Unfortunately He Does Not Say "Vampire"
For me, and maybe only for me, Old Time Relijun neatly summarizes a whole set of values both aesthetic and personal, and when I say "neatly" I'm not just padding the graf. Their remarkable ability to contain so many of the best qualities of this nameless value-set reduces their would-be reviewer to the indignity of citing references, and it's not the band whose dignity suffers in the process: but what's a feller to do? Write whole histories just because he wants to review an Old Time Relijun album?
Well, maybe. Maybe not "write," exactly, but some of Old Time Relijun's point may be in forcing the audience to invoke history like the chain-rattling ghost it is, and to let it do what it naturally wants to do, i.e., wreak havoc with your body and rake its filthy fingernails across your brain to see if any feelings shake loose. Many of us equate history with schoolrooms or thick-spined books, but neither classes nor volumes are actually history. They are accounts of it. History itself is a living process; it only becomes boring, like any other living process, when unduly elevated or fetishized. Restored to its sightless and daily functioning, it's closer to an Italian erotic horror flick than a dusty textbook. It's full of references, but we know most of them already so well that they don't seem like citations.
To put it another way: most of us think, every so often, about what music was like before the advent of recording: what the nature of music might have been, what it meant to love the stuff when most of the time you had to make it yourself if you wanted to hear it, what kind of world it was when the music in it was a far less omnipresent thing. We know, or we think we know, that music's origins lie in ritual, and then in liturgy, though John Cage exploded this idea for many of us by calling everything music and implying that he was hardly the first person to think so. It's stupid and useless to lament the passing of the ritual into the everyday, and moreover, it's wrongheaded; it's neither good nor bad that music has occupied many different cultural and social positions over time, and that it will continue to do so until the nuclear holocaust has consumed us all. It's just the facts of the matter, you know. But it's interesting to try to reimagine ritual, and to try out different sets of values in the music you make.
Interesting, and difficult. Because first you have to be genuinely curious; if this were your project, you'd have to be in it for a fairly long haul before you could see whether any of your hypotheses worked. What's more, you'd need to be flexible; you'd have to follow the theory into the various places it led you, whether they seemed in alignment with your first thoughts or not.
Unless I read them wrong (and I may; the music itself is the opposite of describing it: it's wet, and bloody, and it smells like fresh earth and red cinders, and it's a good goddamn time, is what it is) Old Time Relijun's theory is that a "the underground" (I know. I know. I know) isn't an identity that reinvents itself once or twice per generation, but a permanent place within a culture - maybe within all cultures - where styles don't go in and out of fashion but are always floating around in the air just above our heads. Our past and present aren't at all different in such a space; not "not really different," but genuinely indistinguishable. So the echoing Telecaster and the squonky saxophone and the cavernous drum sound all seem to come from different places, but the alleged difference of these places is getting called out by the process, leaving the listener - with the band - in a sort of historically ecstatic place.
Again, this only works in the long term. I don't think you can really listen to one Old Time Relijun album and get the point; you have to watch the whole thing take place a few times and really feel that there's something going on, and that it continues to go on, even after the record's over and there's just silence in the room. You have to hear how the records are talking to each other. But because it's such an unusual gambit, you can sort of start anywhere. The new one's called Catharsis in Crisis, and is absolutely fantastic, especially toward the end, on "In the Crown of Lost Light," where the guitar finds a riff it really likes and repeats it like a stuttered mantra & the drummer gets everybody's blessing to just ride the groove as tight as he likes. I think Old Time Relijun are a very physical celebration of music and its possibilities, which is a terrible thing to say about anybody, since it makes them sound like professors, which they're not. They're hairy shirtless guys screaming about dark matter. More people who've got something to say about history should try their tactic.
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