It's good: Névoa – Towards Belief

There's no shortage of bands that claim a combination of metal and jazz, but so very few pull it off as well as this Portugese band does.

Often, metal bands playing jazzy musical segments – or even calmer passages in general – lack the nuance to make them sound good. But Névoa absolutely has the skill to pull off the dynamic changes on this record.

And it's not just that they actually play both the metal and jazz parts exceptionally well. It's also how they manage to have their very own sound apart from the standard metal/jazz vocabulary. They're dark, very dark, mostly pulling from atmospheric black metal, and their more jazzy passages are moody and smokey. They let their segments play out for as long as needed, but they're also good at shifting gears. This makes their music feel less monolithic than your typical black metal record, and much more like a musical adventure. And it doesn't feel hokey either: they're still heavy and doomy, and I'd definitely recommend this for fans of both doom and black metal. But this is for the more musically curious as well!

It's good: Huntsmen – Mandala of Fear

Not often does a band that's rooted in stoner, doom and post-whatever capture my attention like this. This album is incredibly diverse, and it does everything it attempts very well. Its 'basic' sound is indeed stoner-influenced (I hear Intronaut and Baroness and Mastodon in there) but this album is a ride that goes much further than that. It has blistering passages of rage that are not only heavy, but also quite unlike anything the abovementioned bands have ever put out; it has calm, soothing sections with amazing female vocals (more of that in metal, please); it has melodic passages that are total prog... With every single thing this band does, it sounds like that's the kind of band it is: 'this is a death metal band', 'this is an atmospheric folk band', 'this is a prog rock band', etc. Except it's all the same band!

The album as a whole flows wonderfully, with all of its songs (ranging from 2,5 to almost 11 minutes) having a certain purpose in the musical arc of the album. Just a rich and rewarding musical experience!

It's good: Kyros – Celexa Dreams

There's nothing quite so satisfying as musical surprises. And this album is full of them. The backbone of this album is super-nostalgic 80's powerprog, at times so cheesy it borders on homage. But this band brings in a truckload of modern influences, popping up where you least expect them. The heavy passages especially caught me off-guard, not only because they contrast so strongly with the rest of the music, but also because they turn out to fit perfectly, and are executed with great finesse. All too often a not-so-metal band will attempt to sound 'heavy' only to end up sounding brittle, but Kyros pulls off every single element of their sound.

This is really fun, colorful music that is both nostalgic and truly progressive.

It's good: Melted Bodies – Enjoy Yourself

If you ever feel like you're living in a ridiculous dystopian hellscape, then this album will be immensely satisfying for you. Their sarcastic takes on the state of the world are as funny as they are painful.

I could describe their sound as a mix of System of a Down and avant-garde stuff like Dog Fashion Disco and Stolen Babies, but they really have their very own thing going on. They even have moments of truly heavy, un-ironicised death metal. The whole thing is pretty crazy, I guess is my point.

It's good: NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISM – Éons

I'm gonna be honest, I didn't even finish this album yet. I just really want to write about it so I don't forget how I feel.

I like to think of music, especially heavy music, in terms of scratching an itch. Some music scratches a particular shallow itch really well, even violently. Some ultra-heavy music can scratch such an itch until it hurts. (I wonder how this all sounds to someone who isn't into heavy music... inviting, no?)

NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISM also is in the business of itch-scratching, but the itch it targets is deep. As such, it can never fully be scratched. Satisfaction can never be reached. Because the itch is a spiritual one, and in order to scratch it, the music has to transport you to a different world. Once there, you'll want to stay there, however turbulent and violent this world is. There's something true about this world; it feels truer than our own world. So when the album is over (which takes some time, mind you), you're left wanting to go back to this wonderfully hideous spiritual world that's so much like our own and yet nothing like it. When I see the ugly ugliness of the real world, I miss the beautiful ugliness of this album.

It's good: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – K.G.

This is a vibe album, as most King Gizzard albums are. In the same way that some movies are vibe movies: your enjoyment will largely depend on the extent to which you can vibe with it. And I can vibe with K.G.

