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Runzelstirn and Gurglestock, Dave Philips, Justice Yeldham,Crude

Sat Jul 28th, 2007
Rising Sun,

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The Audio Foundation presents

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Schimpfluch-Gruppe including Runzelstirn and Gurglestock, Dave Philips, Justice Yeldham and the Dynamic Ribbon Device, and Crude
$15, Saturday July 28, 2007, doors 8pm, starts 9pm
Rising Sun, 373 Karangahape Rd, Auckland
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Influenced by martial arts attack patterns and the notorious actions of earlier Viennese performance artists, Schimpfluch-Gruppe is a loose collective of Bruitists and performers. Using sound, their often brutal performances challenge their audience’s responses using anything from voice and handguns to a theremin and dead fish. Sharing the Schimpfluch sensibility and joining them for their NZ tour is Australian glass performer Lucas Abela aka Justice Yeldham and the Dynamic Ribbon Device. Also joining them in Auckland is one of NZ’s most prolific recording artists, Matt Middleton aka Crude.

Hailing from Zurich, where almost a century ago one of the original 20th century avant-gardes (1916-19) incited audience riots with their Bruitist (noise) literary peformances, Schimpfluch-Gruppe comprises Rudolf (Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck), Dave Phillips, Joke Lanz (Sudden Infant), and Marc Zeier (g*park) – Lanz and Zeier are absent for this tour. Revisiting key Dada strategies of agression, chance, sponteneity and concrete/raw form, Schimpfluch thread the historic avant-garde fascination with the limits of bodily experience through the extremity of Viennese Actionism and the excesses of performance-based precursors to Industrial music to arrive at their particular blend of noise assault, gestural precision, rhythmic destruction, dark humour and primal physicality

Rudolf, a.k.a. Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck, founded Schimpfluch in December 1986, and coined the concept of “psycho-physical tests and trainings“. This approach deals with therapeutic and analytical actions and reactions of the psyche, the body, and of senses and realities (of both performers and audiences) in a radical, critical but also liberating way - an attack on the mind as well as a stimulation of the senses. Although dwelling in obscurity, has gained immeasureable respect for his performances as well as for his unique cut-up techniques; a strict compositional yet organic process that some say is Viennese actionism put into sound, but probably has more to do with martial arts attack patterns, where even the silences between sounds describe a composure that causes maximum tension.

Dave Phillips, a.k.a. dp, was a founding-member of the short-lived (1986 – 1988) yet influential Swiss hardcore-extremists Fear Of God before he joined the Schimpfluch collective in 1991. Since 1987, his solo-works have focused on use of the voice. Coming from a punk/political background, Phillips creates a personal, intimate communication that depicts as well as questions the modern world and cries out for change. Phillips is also a member of OHNE (with Tom Smith/TLASILA, Daniel Löwenbrück/Raionbashi, Reto Mäder/rm74), formed the one-man-band ’dead peni’ in 2004, and has collaborated with the likes of Randy H.Y. Yau, John Wiese or Masonna.

As well as being responsible for Australian noise label and CD pressing plant Dual Plover, Lucas Abela is notorious for donning a utility belt armed with effects pedals and performing through a miked up sheet of broken glass as Justice Yeldham & The Dynamic Ribbon Device. Short and intense, Yeldham’s performances are equally hideous and compelling, violent and beautiful but entirely unforgettable. Challenging the notion that music is merely for the ears, his compelling visceral sound performances are structured around making audible the interface between the organic and the inorganic; the body and more unyielding physical materials. Needless to say, this is work in which the live context is a pre-requisite for understanding, with your own physical presence in the space (if it chooses to stay there) where the aesthetic moment plays out as reverberant shockwave.

Equally notorious in his own way, DIY genius Matt Middleton, aka one-man-band Crude, provides a welcome New Zealand perspective on sonic excess. His multi-instrumental solo performances teeter, often breathtakingly, between control and chaos, encompassing free jazz, electronics, noise, and vocal work. Conceived in 1994, Crude is the working title for Middleton’s recordings - a universe of music and ideas concocted on a simple cassette four-track recorder. As well as a long list of solo self-releases, Middleton has also played with The Aesthetics and Space Dust and released music on Flying Nun, Ecstatic Peace and Mental Telemetry.

