Death is only the beginning
On experiencing the entropy of Hydra-Calm, Jonathan Selzer finds himself coming apart at the seams. Care to join him?Will the 'rock is dead' debate ever be concluded? It's been making regular appearances ever since Punk's 'year zero', but its resurface is always combined with on avalanche of retrospection, a desparate attempt to resurrect its corpse one more time, to overcome the distance between the present and the 'glory' of rock's post. Noone's prepared to administer the lost rights.
Main, the brainchild of ex-Loop frontman Robert Hampton, seem to have finally accepted the death of rock, but that's only their starting point. As Robert says; "I definitely feel a lot different about music than I did in the earlier days of Loop. I just got so fed up with guitar bonds. There are so many and they're all just doing the some old thing. I didn't wont to get involved with a bond that was basically not much different from Loop. I deliberately wanted to get away from rock. I sort of got wrapped up with it for a while, but really I've gone back to my roots now, all the kind of stuff I was wanting to do before Loop.
"I didn't want to work with a full drummer anymore. In a way, it was good to be stripped of a rhythm section. No disrespect to the guys, because they were fucking great, but it was good to be stripped of that because that mode me think more along the lines of simple rhythm like all the early Loop tracks. I wanted to get bock to that more minimalist stuff, I didn't wont to have to rely on any rhythm that hod to be drum orientated."
Main refuse to be pinned down, and Hydra-Calm, collecting their two eps on cd, is the sound of rock losing its focus, the point where its physicality finally surrenders itself to corruption and gives way. It's a glorious decomposition, the dissolution of signal into noise, and the collapse of perception into the sourceless quiver of hallucination. Main are at on extremity, the blurred terrain at the very edge of your field of vision. They're a phenomenological anomaly, on untraceable report as if their deep-space probes have become infected via transmission, saturated with fluctuating static. Whatever uncharted location they're beaming from, they always bring their distance with them. There Is Only Light barely holds its centre, its core of rhythmic pulses effusing into whorls of superfluous noise, a parasitic brilliance fading in and out of range like irradiated particles swarming around their host. Remain is no less compelling, trembling across unmodulated frequencies as is withdraws into its own density. This isn't wasted rock, but the wastes of rock, its desolate aftershock.
Main don't use rhythms as a focal point, but as cycles to spread the sound around. Hydra-Calm always sounds as if it's slowly coming apart, but however disparate it gets, it always maintains its coherence.
"There are still rhythmic elements to it all", says Robert, "because I've always been interested in rhythms. I always warned people that after Hydra the second ep would be even more experimental. Some people just scratched their heads and said What the fuck are you doing?'. I think everybody expected me to do another loop kind of thing, but there are elements you can't escape. I obviously write songs and sing and play guitar in a certain style, but it's like reversing the polarity, switching it all over and going against everything that's been done before. It's not an anti-stance, but we took loop to its really heavy conclusion, and now we're taking it to it's more ambient conclusion."
One thing that's remained is the brilliance of the titles. 'Feed The Collapse' is as illuminating for Main as 'Black Sun' or 'Circle Grav'e were for loop, suggesting the source of integrity at the heart of their chaos. Does he put a lot of thought into the titles? "Oh yeah, and the lyrics as well. I really take a long time over the lyrics. It can take weeks to write one song. I write a general basis of it, but then I keep stripping away and adding to it. I really just try to write intelligently. I'll leave it to others to say I take too many drugs. To me, what's remained from the loop overspill is that if you can say it in one line, and it encapsulates everything, I haven't got a problem with that. Even though I write a lot of verses, I still like titles. If you can _ _ _ _? hold of a feeling in a very(?) short concise manner that's what I like. (Ed: magazine cuts text off on this sentance)
"I get quite absorbed with certain elements of things, like with 'Remain'. It's all about being torn apart by sound. There's a guy whose name I can't remember, but he used to use frequencies and he was the first person to have said that certain frequencies could kill you, and I know John Cale gat really interested in all this stuff. He took it further and reckoned he could create an Ip that could create your own environment with weather. But I brought more of a sci-fi element to 'Remain', stuff like 'I have been opened to frequency and now there's nothing more of me'. It was just the kind of thing I've always been really interested in and I finally found a vocation in that piece af music to actually write down that kind of scenario."
This all ties in with the idea of abstract noise as a 'rupture within', a sense-shattering apocalypse. But there's another, less nihilistic perspective on noise which Main bring to light; rather than noise as the antithesis of articulation, noise as its by-product, the richness of meaning that exceeds the limits of language. Noise is what remains after the words have been spoken and forgotten, and in that sense it's similar to a lament, a residue of memory that gains its poignancy because its source is long gone. All that's left is a transitional fluidity of emotion, a stirring attempting to describe an absent point of origin. 'Hydra-Calm' is like that, it's both a summing up and a letting go that reminds me of a body's decomposition- the liquefaction of muscle, the expulsion of air - all the ongoing processes that can only be triggered off by death. Sometimes it's what you don't know that contains the most resonance, and for Main that potential lies everywhere. They're casting themselves out in order to search back, and they've created a timeless expanse.
"The way we work is very loose. I've quite surprised myself by how loose it can be. But to me it's such a change, it's such a different way of doing things. Hopefully we're going to carry on and do better things with it. It really has definitely gone right back to my roots, how I would thing about things and appreciate things. It's almost a voyage of self-rediscovery."
There's further to go yet. The always is.
Originally appeared in Lime Lizard magazine, July 1992
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