“The strategic adversary is fascism… the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.” —Michel Foucault
If those who fail to understand the lessons of the past are indeed destined to repeat such mistakes—because the adage is never used regarding success—then what does that imply about the increasing anxieties regarding the world? Anarcocks (Massimo and Pierce) offer an intriguing, albeit messy vision on Desert Rose. Equal parts linear-narrative, cut-up samples, and compositional work, Desert Rose is the first part of a planned “europArabian” trilogy. The first installment introduces the character of “Johnny,” who has run away to join the Wild Boys: an underground revolutionary army. The question is, are these the Wild Boys of Burroughs, or is this a third-wave iteration? Are attacks against the proletariat still reactionary, or has the doctrine of total war seeped into the revolutionary movement as well?
The juxtaposition between a swelling symphony and the sounds of male sodomy give way to a voiceover from Johnny reading his goodbye note to his parents. The symphony fades and gives way to a more frenetic motif between what sounds like lute and accordion. Already, a distinction is drawn between West and East, childhood and adulthood, secret and truth. In a certain sense, Desert Rose is a film without images or an audio book without exposition. The context is hidden within the sound; the Western symphonic orchestra contrasted with “folk” instrumentation; Western chord structure versus Eastern chord structure; around the ten-minute mark, “Primo Tempo” explodes with industrial percussion over Eastern-influenced motifs: welcome to base camp. However, the voice-over between “Master” and “Johnny” sees a return of the opening symphony. “Johnny” must be made to pay contrition for “unnecessary aggravation”: a loss of freedom (regardless of actual or perceived) and a reintroduction of rules and hierarchy. Still, short of critically re-examining Burroughs’ The Wild Boys for contrast, there is little context to explain whether these wild boys are an iteration of the Sacred Band of Thebes, or the Sturmabteilung.
“Secondo Tempo: Santa Sangre” opens with steady violin, bowed and spiccato, over a steady male voice. It soon swells into a vocal chorus in what sounds like Arabic, with hand-claps and percussion. A very definite parallel to Muslimgauze can be drawn through the mixture of layered samples and recordings as well as topically. This motif fades just as rapidly into a plaintive piano melody, again contrasted to Massimo’s vocals in Italian. Where “Primo Tempo” concerns character and narrative introduction—the profane world of the flesh—this second, longer composition highlights a more mood-driven focus on musicality and a sense of the sacred. The vocals are reminiscent of a Priest/Cantor/Muezzin, leading adherents towards their spiritual goal through song.
Desert Rose is a complicated, difficult, yet enjoyable first outing from Anarcocks. There are a lot of ponderous concepts at play within the two compositions provided, and while there is certainly enough room for consideration and interpretation among the audio cues and motifs, there is almost too much at stake. The interplay of East and West via the shifting Arab refugee populations into Europe is a difficult topic in and of itself. By mixing imagery from Burroughs’ The Wild Boys (whether literal or intended), an entirely separate group of conceptual frameworks is added to an already layered work. Add in a referential nod to Coil, and layers of double-and triple entendres are added. For the sake of sheer ambition, Desert Rose certainly succeeds where topically similar albums like Sam Shalabi’s Osama did not; Anarcocks manage to hold the reins tight without letting their compositions completely collapse beneath themselves. This is not necessarily a release with high replay value, but Desert Rose certainly demands repeated examination. Hopefully the second (Hotel Oriente) and as-yet-unreleased third installments of “europArabia” will delve into the topics established without simply piling more complexities onto an already complicated release.
01) Primo Tempo: Johnny Joins the Wild Boys
02) Secondo Tempo: Santa Sangre