Language Of “Abomination”: An Interview with Divide and Dissolve
It isn't until the middle of their new record Abomination that Divide and Dissolve add words to their music. Appropriately, the topic is language itself. Against a rumbling bass soundscape and sparse piano, poet Minori Sanchiz-Fung describes the way that colonial violence has been perpetuated and nurtured within the confines of the English language.
"Even in my thoughts I must be vigilant with the words I'm using," they say.
As you'll soon read, Divide and Dissolve are similarly vigilant. The Melbourne-based duo, comprising guitarist Takaiya Reed and drummer Sylvie Nehill, give only terse and direct answers. While their music is almost entirely instrumental, they make damn sure that you know their intent. On their previous album BASIC, their basement-breaking doom jams were adorned with titles like "Black Supremacy" and "Black Vengeance." Abomination is just as direct. Each track is accompanied by a short blurb that makes their point clear as day.
"We are taking back our land," reads the blurb to "Reparations." "Decolonize now."
Genres work like languages too. Listen long enough, and you'll begin to recognize the speech patterns, common phrases, and scripts of musical conversations. Divide and Dissolve have no interest in joining the conversation; they're here to change it. Reed and Nehill have only ended up as a metal band by happenstance. They openly admit to not being fans of the genre. They were drawn to playing slow, heavy, and crushingly loud music because of the effect it would have on the bodies of their listeners, not because of any desire to pay homage to the riff lords of the past.
As a result, their sound might be off-putting to anyone expecting variations on Sabbath classics, but Divide and Dissolve likely relish in challenging expectations and shattering conventions. We spoke to Reed and Nehill about their upcoming record, political inspirations, and advice for metalheads looking to make a difference.
Your music is very ideologically motivated. Considering that your music doesn’t have lyrics, how do you express this view point in your music?
1. The reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection of a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighbouring object;
2. The power to evoke enduring images, memories, and emotions;
3. Resonance occurs when a system is able to store and easily transfer energy between two or more different storage modes.
You have a very loose and unsettled sound. What do you intended to evoke with this looseness?
We intend to decolonise the functions of space and time by altering the mechanisms by which people can measure these things. We intend to transform people’s experiences these variables with our music. The resonance of our music is felt by people long after we finish playing our instruments. People are shaken to the core of their body by our live performance.
How has your process changed on Abomination?
Abomination was created in much the same way as BASIC. We write relatively quickly; we finished Abomination in around a week. We like to have autonomy in the mixing/production process. Having our record mastered was an integral part of the process for us because of our immense low end.
You’re on the record as not being heavy metal fans. What artists do you see as your contemporaries instead?
James Baldwin, Irene Watson, Radmilla Cody, Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks, Osa Atoe, Fjorn, Shawna Shawnte Scroggins, Ramdasha, Maxine Clark, Textaqueen, Namila Benson, Latoya Aroha Rule, Emory Douglas, Assata Shakur, Star Amerasu, Jarrod Smith.
Considering that metal, and rock 'n' roll broadly speaking, were originally derived from African American musical traditions, is there a political value to reclaiming it from the white male image it is currently associated with?
Absolutely. Rock 'n' roll is slowly being reclaimed and being properly accredited in tangible ways to African Americans. How incredible is it that Death were finally officially recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as the “first punk band” after years upon years of death, pain, intensity, and heartbreak. From an ethnomusicology perspective, blackness has and forever will continue to invent, take us higher, lead to the evolution of, liberation of, and dominate music that’s worth consuming. There is a massive problem. Why does Macklemore get an award and not Le1f? Why is Elvis eternal when Willie Mae Thornton is who we should be focusing on. Why has history incessantly tried to perpetuate genocide by forcibly removing blackness from the legacy of African musical traditions. “Imitation is the whitest form of flattery” -- Textaqueen.
“Reversal” is another collaboration with Minori Sanchiz-Fung, what is your collaborative relationship like?
It’s deeper than the ocean. We experience deep connection with Minori. Minori is brilliant and we are proud to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Minori.
What advice would you give to metalhead looking to combat racism, sexism, and colonialism in their own communities?
Start doing. Give money to your local indigenous community. Share your practice space. Give away one of your ten guitars/amps to a kid who needs it. Start conversations with people in your community. Run a fundraiser. Make space for people of colour in your community. Prioritise different people on your bill. Don’t put people of colour and women at the bottom of the billing. Do research about the history of the lands you occupy.
Abomination will be released on February 16th via Dero Arcade. Follow Divide and Dissolve on Facebook.