Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Armor and Clang

I wanted badly to see Clang Quartet live, because I had loved the documentary about him, Armor of God, by Brett Ingram and Jim Haverkamp. Armor starts with a shot of Clang’s only member, Scotty Elliot, banging on his cymbals on the floor, while his voice-over says something to the effect of, “I was never one of those people who could pay attention in school.” (It’s been a while since I saw this movie, so I forget exactly what he said.) I remember the documentary going on to juxtapose his voiced-over philosophies on life with footage of his ridiculous act, banging and rattling things and running sounds through electronic processors and what-have-you to make it all come out in a distorted mush. At one point, his voice-over talks about the armor of God being something you only need to wear on your front, because a person of true faith never needs to turn his back on his enemy. While he is saying this, he is seen wearing a metal mask with a cluster of bells in the space where the mask’s eyes and nose would be, thus invoking the idea of S&M paraphernalia which also plug the senses, suppress individuality, force a person to exist through the act alone. (The Armor website linked above has a link to streaming video of the armor of God scene.)

Performing live though, he gave no voice-over, and we just had the noise. It can be hard to relate what he is doing to the sounds coming from his equipment. He used a large vest-like thing with lots of jangly metal on it, but it did not seem to create a level of noise commensurate with its appearance. Indeed, Clang goes to a lot of trouble to do strange things with found objects, drawing a cello bow across one fin on this vest, or pulling a slinky out to it’s extent and pumping it into a standing wave, but such actions do not alter his wash of sound enough to give me a strong sense of cause and effect. This is like life, I think -- it is the question of why must we go so far, so often, and achieve so little. Or like art, wherein one asks, why is a person driven to do that? But these deeper meanings can easily be lost in the storm surge of sounds pounding at the brain. There is not a trace of irony in Elliot’s act. He is in a trance-like state -- he does seem to be in a prayer frenzy, as if speaking in tongues. I would prefer a little humor, or conceptual counterpoint, as his presentation in the documentary did provide. But then, that would be changing his act.

For an act consisting of a single, noisy, hooded guy who does use self-effacement to counteract his self-obsession, check out the Torch Marauder. I love that name. Who would think of using the word “marauder” anyway? It’s like someone who would maraud, but with a torch. Like the townspeople at the end of the original Frankenstein who marauded the barn and torched it, see.

No comments: