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Blue Water White Death - Blue Water White Death (Graveface)

Blue Water White Death - Blue Water White Death (Graveface)
17 January 2011

I remember seeing the stunning 1971 documentary Blue Water White Death sometime in the ‘80s, rented on VHS from a store (sounds like the ‘40s these days), both fascinated and for many weeks haunted by incredible underwater photographer Peter Gimbel ’s (and his team of men and women’s) death-defying images of the monster Great White Sharks off of Australia’s barrier reefs, eating whales, barracudas, fish, and everything else they fancied for sustenance. 25 years later, I discussed them with Sex Pistols’ singer Johnny Rotten in my interview with him in issue 63, as it is an interest he also greatly shares—as does, apparently, Shearwater*’s *Jonathan Meiburg and Xiu Xiu ’s Jamie Stewart . Not only have they taken the name for that too-forgotten film for their collaboration, but also they seem to be attempting to come up with an equally haunting soundtrack for the murderous beasts of the ocean it chronicled so beautifully and harrowingly. (Ask a seal; my discussion with Rotten concerned a more recent Discovery channel Planet Earth series show I’d seen. about the Great Whites off South Africa, a phenomenon he observed first hand for his own Discovery show, John Lydon’s Shark Attack —believe me, these genuine “reality shows” will leave you more frightened and awed than any tacky horror film could). A long, minimal composition such as “Grunt Tube” is frozen in time, with a chiming haunted-house piano out of Barnabas Collins , a frightened vocal from the folky-sounding Meiburg that sounds like Peter Gabriel in a psychotic trance, and a soundtrack-ish über-hush meant to evoke the stillness of the churning black water, and the impending doom and rivers of cold crimson blood these sharks represent to anything that might be its prey. It feels as cold as the Ocean south of the Tropic of Capricorn, as silent and lonely as a Space Walk, as quietly chilling as Antarctic mountain contemplation in a bitter wind. Add some mild timpani, icy guitar feedback, clashing percussion, and that odd voice (which also reminds a little of both Doves and Elbow) singing as if in an abandoned church to tracks such as “Nerd Future” and “Gall,” and the whole thing makes me think I’m food for Jaws as soon as the music stops . Supposedly we want such challenging, artful, unique, and even subtly fearful music, inducing some serious primordial insecurity that befalls all of us when we contemplate the few animals—especially those that have survived from the earth’s primordial past—that could easily tear us or other animals we love to shreds for dinner, our entire heads fitting comfortably in their massive mouths. But can we take it? I say yes, and bravo. (


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