Monday, October 12, 2009

The Human Quena Orchestra

The Politics of the Irredeemable (Crucial Blast, 2009)

Byline: If you hate society and you know it, clap your hands! You're not alone... HQO is here for you.

For: Sunn O))), Earth

It’s tough out there. Given general woes in the current state of things (folks taking pay cuts, having rent raised, spending more on pretty much everything everywhere, while having less than ever to buy the essentials with, watching the unemployment rate consistently, systematically rise... etc...), things just aren’t looking so hot for the country right now. Sometimes I’m at a loss for words. Modern society, when taken as the huge gulp-of-a-whole it is, can be a pretty scary place. It’s like a bully that can kick you when you’re down. You play by its rules, and when you play, you still end up losing.

It’s hard to deny that society is a little bit more than messed up sometimes. As such, a band like Human Quena Orchestra seems here for a dual purpose: as in the true spirit of the gothic attitude, their art is as much about ripping everything down as it is building something new. It’s about a terrifying cry of refusal, while being simultaneously a cathartic acknowledgement of an excruciating purgatory. But with song titles like “Progress,” or “Assention,” it can also about the future.

Though it’s a cultivated fact (I talked with the group at one of their shows) that the band has never listened to Sunn O))), a review of The Politics of the Irredeemable without mention of the black-drone Gods, doesn’t seem plausible. Like Sunn O))), HQO is a band who also relies on heavy excess of bass and sheer volume to get its message across. On a certain level, it’s cool to know that artists are generating sounds like this completely independent of one another. The majority of the record is a menacing sonic assault. Take the colossal, 12 min. plus album opener, “Progress.” With its sparse feedback and low-drone, the song creates a desolate, flat, post-apocalyptic wasteland and pummels it with nuclear explosions. And it’s in this environment we find a sole character - a voice screaming in a pain-with-rage mix of enthusiasm and dread.

Picking apart the record as a concept album seems tumultuous given the exhausting experience it can be making it through the entire album. There’s a lot here that sounds exactly like what you heard a mere ten minutes earlier... But as a whole, Politics does have an arc and shape to it, from its deep, dusty valleys (see “Denial pt. 1") to its towering peaks of layered feedback and pure destruction (see “Denial pt. 2”). Overall the art at its core seems to be the story of a struggle. It’s a voice deep inside the subconscious of the insane man in all of us. It rejects the logic of waiting in line at the DMV to pay a ticket so that we can keep driving ourselves to work every day, so that we can pay to drive our cars. If the HQO wants to rid society of “society” and call it “progress,” maybe this is more optimistic music than it at first seems to be. Indeed, the record’s final moments are in a very obviously major key, as if humbled by its previous gauntlet, symbolizing perhaps a peaceful bliss to be found - a light at the end of the tunnel.

After all, life is good - remember?

The Human Quena Orchestra Official MySpace

--Craw 10/12/2009

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