Sunday, September 17, 2006

-Review: Oneiric Imperium 'Service the Target'-

Straight out of the gritty streets of Philadelphia, home of Man Ray and Hellfire Club member Benjamin Franklin, is the debut album of Oneiric Imperium, 'Service the Target'. This eclectic multimedia work is the brain child of Bood Samel and features the stylings of Justin Duerr, Bryan Babylon, Nick Carbuto, Robin Hoode, Gary Steinour, KUR, Abby Miller and Karen Ciorciani, whose instruments range from guitar to a fan with cardboard sticking in it. The album comes in a DVD case which gives it a certain story book quality. This feeling is further validated by a lightning bolt symbol intersecting with a key on the cover, as if to state that some esoteric knowledge will be revealed to the listener. In the liner notes, each song is accompanied by a work of art by Bood which often bare a resemblance to sigils.

The first track, ‘HexHexHex’, starts with a descending synth line over a sample of what sounds like a radio dial being moved back and forth. Enter a sample of Roy Orbison crooning “Go to sleep everything is all right” while an unknown voice whispers the title. Given that the band’s name roughly translates to Dream Empire, we can view this track as an aural translation of a nightmare. For if “the sleep of reason produces monsters”(Goya), then Oneiric Imperium are bound to record it.

The next track is titled ‘Carrion Culture’ and starts with menacing strings over a wall of dissonance. Bood then begins with a mantra which includes such lines as “Politics are impossible. Desire is not a social statement. You are an alienated fragment. The social body is dead.” This is clearly a comment on the current state of late capitalist society, the further decline of the Kali Yuga. In the liner notes for this song Bood writes: “This is the Oneiric Imperium apoletia anthem. It’s a nod to Evola, Yockey and Spengler. We are living in their no future. It is not that the West is dying it is that it is that it is already dead... One must learn to thrive in isolation on the ruin of the world. Tactics such as dumpster diving, squatting, graffiti, and street art are testaments to such a notion.” Linking the aural with the visual, Bood and co. seek to go the distance with their art. Creating a multifaceted body of work that looks to fully replicate all aspects of lived experience.

Bringing us out of the harsh reality of the previous track, ‘The Angelic Host’ is a boisterous neofolk ditty a la Sol Invictus. Accompanied by a drawing of a fleur de lys in front of a Tower of Babel-like structure with a UFO flying over head, Bood sings of angelic beings which seek to steer our souls off course.

‘Service the Target’ returns to the land of the automated with light static humming over what could be Muslims praying. Then a marching drum beat enters and the title is howled against a harsher layer of noise. This piece could easily be the byproduct of a slightly less discordant Whitehouse fused with early Joy Division.

‘Cherico’ starts minimally enough with the amplified sound of a fly against some industrial ambiance before going into a recording of a story told to Bood by one of Phily’s more offbeat derelicts. This fades out to a cacophony of symbol crashes and synth loops while a robotic voice utters a indecipherable word hear earlier in the track. This soon fades too and the listener is presented with the second half of the derelict’s story. The use of this woman’s story is not to garner pity for the homeless or some other related liberal gimmick, but to exhibit to the listener the environment from which this music comes. An environment of social decay inhabited by alienated individuals coping with the failed project of modernity.

Emerging with a sample from the 1979 movie Caligula, ‘Star Hinged Abyss(Hessian Mercenary Version)’ launches into an all out frontal assault of thrash metal. This is then superseded by a thick bass line of electronic distortion. After this brief chance to headbang, the listener is greeted with one of the best tracks on the album.

