Tonguing Meaning 3: Matt Burt

Deathprod. vs. the Death Dwarf: «Albino Monkey Organgrinder in the City of Lights» [mp3]

Back in 'Tache Town for a couple of weeks, I thought I'd post something Trondheim once had to offer the world (but which the world ignored).

In 1997, dBut Records released the now out-of-print various artists comp Det norske hus. (The Oslo Agreement upon international release.) Besides various branches of the Origami Republika anarcho-collective (Galaktika and Teknika), the album featured Jaga Jazzist and once-hyped Norwegian electro acts such as Palace Of Pleasure, Perculator and Sternklang. Naturally, the sleeve was designed by Kim Hiorthøy.

But the real gem was the last track, credited to «Deathprod. vs. the Death Dwarf». This is obviously a collaboration between Helge Sten and Trondheim's resident expat American dictaphone poet, the self-deprecating shorty Matt Burt, reciting something that sounds unmistakably like passages penned by William S. Burroughs (probably from Naked Lunch, possibly The Soft Machine).

It's only after your mind has drifted off to Burt's monotonous Burroughs impression and the minimalist drones of Deathprod. that you notice a sudden change of tone. The contrived deadpan drops from Burt's voice, and you awaken to realise that the words now come from a different place altogether. No longer the cold satire of the sci-fi junkie straight out of Surrealist Hell, after about nine minutes Burt starts reciting his own material, tacking it onto the end of Burroughs' hypnotic gibberish, as if bashfully wishing no one would notice his awkward confession, or else hiding it behind another's stoic work, secretly ashamed at the self-pitying soft core at the heart of his own, thus sabotaging his own attempt at communication.

But the communique's truthful, it's honest, and the words nail the meaning they seek to convey right on the head. And although Burroughs' words are hilarious («What in God's green earth do these telecommunications transvestites think they're doing?!»), it's not until Burt's turn that «Albino Monkey Organgrinder in the City of Lights» is injected with sincerity and an emotional nerve that's hooked into the mainline of everdyay reality, rather than into the abstract, comic nightmare of a hallucinating, cock hungry junkie on the run.
Tragedy teaches us that the objects of our contemplation—ourselves, each other, our world—are more diverse than we had imagined, and that what we have in common is a dangerous propensity for overrating our power to comprehend that diversity.
When the assumption that we have very much in common with each other is rejected by Burt as an illusion, his statement—being an attempt at communication, at meeting another mind—is a contradiction in terms. Because if it were true, would it make sense to utter it? Would anyone even understand it? To whom is he speaking? Then again, if you do understand it—do identify with it—perhaps that's simply because what little we have in common is precisely how little we have in common…

Whatever the case, the bottomless solitude Burt touches upon—hemmed in as it is by our limited empathy—remains, both for Burt and for the listener… But at least there's some sort of consolation: You're not alone in being alone.

Whatever that's good for.

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