The Other Jute Gyte: An Electronic Dr. Jekyll for a Black Metal Mr. Hyde

Today we are going to talk a little about metal and a lot about electronic music. We are going to talk about literature and neuroscience. We are going to bite off more than we can chew. We are going to make a great big mess and we are not going to clean it up. Abandon all hope, ye who etc.

Most of us probably think of Jute Gyte as a metal band: the microtonal black metal project of the lone Adam Kalmbach. Many of us are probably only dimly aware, if at all, that he releases electronic music under the Jute Gyte moniker as well. This is because we are metalheads who read metal blogs and hang around on metal message boards. And because, while Jute Gyte has made something of a splash with metal critics, you will be hard pressed to find evidence of any such splash in the electronica blogosphere, if such a thing even exists. I discovered the electronic side of Jute Gyte some time in 2015, through the project’s bandcamp site. As with his metal releases—which I like to think of fondly as headache metal—I was immediately intrigued, although not immediately sold. My fascination was peripheral at first, and to the extent that this music is difficult to digest, it probably still is. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 that I took the full plunge with Dialectics (2015), and from then on I struggled to find some coherent lens through which to view this oddball body of work, which essentially amounts to a mix of IDM, ambient and noise. It probably wasn’t until that winter that I realized there may be no coherent lens through which to view this oddball body of work—but I’m going to try anyway, because there’s nothing good on Netflix this week.

Taken as a whole, the electronic permutation of Jute Gyte is full of beats that skitter, stutter and self-destruct; structures as light as a whisper or as dense as a neutron star; melodies that are familiar at first before mutating beyond recognition; tricky grooves that induce vertigo and upset your sense of a lawful Spacetime; atmospheres that cause you to wonder what fucking planet you are on. As I understand it, Jute Gyte was a bedroom electronic project before it bifurcated into bedroom black metal. Early albums such as Apidya (2006) and Arakan (2007) bear little resemblance to later, more tuneful work; they are dominated by drone, noise (both harsh and unharsh), and percussive textures. In Kalmbach’s explanation of Arakan, which you can read on the bandcamp page or right here in a minute, we see the first detailed explanation of how these beguilingly abstract textures come about.

  1. “Most of the sounds in ‘Clawhead’ and ‘Arakan’ were created by converting non-audio files to audio.”
  2. “The various components of ‘Salgo’–basslines, drums, guitar and vocal loop—are unrelated to one another in tempo.

Music determined by non-musical sources; order (or its illusion) emerging from disarray. These, as time will prove, are two of the pillars of Jute Gyte’s aesthetic system. While Kalmbach gradually phases-out his use of non-audio files on later releases, his sort of abstract expressionist penchant for weaving together temporally and tonally unrelated voices flourishes. After a period of drone-centric ambient albums, we arrive at Faunscan (2011), where all of Kalmbach’s experimentation achieves greater coherence, and his obsession with the sourcing, recombining and juxtaposition of independently composed lines takes the lead. From here on, technical terms from music theory like “ostinati”, “polyrhythms”, “aleatoric”, “taleae” and “canon” begin to appear in his explanations of each album. (Anyone who has ever read the Toilet’s weekly Tech Death Thursday column already knows what a polyrhythm is. If you’re a pleb like me and are curious about the other terminology, get your Google on.) To listen to Faunscan is akin to watching a mad genius fuck around in his lab with substances you don’t quite understand; to read Kalmbach’s notes on his labwork is to confirm the brainy technique lurking behind the madness.

 

Theory aside, with Faunscan Jute Gyte delivers warm and playful electronica for the first time. The eponymous opening track plays out in classical IDM style, with glitchy beats and furtive yet emotive melodies—nothing too aggressively noisy or complex. “Aleshar” gives us some odd time signatures which shift and molt in spite of the cheerful melodies plucked out above. “Ypotrill” sounds like a tree full of robotic birds chirping quizzically at one another. Moments of overwhelming density are sparse, best represented by “Skerries”, which is the sound of a workshop full of toys coming to life and rising up to murder their makers.

On later album Volplane (2012), the IDM influence is still apparent, albeit further bent toward the avant-garde through a greater emphasis on independent layering. Consequently, this album loses some of the warmth of Faunscan, and the playfulness tends toward the sinister. Kalmbach explains a couple of the tracks as “several ostinati of different lengths, with pitches and dynamics determined aleatorically,” which are “voiced by a single instrument and interact polyrhythmically…” Of others, he says they “are built from ostinati that gradually transform timbrally, melodically and rhythmically.” In layman’s terms, what we’re hearing are increasingly disjointed percussion lines accompanied by cold, alien melodies and drones, all of it organized into forms which do not sound like organization—they sound like songs exploding into separate pieces, spinning into outer space and traversing the cosmic void in opposite directions.

