C- Trident: Raavan Kommand & Sri-Lankan Power-Electronics

Image credit: Royville Media

Fantasizing about a noise that could bludgeon an audience into submission, William Bennett from the band Whitehouse coined the term ‘power-electronics’ in the early 80s.  The genre draws on static, screeching waves of feedback, analog synthesizers, warping sub-bass pulses and the high-frequency clamor of screamed vocals. Mostly harnessed through deep meditative improvisation, you could compare the process to spilling ink to see where it lands or furthermore setting the easel itself on fire. 

Philosophically rooted in the eccentric mythos of Nietzsche, Bataille, and Marquis De Sade; power-electronics epitomizes and seeks to extricate the nihilistic malaise of the artist and release unfiltered sonic pandemonium upon the world, like a Jackson Pollack painting or the screams of Francis Bacon’s many popes. 

Exposure to these sounds could easily be mistaken by the layman for television static, but if we delve into the metaphysics of the art form, the noumena came into being through performance art/action groups such as COUM transmissions amalgamating dada and surrealist tropes along with the writings of William S.Burroughs and later metamorphosing into legendary acts such as Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV.

This elusive and niche sub-genre has been growing exponentially via the likes of Puce Mary, Pan Daijing, and Alfarmania abroad, and in the South-Asian subcontinent with acts like Tetragrammacide – an anonymous band from Kalishetra (Kolkata) who have been landing the number-one spot on year-end lists with their last album Primal Incinerators of Moral Matrix, bending and blending the genre with more abrasion and speed than ever heard before.

 Sri-Lanka significantly in the past decade has left many marks with death-metal act Genocide Shrines, anonymous death-industrial project KONFLICT, and black-metal band Serpents Athirst, however, what seems to have gone unnoticed are the number of noise-releases coming out of the country. Each offering presents an original approach with the abrasion and execution of each track being duly commendable. The releases feature a hybrid of local themes and sounds incorporating syncretic offshoots of harsh noise walls layered with audio from military marches, historical speeches, with either political, apolitical or metapolitical lyrics and imagery related to war and organized violence.

C-Trident, the vocalist of Genocide Shrines is a key figure in the Sri-Lankan underground. He runs a DIY project called Raavan Kommand which organises live-shows, releases demos of local artists and distributes merchandise. When asked about how he got interested in noise as a medium, C-Trident explained: “It had something to do with my ever-growing curiosity for discovering and experimenting with art from every corner. I’m a constant field-recorder, anything new or interesting I hear is recorded and archived. I attend the village ritual ceremonies for partly this reason.”

C-Trident here breaks down some of the releases under the Raavan Kommand project sharing background and context behind these obscure cuts…

‘Hela Asura’ starts off like a cybernetic sermon before warping into the sound of a consciousness pacing through the folds of time. C-Trident explains the release as being the result of  collaboration with a fellow comrade. “He and I go into bouts of conversation and exchanging ideas related to Theravada Buddhism and Shunyaism, and after the first Sathara’asthika demo was released, I convinced him to lend his voice to his own thoughts and include it on of the tracks on the ‘Asthi Sathara’’ full length. After this, he  revived his knowledge on audio engineering (I would place him as more professional in these matters than myself!) and acted out his plan for his first demo too, which was released on Raavan Kommand under the moniker ‘Hela Asura’.  

Satahara’asthika is C-Trident’s solo project, conjuring blistering buzzsaw walls of noise, abyssal washes of synthesizer rhythms, and the sound of a blaring voice coming through thousands of dead speaker cones from an apocalyptic wasteland.

 “I am always looking to pursue certain avenues of music regardless of any idea where it all may lead. If it didn’t work out or submit to my expectations I simply move on. Sathara’asthika was something that worked for me when I first experimented with it. I have mostly used the opportunity to dissect, experiment and expand my knowledge of audio engineering, but since the recording process I go through is slightly tedious, quite an old school approach and doesn’t rely on any notably good sound processors or  enhancements, this coincidentally matched the abrasive sound I was more into and wanted to pay homage to. Four swinging arms  – the first demo with Sathara’Asthika was limited only to 20 tapes which were distributed to people only within the inner-circle. Sandesh Shenoy from Cyclopean Eye Productions (Bangalore) later released ‘Asthi Sathara’, as a full length.”

Apavahaya is another project that draws more towards decrepit industrial soundscapes with a refined and chaotically beautiful approach to sound design. There isn’t much background on the artist but the demo will be released soon on Raavan Kommand in the following months.

Suryag’dha  is a straight up militant-harsh-noise side project of Kontra from Konflict featuring throttling rhythms armed with spastic and unforgiving electricity.  Konflict and its side-projects are all anonymous and there is very little information about them.

Despite there being no lack of creative output in Raavan Kommand’s  inner circle,  none of these projects have ever been taken into a live setting. C-Trident remarks that “there will be absolutely less to no ‘audience’ for this type of harsh presentation of art in Sri Lanka, at least there won’t be in the long run.”

Yet when performances have taken place with their main projects such as Genocide Shrines they have astutely incorporated the ancient technique of Panchaindriya used mostly in folk and religious theatre; think strong incense, epiliptic strobes to enhance the performance atmospherically, engaging all five material senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing.  This approach was famously adopted by the eccentric French playwright Antonin Artaud in his manifesto the ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ in order to reform European theatre after witnessing many Javanese and Kabuki plays.

Within all projects under the banner of Raavan Kommand, there is a certain aesthetic running through the releases. A form of agitation propaganda through their vernacular language Sinhalese, one of the official national languages of Sri-Lanka. C-Trident states that this is a conscious decision “I think the subject matter on which Sathara’asthika demanded that I stick to the particular vernacular approach. The translations would not have been as effective.” A homogenised output from South Asia aping western concepts would be completely out of context and wouldn’t hold any water.

 C-Trident observes that “substitutes or translations for some of these ancient subject-matter does not exist in our contemporary vocabularies. Sinhalese also being my first language also is a tool for me to narrow down the intended meaning of a particular word, which helps strengthen the overall message when delivered in a sentence.”

When asked if there are any other particular acts that he appreciates from the subcontinent, C-Trident replied: “many interesting noises are coming from Thailand (Gamnad737), Indonesia (Senyawa) and Vietnam (Nguyen Hong Giang) but from closer to my home base I would say I’m paying more attention to artists such as Hemant Skreekumar, SISTER from India, Suyag’dha, Hela Asura and Apavahaya from Sri Lanka.”

written by Ruhail Qaisar

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of Border Movement and its partners.

NEWS - 20. May 2020   CITY - Colombo

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