Today’s avant-ugly survives thanks to hard-working godfather Merzbow. His deadly immortal children-of-the-night include Wolf Eyes, Sunn, DJ Scud, Russell Haswell and Pita, probably DMX, and definitely Hearts of Darkness. This is a hallowed crew. Only the bravest artists accept the vampiric energy of the anti-Bible: A set of immoralities to govern a church of morbid noise.
The avant-ugly commit audio genocide. Their objective runs contrary to all expectations for music. But they still serve a badass purpose that can’t be overlooked. Their cruelty is the demand of creativity, and there’s no saying it can’t be pleasurable—like tooth decay. This isn’t about making room for other opinions, being open-minded. This is about napalm destruction. The grim truth is that most music should be destroyed forever—there’s a reason we’re discussing Hearts of Darkness and not Tyra Banks’s album whose title thankfully eludes me. Like labelmate Otto Von Schirach or Toronto’s Logo Hoax, Hearts of Darkness has a plot to destroy the American generic. His utility belt includes mutilated drum breaks, a plethora of slasher movie screams, and unlocked, uncaged drill ‘n’ bass grooves.
The truth is, some music does not deserve to exist. And, it’s the job of the avant-ugly to eradicate joy and sentiment from music. Hearts of Darkness’s thick, extreme sound is intended to decibelly melt the pale, shallow music of mainstream culture in the slag of his own black heart.
Heart of Darkness’s most successful riot-fomentation tactic is to characterize the melody of his songs as scenes of violent interrogation. This is most brutally obvious on the song “Positive,” which sounds anything but. It’s rhythms are based on the beat-down of an unsuspecting singer, who, throughout the record, is tortured beyond imagining, and screams through what sounds like the speaker on an old 56k modem. The whole insane, digital head-rush of it is very “ultra” in the Clockwork Orange sense of the prefix. Hard not to nod your ahead in stymied admiration for how well Frank Musarra has summed up today’s grim, imprisoned state of affairs.
The avant-ugly is so ugly you can’t help but react. It’s impossible to ignore Hearts of Darkness. This is his gift, and he has used it for evil purposes. To make the most appalling junkyard rape-fantasy come true in sound—a collection of industrial violations and nightmare visions set against steadily more disturbing discarded hard-drive rhythms. I only mean to suggest the metaphor that induces the same trauma as the album. Music for Drunk Driving is the sympathetic nightmare of someone lost under Rohypnol’s neo-conservative spell. When you wake up from Hearts of Darkness, everything around is worse, but only because you see the world so much more clearly for the lies. You have to do something about it.
As I mentioned above, most popular music appeals to the listener’s sentiment, rather than our physical selves. Our fear and loathing are not recommended subjects for pop songs. But lately, life has been getting darker. For instance, on Jadakiss’s song “K.I.S.S. Me”, a duet with Mariah Carey from his new record Kiss of Death, he raps: “I would play a song for you, and you would let me know exactly how the ladies will respond from a women’s point-of-view,” and also: “Money is great but what we got is more better, we got the four letters, ‘cause when it comes from the heart it’s more pleasure, and for the fact that you trust me still, thus far I appreciate what we’ve built.” He also raps about sharing the same income tax forms, which, I believe used to be called “getting married”. In other words, the fiction of love that was once spun by pop music has started to go meta. Pop love is beginning to see and comment on it’s own tactics.
So how does a savvy laptop punk rocker stay ahead of the darkness of reality? You have to go pretty far out on the edge, where nothing is symmetrical, all the colors are hues of puke, everything smells like unhealthy baby shit, and even laughter only comes from earaches. Consider the paradox that this is the place where the bleach-white noise of mortal consciousness comes from. It’s called the Hearts of Darkness for a reason.