Sol Invictus

I

It was in a dream that Johannes d’Hoine had emerged from the winter of suspended animation. Horror Vacui, his last record, had marked a nadir: in trying to whittle the musical gesture to its core, he’d inadvertently tapped into some ungodly frequency, reduced to a shadow of a man by the bleakness of his compositions. And the world had followed suit, as though his imagination had unleashed catastrophe onto the air waves, a self-fulfilling prophecy on a global scale. Had his music infected others, or was the plague merely a mirror to his own deleterious tendencies? 

II

After the fall, the double bass had remained a consolation, seeming to speak to the low-pitched times. But, by some curious operation, every time that he took to it, beautiful melodies would slip between his fingers, asserting themselves despite him. In the dream, the quag of thoughts that had been clouding his mind now crystallised. A lit door, d’Hoine walking towards it. No need for Freud: d’Hoine had conjured the dream to resolve the problem. And so the composer began to shy away from the darkness he had previously sought and started looking towards the light.

III
Sol Invictus was to be his own fiat lux, an invocation of the lighter regions of his mind. It was time to cast off the short days, to invite beauty and organic matter into his music. And so he conjured the elements: first wind, which needs air and breath to resonate. Hanne De Backer took to visiting under cover of night, saxophone secreted under her coat. Then Berlinde Deman, with her rare Renaissance serpent. For the record, the trinity united at Vooruit, joined by artist Stijn Grupping, who had devised a light installation that responded to sound. I saw them that spring. I saw rays dance a ritual over the room. And out of darkness, Jon Doe becoming One with light.

 

Sol Invictus, 12" ESC.REC89

 

 

Music nowadays is a crime. The whole dark art consisting in whether the composer opts for death by suffocation (maximalism) or death by strangulation (the perennially fashionable anti-fashion that is minimalism). Jon Doe One's debut record, Small Numbers, involved layer after layer of obsessive construction. Faced with its delirious palimpsest of rhythm and sound, listeners – those curious lost souls, I count myself amongst their ranks, alas – had no choice but to gag on the expansive ensemble. In other words, the composer had done all the hard work for us. To guard against this oversight, and his own imaginative zeal, for the next opus he decided to establish certain constraints. Firstly, that the music should sound live, spontaneous – to which end an old tape machine was marshalled; a live show cannibalised. Second, that each track should feature drums, guitar, electronics and bass, no more, or a combination of any three, notably the artist's hitherto neglected ‘first love’, electric bass (how sentiment threatens to quash the scientific). Four, all other whimsy such as melody would be stripped away. Fifthly, finally, and most brutally, only the best six tracks would make the cut. The day of the record’s release, I came across Johannes d’Hoine in the streets of Antwerp. Peering into the void of a baroque church, he looked somehow reduced. To raise his spirits, I piled praise on the record. Less is more, he muttered strangely. Kill your darlings! But I saw that, though the music lived, something in d’Hoine had died; he and Doe One did not speak again. (Text: Clodagh Kinsella)

Horror Vacui, 12" -  Entr’acte (E251)