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Savages & Bo Ningen - Words To The Blind

"Words To The Blind"

Release date: 17 November 2014
Savages Bo Ningen Words To The Blind
11 November 2014, 09:30 Written by Dan Owens
Formed when the arch Anglo-French post-punkers took time out of a late-night recording session to catch the London-formed fully-Japanese band (go figure) in all of their live apocalyptic glory, the Savages-Bo Ningen partnership first bore fruit in the guise of an innovative ‘simultaneous sonic poem’ performed on a specially-designed ‘U’-shaped stage in May 2013. With a set built to allow the audience to feel the full force of this eardrum-damning musical blast, Words To The Blind was no ordinary collaboration. But rather a good old-fashioned piece of performance art- more audiovisual happening than sleazy cash-in. Now, ahead of a hotly-anticipated repeat performance at the Oval Space, this crazed melding of minds has been given the single treatment in the form of a 37-minute long, one-song release.

And, as the brainchild of two groups that famously treat music as a philosophical idea, it’s hardly surprising that his lengthy track is highly conceptual. Taking inspiration from the Dadaist’s intellectual rejection of World War One- on the grounds of the inconceivable decision to sanction such bloodshed and its subsequent barbarity- the track begins by setting Jehnny Beth’s sharp French whisper against the eerie, sporadic vibration of guitar strings. As her shadowy voice grows ever more fragmented, she’s subsumed by the distinctively macabre clang of Bo Ningen’s horror score-guitars and the powerful feedback squalls of her fellow Savages. Alone, like the single voice of reason, drowned out by the merciless thunder of artillery. As it enters its tenth minute, she turns to an ethereal howl to compete with incessant cymbal crashes and basslines murky enough to summon sweat from Nick Cave’s pallid body, the sound of rational thought turned inward and ignored.

If there’s any intention behind such undulating mood swings, it’s surely to make the listener recoil in horror. But, bizarrely, the listening experience is, like the atrocities of war, oddly compelling. The things that should alarm do, in fact, fascinate, with curiosity peaking every time the track changes direction or leaps into a tangent, moving from one haphazard time signature to the next as Beth and Taigen Kawabe fight for prominence and trade bilingual rhyme at an increasingly belligerent rate.

Arriving at a time when obstinate records are appearing with growing frequency- think of the self-indulgent brutality of Julian Casablancas and the Voidz, the bastardised rave of shock-rappers Die Antwoord or Fat White Family’s garage-grown sludge- Words To The Blind becomes the latest member in a growing family of records hell-bent on upsetting convention. Bludgeoning in attack and knowingly averse to restraint, it is, like its fellow peace-disturbers, often drawn-out and directionless, winding and scathing, immensely suffocating in its disobedience of traditional song structures.

Reminiscent of that great triumvirate of concept albums- Sgt. Pepper, Ziggy Stardust and The Dark Side of the Moon- in its capture of the sound of identity crumbling as madness takes hold, Words to the Blind perfectly mixes Savages’ icy post-punk minimalism with Bo Ningen’s angelic/anarchic left-field dirges. It's a thrilling, if occasionally nauseating, sojourn into the spontaneous world of freeform performance.

  • Savages and Bo Ningen will perform Words To The Blind, at Oval Space courtesy of The Barbican on November 19. Words To The Blind is released on November 17. Details here.

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