They dragged out their microtonal instruments again, and they definitely experiment to get some interesting tunes out of them. This might be a sequel to their 2017 album Flying Microtonal Banana, it's definitely not a redo. The band has clearly evolved in the 3½ years (and 6 studio albums) since then.

What I especially love is the sheer fun that shines through their music. Some songs even sound like they started out as jokes, before they got turned into well-produced songs. On top of that, the microtonality adds a lot of flavour to the music, without making it too hard to listen to.

It's good: Underworld & The Necks – Appleshine Continuum

Damn. The pure joy of two artists that you love coming together and making something beautiful. And it's even more lovely when these two artists don't seem to fit together at all.

Underworld is a legendary (but also kind of underground) electronic music group, mostly known for their song Born Slippy. The Necks is an obscure jazz band with a truly unique sound (think ambient, minimalism, improvisation).

These two groups came together for a single 47-minute track that weaves these two textures together beautifully. It drifts from pulsating trance to hypnotic jazz and back, and although the electronics are always present, the structure feels like pure The Necks: organic and improvisational.

It's just really beautiful and hypnotic, and perfect for studying to as well.

It's good: Zeal & Ardor – Wake of a Nation

I want to start keeping track of music that I listen to and like, so that I don't forget. I call it "it's good" because it's good music. Yeah. I might come up with a better name later.

Zeal & Ardor is notably less black metal on this short EP, but it's still impactful. At the Seams, for example, is an uncharacteristically pop-rocky tune, which makes its final black metal-tinged moments all the more impressive. The whole thing feels like a bit of a hodgepodge, but a very impassioned and relevant one. If anything, it's a clear reflection of the current socio-political climate in the USA (tl;dr: a narcissictic racist idiot is in power), which gives the off-the-cuff feeling of this EP a lot more validity.

I'm so happy to hear that they're not resting happy with the sound that they developed in the past. This is really good, really creative, and I'm curious what they'll do next! Let's just hope they won't go the Shining way.

(Also, I want to hear a Zeal & Ardor / Algiers collab so bad, you have no idea.)

24-09-2020

This might be as good a time as any to resume this bizarre unread blog. For I've read some books that, as Kant put it, awoke me from my dogmatic slumber, and I ache for a place to put my thoughts lest I forget them.

The two books are, somewhat unfortunately for this blog, both in Dutch. They are Theorie van de Kraal ("Kraal" is an enclosure for livestock) and Hints voor een diagnose. I should've probably read them in reverse order, because the former book deals with the current political climate and why we shouldn't submit to the violent tendencies of liberalism (which the writers put on the same spectrum as fascism), whereas the latter book deals with our current dominant mode of operation ("zijnswijze"), its philosophical origins and why we shouldn't submit to its supposed primacy.

So Theorie van de Kraal talks about liberalism and argues that it is a mediocre excuse for a societal structure at best. It presupposes, and therefore forces, people to be finished individuals: people with borders. There's no room for the idea that we might all be incomplete, imperfect, never finished. No, you're a human being with a definite form, and thus you get all the (negative) freedom to do what you want, as long as you don't cross someone else's borders. These borders are projected outwards by liberals in the form of country borders, and countries are another fiction similar to individuals. Liberalism then says that although people are finished individuals, they have unlimited desire: that's their nature. So they have to run, run together (con-currere) to produce ever more stuff, all the way into infinity or death, whichever comes first. And the insidious, or curious, thing about liberalism is that it feels like there's no alternative: of course there's an economy! Of course we need borders! Of course you have to participate to earn your rights! It feels like such a well-balanced system, where all that's needed is the occasional tweaking of some minor law here or there. But underneath the veneer lies the rot, the injustice, the violence, in the form of the people who are left behind, the homini sacri (by way of Agamben), the refugees and other people who somehow lost their 'inalienable rights'. So maybe there is another way, after all. A better way to live together. Maybe love is a better place to start than contract, or law, or sovereignty. Or perhaps the true starting point is to admit that I, like everyone else, don't know how to live peacefully. Not yet.

