The Belligerence of Stoneburner

Meet two of the most remarkable hominins to ever cross the threshold of the Magic Bungalow:

Those in the know recognize them as the custodians of the World’s Ugliest Cat, but they are more widely known as the Industriogothronica1 duo Ego Likeness. Donna Lynch is also a poet and a horror writer and a Stoker Finalist (along with her husband) for their collection Witches. Steven Archer is a visual artist as well as an acoustic one, who does disquieting things with oils and a variety of animal parts (things which have been hung in galleries from NYC to Seattle). He does soundtracks for NASA, and writes, um, children’s storybooks. He also manifests as the solo acts Hopeful Machines and Stoneburner.

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If that last name sounds familiar to you, you’ve probably read Frank Herbert. Wikipedia describes Stoneburner’s music as “Worldbeat”, but doesn’t specify which world: Steven created Stoneburner as an ongoing experiment in what tribal dance music might sound like on Arrakis. If the name isn’t enough to clue you in to that fact, the album titles should be: On the Folding of Space; The Mouse Shadow; Songs in the Key of Arrakis.

Except for his latest, Technology Implies Belligerence, which constitutes a departure into what we might call more obscure territories than the Dune series.

It would probably be an overstatement to describe TIB as a Blindsight concept album. Certainly there’s an influence; the cover art is pretty much a giveaway, as are tracks like “The Structure Itself is in Pain”, “So Much More Aware So Much Less Perceptive”, and “Theseus Abandoned”. But there are eight other tracks on the album, and they seem to come from darker places than the Oort. Titles like “The Angel of Abscess” and “Minor Monsters” make the point; their lyrics drive it home:

You like your Violence from a distance
Voyeristic, you stagnate
Trading all lack of resistance
For excretions on your plate 

I am the storm after the calm
I am the god behind the psalm

 

There are no ancient institutions
Saving me from dissolution
You cannot preserve the stars
In empty canopic jars.

 

All the predatory creatures
Sniffing out the weak and injured
Truth inside you like a splinter
You run for shelter
They run for dinner

Of course you can be forgiven for not appreciating those elegant little turns of phrase on first listen. You can be forgiven for not even hearing them, given the way Archer growls and snarls and clinically distorts his voice in Post. I get the sense that at least three quarters of the time he treats Human vocals as just another instrument in the arsenal, another sound to be twisted and manipulated to convey not so much a coherent lyric as a gut feeling. The words are there, but they’re not front and center. You have to hunker down and mine them from the mix (or cheat by watching videos with subtitles).

The merest echo of being there. Photo credit: Matt Fox

The first time I saw Steven Archer in concert— at some cramped upstairs grotto in downtown Toronto— it was like being punched in the face by the evil twin of the light trip from 2001. He was a dreadlocked silhouette thrashing against a backdrop of light and noise, somewhere between grand mal and social commentary. (I whipped out my phone to document it for posterity, only to have the fucking thing go missing a week later.) I don’t know if any studio album could match that level of live spontaneous energy, but Technology Implies Belligerence captures the same sense of apocalyptic collage.

If you’re looking for easy listening you won’t find it here. If you think music reached its apotheosis with Side Three of Tales from Topographic Oceans you’d best move along (also, I can’t help you). If you dig NIN at its crunchiest, though, you should check this out.2 The signature thumping tribal rhythms of “Dance Music on Arrakis” is still front and center— a couple of tracks are pure percussion and concussion— but other passages are downright ethereal. And there’s one interlude that, swear to God, is some kind of jig. TIB has become my go-to soundtrack for trail running. Apparently it’s at #8 on the “Darkwave” charts as I type; I’m not surprised.

I’m just bummed those two won’t be back up here before this year’s crop of raccoons have buggered off.


1 Okay, the official designation is apparently “Darkwave”, but what does that even mean?

2 Also if you want to hear my own distorted and grungified guest vocals on the spoken-word final track.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday July 10 2019at 01:07 pm , filed under blindsight, ink on art . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

9 Responses to “The Belligerence of Stoneburner”

  1. You know the best people. I’m a big Ego Likeness fan, and was lucky enough to see them a while back when they played a venue near me. I was pleased to find that they are an excellent live act: they’re good enough musicians that they can accurately reproduce the sound and feel of the studio versions, and good enough performers that they can add that something extra that you get from a live show. Steven was more low-key than he probably is with his solo acts, but Donna has stage presence in spades.

    I had no idea about Steven’s other projects; looks like I have some listening to do.

    Catchy album title, too.

  2. Hey, they are working with blindsight.space. I see the art. cool!

  3. Don’t be ridiculous, dude.
    It was Side Four.

  4. scramblerstep

  5. Thanks for the music recommendation! Just downloaded 6 of their albums from Amazon.

  6. Music reached its apotheosis with prism genesis by fuji grid tv.

  7. One look on that cover and “The Ambassador” comes rushing back. A great re-read is about to happen here..

    Yes. I will listen to it.
    Yeeees.

  8. Just when I think music is getting settled again, stuff like this happens. Thanks for the directional beacon. And from a decades-long Yesfan, anyone who thinks *any* side of TFTO is any kind of apotheosis is probably already dead. 🙂

  9. “It was a form of music not to be listened to with one’s ears, but with the whole of the skin at once, a form of music that filled the canals of the veins with echoes and turned the bone structure to resonance. Like a dose of mescaline reaching the brain, the gates of the soul, or a sweet spider injecting the dissolving enzymes into the victim’s flesh, that music substituted itself for the soul and, like a perfidious homunculus, took over the reins of the body in its firm hands. Then, like a sequence of azure peristaltic waves, the music leaked down to the jugulars, invaded the lymphatic canals, irrigated the fusiform packets of the muscles, appropriated, along the length of the spinal nerves, the internal organs, the hexagonal cells of the liver, the heart with its electrical embryos, the suprarenal and the great precincts of the urinal bladder, descended into the calves like a mist of twilight, and sped along the femur, tibia, and fibula to the tips of the toes, replacing with a musical tangle every cell, each mitochondrion, each crumb of nucleic acid.”
    -Mircea Cărtărescu, “Nostalgia”.