(Divide and Dissolve)
On the night of Wednesday 6th September I ‘popped my cherry’ in more ways than one; I attended my first live metal/drone gig, and I wrote my first gig review. The acts to not-so-gently welcome me into these new experiences were all duos, with Blacks’ Myths performing second, after Trigger Discipline had set the mood with some doom pop originating from Massachusetts, USA.
Drinks in hand, heads forwards and lights dimmed, Blacks’ Myths set began with the vocal sample which also opened their 2019 album Blacks’ Myths II. “Deepfakes and deeperfakes, truth has been hollowed out. And in the cavernous void that remains, some of us have found a rhythmic order of interaction that is bold enough, like love, to live in[…]. Here, the value of life is no vapid conspiracy theory.” One of very few examples of discernable language throughout their set, the essence of Blacks’ Myths music had already been communicated. This is a band concerned with ideas around memory and history, while confronting problematic realities relating to race. It was immediately obvious their music was channelling a strong sense of selfhood, personal experience and beliefs, all of which was heavily stamped with a Black identity.
The duo of Luke Stewart (Electric Bass Guitar, Electronics, the occasional cowbell) and Warren Crudup III (Drums) from Washington, D.C. avoid simple classification, incorporating elements of doom metal, post-rock and free jazz in their performance. Both members would change from playing melodic, or rather structured, passages to more experimental excursions into sound. However, what remained throughout their time on stage was a feeling of intensity; the quieter moments felt like a conversation which was developing with new information, rather than one which had reached a lull. This was only extended through the fact that their set was one continuous performance of noise – I had not listened to their back catalogue enough to identify clearly distinguished songs, but through listening I felt that the band’s priority was to express their freedom and spirit through their hypnotic rhythmic grooves and explorative soundscapes. One particular highlight was a groove towards the end of the set, which evolved while a sample looped exclaiming “You a jazz cat” followed by laughter. The pair were locked in a stare with each other, both sweating immensely as the ever shifting performance acting as their language reached its conclusion.
After a short break, the stage, lit in a smoky red hue, was populated by Melbourne based musicians ‘Divide and Dissolve’. Sylvie Nehill, of Māori and White-Australian heritage, sat down at the drums, while saxophone and guitarist Takiaya Reed, who is of Tsalagi and African-American heritage, joined up front. Their set consisted of 4 long pieces. It began with enticing saxophone playing, which was looped and continued for a couple minutes. The music was welcoming and I began to question the presence of the earplugs that cushioned in my ears, when suddenly the tone and amplification of the music drastically changed. Droning guitar cut through the loop, demanding your attention, while the slow march of chugging drums began. Immediately the volume of the music hit me – literally – as the aural experience became a kinetic one through tangible vibrations on the body. It was doom drenched synesthesia. Each kick of the bass drum pedal forced my body into motion, and as I glanced around, heads in the crowd began to move to the noise. The music was thick and it occupied your head, yet its power invoked a joyful feeling within.
Once again the duo on stage were clearly connected. Takiaya stood as close to the drums as can be, facing towards the percussion rather than the audience, smiling. As the first track concluded, the musician addressed the audience: “This music doesn’t have any words but it has an intense message”. Takiaya began to discuss the impact of colonisation in separating indigenous people from the land, and the intergenerational trauma caused, and how this music is an opposition to these things. “The music honours the water and the land[…] change is possible and there is a possibility to stop destroying each other”. Immediately after, the second track began. ‘Indignation’ off of their latest album Systemic which released back in June, started with looped saxophone similarly to their opener. Once again, the saxophone was eventually joined by howling guitar and slogging drums. Having the sentiments contained within the music overtly explained altered its consumption – the reasons for this auditory barrage gained greater clarity.
Through the final two tracks the sense of power did not diminish, and while I began to slightly fatigue from the slow, metal drones of the evening, appreciation of the display remained. What first could be seen as discord in Divide and Dissolve’s playing could now be understood as resilience, and in moments almost buoyant. Despite being in attendance of a predominantly instrumental evening, the politically charged sonics of the night had thoroughly informed. While making my way out of the premises, I thought to myself as a relative drone/doom newbie “are drone/doom gigs normally like this?”. I really hope they are.