Please check the following sites for other New Zealand and Australian tour dates for Schimpfluch:
rudolf & gurgelstøck:
Dave Phillips:
Justice Yeldham:
Matt Middleton:

Schimpfluch’s appearance is supported by Creative New Zealand, Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Liquid Architecture and Room40.

Friday July 6 – Pauline Oliveros/Ione/Phil Dadson
Saturday July 14 – Metamkine/Plains/Michael Morley


AKTION TIME VISION: Catching up with Switzerland's Schimpfluch Posse
by Drew Daniel (published in The Wire, Issue 227, January 2003)


Five years ago in a San Francisco warehouse space tucked away in the industrial neighborhood of China Basin, I tried to catch a live performance by Swiss noise artists Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock only to discover that I had showed up late. The concert's over, but you can take a look at the, uh, remains snickered one of the warehouse inhabitants. Hoping to at least catch a glimpse of the mysterious individuals involved, I approached the stage, actually just a card table in the middle of a narrow hall. On the card table: a theremin and a pile of dead fish, its entrails and nasty-smelling ichthyous goo trailing onto the floor. Both baffled and hooked, I made sure to show up on time to their second performace at Club Komotion the following night. Up close, Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock turned out to be one person, Rudolf, a bug-eyed, monk-tonsured wraith who sat at a piano and played stark, dissonant chords while sobbing his own name. Watching's etude of self-loathing, I was struck by his weird resemblance to the Sesame Street character Don Music, a distraught muppet seated at a piano who would bang the keys with his forehead in artistic frustration and then cry Oh, oh, I'll never get it, NEVER!. The character was pulled from the show because of its rather nasty side effect: instead of just getting a laugh, Don Music generated copycat behaviour, leading his young viewers to imitate his headbanging self punishment. But all these musings were abruptly cut-short by a distinct click as Rudolf produced a very real-looking shotgun, cocked it, and pointed it at the crowd. Reactions varied from tense giggles to white knuckle panic; some people scrambled out of the line of fire while others just froze.


went the shotgun at ear drum shattering volume. Rudolf sat back down at the keys and went on playing. Flooded with adrenaline as our fight-or-flight systems kicked in, by the time the audience had settled into nervous laughter and some kind of assurance that the gun had fired a blank, Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock carried on with his barrel house Russian Roulette. The knowledge that the last cartridge was a blank didn't matter a whit to the central nervous system, and I left the club, shaken, re-energized and more baffled and hooked than ever. Looking for information on R & G's label Schimpfluch, I found the terse mission statement: SCHIMPFLUCH is a base for groups with therapeutic and/or actionistic background. There is also a monthly radio-broadcast, and the distribution of audioworks.

A noise artist name checking the Vienna actionist art movement is nothing new. Thanks to a mixture of misleading press coverage and wildly inaccurate hearsay, the mid-60s performance aktions of Herrmann Nitsch, Otto Muehl and Gunter Brus and the films and photographs of Rudolf Schwarzkogler steadily gained in notoriety throughout the 1970s, acquiring legendary status while straying from accuracy, and in the process becoming particularly inspiring to experimental musicians. Nurse With Wound mainman Stephen Stapleton dedicated To the Quiet Men From A Tiny Girl to Rudolf Schwarzkogler, who killed himself in the name of art by successive acts of self mutilation. In reality, Schwarzkogler simply committed suicide in despair; the mutilation myth, which was not Stapleton's mistake but a widespread rumor, stemmed from misinterpretations of performance photographs. The Los Angeles goth punk scene birthed a briefly active musical outfit called The Herrman Nitsch Memorial Orchestra, mistakenly presuming Nitsch's own demise. But no one has taken the aktionist tradition as a musical blueprint further than Rudolf and the extended family of Schimpfluch artists.