‘Dream Train to the Secret Lair’ starts with a Middle Eastern flute solo courtesy of Bryan Babylon over the sounds of indecipherable yelling and low cc motorbikes passing. The vocals consist of a cut up of one of Bood’s dreams which includes descriptions of a group of cannibal people who can control other people’s bodies. The picture in the liner notes for this song features train tracks leading up to an ancient Egyptian style building with sigils inscribed on it. This pictorial representation reminding me very much of the story H.P. Lovecraft penned with Harry Houdini, 'Imprisoned with the Pharaohs'. As the song continues, a guitar and flute solo intertwine with Bood’s words and the background noise creating a swirling effect on the listener in which visions of Hollywood savages from old Three Stooges episodes intermingle with Osiris and Thoth. Like most of Oneiric Imperium’s work, it is very self-referential, both musically and in terms of subject matter. As such it lets the listener into the world of Bood Samel and his cohorts. But unlike the personal posturing of rock stars who seek to make themselves seem as just ordinary people to get more record sales, the inwardness of Oneiric’s work is utilized to show that this music is born of a certain experience, one dependent on a particular geographic location and subjectivity.

‘The Harpy Text’ begins with a fragment of Bood’s mom telling a story and then launches into a psychedelic romp in the style of the Stones’ circa 'Their Satanic Majesties Request'. A marching drum beat combines with an organ while Bood an co. sing of winged women who will dissolve them in flame. A clever slice of old school Luciferian rock n roll which could have provided the soundtrack for the moonlight antics of the townspeople in Hawthorne’s 'Young Goodman Brown'.

Meanwhile, ‘Compassion is not Compulsory’ embarks with a ‘Greensleves’-eque tune played through a low analog fuzz. Then enter a sample of street people talking and more of Babylon’s signature flute harmonies. The piece ends as the analog melody fades out and the listener is treated to some intergalactic noises.

‘Strike Down Your Fellow Man!’ begins with a sample from 'Fight Club' with Brad Pitt discussing the purgatory of our age. This is then intersected by a sample of a young woman screaming “warfare, warfare, warfare” from what could be an old Crass LP. As this sample fades out, an erratic, martial drum beat collides with an imperial flourish of brass instruments. The songs ends on a return of the “warfare” chant. One gem on an already first-rate album, ‘Strike Down...’ speaks to the warrior spirit inside those of us suffocating in an age of simulated servitude. Hinting that the ferocity of battle might serve as a substitute for the pangs of mediocrity.

‘Doppleganger’ provides us with a soundtrack for the back alleys of turn of the century factories. Moved along by a more free form, yet bellicose beat and a computer voice speaking the title in appropriate monotone. This particular track also has a collaged representation which can be viewed on various telephone poles throughout Philadelphia. Cryptic symbols and mischievous women peer out of the face of an otherwise stoic portrait.

The final track, ‘Body and Blood’, continues with the theme of Oneiric’s signature style. A chugging typewriter beat keeps the listener afloat as the triumphal posturings of the Lost Generation weave one in and out of a dream state between the past and the present. ‘Greensleeves’ enters in the mix for a second time on the album, this time played on a church organ, bringing the album to a close with the sensation of a pastoral idyll.

While ‘Service the Target’ works wonderfully on the sole level of a musical album, it really cannot be separated from Bood Samel’s gestamtkunstwerk. A quick look at his website reveals a plethora of creative outpourings. This includes essays on the application of antinomianism in consumer society to the problem of parasitic dogmas within ‘underground’ social circles, amateur Polaroid™ pornography, and arcane ink drawings. As mentioned before, much of Bood’s artwork graces the brick walls and buzzing electrical boxes of his fine city, acting as psychogeographical markers. Chaotic, cut up esoteric fragments of image and sound derived from the very materiality of our soulless, vacant urban centers. As such, Bood’s taps into that eccentric tradition in Philadelphia which includes Benjamin Franklin, MOVE , Freeman B. Dowd and the hip-hop act Jedi Mind Tricks. Equal parts Austin Osman Spare, Ray Johnson and Negativland, Oneiric Imperium offers up a fine multimedia work for those who seek to commune with the ghosts of meaning behind a surface of decay.

‘Service the Target’ can be purchased through World Eater Records( For more on Bood Samel’s art, music and writings please consult