Hints voor een diagnose is comparably much drier, more technical, and not filled with the frantic urgency that a book published anno 2019 would have. Otto Duintjer takes Kants philosophy as an example of how western civilisation has been fixated on rationality to such an extent that it forgot that anything else exists. More specifically, we see our 'selves' as thinking selves. Being is thinking. And his dissection of every major facet of Kants work is very convincing: Kant clearly considers thinking-being to be the only mode of operation worth considering. Everything else is merely distraction, sidenote, collateral at best, actively immoral at worst. Duintjer argues that there are nevertheless other possible modes of existing. He goes into quite a few of them, but the one I found the most interesting is the mode of 'simply observing'. This is what is sometimes called 'meditation', and it means you simply observe with all your senses, but also your body and mind. Thoughts may still come and go in this mode, but instead of being carried away by them (and identifying yourself with them), you simply observe them; like clouds in the sky, they come and go. By turning off your seemingly unstoppable internal monologue, you gain access to very different kinds of existing next to and beyond the rational-empirical.

It's fascinating stuff, and it ties in wonderfully with Kraal: both implore us to see other ways of seeing the world and ourselves. To look beyond what's given to us. And Hints too talks about the violence of reason, just as Kraal describes the violence of liberalism. It too talks about how thinking is little more than endlessly running from place to place in your head, just as liberal society consists of endlessly running to produce. In fact, thinking is itself production: it uses sense data as raw input to be processed into coherent thoughts.

So what if we didn't have to produce? What if, instead of thinking about the future or the past, we would just sit down and observe? What if, instead of running from job to job, we would just experience life? Contentment seems to be the biggest threat to the primacy of both reason and liberalism. So let's be content a bit more often, shall we?

60.

I'll be honest, I'm way too lazy to write today. But since I just opened my editor and I already started writing, there's no going back now. Technically I already achieved my goal, since I can just click "submit", but let's not be an asshole about this. What I really want, is to have my 100 writings and do some fun statistical stuff with it. Like, I wonder what word I used the most in my writings. I could make one of these word webs. I hope it won't contain any swearwords. And the most common word is probably "I".  I could also make a graph of the length of each text, and see how it evolved over time. Maybe I got more lazy as time went on, and my texts became shorter and shorter. I thought I had more ideas to justify how excited I am about this, but I guess I'm just a dork. Oh yeah, I could also see what the most common two-word pair is, although it's probably "I guess". I'm predictable.

Today I've been looking for books for my studies. Specifically, for two versions of the same book, by Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. In my class we're going to read it in German, and the punchline is that I don't understand German. So when she was done laughing, my teacher said that I should get an English or Dutch version to read for myself. I visited four book shops in my home city, and I could find not a single book by Kant. There's no Kant in the entirity of my city! Which is somewhat understandable: no popular book shop would sell his books, because they're unreadable and impossible to understand. No, popular book shops barely sell any primary philosophy at all. It's mostly popular and contemporary stuff, then some books about old writers, and occasionally a lost work by Aristotle or Hume or Hegel. So this means that I'll either have to get a Dutch version in a second-hand book store in Antwerp, or get an English one online. Maybe a Dutch one wouldn't be so bad (even though I secretly hate my own language), since my lessons will also be in Dutch. Switching between German and Dutch and English might be a bit too much of a good thing anyways. And I really do want to have a physical book, because reading from a screen sucks, and printing a pdf is just a bit too lame.

This has been another chapter of Adventures in Finding Books Nobody Wants. Tune in next week for more wacky adventures!

58.

