Karma to spare: An armed odyssey without Mike Scott or the Waterboys - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #58

NOTE- this article was composed after it all got on top of me and stands as a rock and roll essay of the most out of control and pernicious kind, I do not condone any of the advice contained herein about drug consumption, sleep deprivation or ballistics.
NOTE #2- This is part one of two, so keep it here for next week's concluding piece, which is decidedly more staid.

“We’re all ready for tonight, how about you shithead?”

Come in, quick! What is it? Oh you won’t believe it! What? And what is that I can hear? That’s what I was talking about. What is it? I don’t know. I found these tunes on the road. Whoa... hey, is that a gun? Quiet and just listen...

Almost twenty four hours now. Nearly that, I think. With no natural light it’s hard to gauge the passing of time with any degree of accuracy. Time is passing, of that much we can be sure. The most accurate time measurements are probably to be found by measuring the number of hand-rolled cigarettes stubbed out on the windowsills and surfaces, because we’ve been chain smoking ceaselessly. The smoke fills everything and light passes through it in shards. I developed a vicious cough some time ago which has spread into a general chest paralysis when I drift towards sobriety, so it is essential to keep drinking if only to keep documenting our state. We need total coverage. My associate is taking a bath in beer and has not been making sounds for several minutes. Outside is the Editor. At some point in the repetition the lack of communication and the serious bad vibes became too much for him to bear and he cracked, storming out he now sits on the balcony and patiently waits. We are afraid to disturb him for fear the brutal onslaught of substances and sound has caused his mind to permanently warp in some Vietnam sentry mode and if we were to meet him there in the darkness we would be emotionlessly slain. To repeat, the time is somewhere around twenty four hours and the band is Karma to Burn, and any notion of covering this album in a way which could be construed as legal and moral has at this point been completely dissipated. We are in the Wild Wonderful Purgatory now, we are Almost Heathens, and we can only press on.

Karma to Burn
It helps to be out of your head, generally. There is a notion espoused by non-substance users that you can get a lot higher without substances than with them, which I have never understood. This world is far too twisted for anyone to be asked to handle it sober or before about 11am. Being out of your head will also help enjoyment of music, all music, although bad music will give you a bad trip and midway through that Adele record you got given by someone with either no connection to reality or a vile sense of humour you’ll begin to writhe and scream uncontrollably, complete and resolute in the belief that you are being assailed by transparent foes and your blood is quickly turning to concrete in your veins. This will prove a distinctly jolting experience in your own home, and is liable to cause members of the non-enlightened to snap were they to witness it on public transport. With good music however, the drunk, stoned, ripped, high, low, snorted and generally fucked-up person will find themselves in the arms of a dusky maiden until they awake, blissfully hungover and cemented in the belief that this is living. The listening criteria for Karma to Burn are distinctly alien and eerily specific. One must find themselves at least one fellow voyager, as lone-wolfing this trip is for the brave and the stupid. You will want to buy, acquire and ensure are on hand the following chemicals – Anything American; for practical purposes this rules out all the more exotic (and quaintly ‘controlled’) substances as imports are not what they used to be. You’ll be resigned to bourbon, beer and pipe tobacco rolled. You will also want to acquire at least one firearm. The importance of arming oneself to the teeth for this trip cannot be overstressed. Ideally you’ll want a black attaché case containing a sleek black .357 with personalised grips. If you can’t get one of these, any firearm will do, or anything that could easily resemble a firearm. This is for waving purposefully at each other during the more dark moments of the soul during your 36-hour substance-soaked Karma to Burn experience. You’ll want to prepare the room by adequately soundproofing (so that the anguished screams that set in around hour 30 don’t keep the neighbours up) and shutting out all traces of natural light. As little light as possible should enter the room, preferably from the tiny faces of digital clock radios blinking constantly at 0:00. More vital than any of this is to make completely certain that nobody knows where you are. To fully experience Karma to Burn you have to be utterly resigned to the trip, and know that if you falter or fall behind, nobody can save you. As soon as that record starts to spin baby, you’re in jail and it’s fight or die.

