Label: Tartarus Records Band: Grey Aura Origin: Netherlands
Grey Aura kind of dazzled me with their first release, which I reviewed for Echoes & Dust. The record series is based on a book, created by singer Ruben Wijlacker’s novel De Protodood in Zwarte Haren (The Proto-dead in Black Hair). The records are full of references to cultural pillars like Malevich, the De Stijl movement and this time in title with ‘ 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd’ also Gustave Flaubert.
Other references we read about in the bio are Rimbaud, Bataille, and Kandinsky. The record is also filled with field recordings and spoken word dialogues, done by professional voice actors. These complex efforts towards the narrative of the record are particularly noteworthy and grant Grey Aura an aura of the artistic and complex, which is reflected in their expressive live shows (which I enjoyed witnessing during the 2019 Roadburn festival).
The intro is a dialogue, spoken in terse, serious tones before we launch into ‘De onnoemelijke verleidelijkheid van de bezwijkende deugd’. The vocals of Wijlakker are something to experience, as they rip asunder any black metal cliché. He screams, bellows and then hoarsely speaks as a man lost to the listener as odd rhythms and sounds enter the song and transfigure it into something completely different.
Grey Aura doesn’t shun stepping far over their genre boundaries, as done on ‘Parijs is een portaal’. Mild Spanish guitar and a jazzy, fresh rhythm evoke the vibe of the Parisian nights. We even get some polka rhythm on ‘De Drenkeling’ a moment later, while the lyrics take the overhand in telling us the story, which you can find on the Bandcamp page in a more elaborate form. This grand canvas behind the record is what makes it all stick together, even if you don’t know about it. That is the absolute strength of this record in my opinion. It’s internal coherence and consistent delivery of surprising tunes. As you hit ‘Sierlijke Schaduwmond’ little remains, but gentle jazzy music and spoken poetry. Captivating, mesmerizing and enthralling the listener with occasional screams of fury and anguish.
The play ends with ‘De Drenkeling’, a spiraling song of despair, ending in a rigorous march with a fatalistic edge. Marching into the sea, into doom. What will follow?
It’s been holiday times, so I had time to read some more than normally. I always love to see the pile I’ve gotten through afterwards. Currently enough other things to read and listen fill my shelves, so time to get on it.
Charlotte Brönte – The Professor
There is something specifically cozy about reading books by the likes of Charlotte Brönte. It feels like this book requires you to have a cup of tea or coffee with it and really get cozy with a blanket and some nice singer-songwriter (preferably British) playing on the radio. The story is the inner thoughts and experiences of a man, devout of real heritage, who flaunts his unwanted families offers to make his own fortune in the world. It’s a story that takes us from the grimy industrial towns of 18th century Britain to the warm city of Brussels where he finds occupation as a teacher.
It is a story of character building and growth, of love and loneliness and in the end of a righteous set of affairs happening. While I wouldn’t recommend this as a very complex work that completely blows you away, it is nice to just feel cozy and homely once in a while.
Ryszard Kapuscinski – The emperor
Many people might know Haile Selassie as a figure that is much revered in reggae music by the rastafarians. He was also the last emperor of a 1000 year dynasty in Ethiopia. A reformer and totalitarian in one, the man could not read or write, but ran a country as effective as possible in the limited time that was given to him as a ruler.
I bought this book in Poland, due to it having a Polish author and also a topic of interest to me. It gathers up stories of the courtiers from Haile Selassie after the revolution. It was quite a dangerous undertaking to gather these stories in a country ravaged by internal strife, corruption and crime. Still it paints a clear image of an impossible empire that lasted much longer than it would have, it not for the smart rule of an emperor who wanted to bring together tradition and progress in an impossible marriage.
We speak of a man who dreamed of a united Africa, while maintaining an underfed population and an ever expanding nobility. A man who built palaces in the desert, while drinking water was not obtainable. He built highways and universities, but ruled without pen and paper. An amazing journey to the past.
Hannah Arendt – Eichmann and the Holocaust: It was sheer thoughtlessness that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of the period.
It is hard to say something about this book. Let’s start by saying I purchased it at the Jewish History Museum in Warsaw. Tight security and still not fully open for the public, it is a book about the aftermath, about Eichmann who was considered responsible for what we now know as the Holocaust. Arendt describes a man who is a true bureaucrat, a man who loves procedures and papers and has little to no actual intellect to guide him. Stuttering and muttering his way through life, only being understandable when uttering movie one-liners, all the way to the gallows in Jerusalem.
Arendt analyses the stupid and sometimes unconscious and silly kind of evil, committed by people who just don’t think. She also discusses if it was right what happened to Eichmann. Did Israel have the right to just execute the man on their own ground? No, they did not and they knew it. If he should be executed in the end? Maybe he was the neck that had to carry the weight for all those thousands of bureaucrats who ‘just did their job’. I find it hard to judge, but so does Arendt, who leaves the reader to form an own verdict. Was this right? Was Eichmann guilty or was he just a victim of the zeitgeist? Did he ever fully understand why he was walking to the gallows? We can ask ourselves this and maybe become slightly better people ourselves in the process.
Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities
I guess this might be the most important work of Dickens apart from the fairy tales. Maybe it is not, I found that it was very poignant. Dickens shows the other side of the Revolution in France as an event that created an upheaval in society even though it might have rational and righteous causes. Dickens makes the common people picturesque and the nobility sensitive and full of class, but also gives a distinct charm to both. He doesn’t judge I feel, in his book, about the situations in France and England and whatever he may think of it.
The tale of Two cities juxtaposes the city of Paris and London with one another to the effect of showing the differences and also the effect. In truth, the English royalty reformed and reshaped with the social changes. France missed the ball on that and got itself into a nasty revolution that ended it’s royal family. Not that much changed. After the terror new tyrants arose and spend fortunes on war.
Still, the book deals with the small people. It has the romance and sacrifice of the times, but also stupidity, rigid rebellion and vengeance. Everything is in there, except lazers. I think this is a book that everyone should read and try to learn something about opposing views. Mostly that making enemies only brings grief.