When I was young(er), memes were, well, pretty obscure. I went to websites like Memebase and Failblog (which, by the way, still exist!), and later Encyclopedia Dramatica and, yes (I'm sorry), 4chan. All these were part of what I'll call "internet culture". Which, back then, didn't mean culture in general. There was actually a culture outside of the internet! And this internet culture, with its countless inside jokes, was, I'll be honest, for dorks. There was a very specific type of person who'd engage with it. Young, male, insecure and introverted are the first words that come to mind. These people wouldn't just walk up to other people to make friends. They were, generally speaking (and definitely speaking for myself) lucky to have friends at all. But online, there was this whole world of like-minded people, sharing jokes that no one outside of this circle would understand. You could tell random people at school "The Game", and none of them would know what the hell you're talking about. Of course, the joke was on them, since you lose The Game by thinking about The Game. So you just lost, as did I. Anyways, all of this is to say that there was a clear distinction between real life and meme life. So it's pretty crazy to see that today, memes have taken over the world. They're ubiquitous! And although they've grown in popularity and therefore lost their appeal as a secret (albeit stupid) language, they're still inside jokes. The boundary has just shifted. It's no longer just young insecure boys, it's an entire generation. And other generations are never in on the joke. I think that I'm currently on the border: I'm not up to date with the memes that are popular today, but I do still understand most of them. One effect of memes having become so widespread, is that most of them have become very lowest-common-denominator. They're easy to get, as they barely require any kind of inside knowledge. But old people (also known as boomers) severely lack any kind of knowledge of internet culture, so even these popular memes (sometimes known as normie memes) will fly over their heads most of the time.

Most of the insecure boys who were part of meme culture back in the day will have grown up by now. The ones who haven't are still on the internet, in the dark corners where no one dares to venture. 4chan has become one of these places. To be fair, it was always a pathetic place. The utter shittiness of 4chan was a meme in itself. Yet there was a kind of authentic shittiness that made it unique. Now, it's truly nothing more than a toxic breeding ground for the rare group of people who are both insecure and assholes. The offensive humor that the site used to be known for, has turned into just offensiveness. Some people still think it's funny. But I think that most of them have moved on. So have I, in case that wasn't clear. It was a strange time for sure. And it's even stranger, seeing a manifestation of that culture being so abundant now. Even if a lot of the memes right now are pretty crappy, it was probably the natural way for them to evolve. After all, the internet has become our entire lives. It only makes sense that internet culture takes over the new generation.

56.

I didn't write yesterday, but only because I was writing something else, something serious. And I just didn't feel like writing anything more. Oh well, why am I even making excuses for myself?

Today I found out that it is illegal to cycle together on one bike in Belgium. As in: a second person sitting on the back of the bike, legs to one side. Maybe I'm ignorant, but I find this very weird. In the Netherlands, carring someone on your bike is the peak of romance. The most famous scene from the most famous Dutch movie is just two people riding on one bike. Many odes to this way of cycling have been written. People have gotten angry over bike sharing services offering bikes without a rack on the back. There's multiple well-known songs called bagagedrager (a good word to practice your Dutch!). So as a Dutch person, I'm naturally soaked in the culture of the bike rack, and a happy participant in the two-people-on-a-bike tradition. But our southern neighbors apparently don't look so kindly on this behaviour. And I don't really understand why. Is it really so dangerous that it should be made illegal? Or is there some other reason? In any case, I don't think that we're going to stop doing it. It's a comfortable and romantic mode of transport, it requires almost no equipment and is carbon neutral! What more do you want?

Also, I just now realized that I've been doing this writing during a period of no lectures. My lectures have just started, and I can already sense that this writing is going to get a whole lot more tiring from now on. My studies consist of approximately 100% reading, thinking and writing, so this extra writing suddenly seems a bit... excessive. Oh well.

54.

It's strange how difficult it is for me to just enjoy a day with nothing in particular to do. I really think that feeling happy is the most important thing in life, and things like work and study are just ways to achieve it. So I don't think that I have to work every single day to have a good life. But still, when I have nothing to do, I can't really enjoy myself. Even though there's always something to do, and I would really enjoy these things in other contexts. For example, I like reading (to a degree), I like listening to music, I like watching movies, I like reading articles, yet spending a whole day inside only doing these things usually makes me feel uneasy. I wish I was able to just enjoy my time, regardless of how "productive" I think I am. Because this urge to be productive rarely leads to actual productivity anyways. It's usually just an unpleasant mental pressure that I'm constantly aware of. It's as if deep down, I believe that I have to do something useful before I can enjoy myself. And this goes for every single day of my life. I don't really believe it, but maybe my subconsciousness somehow does.

I don't really know what else to write about. I've kinda made a "rule" for myself, that every entry here should be at least a decent length. And now I'm looking at the above text, and I'm not satisfied. But maybe I shouldn't care. I never made a rule about how long these things need to be anyways. So why impose even more rules onto myself? Maybe I should just end it right here!

