Thoughts on “Blackholes Are Gathering: A Sonic Journey Through China”

A guiding principle of Chinese philosophy is the Yin and Yang — the opposites of Lightness and Darkness. When things reach their most extreme, they start to decline. Likewise when we are at our lowest, we begin to rise. The Hag will always Re-Hag.

Adrift in the hectic sequence of conscious and unconscious fragments transmitted to the brain through encrusted eye gunk accumulated from a limbo of half-sleep somewhere between this city and that, drunk and hungover, a restaurant or lobby shot through paddy fields slapped between arcs of mountainous countryside on a 300kmph bullet train remixed with baijiu saturated dizzy spells from a taxi across Shanghai — the heady rush of loud music and flashing strobes are re-triggered by the smell of stale beer and cigarettes beneath the pale yellow glow of venue house lights where you’ve closed your eyes slumped over a bench in an attempt to let your blood cells regenerate in a broth of Nescafé cans and noodle soup — here, it is the Kick Drum that grounds you.

When touring with a band, time defies conventional demarcations of “morning,” “afternoon” and “night.” Those words might have meaning in the normal world, but not here. In this altered state of being, in this heightened sense of living, it is the Kick Drum that grounds us.

Your crew has begun speaking a kind of dialect to describe the things and processes that surround you — gear bags and suitcases have nicknames, long words have been bluntly abbreviated, vibes are mono-syllabic — a linguistic development forged from repetition and proximity. You are all deep in the journey, your mind and body attuned to the pattern of travel, soundcheck, gig, sleep, rinse, repeat. It feels like you haven’t slept for more than four hours in weeks. The road bombards you with traffic and machines and screens. The air buzzes around you. Structures are built and retained. You are pushed along in a rush of a billion people. Ecstasy. Nothing outside the tour exists. Everything is here and all is one.

The dull thud-thud-thud of a mallet pounding onto a hollow wooden cylinder stamps the start of the next phase into your frazzled brain. The sound ticks over and over like a stopwatch in slow motion. Yet to be dampened by the absorbency of incoming humans, the low boom of the PA at once disturbs and fortifies the mind — “woah / it’s 5pm / already / holy shit / this venue is mean / oh / fuck yeah / The Hand are playing tonight!”

The Kick heralds the beginning of the end. You rub your eyes, acknowledge your surroundings and know why you are here. The Kick Drum is constant. The Kick Drum never lies. Then with any given luck, some nice person at the bar will hand you a cold beer.

“Ok next, snare.”

 

Stills from “Blackholes are Gathering: A Sonic Journey Through China” by Illojgali

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In the autumn of 2017, freelance filmmaker Illojgali a.k.a. Dan Harris, embarked on a month-long tour through China with Wellington artists The All Seeing Hand, E N T, Alphabethead and Kaishandao. Blackholes Are Gathering: A Sonic Journey Through China is the resulting document of these gathered experiences across Beijing, Baotou, Hohhot, Xi’an, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Yiwu, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Kunming and Dali.

Long time friend and co-conspirator of the Pōneke underground, Illojgali is the quiet creative genius behind some of the buzziest visual creations to emerge from the capital in recent history. Known for his slow motion hyper-realism and psychedelic 3D worlds, Blackholes Are Gathering is Illojgali’s first foray into capturing and creating a full-length documentary film. Armed with a Panasonic GH7 and guided by the aural offerings of China, his approach is that of a “fly on the wall,” seeking to show and not tell, allowing the transformative sound of the musicians and their surroundings to become the film’s narration. 

Sound is the flesh the visions feed upon — remixing flesh, concrete and earth into a discombobulating and freakish fascination. The breakneck force of The All Seeing Hand leads The Way as the film stomps and howls through cityscapes and landscapes, fusing with the subterranean growths of the local underground, disrupting airwaves and opening imaginations.

If art holds a mirror to reality, Illojgali holds reality to itself. A fly on the wall is too static, Illojgali’s lens is more like a roaming feline, swiftly slinking through scenes and gazing into the unknown. This is a trip through the buzzy and unexpected truths of the world as they wordlessly unfold — seeking balance in the vastness, moments of calm within the chaos. Inspired by observational films such as Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi, Blackholes Are Gathering masterfully captures a microcosm into the madness of movement within the infinite possibilities of the fastest developing, most populous nation on Earth.

 

Hanging over. Illojgali somewhere in China, 2017.

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Music is the reason for movement, the great gateway to people, place and experience. Whether it is for two people or two hundred, your purpose endures — get from one place to the next and perform. Retain your essence, eat, drink and be merry. Through spice and spit and saxophone solos; stomach cramps, sleep deprivation and synapse, your spirit evolves as you partake in this ancient form of enlightenment harking back to the beginning of humankind. As your omniscient guide and narrator, you let it consume you.

Flesh and earth, sand to glass — we are all made of stardust. Ultimately the time will come when gravity will swallow us whole, Lightness and Darkness destined to enter the blackhole as one.

Blackholes Are Gathering: A Sonic Journey Through China by Illojgali will premiere 8pm, Wednesday 23 August 2019 at Pyramid Club, Wellington.

More info can be found over in the blackhole of Facebook.

 

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