Schimpfluch, which means abuse in German, was started by Rudolf in Zurich in 1987 and has gradually expanded to include a larger group of musicians and artists, an organically coalesced scene which began in Switzerland but which now through emigration and collaboration stretches out from America to Japan, and has attracted both a worldwide cult following and a burgeoning musical catalogue.'s reference to the therapeutic and/or actionistic background for his own work is an understatement of a strong influence. In its rituals of bodily abjection and self-exposure, actionist art offers a clear precedent not only for Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock's live concerto for piano and shotgun, but for Schimpfluch work as a whole. Throughout their work, Schimpfluch artists have transposed the tactics and poetics of Vienna aktionism into sound performances that are often violently confrontational and embarassingly personal, and recordings that re-tool live aktions into jarringly effective struggles between absolute silence and startlingly violent noise. In a sense, the studio recordings of Schimpfluch artists have the same status as Kurt Kren's films of aktionist performances; far from simply documenting an event, they are precisely edited works in their own right, and combine the brute physicality of the original performance with a uniquely focused approach to editing and collage principles. What follows is a series of descriptions and interviews with the crucial members of the Schimpfluch scene, starting with founder Rudolf and tracing the family tree that includes Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock, Schimpfluch Aktion Gruppe, Dave Phillips, Sudden Infant, and recent Mego affiliates Ohne.


Ignoring the standard descriptive binaries of music/noise, solo/group, composition/improvisation, Rudolf regards his live performances and records as Psycho-Physical Tests and Trainings. These audio documents and concerts are largely taken up by an extended, tense silence, punctuated by jarring blasts of voice and the occasional gasped breath. The appropriation of the rhetoric of abnormal psychology and the pathological mind as an analogue for extreme sonics is one of the clichés of industrial culture, but what sets apart is that when he speaks of control and physical discipline, he is not playing with metaphors, but drawing upon his direct personal experience as a martial arts instructor currently living in Japan. When asked via email what training in a sonic context means to him, he replied: I studied Karate, Thai Boxing and I am a teacher of several Kung Fu styles. The timing as well as the sounds of those Combat-Arts [are] similar to the cut-up techniques and the use of shocking noise and silence in my audio work as Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock. And even the live actions of psycho-physical tests and trainings I gave as R&G or Schimpfluch Aktion Gruppe [require] some of the same breath techniques as in these Martial Arts. During an action, parts of the audience join in those techniques- that is training to us. When asked if he is more focused upon training the audience into a new doctrine or out of their prior training, is direct: We do not care about any behaviours, standards or civilisation. I don't want new ones. Just none. Bye bye.'s approach to live performance is uniquely unhinged, sidestepping the boys with their toys aesthetic typical of the feedback fraternity for slapstick humor carried several stadium lengths beyond the pale. When I asked him about his concert for theremin and dead fish, he admitted that courting and embracing failure, the failure not only to play music but even to make any sound at all, is part of his intention. Having grown sick of relying upon recalcitrant equipment,I decided to tour Japan with nothing but broken cables, adapters etc. which I would plug into something other than black boxes. That was fish. Cables and cables and bloody fish corpses. Instead of turning knobs, I turned fish eyes and as nothing came out anyway I grabbed the guts out and beat them to get a sound. Acoustic. Unplugged. I didn't mean to make fun of standard noise shows, but . . . sure, [that was] part of the idea. Judging from the responses that his antics with dead fish and shotguns generated in the crowds, not everyone is won over. Numerous audience members at the shotgun show walked out in disgust or simply denounced's antics as pretentious bullshit. When asked about violent reactions from audience members, deadpans: I respect those coming onto the stage to celebrate the action, or those throwing bottles at me during the action. I don't like those who do that after.