All of this might seem strange, because Karma to Burn are such an upstanding bunch of guitar freaks. They just play horrifyingly catchy blues riffs with those big axes of theirs... right? Wrong. It might sound like that to the untrained ear in the same way what you think was barbeque smoke from next door’s garden was in fact a Satanic ritual placing a curse on your life. The jams are so catchy, and played by mild-mannered Californian gentlemen who are in fact boatmen on the river Styx, that to just dip into Karma to Burn is a brush with a shoggoth. You can’t afford to be on public transport when the visions start to kick in, and you believe you’ve lost your sight, you’re floating unsupported in air and your skin is infested with beetles. You need to be locked up with a flat full of guns, a head full of crazy and ears full of the most utterly unsurpassed riffage ever to emerge from our great transatlantic friends.

 “And as for hell, well, we been to West Virginia!”

The albums consist of nothing but studio jams, the sort of shit you hear on studio cuts of uncompleted songs, where the vocals and the point are yet to be inserted. There are violently bare, parched and scoured clear as if by nuclear war or glacier of anything except the most basic undulations of desert land, expressed as grooves. The men of Karma to Burn, the devils, are the masters of the riff. The single repeating, twisting and repeating groove without let-up or slow-down and the albums form a stone wall of utterly unassailable audio mung of the highest order. The heaviness is unprecedented, and builds mountains under you without you noticing until you realise you’re floating in void, with only the tiny pinnacle of rock to cling to lest you fall off into the howling jaws of infinity. Some of the jams are drum-led, sometimes the bass drives the car and sometimes the guitar has to take the wheel. I couldn’t tell you which are which, I don’t remember song names, only grooves. The songs only have unemotional numbers, not even the paltriest sense of what they might all mean. They mean nothing.

Up until the fourth hour everything was going pretty well. Right around the third repeat things started to vibe badly in our experiment. I had just flipped the record over and started playing again when my associate uttered the most inhuman shriek and seized his loaded M4 Carbine and swung it squarely around to point at my chest. I froze, I have learned in my Karma to Burn trips that a wild-eyed junkie armed with enough all-American firepower to render even our expert soundproofing irrelevant is not someone with whom it is advisable to fuck. His laser sight danced on my chest as the beam cut through the smoky darkness it illuminated the face of the Editor. He was smiling, but there was terror in his eyes. His face was a mad, mad scene. I remained frozen there, with the laser dancing through the smoke-riddled room for maybe half an hour, he only relented when the side ran out with a repeated audible click – click – click, I think he just wanted it all to stop.

Words cannot describe how I feel. Worn out, burned out, gauged out, ripped out, emptied out like some cosmic bucket. Thirty four hours in. The end is in sight. I almost don’t want it to come. These grooves have been washing over us for so long now everything else feels like it was a dream. Bill Mecum’s buzzsaw guitar has been working on us so long now, so much quality riffage has been repeated and repeated and repeated until time itself stretches. Superb.

Thirty five hours, by now that must be the time. Things are becoming very hazy, and I can feel my grip on reality slowly slipping away like rope between my burned hands. My head is filled with so much addiction that I am a slave to it. Normal instinct has been totally replaced by addiction so that I have either degenerated or become the next evolution of man. I am not governed by my whims to eat, but by my addiction to the riffs. It’s always me who changes sides on our records (which by now are bent and melted beyond all recognition and the riffs are just cold wet slurping going on for half an hour each... or maybe that’s just the whisky...

And it ends. The record continues spinning with a steady clicking like a heart monitor from the pre-electronic age. We’ve made it. There is no explaining what we have all put ourselves through no putting it into words and no coming to terms with it. Very truly it was the most degenerate, vile, violent, unpleasant, inhumane and inconsolable time; but because of the music of Karma to Burn it has been enlightening, reinvigorating and a solid cure for what ails us. Sometimes, you have to go crazy just to carry on living.

Written under duress by Steven.

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