When a man believes that any stick will do, he at once picks up a boomerang. – GK Chesterton
Bicoastal masterminds Collapsing Scenery embrace the joyous, carnivalesque aspects of outsider art and political protest. Together they straddle the gaps between music, art, film, and politics; seamlessly moving between each with the same ease at which they traverse the globe.
“The Right to Life‘ was written after a couple years of observing various unhinged responses to the pandemic and its societal impact, in particular an essay by RR Reno which contemptuously accused the liberal left of being consumed by a pathetic, Godless fear of death, manifested in support for lockdowns, social distancing and masks,” Debris explains. “This argument (screed, really) was all the more head-spinning coming from a conservative Catholic, who otherwise drones on endlessly about fostering a ‘culture of life.’ The lyric attempts to address the various, obvious hypocrisies of the ‘culture of life’ crowd, and the ways in which its critique of our supposedly atomized, alienated, secular culture was undercut by its radical, nihilistic individualism when asked to make some concrete sacrifices for the common good.”
For such a vehement political statement, the song is delivered not in an abrasive punk style, but rather in a sweet Trojan horse sound of neo-psychedelia and mid-90s Britpop mixed with 2010s indie sleaze. Its funky backbeat and gorgeous harmonies serve their passionate protest with a dollop of hot honey.
The timebending video for the single, directed by Alexandra Cabral, was filmed in a true 80s onstage performance style, reminiscent of an appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, or Top of the Pops.
The track is the latest single to be released from the band’s album A Desert Called Peace out today, via Metropolitan Indian. A Desert Called Peace is a collection of songs written and recorded over the last three deeply strange and unsettled years. The songs encompass crises both global and personal. The title of the album is adapted from Tacitus’ account of the possibly apocryphal Caledonian chieftain Calgacus and his legendary critique of Roman conquest: To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire, and where they make a desert, they call it peace.
The album features appearances from Avalon, L’espiral, RugiRugz, and the reggae legend Tippa Lee. Its sound encompasses dancehall, techno, post-punk, brit-pop, darkwave, industrial, free jazz and funk/soul.
The lyrics address topics ranging from Catholic integralism and the so-called ‘New Right’, to the strange interregnum between the death of one era and the birth of the next, to the ways in which our technologies mold us. Lead single “Gold Rush” approaches the climate and biodiversity crises with gimlet eyed nihilism. It’s a cri de coeur of apocalyptic joy, borne of hopelessness.
Collapsing Scenery offer a new vision for how a modern band can be, outside of the confines of the tired traditional industry. Forever challenging and subverting perceptions since their 2013 inception “under a pall of paranoia and disgust,” Don De Vore (Ink & Dagger, Lilys, The Icarus Line, Amazing Baby) and Reggie Debris began collaborations with a variety of characters: Jamaican dancehall legend Ninjaman, Beastie Boys producer/collaborator Money Mark, and no-wave pioneer James Chance.
Collapsing Scenery’s inception can be traced back several years when New York-based artist/musician Don De Vore and musician friend and LA resident Reggie Debris collaborated in programming events with D’agostino and Fiore gallery on the Lower East Side, beginning with a video installation which lead to a month of music and visual programming called ‘Rebuild Babylon’ which in turn evolved into a traveling residency series.
The band also has remixes out or on the way from Genesis P-Orridge (Psychic TV, Throbbing Gristle), Jennifer Herrema (Royal Trux), Uniform, Youth Code, Brian DeGraw (Gang Gang Dance), and more. During a 2016 artist residency in New York, the artists created a psychedelic immersive art installation that incorporated projections, layers of colorful plexi-glass, a reading from Genesis P-Orridge, and performances from De Vore and Debris.
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