AMN Reviews: Chester Hawkins – Apostasy Suite (Intangible Arts)

Who by fire? And whither thence without a predetermined path? Apostasy Suite is the culmination of a self-professed fascination with the notion of purification through burning, (partly) transposed from a religious context into repudiation of the external imposition of “any teaching or imprinted belief system…faith in god(s), democracy, money, body image” on the individual, which Chester Hawkins characterizes as sedative, formative American mythology.

Hawkins, who just retired the Blue Sausage Infant moniker he bore since 1986, molds “dynamic sculptures,” representing a dynamic sense of individualism, out of tone and static. Comprised of six separate live performances, trance reaching for transcendence through proxy self-immolation, Hawkins marshals an impressive array of equipment, from modular synthesizer and mobile phone to lapsteel and prepared vinyl, with which to stoke the flames.

He opens by ripping apart the Catholic Easter Mass and singeing the pieces. A sizzling “Equinox” settles into a high register, Oldfieldian riff – exorcism? – before bells ring in an “Intifada” hammering an urgent alert on pretend bass guitar. “No Body,” the shortest performance at less than six minutes, is pacific, angelic in fact – ecstasy through disembodiment? The ultimate upheaval achieved, “Exterminator Pump” seems to revel in newfound freedom and the Mass comes to its final “Dissolution,” a twenty-minute inverse auto-da-fé. An abstract, highly personal liberation ritual.

Stephen Fruitman