Cannibal, a band featuring Cary Loren, Dennis Tyfus and Cameron Jamie, brings together three singular artist biographies, each with distinctive musical references.
Cary Loren belonged to the cluster of young artists – which also included Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw and Nigara (Lynn Rovner) – who founded the art-school band Destroy All Monsters at the University of Michigan in 1973. In his Manifesto of Ignorance: Destroy all Monsters, he writes that the aim of Destroy All Monsters was to serve up a “menagerie of words, images and sounds” in order to counter the primal masculine US rock scene of the 1970s with a different gesture. It was an approach that was open to doubt and desires, and one in which the participants did not always know (if they ever did) where it would lead. They saw themselves as continuing in the tradition of free jazz, rock and avant-garde spirits such as Sun Ra, Captain Beefheart and the Silver Apples, but without negating the rock music of the Stooges or MC5 (later members of the band included Ron Asheton of the Stooges and Michael Davis from MC5). The shows were reminiscent of the Grand Guignol theatre and were short, bloody, anarchic-apocalyptic outbursts in which anything was possible.
Dennis Tyfus, whose real name is Dennis Faes, runs the Ultra Eczema Studio in Antwerp. As a child of the 1980s, he represents a type of artist open to a wide range of approaches. For Tyfus, it is natural to combine work as an illustrator, promoter, visual artist, radio journalist and musician – and he does the latter under a myriad of solo aliases (Bitchy Vallens, Herr Keula, Penis Tea Flush, Vom Grill) and with three bands (Cannibal, Call Gypsi and Speedqueen). Each domain is inconceivable without the others; his artistic practice is an interconnected, web-like structure in which everything holds meaning for everything else.
Cameron Jamie was born in Los Angeles at the end of the 1960s and permanently lives in Paris. He represents the link between generations in Cannibal. His multi-disciplinary practice encompasses performance, sound, drawings, sculpture, photography, artist books and films. In his film work, Cameron Jamie investigates to what extent geographical and traditional conditions shape people’s everyday lives. He questions the diversion projection mechanisms of societies and their members, and the shadows they cast. His film documentaries are sparse, unequivocal insights into a world of desire that is searching for meaning. To this end, he works intensively with music as a stylistic element and has collaborated with the American rock band The Melvins and the Japanese free-noise musician Keiji Haino.
To date, Cannibal have only released one album, the self-titled Cannibal (whose album was designed by Cameron Jamie). However, the referential cosmos opened up by the three protagonists with their record is impressive proof that Cannibal can be regarded as belonging to the lineage of Red Krayola, an avant-garde rock collective founded by Mayo Thompson in the mid-1960s, and Loren’s band Destroy All Monsters.
The tracks were recorded by Loren, Tyfus and Jamie in Antwerp in 2010 and, in utter laid-backedness, not mixed by Warn Defever and Cary Loren in Detroit until three years later. Over the course of the fifteen songs (some of which bear the characteristics of sketches and interludes), there develops a seemingly chaotic swirl of emotions. However, the compelling narrative of the chaos ceases when we put our fear of disorientation to one side. Inspired by the (anti-)aesthetics of white trash and horror, the three celebrate a wild ecstatic outburst between free improvisation and accentuated rhythmic significance.
What Cannibal unleash upon us is both a repelling and, in a peculiar way, tenaciously compelling mixture at one and the same time. This is symbolically encapsulated in their song “Sweet Dreams”, in which, from the diabolic and sombre white noise, manically recited vocal fragments can suddenly be heard, whose individual, word-like formations come together little by little in our pop-culturally educated heads as fragments of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the 1980s British pop group Eurythmics:
“Who am I to disagree … I travel the world and the seven seas … Everybody’s looking for something … Sweet dreams …”
Potholes of existence.
Completely normal madness.
The band name – referencing cannibalism – certainly plays with primitive humanity’s fear of the dark depths inside itself. Linked to the notion of being eaten by our own kind is the question of what could drive us to eat a fellow human. When Cannibal name one of their songs “Phantasm”, it is not to make it easy for us by deconstructing everything as pure fantasy, an illusion and a product of our imaginations. It is a way of pushing the internal, vertiginous swirl one level further around themselves.
Horror creeps up in “Phantasm” (and in many other songs by Cannibal) like it does in Japanese horror films: not as a quiet foreboding of evil as is the case in European cinema, but with the full force of omnipresent and inescapable terror. At two minutes, the length of the song is programmatic: in this piece, there is no place and no time for false flights of hope. Why indulge in illusions when we’re all painfully aware of the tick-tock of life in its brutal finiteness. And so the initiates squeal, and beat, and scream – and in the end, the scream slowly devours itself, just the way one individual has always broken the next in best Fassbinder fashion.
With this in mind: everything can be heard, nothing is certain. Cannibal play with their cards on the table and fully aware that nothing on earth can offer an abyss bleaker than human existence.
We can look forward to seeing how Cannibal showcase all this and much more at the Kölnischer Kunstverein. Cannibal is managed by John Sinclair, the former manager of MC5.
With kind support by Julia Stoschek Collection