Descartes a Kant
Victims of Love Propaganda
From Guadalajara, Mexico by way of LA’s Cleopatra Records, come a sonic and visual art gang to be reckoned with. Until not long ago, if you’d asked me who my favorite Mexican musical group were, I would have smiled and answered: “Ampersan, hands down. The greatest group I know of in Mexico playing today.” Well, most days I learn something, and if you’re like me, the more you learn the more you’re reminded of the vacuum of absolute ignorance you are trying to fill. Discovering Descartes a Kant was a darkly illuminating experience like being pulled free of a shipwreck by being tossed a lifeline into a vortex.
Love and propaganda are nothing to play around with, nor approach lightly if safety is of any concern. I’m personally opposed to warning labels on album covers myself (primarily for aesthetic purposes) but consider this my implicit advisory in regards to Victims of Love Propaganda.
At the fore of the band of busquers are 3 women – Sandrushka (vocals/guitar), Defne (vocals/guitar/violin) and Ana (bass/synth) -and backed by male members Memo (bass/synth), Androv (synth/piano) and Jorge (drums/samples) and backed by male members Memo (bass/synth), Androv (synth/piano) and Jorge (dkantrums/samples).
The album opens with “You a*****ked my heart” distorted megaphone blasts a monologue about love and addiction (as if they were separate entities, no, as they are). “you a*****ked my heart, you a*****ked my heart, you a*****ked my heart, I RESENT YOU FOR THAT!”
“Motion Picture Dream Boy” is a perfect exemplum of the theatrical nature of the Gran Guignol influenced group from Guadalajara. Promotional video directed by Gamaliel de Santiago Ruvalcaba, a well-known Mexican horror film maker perfectly realizes the visual and conceptual element of the Kantians.
Reflecting on obsession, addiction and other manifestations of what passes for love in the age of propaganda “our delusions” DaK explain, “will keep us alive.” And in lieu of love, is there much more we could really ask for?
“Until The Day We Die”: there’s something literally unsettling in the frequencies alone. Of course, it’s been no secret since the late 1800’s that certain sonic differences in frequency can actual produce literal alterations in our brains frequencies resulting in some instances in altered mood or other states. The melody paints a mise en scene from some dark carnival troupe.
Speaking of calliope’s the dark cabaret vibe is introduced quite strongly in this track, just one of the “elements” shifted and reordered like a Burroughs/Gysin cut-up Perhaps the more imaginative in the audience could conceive of some possible vagabond tribe of faux road entertainers advancing this technology by way of their traveling show’s calliope, though not even I would speculate as to what purposes such might find behind.
“Mother I’m in trouble,” the harried chorus appeals frantically “my marriage is a mess, my marriage is a mess. He wants control, me I want control. Him, he wants control, me I want control.” I picture the first track as that first slight, the initial hairline fracture that eventually leads on to the final break. “Serotonine,” is a stand out track on an album that stands out in whole as well as in its individuals parts. There’s a definite evocation of Sonic Youth and Breeders style classic art-noise rock though the fully fleshed integrity of the group’s palpable and original style manages to hearken to the past while still being wholly original and new.
I’ll admit that there are times it feels like the band is singing directly to me, for example in “Serotonine”: “You’re a narcissistic Pseudointellectual, it’s a complementary narcissism we adore, you think that you’re the special one, you’re not, you’re my design.”
Breakup and loss of love are symbolized beautifully in song through the metaphor of a crime scene. “Someone says it’s growing old, someone says it’s dying, someone’s calling 911 someone says I’m dying” the warning calls before the moment of no return, the emotional crime for which no clemency can be offered. That proverbial last straw that teaches you how much you can take if you didn’t know it the day before. terminally cold. The “multiple stabbings” referenced in the song were most likely in the back and inflicted by both parties if this break up is like many others. The urgent cry for someone to call 911, to “reconstruct the crime scene” is a potent metaphor for that 20/20 hindsight that so often appears clearly after the final straw has been broken in any romantic entanglement. “You are just another drop of blood in this crime scene.”
Reeking of the assembly line suicide swan song of industrialized society, in the age of “the victims of love propaganda” at the base of this album is a storyline of humanity breaking up with its humaneness. Or at least so it appears to this reviewer. Like Frank Zappa, these gals ain’t just rock if it’s rock at all, it’s art, dammit. This is no accident, either, like other glam-punk outfits like Sophe Lux & the Mystic, carefully orchestrated choreography and a supporting stage show is as important to the songs as the lyrics are to the melody.
This is no happenstance, everything about this group is perfectly orchestrated and choreographed. If the album itself soars with an uncanny cohesion thematically and melodically it’s just a testament to this performing art troupe’s dedication to the original Dionysian roots of ritual stage performance, in the vein of the seminal performance art industrial outfits Throbbing Gristle & Psychic TV. Steampunk, classical ballet and other elements meld in the live spell set in their worldwide tour.
As if my words of praise weren’t enough, the dazzlingly talented performers have shared stage with music legends and giants like Sonic Youth, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Melvins and Slayer. Lyrics run from the sickeningly sweet (“If I could be you for a day I would, I’d cuddle with myself all day”) to the macabre (“You are just another drop of blood in this crime scene.”) to the lackadaisical refrain of the last track, which is possibly the most honest thing that can be said in any relationship: “we’ll care until we won’t, I’ll love you until I don’t. often without warning or transition. All in all a beautifully unsettling and fascinatingly disturbing work of art.”