Saturday, August 4, 2007

Stop Eyein' Me!

Definitely one of the most interesting albums ever released on the Crass Records label!

The album had all the earmarks of a record that would never see airplay due to its multi-cultural musical influences and use of lyrics interspersed with English and that of the Icelandic tongue. What could not be foreseen was the worldwide popularity that several members of the band would see ten years later.

Áfangar, a radio show sponsored by Gramm Records, was to broadcast its final episode and was looking to put together a "super-group" to perform for the bombastic occasion. The band was composed of members of various bands: Björk Guðmundsdóttir, vocalist of Tappi Tíkarrass; Einar Örn Benediktsson, a trumpeter and vocalist in Purrkur Pillnikk; keyboardist Einar Arnaldur Melax, from the surrealistic group Medúsa; Birgir Mogensen, the bassist from Spilafífl; and finally drummer Siggtryggur Baldursson and guitar player Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson (a.k.a. Godkrist), both from the band Þeyr.

The first live performance that KUKL played was with Crass in 1983. This was after Einar Örn contacted the group while he was in college studying media and had access to many contacts within the so-called "industry."

The first album the band recorded was The Eye, named after Georges Bataille's Story Of The Eye- a tale of a French couple and their sexual misadventures. On the surface, the book is nothing more than a tale of pornography told under the nom de plume Lord Auch (suggesting "Lord of the shithouse"). Upon extensive research and rumination, however, the use of symbols throughout the work suggest a deeper message; one that would be the basic construct of his developing philosophy of a base materialism, which would involve the use of metaphors such as the eye, the egg, the sun, the earth, and the testicle. The basic tenet of this thought lies in the attempt to destabilise philosophical oppositions by the introduction of an unstable ‘third term’. Although, Bataille was virtually ignored in his lifetime, his writing was absolutely essential in influencing the work of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard and Jacques Lacan.

The idea can be perceived when reading the liner notes that accompanied The Eye on its release. There was an inherent distrust of the use of nuclear technology of any kind within the anarcho-punk scene but in statements released in the record The Eye, the band was calling on scientists involved in nuclear technology to use their work to bring something healing and positive to the world. Locked in the political landscape that either endorsed or opposed the use of nuclear technology by governments, this was a very different kind of argument being made regarding the issue.

"Do not conform, not in your life-style, your art or your attitudes. By using this law in our music we introduce a incongruence into the Psyche of our audience and as we do not attempt to utilize this to our own ends, this leaves space for the individuals to fill up for themselves. A single non-conforming attitude will breed a host of others. You have no right but to BE YOURSELF!" -Statement from KUKL.

The instrumentation used on the record also follows the same train of thought. For instance, the use of drums varied from what one would expect from a band in the anarcho-political scene. In some tracks, there are hints of Killing Joke, Einsturzende Neubauten, even Siouxsie & The Banshees. Then, later, you can hear bits of Stravinsky mixed in with Japanese and Icelandic folk tunes and, even later, jazz influences. Their sound backed by the audio engineering skills employed at Southern Studios and fronted by the vocal stylings of Einar Örn and Björk are haunting.

"Their musical creation literally explodes into the faces or masks of the audience, thrusts itself into its consciousness and even if you don't happen to be interested, there is no way of avoiding it or refusing to take it into consideration..." -DV review of one of their shows in April of 1984.

In Details (July 1994), Björk stated "I might just make it my mission to make everyone in the world read [Story Of The Eye]." It's no surprise that the first album that KUKL release should be the musical manifestation of this book.

When the band broke up in 1986, many of the members created a new band and this led to the formation of Sykurmolarnir or, in English, The Sugarcubes.

When asked about KUKL today, Björk dismisses their musical and philosophical efforts. "We were stupid terrorists."

KUKL- The Eye

Details interview with Björk

Read Story Of The Eye on the Georges Bataille eLibrary. The entire book can be downloaded as a .pdf file for free!


Z 3.0 said...

yo, wussup with the bloggers? No posts on the KUKL!?!?!?!
Nice spread, tight text. I didn't know half of that story. It was just an obnoxious abstract crasshole record with interesting female vox. We just wanted our Antisect when this came out. Sugarcubes at Scream was a different story. Great live band and that alien looking girl in a school uniform with a voice that could shake the rafters. The preacher's kid call Bjork still does the abstract sounds yet in a manner I find rather enjoyable. Now if she would just book a week in a decent size old theater nearby instead of just doing the monster venues. Hey if you take requests I'd love to see your spread on Kate Bush's the kick inside.

b3A7n1k said...

Hey, pal!

I actually discovered that less than 6 hours after I posted that album, the blog aggregators had already posted links to my blog and I had lots of downloads of that album. It was a pretty popular post.

One of the rare times I actually entertained getting a musician's autograph was the first solo tour that Bjork went on in the US after her Debut album came out. She performed with Goldie at Liberty Lunch and I wanted to go to the gig and get her to autograph my KUKL record. Sadly, I decided I didn't want to brave the hordes of people at the gig. In my mind, at that time, a show at Liberty Lunch was a "big show." Funny...

When she first went solo, I remember thinking what a horrible fucking idea it was. How could she tour without the rest of the Sugarcubes? What about Einar Orn? Having been influenced in my youth by bands that had both male and female vocalists, I was not used to the idea of just one or the other. (Although, admittedly, there was no female singer in my own band.) Little did I know what a huge pop star Bjork would end up being.

At some point soon, I'll post the soundtrack she composed for that movie Drawing Restraint 9, which was a visually beautiful movie. According to the director, it will never be released to DVD. It played here for a week and I saw it 3 times, I was so taken in by it. By the time, I left the theatre, I felt like I had just meditated for 2 hours. Don't know if there's a pirated copy out there somewhere but if so, you should definitely check it out. Be warned: there's almost no dialogue in it.

I actually don't own any Kate Bush; it's not that I don't like her, I do. I actually heard an album that she'd released recently and it has the old familiar recording quality to it. I was initially skeptical because I figured it would have all these new-fangled recording techniques that would ruin the sound of her music that I had grown accustomed to. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

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