The Soft Pink Truth is the solo alter ego of Drew Daniel, one half of celebrated Baltimore-based electronic duo Matmos. After a decade of silence in which Daniel concentrated on Matmos and becoming a Shakespeare professor, The Soft Pink Truth is set to release Why Do the Heathen Rage? whose subtitle “Electronic Profanations of Black Metal Classics” reveals its bizarre agenda as an unrequited love letter to a justly divisive genre. A gleeful queer travesty of black metal’s undying obsession with kvlt authenticity, Why Do the Heathen Rage? is also a formally precise homage executed with a scholar’s obsession. With the guitar chord transcription assistance of Owen Gardner (Teeth Mountain, Horse Lords) and a coven of guest vocalists, including Antony Hegarty and members of Locrian and Wye Oak, Daniel meticulously transposes the riffs, structures and patterns of black metal chestnuts and deep cuts by Darkthrone, Venom, Mayhem, Sarcofago and more into oddly hybrid new forms. Cruising camp absurdity by forcing a sticky tryst between the two mutually incongruous early 90s subcultures of rave and black metal, the results are bracingly strange on first listen, but curiously addictive as the album sinks in.
Imitating the countless black metal albums that begin with ominous intros, the album commences with “Invocation for Strength”, a spoken word track in which a Radical Faery poem used by gay activist Arthur Evans in his classic Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture is read by Drew Daniel and Antony (Antony and the Johnsons). After this queer hymn, the rhythmic assault begins with an industrial gabber take on Venom’s genre-founding song “Black Metal”, featuring vocals by Baltimore artist Bryan Collins and screams from Daniel. Stark trap beats and rave synths meet two-step house bounce on “Sadomatic Rites,” originally by Beherit, whose electronic opus H418ov21.c was an inspiration to Drew as he was making this album. Adding a witchy twist to an underground metal classic, Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Dungeonesse) lends her smoky, soulful voice to an orgasmic house deconstruction of Sarcofago’s redlight anthem “Ready to Fuck.” After a surprisingly sensitive guitar led intro, “Satanic Black Devotion” erupts with full on screaming vocals from Terence Hannum (Locrian), paired with IDM beats, synthetic banjo, and a rather glaring plunderphonic re-working of a recognizable dancefloor classic. Side Two kicks off with a stark, vogue-ball inspired rethinking of Darkthrone’s “Beholding the Throne of Might”, with whispered vocals from London based free improviser/composer Jennifer Walshe and a spoken interlude from David Serrotte of the vogue ball crew House of Revlon. The goth factor spikes on “Buried by Time and Dust”, in which Daniel’s Matmos partner M.C. Schmidt croaks the lyrics to the vampiric Mayhem original on top of MIDI harpsichord while a moldy 808 drops the “Planet Rock” beat. In an Ouroboric final gesture, the album concludes with a paroxysmic take on “Grim and Frostbitten Gay Bar” by Impaled Northern Moonforest, the parodic fake black metal project of Anal Cunt’s Seth Putnam. A blizzard of snippets of pop, house, crust and metal are shredded and smothered in lo-fi screaming and arctic field recordings, ending the album on suitably contradictory notes of mockery and celebration. The album’s controversial artwork, which will remain redacted for the time being due to the extreme content it portrays, fits those themes as well, depicting a volatile, extremist scene undergoing a long overdue queerification, coming out rich and strange, shiny and pink.
The Soft Pink Truth was started in 2001 when legendary UK house producer Matthew Herbert challenged Drew to “make a house record,” resulting in the project’s slyly funky debut album Do You Party?, which Herbert released on his own Soundslike Records. Daniel has also produced floor-burning remixes for Bjork, Herbert, Grizzly Bear, Dat Politics and many more under The Soft Pink Truth moniker. “Why Do The Heathen Rage?” follows his 2004 release “Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want The Soft Pink Truth?,” a collection of electronic interpretations of UK punk and American hardcore songs. As a member of Matmos, Daniel continues to break down established norms of experimental and pop music practice by filtering genres through unique and brilliant conceptual lenses, and has established himself as one of the most individualistic electronic musicians of the past several decades.
Disclaimer: Aesthetics and Politics are neither equivalent nor separable. Black metal fandom all too often entails a tacit endorsement or strategic looking-the-other-way with regards to the racist, anti-Semitic, sexist and homophobic bullshit politics that (still) pervade the scene, on behalf of either escapist fantasy talk, shaky invocations of art as a crypto-religious path to transcendence, or--the oldest cop out in the book--the quietist declaration that “I just like how it sounds.” Just as blasphemy both affirms and assaults the sacred powers it invokes and inverts, so too this record celebrates black metal and offers queer critique / mockery / profanation of its ideological morass in equal measure. Mixed emotions about a murky, diverse and self-differential scene are all very well, but, as Barack Obama is so fond of saying at press conferences just before legitimizing drone warfare, let’s be clear: No apologies, no excuses, and no escape clauses are hereby offered. Murderers are murderers. No safe space for fascist garbage. The Soft Pink Truth hereby abjures black metal homophobes, racists, and Nazis categorically and absolutely: MAY THIS CURSE BIND! Remember Magne Andreassen!”
The Soft Pink Truth (Teaser)