A dissonant miasmic drone sweeps across Marc Kate’s Deface reducing the sharpened peaks and jagged troughs of his source material to a innocuous wispy ebb. The album hides an uncomfortable eerie dissonance in its sonic wake with the Californian artist yet again examining some socio-political discourse through his music. A musical reaction to the current wave of right wing fanaticism, Deface sees Kate re-appropriating ultra-right black metal anthems in ambient drone works that completely remove the spiny sting from their source. Between low sub-bass drones and shimmering resonances Deface breathes with the relief that even though far right conservatism has taken new root in our current political rhetoric, theirs is a hollow threat perpetuated by a very open kind of stupidity. For every Donald Trump there are ten more Marc Kates and while a party like the AfD might be gaining seats of influence everywhere in the world, you can’t help but feel it’s about as effective as dog’s bark from the other end of the street. How effective can you be if your co-leader quits right after the election for instance?
Marc Kate expertly disarms the ultra right of their threat in great big swathes of unidentifiable drones. Largely focusing on National Socialist Black Metal for his source material Kate’s execution is an entire world away from the ragged arrangements of that music and offers repose instead of aggressive pandering and dogmatic edification. Repurposing the music as a kind of futuristic new age music, Deface makes light of its origins, much in the same way a German town did recently when they tricked a far right group into inadvertently raising €10,000 for an anti-extremist organisation. At times Kate subverts his source material with a kind of new-world melodic execution that seems to be lifted straight from a “Muzak for Spas” compilation, but always creeping in right behind some jocular melodic display is that ominous glow of a KKK barbecue in the distance.
Kate’s progressive art music doesn’t goose step too far ahead of its own ideologies and with every serene passage passing, some dissonant drone follows in its wake, warning of that hollow threat’s ever looming presence in the concept of his music. Kate is justified in explaining the roots of the concept for Deface in the liner notes inasmuch as it allows room for contemplation. The minimalist, ambient arrangement is wide and sparse, but at the same time it doesn’t disappear into the background like similar styles. The melodic arrangements of the tracks are constantly employed in some modulation, negating the stagnancy of most ambient music in search of an active engagement with his listener. Without the concrete presence of the accompanying text there would be no reference to the themes Deface approaches, and thus it’s impossible to know now if it will stand on its own as an objective musical work.
Like Kate’s previous works, there’s no avoiding the discourse that informs the artist’s work, and one element is always dependent on the other. Marc Kate’s music functions as a musical universe that extends beyond the creation-performance-reception exchange of music and leaves it’s mark in the most outer dimensions of the musical experience. Deface is the furthest we’ve experienced the artist’s music travel beyond the music and stylistically it’s quite different from previous works. Perhaps it’s the droning non-committal aspects of this album, but Deface lingers long after its completion. There’s hardly a bold, defining statement to be found through the course of the seven tracks, but there’s that inherent sense of uneasiness that stays with you after the last strands of Deface VII dies out in the embers of its incandescent glow.
- Read an interview with Marc Kate over here.