Music For Zeitgeist Fighters

In many ways, Kleistwahr’s Gary Mundy has been fighting the zeitgeist throughout his career as a musician. His most famous band, Ramleh, has evolved through numerous iterations from solo power electronics project to full-on heavy psych rock band, all the while impervious to the trends in mainstream and even “independent” music. Hell, I know for a fact that a few noiseniks were more than a little nonplussed by Ramleh’s power trio format. More fool them. Over recent years, Mundy has returned frequently to his solo incarnation Kleistwahr, one which allows him greater room for both abstraction and intimacy in a wonderfully lyrical paradox. And now we get Kleistwahr on vinyl as an extra pleasure.

Music for Zeitgeist Fighters picks up where last year’s superb Over Your Heads Forever let off, but is a less demonstrative affair. On the record’s label, Gary Mundy evokes a dark “tide” that seems to be sweeping all humanity off its feet, one of the more direct condemnations of the dark political turn the world has taken in the last twelve months. Nationalism and bigotry have swept Brexit and Trump into reality and there seems little the reasonable (even those reasonable souls who voted for Brexit and Trump for their own reasons) can do to stop both from dismantling many things we thought were treasures worth preserving. Gary Mundy’s use of vocals has always been unique: he howls inchoate words into the morass of guitar feedback and synthesizer mayhem he creates, every syllable extended by effects but never cohering into identifiable words. But that’s the point. His voice is exquisitely beautiful because it captures a sense of impotent rage and despondent melancholia better than any words ever could. This is not the pointless mumbling of a Kevin Shields as he tries to coax shoegaze faux-noise into something resembling a hummable song (thus defeating the point of shoegaze), it’s the dispossessed roar of a soul caught in the maelstrom of an increasingly volatile reality. On the first side of Music for Zeitgeist Fighters, ‘Music for Dead Dreams’, the results, amid a searing endless guitar solo and bereft sonic crackle, are breathtaking in their emotional potency. More than any artist I’ve ever heard, Gary Mundy as Kleistwahr, conjures up the sheer terror and despondency of living in modern times.

By Mundy’s own admission, ‘Music for Dead Dreams’ started life in a way as an exploration of beauty and hope. Mundy has ceaselessly tried to rise above the crudeness of much of the power electronics and noise scenes, and ‘Music for Dead Dreams’ is shot through with pathos and elegiac beauty rather than dank misanthropy. As he said to me, the piece gradually evolves from its initial roots as a defeated call for hope in the face of the horrors mentioned above (to which one could add the catastrophes in Syria and Yemen and any number of other travesties that unfold daily on our TV screens) into the final segment’s more wistful, overtly beautiful, tone that suggests possibilities we can cling to. It’s both unrelentingly dark and deliriously optimistic. If Gary Mundy has been able to fight the zeitgeist all these years and still be going strong, then maybe we all need to push back against the dark tide and make our voices heard in these troubled times.

In comparison, the second side, ‘Music for Fucked Films’ is a more abstract, gently-evolving piece. Inspired by outsider art, and the films that don’t fit into conveniently-arranged tropes, Mundy emphasises atmosphere over abrasion, cutting free from the conventions of the genres he’s most associated with (industrial music, power electronics, noise) more conclusively than ever before until ‘Music for Fucked Films’ enters into the realms of avant-garde sonic construction rather than noise or drone. His voice here becomes a spectral choir, joined together with a soaring guitar solo and a tapestry of muted rumbles before the whole segues into a sepulchral organ motif. Like with Skullflower, there’s something spectrally devotional about Kleistwahr’s music on ‘Music for Fucked Films’, but it’s so elusive and mysterious it could just be the final ruminations of a tired phantom as he watches the world collapse. But then the organ bursts apart before a slow-building torrent of saturated white noise and the whole piece erupts in righteous indignation with some of the most brutal sonic destruction imaginable, as if Gary Mundy has concluded that no, he won’t go quietly into the night and, like all those protesters who have rocked the streets of the world over the last ten years, he will not just hope, as he did on ‘Music for Dead Dreams’, he will go down whilst spewing bloody murder and kick back against the empire.

Music for Zeitgeist Fighters is the album Gary Mundy, as Kleistwahr, has been promising since properly resurrecting the project for 2014’s This World is not my Home. It’s expansive but concise, beautiful but full of rage and thunder. The music is exquisite in ways noise rarely is, but coursing throughout is this undercurrent of revolt and defiance.

In a single month, both Skullflower and Kleistwahr have used the opportunity given to them by Nashazphone to deliver seminal works that reflect the world of 2017 through their own troubled prisms. Where Skullflower turn their gaze to the skies and conjure forth the demons of times gone by to fight the hobgoblins of our present, Kleistwahr looks inward to give form to the frayed emotions of so many who see what’s happening and cry out in pain. Both are powerful, both are essential.

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