Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Phyte Club: Metal and Nature

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Once again, Invisible Oranges speaks to me. I would love one day to have the
opportunity to meet a certain Cosmo Lee to thank him for the daily doses of insight
from within a metal matrix. Since we may never meet, my only recourse is to write and
hopefully do so well.
Gardening was a balm which soothed my soul. Digging in the earth, inhaling
the scent of flowers, carefully planting seeds, tying up, tying down, pruning,
transplanting all taught me about the paradoxical, simultaneity of life’s fragility and
robustness. Sometimes it is due care that leads to vigour and success and other times
it is neglect and abuse. Much like how kids from good families go bad and vice versa,
plants do well often because of our efforts but frequently do so in spite of them.
True success in gardening cannot really be measured by the abundance of a
certain crop, the size of a tree or the sweetness of fruit alone. These are all worthy
indicators of success but their value corresponds to the aims of the gardener alone.
Instead, I would argue in consonance with Masanobu Fukuoka that observation and
reflection lie at the very heart of what we might call success for the gardener. In other
words where the cash crop farmer may measure his/her success by yield, the reflective
gardener measures his/her success as an ongoing relationship with an ego dwarfing
whole.
When Phyte Club’s Katie was asked about metal plants, she gave some great
examples. From the rotting flesh scented raffelsia to carnivorous plants she painted a
brilliant if somewhat limited image. If asked about the metal-ity of plants I, however,
would borrow from both Fukuoka and Lovelocke and utilize a version of the Gaia
hypothesis. This is where we take the world as a living organism. While for purposes of
culture and survival we have categorized various plants the reality is that they are a
part of a massive living organism. Everything we do to them, every destruction, they
come back. Watch as weeds and grasses take over unused dirt, witness moss inflicting
its slow revenge upon concrete, marvel at the way roots twist, pull down and push up
buildings. Plants live for the purpose of being alive. No matter what, no matter the
poisons and labour expended to tame them, they spring back, evolve harder and faster
than we do they prosper under the most extreme conditions. Plants as a whole are
totally fucking metal!
Katie brings up another very interesting point when it comes to metal and
plants. This is around paradox. After all, most metal requires an extraordinary amount
of energy to be performed. A metal concert is fueled by juice, dirt and stones of dead
plants and animals (strictly speaking, so is virtually all of modern life but metal in
particular in a primary sense is a musical innovation dependent on electricity… or is it?
). Katie’s take on this is eloquent: we live in a time of conceptual war where we are told
that certain consumption choices via branding are better than other choices. Even
though certain items are marketed as ecologically friendly or ethical or organic the reality behind their production, distribution and ownership may be in stark opposition to
what they are supposed to represent. She goes so far as to say that consumer choice
results more in the individual feeling better about a purchase more than that purchase
having some positive effect on an already catastrophic ecological situation. I would add
to this that observation and reflection on our actions are the only ways in which our
consumer choices can have any meaning beyond the superficial. Simply buying a
branded product means little. But reflecting on why such a product exists, questioning
the necessity for such and item and observing how and why we use what we do, we
start to bring about real lasting transformation in our own communities.

So what does this have to do with metal? I would risk heresy, but since that
model of religiosity holds no quarter with me and also since orthodoxy and its opposite
are essentially of the same mold, I will simply say it: metal no longer needs electricity.
Pick up your shot out eyeballs and gather up your senses, I am not saying metal needs
to go “unplugged”. I am saying that after forty odd years of existence, metal has
transcended its technological origins. Metal is something felt, articulated, experienced
it is reflexive, robust and passionate. It exists as a spirit a force of motivation within its
practitioners and whether screamed, sung or whispered it imbues us with strength,
confidence and courage. Indeed, if my recent revisit of Sepultura and Soulfly has
taught me anything it is that sometimes when the guitars drop out that things are both
simultaneously heavy and uplifting. Stand as an aural witness to the twisted, loping,
lumbering forward march of the post-solo “Endangered Species” or the booming
percussion of “Bumba”. In fact, while sometimes overcooked, it is the pathos of groups
such as Sepultura and Soulfly which demonstrates the metal spirit more so than riffs
and tempo.
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