Occasionally Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock concerts teeter entirely out of control. The Asshole / Snail Dilemma CD on the Berlin-based extreme noise label Tochnit Aleph documents's most unsettling aktion, his Tokyo Concert for Stringquintett and Asstrompet. It is without a doubt one of the most bloodcurdling listens imaginable. This Mount Everest of musical misery pairs increasingly tense string squalls whose lurid peaks recall Penderecki's Threnody or Xenakis in a particularly foul mood with blood curdling cries of ecstatic pain from Yakushinji Kaori, a female participant who apparently has the aforementioned trumpet inserted inside her anus during the performance. Credited as an actress, it remains unclear whether Kaori is genuinely suffering, simulating great suffering, or some unsettling combination of the two. Her torrent of sobs and cries seems entirely at odds with the received framework of out vocalizing defined by Diamanda Galas, Patty Waters, and Margaret de Wys. Where their voices sound like supremely controlled singers pushing the absolute outer limits of their considerable gifts, Yakushinji Kaori's acting starts with kitsch horror and somehow slides ever inwards, registering the effect of psycho-physical tests and training as regression to an entirely primal level of existence-as-sheer-pain. What starts out sounding like the Hammer Horror shriek of a B-movie actress grows increasingly uncomfortable as it is combined with violently distorted screams of abuse from DO YOU THINK THIS IS A JOKE? THIS IS NO FUCKING JOKE! I DON'T CARE ANYMORE!. Like some kind of audio snuff film whose fakery actually makes the end results creepier than the premise that it is the real thing, what at first strikes the listener as laughable psychodrama curdles into a deeply depressing re-enactment of domestic violence. By the sixteen minute mark, with Kaori sounding barely alive but still struggling to push air through ragged vocal chords, it comes as little suprise that, acting or no, the concert ended in disarray with on the run and local police officers in pursuit. The frenzied, enraged impotence of's assertions that he is not kidding and that this is not a joke, combined with the increasing exhaustion and breakdown of his accomplice, is precisely what pushes the recording ever closer to some limit point of the impossible real.

Why go through with this, or listen to it? The link to Vienna aktionism is crucial in getting at both the rationale and the potential rewards for such a seemingly baffling and/or unpleasurable project. In his recently published memoir The Paradise Experiment, Theo Altenberg describes the tense exposure achieved during the nightly self presentation events at Otto Muehl's aktionist commune in Friedrichshof during the 1970s: in self-presentation, it was a matter of having the courage to go into the middle and make an authentic statement. Muehl usually sat at the piano and started by building up tension, then someone just jumped in at some point, silence, then anything could happen: confessions of someone's momentary state of mind or attacks on the audience, or total embarassment, when the actor froze because of his theatrical duplicity. (Altenberg, The Paradise Experiment, 111). In a sense Don Music and Rudolf when seated at the piano express the same principle that the Vienna Actionists articulated in their art actions and that Muehl encouraged at the commune: the psycho-dynamics of abreaction, in which the public performance of the violation of a taboo unleashes an interpellation effect on bystanders which is at once comically theatrical, ethically challenging, terrifying and viscerally liberatory.

In therapy, abreaction is achieved through the re-enactment of a traumatic event. It activates a temporal relationship to a place of origin, re-opening a wound and allowing now and then to temporarily overlap so that a repressed memory can loosen its neurotic hold upon the present. Not surprisingly, the birthplace of aktionism in post-war Austria led many to conclude that in obsessively staging scenarios of humiliation and violence, these artists were fantasmatically projecting the crimes of their parents generation. In his landmark survey of avant garde cinema Film as a Subversive Art , Amos Vogel, reviewing the films created by the Vienna Aktionists, describes the stench of collective guilt hanging over some of them. One particularly notorious film captures aktionists dressed as priests wearing swastikas and mock-crucifying a woman with Jew written on her nude body. While some could justifiably argue that the Holocaust is beyond the reach of any appropriative play whatsoever, the film's convulsive repetitions seems to literalize and test Theodor Adorno's assertion that Auschwitz ended culture. As a critical response to postwar modernity, the aktionist project sutured together historical traumas such as the Holocaust with the developmental traumas inflicted as any child is socialized into a repression of its basic drives and instincts. The rational and scientific society which had created the death camps and the family unit which conditions the individual to repress his or her drives in order to produce a good clean student/worker are seen as mutually reinforcing disciplinary structures which must be radically subverted. Aktionist doctrine borrowed terminology from psychoanalysis while rejecting its normative program, with its emphasis upon the necessity of sublimation of drives, in favor of a radical open-ness to their expression, and indeed, a willfull urge to stage and perform the public violation of taboos. The orgiastic energy which the aktions unleashed were mis-read by bourgeois Austrian society as the atavistic return of Nazi evil, leading to arrests, newspaper scandal and police harassment as Brus, Nitsch and Muehl toured campuses staging aktions. In fact the aktionist group, like the Dadaists after World War I, were simultaneously making a politically liberatory social critique and symptomatically exhibiting the growing pains of an always already compromised counterculture. Furthermore, aktionism, like any art movement, consisted of distinct individuals with distinct goals, rationales and self-understandings, and grew as much out of Catholic mysticism, painterly and formalist concerns, and happenstance as any clearly unified program.

If Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock concerts seek to initiate abreaction to the point of violent resistance from audience members by combining improvised immediacy, extreme and taboo-breaking behaviour and the risk of trivially self-conscious theater, their recordings articulate abreaction as the temporal breach across the time of performance, collating multiple concerts together into a now/then which obsessively recycles the past. In broken but evocative English, describes his editing process:

In Switzerland I used open reels and scalpel, almost surgical. Cutting, cutting, cutting, sewing back. I dig a hole and stay in there with all those blades, tape and scissors. I didn't want to mix things up, but to put the knife into the sound of what I did and recorded, inside and outside. What you hear on R&G is real. The action and its body. I just cut the bodyparts, sew them wrong and cut again- in that timing, 15 years of R&G sounds get divided and divided, grow and grow. I grow my sounds biologically, like dividing cells. Cut and let grow.

The biggest surprise about the results of these chance meetings on a dissecting table is their formal exactitude and weirdly minimal restraint. Far from sounding like a big roaring mess that hits a plateau of distorted heaviness and stays there for 70 minutes, Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock records are notable for the extended canyons of silence strategically positioned throughout. This hallmark of contemplative, quasi-religious sound art is given an entirely different valence by its proximity to extreme noise; neither rhapsodically light, as in Morton Feldman's arcs and caesuras, nor select-and-delete pristine as in the clinical spaces of Bernhard Günter, the silence in Schimpfluch recordings is tense with Pinter play dread. Thick with menace and always about to be violated, it is the calculating silence of a cornered animal who sees a weakness and is about to lunge. Whether the silence is broken by gunfire, a piano chord, or a blast of contact-mic'ed vomitspiel (vomitplay), it is bracingly intense, yet also grotesquely funny, and executed with a forceful momentum that's galaxies away from the comfy terrain of glitch-as-design-statement. soon found a core of co-conspirators in Zürich. In 1989 teamed up with Joke Lanz, formerly of the hardcore band Jaywalker, who started collaborating on the monthly Psychic Rally radio show broadcast by LoRa, Zürich's alternative radio station. The pair were joined shortly thereafter by Dave Philips, another hardcore defector, formerly of the band Fear of God. In a promiscuous rondelay natural to collective scenes,, Lanz, and Phillips all inter-mingle as members of each other's bands and recording projects. Lanz and Philips are also members of the founded outfit Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock, Joke Lanz records separately as Sudden Infant, of which Philips and are occasionally members, and all three have also worked together as the Schimpfluch Aktion Gruppe. Dave Philips releases aktionist work under his own name and as a member of the brilliant new group Ohne. Extending the scene's stylistic breadth, Schimpluch also released the more delicate audio work of another Psychic Rally compatriot Marc Zeier, under the name G*Park. Talking on the phone and meeting them in person while in Switzerland, these other Schimpfluch members are disarmingly funny and thoughtful people, not at all the forbiddingly intense types I was expecting. Each member of the group had a slightly different understanding of how the aktionist aesthetic and editing principles of Schimpfluch were expressed in their work.


As Sudden Infant, Joke Lanz has pushed the Schimpfluch aesthetic away from the art gallery and towards the playground. Like the child rock made by mid-eighties hardcore bands Happy Flowers and Old Skull, Sudden Infant tries to translate the violently ludic impulses of childhood into sound, keeping the shouty punk tantrums but replacing the guitars and drums with a trigger happy finger on the pause button of a tape recorder. The result is abrupt musique concrete juxtapositions of spastic gibbering and a battery of disorienting electronics, offset by oddly lyrical passages of plucked tones and stumbling speech. On the Bandenkrieg CD (on Japanese noise label SSSM) and the Sidewalk Social Scientist LP (on Tochnit Aleph) photographs of politically militant children and typewritten manifestos (what interest can it be to us if music lives on as music?) bristle with seething aggression, but the recordings balance this with slapstick humor and junkyard chutzpah. Intriguingly, this focus on the mental world of the child is not merely regressive, but stems from Lanz's own experience of parenting; he began Sudden Infant with the birth of his son Celeste in 1989. Recently Lanz has collaborated with saxophonist Nikola Lutz in live concerts that hotwire aktionism with free improv; judging from the results of a recording of a live show at Vienna's Rhiz, it's a hairy experience, free of fish guts but sonically bustling. Lanz's recent focus on bruitist turntablism has also resulted in battle records of an altogether rougher breed, culminating in a reciprocal remix record entitled Denial Installs Necessity (on the London label Adverse) that pitted Sudden Infant against UK breakcore extremist Nomex.


