Junto Project 0307: Black & White and Punk All Over [repost]

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

With respect, Suss Müsik considers the Sex Pistols to be merely a cultural bookmark. The group, assembled as a marketing vehicle to promote Malcolm McLaren’s bondage shop in West London, was in some ways no more a “proper” band than the Monkees. Their musical significance is dubious at best; their influence on the DIY aesthetic that followed was incalculable.

That said, Never Mind the Bollocks was something of a accidental watershed. By the time the album saw its 1977 release, the trend known as “punk” (which was really an update of what the MC5 and the Stooges were doing five years prior) had already collapsed as a musical genre. Within a year, John Lydon was endorsing the virtues of Peter Hammill, Can and dub reggae in a new outfit called Public Image Ltd. Thus was born the post-punk movement.

Admittedly, the Sex Pistols are among a cabal of punk bands who can hold claim to birthing a new era of musical exploration. Without punk there would be no Wire, no Gang of Four, no PiL. We also wouldn’t have The Pop Group, Magazine, Joy Division, The Sound, A Certain Ratio, 23 Skidoo, Minutemen, Liquid Liquid, Killing Joke or The Fall. These bands drove punk’s angry nihilism into a new, exciting terrain of avant-garde dissonance and sonic experimentation. A few are still performing today, shredding alongside protégés young enough to be their grandchildren.

It’s interesting that many album covers from the post-punk era are rendered in stark black & white. Perhaps this was due to the relatively cheap cost of 1-color printing at the time, or perhaps it was an artistic statement of angular minimalism. Suss Müsik is reminded that Don Van Vliet titled his final Captain Beefheart album Ice Cream for Crow as a sort of homage to contrasts, similar to watching Hurlements en faveur de Sade.

For this weird piece, Suss Müsik took a leaf from Colin Newman’s Provisionally Entitled the Singing Fish. This little-known Dada masterpiece from the former Wire frontman marked his creative transition from post-punk chunka-chunk to queasy ambience. A simple three-bar riff was played on a black Danelectro through a Vox amp. The same triad was converted to a dorian chord progression on strings and prepared piano, played live while twiddling various knobs. The “black” side breaks down as the “white” side builds before reaching a point of convergence.

The piece is titled Oeufnoir, which means “black egg” in French. It’s based on a line from a 1920 poem written by the Dada artist Jean Arp.

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