of a bunch of struggling artists who are trying their best. I mean, I would, that's absolutely the exact sort of thing I would do, but that's not the case here. No, the Portsmouth Sinfonia is making a statement. So if you're looking for cruel mockery of innocent people, stay tuned for my next column, "7 Dumb Jerkheads Who Suck and Are Jerks."
Classical music has a bit of a stuffy reputation. It's what rich old white people listen to while sipping on brandy and puffing a cigar rolled in a poor person's skin. A budding musician can't just sit down with a few friends and jam out Beethoven's Ninth -- it takes many people training a lot of hours to put something like that together. It's beautiful music that's inaccessible to most musicians.
At least it was, until a dozen British art students said, "Fuck it, we're not going to let any of that stop us from starting a symphony." And then they did.
They took their absurd work seriously -- practices were mandatory, and while they knew they were terrible, they saw their performances as new interpretations of classic works. That goofy yet genuine attitude may be why they swelled to 82 members in just a few years. They counted film score writer Michael Nyman and ambient music pioneer Brian Eno among their ranks. They made a record on a major label -- all in one take, of course. They played at a sold out Royal Albert Hall. For one piece at that concert, the piano was played by an actual pianist, and that just made it funnier.
Sadly, the group disbanded in 1979, although there's been talk of a reunion. Whether that comes about or not, the Portsmouth Sinfonia is a testament to what people can accomplish if they believe in their work and don't give the slightest of fucks about how bad they are and what other people think of them. It's a philosophy that has inspired both my career and my sex life. Now, please enjoy this timeless masterpiece:
You can read more from Mark, and listen to his three-hour spoons album, on his website.