Like Joke Lanz before him, Dave Phillips, half Swiss and half English, brought the furious lungpower of residency in a hardcore band to the Schimpfluch aesthetic. But if Lanz understands the mental space of the aktion as a return to childhood freedoms and frustrations, Philips regards the aktion as a space in which the category of the human is evaded altogether in favor of an animal consciousness. As he put it in an email interview:

A live situation is a real-time celebration of the animal nature. The mind becomes a subordinate part of this higher motion. The therapeutic elements in a live-action thus are embracing and sharing the chaotic nature of life as it could be/should be (shameless expression, revaluation of values, testing borders and limitations, celebrating blissful love, joyful anger, lustful laughter, existence itself, etc).

This testing of limits has provoked audiences to abreactive extremes. At a notorious French concert, and Philips, in suits and ties, were seated at contact mic'ed plates of spaghetti, and proceeded to slam their faces into the food with greater and greater fury, ultimately provoking the audience into a mini-riot of hurled beer, fisticuffs, attacks on the performers and the destruction of all nearby props and furniture. But Phillips' onstage frenzy is balanced by a precise editing prowess. Phillips contributed both source material and assemblage duties to what is arguably the most powerful recording of the Swiss aktionist aesthetic, the collaborative Masonna/Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock/Schimpfluch Aktion Gruppe release Arschloch-Onna (released by Japan Overseas). Here Masonna's firebreathing screams and and Phillips' abject gurgles are subjected to cartoonish jumpcuts, zapped with piercingly sudden tonesweeps and eruptions of weirdly sinister snickering, then gut-punched into silent oblivion, only to rise again and again. It's a deliriously funny record, an inspired pairing of warring sensibilities that upstages po-faced noise seriousness with Punch and Judy gusto.

More recently, Phillips has formed Ohne, an allstar band with Daniel Lowenbruck (who presides over the Berlin based noise label Tochnit Aleph) and Reto Mader and American Tom Smith. Ohne's debut self titled CD was released this year on their own Ohne label, courtesy of a manufacturing and distribution handshake from Mego. The cover painting by Rudolf (a precise depiction of a pig's heart which has been re-drawn to resemble an alien rhinocerous/cow winking a shit-splattered rectum at you) offers fair warning of the wild and wooly doings within; it's one of the most genuinely adventurous records you'll hear this year. Eerie seconds of silence and WHAM you're plunged into five simultaneous domestic squabbles in an overbooked timeshare where Vienna actionists gargle unspeakables at the bathroom sink, AMM give the air conditioning a seeing-to, and the Mego posse are serving stir fried Powerbooks in a burning kitchen. The band's name is German for Without, and judging from their maximally inclusive soundworld (pianos, crooning voices, intimate bodily functions, laser sharp laptop trix n clix, laughter, accordians, severely crumbled field recordings, ticking clocks, chainsaws) it seems that most of all they're without shame, and in the best possible way. It's as if they never noticed the big Thou Shalt Not Sing sign tacked up on the mess hall wall at Cool Experimental Music High School, and have spray painted Everything is Permitted in its place. Surpassing the body noise/machine noise dichotomy which underwrites the Schimpfluch aesthetic, Ohne allows a third partner to enter the fray: lyric song. This element comes courtesy of Tom Smith, familiar to fans of torturous scree from his tenure in the gloriously deranged and exquisitely named American noise underground outfits Peach of Immortality and To Live and Shave in LA. Smith's Iggy-esque crooning violates (and therefore elevates) the proceedings entirely, adding a third dimension of fleeting emotional intimacy and uncomfortably private singsong which, instead of diluting the tension by nodding off towards pop, actually heightens the stakes of the music considerably. It's the kind of risky personal exposure which can't be achieved by rolling around naked in your own vomit in an art gallery.


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