A kind of philosophy arose in the medieval period obsessed with the occult power of precious stones and gems. People believed that these stones were invested with the powers of the stars, a way to deliver the magical virtue of the heavens. The soundtrack to Black Mass Rising, which accompanies a film by Bruxelles artist Shazzula Nebula, is maybe invested with similar kind of occult powers. But as well as giving significance to the individual songs, the soundtrack creates its own “mass”: the way the film is marketed and distributed through social media groups and performances at international festivals link together elements of a global music scene. The project seems to unconsciously draw from the traditions of the French symbolists, where words are inadequate tools to express reality and must be subordinated to symbolism, imagery, and sound in highly structured poetic formats. So Shazzula has structured her images of the ritualistic gestures and actions of the global underground into 22 filmic sections matched with a selection of music by 22 artists, such as Mater Suspiria Vison, Sylvester Anfang II, Burial Hex and Master Musicians of Bukkake (see DROME 19 – the Supernatural issue).
This April, the soundtrack will be released as a limited edition box set triple LP release, as if the sound was so ethereal the world needed it in a more concrete form.
DROME spoke to filmmaker Shazzula about her film, the soundtrack, and an upcoming performance with Osman Arabi at the film screening’s for Irtijal, the 12th annual International Festival of Experimental Music in Beirut, Lebanon.*
Black Mass Rising, video still, 2012 © Shazzula
DROME: Do you think your project is responding to a global mood, or is it more your personal vision?
SHAZZULA: I think this project is more of a feeling. Everything in Black Mass Rising is improvised, like an instinct.
D: What kind of affect do you want to have on your audience? Are you wanting to shock them or heal them?
S: For some people the title of my project sounds really negative. They think it’s some shitty metal or goth thing. The film is neither violent nor hippy, but a kind of point between heavy and light. From the kind of aesthetic that you create with poor materials, it shows beauty in the darkness, like an apocalyptic dream. The music follows a kind of mystic, doomsday vision. There are 22 songs and 22 parts of the film which are unified into one vision by the aesthetics of the imagery in 120 minutes.
D: The images have a kind of antique aesthetic, which is interesting because you used a very actual technology to make the film – just a digital mobile camera. Many of the locations are ancient or sacred sites. Are you trying to lead your audience? Because the title sounds like you are bringing these people together to rise against or toward something, or maybe to sink back into their own history?
S: Black Mass Rising is not political, revolutionary nor religious, it’s just a vision. I did want the movie to be atemporal but with architectural elements that could be coming from past or future, or even a parallel universe! These visual symmetries are against nothing in particular.
Black Mass Rising, video still, 2012 © Shazzula
D: In a way, the marketing of this film looks like the work of a medieval alchemist imagining a unified world, finding an audience from everywhere. Do you intend to bring together your audience and the artists somehow?
S: Getting all of the bands involved in the Black Mass Rising soundtrack together for an event would be something apocalyptic I think! The dream…
D: How did the organisers of the Irtijal festival in Lebanon find you?
S: There are many artists associated with this film and the Black Mass Rising label. Some of them are worlwide artists and promoters. Osman Arabi is a great Lebanese drone artist that I discovered last year through P. Marie, and I am very honoured to perform with him at two events in Lebanon, though only the black and white section of the movie will be screened because of a controversial psychedelic scene. Osman Arabi and I will prepare our sounds for two or three days before the event at Irtijal Festival. As part of our apocalyptic vision, the performance should be really loud, drony and noisy, in the total black with repetitive flashlights. We will also perform in Tripoli, where Osman was born.
D: And what kind of reception do you expect the film will have in the oriental world?
S: I expect nothing in particular. I am very patient and I hope that the Black Mass Rising team will enjoy the trip. I am also curious about life in Beirut and Tripoli, culture, music, arts, nature, and lost villages. I want to go to local libraries, museums, and non-tourist areas. And depending on my research there, I may initiate a new project in Lebanon.
Philippa Nicole Barr
* The first Black Mass Rising performance will take place on April 6th, 2012, at Beirut Art Centre Jisr El-Wati: the screening of the film will be accompanied by a live performance of Shazzula and Osman Arabi as part of the Irtijal Festival (www.irtijal.org).
BLACK MASS RISING
a project by Shazzula