 

Subsequent albums Witzelsucht (2012) and Metonym (2013) showcase a new technique: ROM hacking, which the internet tells me is method of editing or reprograming the original content of a video game—in this case the audio. As you might expect, displacing music and sounds from old 16-bit Sega games and applying them to Jute Gyte’s already unorthodox approach to composition yields some highly alienating results. Witzelsucht conjures lunar landscapes, interstellar silences and samplers gone haywire, while Metonym is overall a more sparse affair, where lonely beats burst in and out of the background void and murmuring melodies ponder the necessity of their existence. We drift further and further from the familiar sounds of humanity, toward some digital holocaust. Are we listening to music, or to a series of localized robotic receptors trying—failing—to assemble themselves into a fluid consciousness?

 

Jute Gyte’s most recent electronic album, Dialectics (2015), is in effect a culmination of the methods Kalmbach has employed so far. And also a step closer to utter abstraction. It bears the sophistication of its direct antecedents while almost coming full circle to the noisy and otherworldly drone of his earliest works. Or maybe it only feels that way because it has been a long journey to the end of this pixelated night and I am thoroughly depleted. Whether or not Dialectics is anything more than a refinement of established ideas, it is certainly a challenge. As the title suggests, the album is built around opposing or even clashing structures. There is so little harmonic resonance, such short decay to each instrumental moment, that you hear the silence between each utterance as much as you hear the utterance itself. And thus a great deal of each composition is given shape—composed—by negative space.

 

With his metal albums, Kalmbach uses black metal as a prism through which to break experiments with microtonality, polyrhythm and counterpoint; that is, he is primarily concerned with music. I’d argue that with his electronic music he is primarily concerned with machines. More important than the process of composition or the harmony of the ultimate results are the methods selected at the outset: the set of parameters which determine—mathematically—how each instrumental line or layer of sound will interact with the others. This is music that is truly programmed in the most technical sense of the word; Kalmbach becomes much less a composer than an engineer. Aesthetic choices such as pitch, tempo and timbre play a roll, but these choices are like window dressing for curious juxtapositions and bifurcations and metamorphoses (accidents, basically) which result more from the program itself than from any overarching artistic will. Each song is like a wind-up clock whose functioning depends entirely upon the way it was built; Kalmbach builds the clock, winds it up and lets it rip, and beyond that, whatever happens—happens.

Which brings us, I’d argue, to the question of free will. By relaxing his control over how each of his deterministically derived songs plays out, Kalmbach seems to call into question the extent to which he can even call himself their composer. Who is doing the composing? His mind itself is an interior hologram projected by the electrochemical processes of his brain, a presumably faithful recreation of an objective reality we can only hope actually exists. If every experience and every thought he has is determined prior by separate and unconscious processes in the brain, to what extent, if any, can he even claim to be himself? (I’m riffing on the philosophical work of Thomas Metzinger here—to whom we shall return shortly.)

 

In his 1999 novel The Elementary Particles Michel Houellebecq writes “The turbulence of a river flowing around the supporting pillar of a bridge is structurally unpredictable, but no one would think to describe it as being free.” The image of the river, a metaphor for human behavior, is part of a character named Djerzinksi’s thought experiment, designed to demonstrate how “belief in the notions of reason and free will . . . probably resulted from a confusion between the concepts of freedom and unpredictability.” Houellebecq is the grandfather of a relatively young literary genre known as depressive realism. As such, he views himself, humanity and the world with detached lucidity, freed from the common illusions which allow most people to lead sane and happy lives. That lucidity allows Houellebecq and, by extension, his characters, to accept that our choices, ostensibly the the result of free will, are determined by preexisting conditions, chief among them our genetic blueprint and past experiences which have shaped our minds.

I have no idea wherefrom Houellebecq derived his concept of human unpredictability (as a novelist, he is not obliged to site sources), but it would be echoed ten years later by philosopher and cognitive scientist Thomas Metzinger in his book The Ego Tunnel (2009). In great detail, and recounting numerous experiments in cognition and neuroscience (the results of which are surprising, to say the least), Metzinger discusses how the self is not one thing, and may not be anything more than a story our brains tell us in order to collate and make use of all the input gathered by our sensory organs. The contents of the self are not fixed, and can even be manipulated by what amounts to a three-dimensional optical illusion so that inanimate objects are perceived by the brain to be “part of the self”. Metzinger describes one experiment through which a person’s perception of agency or ownership can even be transferred fully onto an external inanimate model many feet away. Analyzing the results of these experiments and synthesizing them with the findings of neuroscience throughout history, he essentially reduces consciousness to a sort of virtual user interface for the physical brain.

