Attila Csihar: A Scrying
Guest Blog by Adam Potts
I knew very little about the mythological themes of Attila Csihar's A Scrying tower performance. Ritual, alchemy, transcendental communication through angelic tongue and celestial speech, all of it sounded a little dramatic even for me, who grew up with the theatrics of the early Norwegian Black Metal scene of which Attila played an important role. But having been completely immersed by his baritone vocal and Tuvan throat singing when watching Sunn O))) 2009 performance at the Sage, I was terribly excited to see what he could do solo.
The performance begins before we enter the tower of the bridge, a space I didn't even know capable of housing such an event. As me and my friend wait outside, his chant like vocal booms through the windows. All of the seagulls, nesting on the frame of the bridge, begin to panic, flapping their wings and crying. We enter the tower and make our way up the stairs. Any anxiety I had of the theatrics evaporates immediately precisely because you cannot not get caught up in the pseudo religiosity of it all. We walk in line like a cult procession and into a room where darkness almost hits you like solid matter. Candles are lit all over the room, barely illuminating it and tree stump seats circle a well-like vision pool. At the head of the room, Attila has already started, standing in a black robe over a table of candles and electronic equipment like an altar. The booming vocal that panicked the birds outside has subsided and the initial performance starts minimally as he forgoes the microphone to chant acoustically. Attila's vocal always has a tendency to make you aware of space, he plays with his environment to open up his vocal, bouncing it of walls and sending it circling around the room. In this space, his chant turned my gaze upward to see the sheer height of the tower, a height interrupted only sporadically by steel supports. In the minimal space he created, you could hear the pulse of the traffic on top of the bridge. Attila plays with this sound, allowing it to punctuate his ritual.
With such a dramatic start, it was hard to see where he would go from there and how he would sustain interest for the two hour space allocated. But he meandered through so many vocals textures: chant like, baritone, Tuvan throat, including styles and techniques only someone more qualified than myself might recognise. He also incorporated loops and electronics, layering and punctuating his vocal journey with unexpected glitches and blips. He moves away from the microphone and then into it, emptying and filling the space in a dramatic sweeps of vocal prowess. And the ritual keeps you transfixed, as he slowly walks toward the vision pool, sprinkling water over it. The projector above beams down dream like visions, clouds and waves as if communication was opening with something other. It's all in all, dramatic, spectacular and an event that I will never forget.
An hour and forty minutes later, my friend and I exit the tower, speechless. We make our way to a nearby pub to discuss it all. When inarticulate excitement and praise breaks momentarily we consider the meaning of it all. What language was he singing in? Enochian language, a supposed angelic language. But what does it mean? What does it mean for Attila? Was the ritual just performance or does it have a much greater weight for him? We think about this as a possible critique, but then ultimately agree that regardless of his investment in such beliefs, whether strong or performative, this was an event that if any element were stripped away, aesthetic or otherwise, it would not have been as magical as it was.