53.

So I'm becoming a tutor. Some days ago, I saw an advertisement on my uni's website, saying that they're looking for people who can tutor middle schoolers who have trouble with certain subjects. I applied, got a call, and I have my first lesson this Tuesday. So first of all: that went really goddamn fast. But also, I had an extensive introduction today, and that really helped. I now feel like I'm actually somewhat prepared and I somewhat know what to expect. Somewhat. I already know that in teaching, whatever you expect and whatever you prepare will not happen. So I know better than to count on any expectations too much. But it feels good to meet other tutors, to talk with experienced people, and to get help. I guess what I'm most excited about is that I'll have a chance to actually help out some people who might be in a difficult place. In Belgium, education inequality is very bad, which means that having a low socio-economic status is pretty much equal to having trouble in school. And since classes are big and full, the teachers don't have time or energy to look after every single edge case. The lessons must continue. So I'll have a small group, and I will be able to do exactly that: pay attention to individuals. Besides the subject itself (English, by the way), I'll also have to pay attention to their background and other things that might be playing a role in their lives. It might just be that there are things at the root of their difficulty that have nothing to do with English. I hope I can make a difference.

Oh also, I just saw Uncut Gems. I'm so very conflicted. I think I liked it, really liked it even, but despite myself. This is the opposite of a guilty pleasure. It's really not my kind of movie, and I didn't have a particularly good time watching it. But I just can't get around the fact that this movie is really goddamn good. So good, that it somehow didn't activate the many triggers that so many other movies did. Take Climax, a movie that's supposedly good. I profoundly hated it. I acknowledge that it's impressively filmed, but aside from the technical aspects, it's a shit experience that I don't wish on anyone. It's strongly goes against what I like about movies and why I value them. And Uncut Gems, in a lot of ways, is similar. It's one-note, it's frantic, it's miserable, it's people screaming constantly. And yet I have to admit: it's a great movie. Afterwards my girlfriend and I had an hour-long discussion about it. It's truly something. And I admit that begrudgingly.

51.

It's weird, when you try to be a good person and care about stuff, the number things you can do becomes smaller and smaller. The past few years of my life have been characterized by a growing awareness of the concequences of my actions. I stopped eating meat and eventually all animal products because of their environmental and ethical implications. I don't want to be a part of an ultra-polluting, animal-torturing industry, so I decided to stop supporting it. I also try to buy food locally and in-season, although that's not easy for me yet. I try to reduce my energy usage, use laundry liquids that aren't harmful to nature, avoid big chains that fuck over poor people, and a bunch of other small things. These are not really sacrifices. Most of them have become habits, and I enjoy the process of trying to live according to my own values. Yet there always seems to be more stuff to do. I love candles, for example, but they're almost always made of paraffin, a byproduct of petroleum, which means that I'm essentially burning fossil fuels in my home. And a common alternative, candles made from beeswax, happens to not be vegan. Vegan and nature-friendly candles happen to be ridiculously expensive. So here my convinctions clash not only with each other, but also with my comfort and my wallet.

But that's getting down to the nitty-gritty stuff. In the end, we're not going to save the planet by ditching candles. These things are relevant only if you want to make a big a change as possible. Still, there are some simple things that one can do to make a big impact. If you care about plastic pollution, you can stop buying fish, since fishing is the biggest source of oceanic plastic pollution. Also, ditching single-use bags, bottles and other pointless plastic packaging are easy changes. If you care about global warming, skipping beef is a simple fix. Deciding not to take the plane might be even better, depending on your habits. If global poverty is what concerns you, look into the most effective charities (GiveWell.org is a good place to start) and also look into the track records of big companies when it comes to their treatment of people in third-world countries. Re-using and buying second-hand seem to be good strategies for all of the above concerns. Drinking tap water instead of soda from plastic bottles or milk from cartons also solves multiple problems at once (health, plastic pollution and, in the latter case, animal cruelty).

That's it. I'm too lazy/tired to think today, so today's writing is this. A masterclass in being a hippie tree-hugging gutmensch. G'night.