 

I discovered Thomas Metzinger through an interview with Adam Kalmbach published by The Quietus (in which he also makes reference to Houellebecq). So it stands to reason that Metzinger and his questions about the nature of consciousness and self have had some effect on the work of Jute Gyte. Although of course I could be wrong. I am, after all, only the distant cousin of some dumb ape. I’m not sure if any of Kalmbach’s techniques are purely his own, or how many of them were inspired by the avant-garde composers he admires. In any case, he dwells in a musical realm where the agency of the composer is at least partially abstracted; where the self is accepted for the illusion it is; where ownership capitulates to cosmic accident. In the most beguiling of Jute Gyte’s electronic work, he seems merely to decide when to begin and end the recording; anything that happens in between just might be as surprising to him as it is to us. The results are almost purely cerebral in effect. I doubt he expects us to feel anything concrete or speakable while listening, only to hear (and if you do feel something you might want to check whether you are full of blood or that milky shit inside the androids of the Alien franchise…). We remain outside the work at all times, like sentient gnats perpetually bouncing off a mirror image of ourselves. We cannot get inside and we cannot put these sounds inside ourselves.


This has been my thank you to Adam Kalmbach for introducing me to the work of Thomas Metzinger, thinly veiled in a meandering attempt to understand the engaging and eternally mysterious electronic music of Jute Gyte. If I have misunderstood, well…see above, in r.e.: cousin of dumb ape.

Jute Gyte Bandcamp

 

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Published on: March 2, 2017

Filled Under: Discography, Nerd Shit, Not Metal

Views: 704

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  • Lacertilian

    The stream rushing past a pillar analogy is such a strongly relatable concept, I’ve seen it used to describe several theories over the years, usually for some nerd shit Joe would slam us in the locker over. Interesting to see it combined with determinism this time. Either way, that’s just a dumb lizard opinion. Maybe a wise lizard like @do_you_think_he_saurus:disqus will enlighten us with some non-linear equation theory relating to turbulence, or instead just tell us that it’s one big pile of shit.

    • Howard Dean

      Whisky/Whiskey >>>>>>>>>>>>>

    • Cheers!
      *chugs bleach*

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Very cool writeup Richter, a lot this stuff reminds me of some unknown ported version of Doom where they couldn’t use any of the other music and had to come up with something new.

    https://media.giphy.com/media/f46iWuMqIGuXe/giphy.gif

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    Though not my jams, your write up was very intriguing and engaging. Not sure if I can really add anything to it myself other than “Great job, Richterman.”

  • Howard Dean
  • Joaquin Stick

    This will surely activate my thought juices. My initial reaction was that once you put your hand in the stream and disrupt the flow at all you become an author, whether or not free will told you to do so. But then, there has to be some scale discussion, because I can’t take The Count of Monte Cristo, replace one word somewhere in the middle, then call myself an author. Hm.

    As for the free will part, I just kinda prefer the idea that even if there isn’t any, we still have to use ‘Kalmbach “created” this’ for linguistic ease, so we might as well go with that for now. I’m not going to start every statement with all the causal markers just for philosophical accuracy, like “I was dropped on my head as a kid, so I was put in a lower grade for a few years, which caused {…} and so I created this shitty poem” for everything I do.

    Either way, I ain’t no Houellebecq girl.

    • Rain Poncho W.

      Borges wrote a story exactly about someone replicating an original work of an author but using his own native reality to claim that it’s an original work. Check out Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.

      http://hispanlit.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/files/2011/06/Borges-Pierre-Menard.pdf

      • Joaquin Stick

        I need to read more Borges. He makes me laugh in a “this world is pointless as fuck” kinda way.

      • I read that one passage from that story in which both the original Cervantes passage and the “rewrite” were the same at least ten times before I got the joke.
        /derp

        • Rain Poncho W.

          To be fair, I have had to work through Borges very, very slowly to try to really grasp what he’s saying.

          • Aye. And to be fair again, it was about ten years ago when I first read the story. I’d like to think I’m a weeeeee bit more perceptive now…

    • If you were a Houellebecq girl you might need towel for your face.

  • Rain Poncho W.

    Great article, Richter. I’ve had a much harder time diving into the electronic aspect of Jute Gyte than the metal side, though I’d like to note that Perdurance is a nice halfway house between the two.

