Video directed & edited by su-y
Footage self shot by Patricia Kokett
"In your hands you are holding Bizarr, my first full length record. On this release I tried to amp up the ritualistic tendencies found on the Diabel EP, which was also released at Knekelhuis. I’ve always been intrigued by the world of rituals and transcendence, both from an anthropological and spiritual perspective. Bizarr is built around these concepts and to create it I traveled to the island of Phuket, Thailand, to experience and embrace the soul and spirit of the Nine Emperor Gods festival, also known as the Vegetarian festival. It has its origins in the beginning of the 19th century and is held annually in September/October in accordance with the Chinese lunar calendar. The latter makes sense, because Phuket is home to a large Taoist Chinese minority, an ethnic group calling themselves Peranakan. They are descendents of Chinese settlers, who believe that the abstinence from meat and various stimulants is beneficial to good health, peace and purity of the mind. The celebrations include performances held to invoke the gods, where white clad participants act like mediums. These so-called Masong strive to achieve a pure state of being that enables them to connect with their ancestors and demons. When this state of trance is reached, ancestors are able to enter body and soul. Flagellation and auto-mutilation are used to reach this possessed plain of consciousness. These acts of piercing, flagellating and puncturing different body parts with knives, swords and other items simultaneously enhance this state. It may look torturous, but pain is absent due to the trance-like state and the protection of the gods, resulting in little blood or scarring.
This fascination for these unusual rituals didn’t come out of thin air. My music has been deeply influenced by the legendary Coil, whose Peter Christopherson (also of Throbbing Gristle fame) moved to Thailand after Coil co-member Jhonn Balance died in 2004. Peter explored the world of Thai ritualistic culture as The Threshold HouseBoys Choir, releasing Form Grows Rampant, an album based on material collected at GinJae festival, a Nine Emperor Gods variation held in the Thai Krabi region. Unfortunately Christopherson’s untimely death prevented him from furthering his explorations into the sound and spirit of his new country of residence. The Threshold HouseBoys Choir’s music and videos clearly paved the way for my interest in Thai culture. I delved into the world of Thai ritual practices, reading and watching as many sources as possible, before deciding to take things a step further by visiting the Vegetarian festival myself. This truly emotional and deeply inspirational journey left an indelible impression on me. I sensed something I can only describe as ‘vision almost tangible’, which gave me a very clear view on how the record would materialize. Bizarr signifies a defining step for me as an artist. The whole experience not only taught me a lot about the otherness of Thai culture, but even more so about the peculiarities of Western society - especially the superficiality of solely focusing on material gain.
The album is a very distinct conceptual narrative divided into 6 tracks, a fictional world based on my Nine Emperor Gods experience, where samples and harmonies recorded at the festival take on a new life. I reworked, repitched and manipulated field recordings of the festival from a multitude of different sources, including vocal samples of indigenous voices (Szamanka), voice excerpts from a doomsday cult ceremony (Bizarr), and a recording of a mantra dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of compassion. The latter serves as the main chant of the festival and can be heard there from huge sound systems and choirs (Amulet). This record really showcases my curiosity for oddness and worlds unknown, exemplified by the album title’s double ‘rr’. The word itself is used positively, driven by an adventurous mindset. This collection of tracks reflects my feelings after being exposed to the whole ritual experience. From the very first synthesizer note of Soi Soi, which was written immediately after returning from Thailand, I knew I tapped into the right energy and context, taking the listener on a journey ending with Ekstase, a track evoking the ecstasy, loneliness and inner peace of a ritual’s ending, giving one the sensation of dissolving into nothingness. I took great care in honoring and understanding the material at hand. The welcoming and deeply moving nature of the Vegetarian festival experience delighted and enlightened me. All kinds of attendees are welcomed and it’s encouraged to take pictures, videos and other types of recordings of the whole experience and distribute it; an atmosphere of cultural exchange I wholeheartedly support."
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