    You raise some interesting questions regarding consciousness here that rationalists and naturalists have been asking for some time. Really, if all of our thoughts and knowledge and emotions are mere chemical stimuli and that each of us evolved to perceive reality in a way that lends itself to survival, what then is reality itself. In a way, I feel that the black metal side of Jute Gyte has poked at this question some with its intentional inversion of metal’s reality (*vapes*).

    While much greater minds than mine have sought an answer to this question, I’m reminded of the claim philosophers make boastfully from time to time that after finally ascending the mountain the mathematician and scientist find that the philosopher has already summited that peak and moved on. If I can find it again, remind me to share with you an article published last year about how scientists have proven mathematically that my reality differs from your reality, so it would seem that, in a debt to Wittgenstein and Kant, we need to find more precise language to better share reality and thereby understanding.

    Maybe Kalmbach is dabbling in a language of mutual reality between us and machines? (*vapes*)

    • Hans Moleman

      Ha, he said Kant.

    • I think the leading thought on this conundrum of objective reality today is that it is out there, but we are only actually designed to perceive a small fraction of it, so we can only come to know it through mathematics and science. Philosophy helps to make the math/science palatable. Metzinger elves much much deeper into this matter and I suggest you read The Ego Tunnel if you’re so inclined.

      I was going to go a lot deeper into the nature of human vs. machine reality but the article was getting too long.

      *crepes*

      • Rain Poncho W.

        I’m going to take you up on that and put Ego Tunnel on my list.

        • I’ll probably reread most of it at some point; it is quite baffling in places. You find yourself thinking “Nope, now way…” And then a page later you’re like, “Okay, sure.”

  • Howard Dean

    Man, that attached interview with The Quietus is a little cringe-worthy. “Hermetic weirdo black metal?” The hell is that supposed to mean?!

    It was interesting to see that this dude digs Hate Forest and sees it as an influence. I don’t hear it in his music, but still interesting. I had to stop when he said “anti-natalist, negative utilitarian pessimism.” Yikes.

    I just can’t do it. The attempt to overly intellectualize things makes me shudder sometimes. Statements like that remind me of the angry adjunct Ph.D student who tried to teach my Intro to Western Philosophy class in college. Using intentionally obtuse and invented nomenclature does not a compelling argument make.

    • Joaquin Stick

      I used to be a massive anti-“academese” type person, and still am for the most part (people who try to use that shit in everyday discussions make me roll my eyes so hard), and I avoided using it as much as possible, but towards the end of college I got to a few classes where it became literally impossible to enter the discussion without using these elevated terms. Making things easier to comprehend just bloats the hell out of sentences. So I guess it has its place, and I mostly stay the hell out of that place these days.

      • Howard Dean

        Totally agree. I understand why professionals working in a field (in this case, philosophy) would develop and use this lingo–it makes arguments briefer, clearer (to them), etc. It’s like a computer scientist communicating in a programming language. But when it’s a slightly informed layperson describing something to other laypeople, it’s completely unnecessary and a downright hindrance.

        I feel like the best communicators can gauge the expected perspective or “level” of their audience and describe nearly anything in understandable terms. In this case, both the interviewer and interviewee should’ve known not to try and put it on so heavily, since neither of them are professional academics and their intended audience were readers of a music/pop culture blog (i.e. most likely not professional philosophers/academics).

        tl;dr: Being intentionally opaque does not help. It also suffers from the fact that it sounds incredibly lame in these situations.

    • DARKBEARD

      all i know is Saenko >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>. . . .>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    • At times new ideas make it pleasurable, if not necessary, to invent new nomenclature.

  • Hans Moleman

    Very good work. I had noticed that not a lot has been written about this aspect of JG, so I enjoyed this.

    I like breakcore, so that’s sort of the lens I was trying to apply to this music, but as spacious a framework as that loose genre tag may provide, this just doesn’t fit in there. Probably best not to approach this with pre-conceived notions of… well, anything, really.

    Side note: I really like the liner notes Kalmbach provides with every release, despite only understanding maybe every third word.

    • Yeah those notes are like homework.

  • Waynecro

    Outstanding article, Richter! Plus, the article’s headline is my favorite thing of today.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Mighty interesting article dude! I find this interesting to listen to, with some pretty cool stuff going on at times. But it has a similar problem for me as does a fair bit of full on experimental music (as opposed to unusual sounding metal), that I can dig it to an extent, but I’m held back by not really “getting” it, as I know little to nothing about musical structure and theory and haven’t studied aesthetics for ages. So it frustrates me a bit.