Ming "vs. the Great Satan"
Brilliant. Totally brilliant. I'm not leaving anything to the imagination here or teasing you with what I think of Campbell Kneale's latest gem. Ming is Kneale's latest solo project, and I believe this is the debut. If there are differences between Ming and his better known Birchville Cat Motel, I can't tell you what they are. But it's not important as "Ming vs. the Great Satan" stands up to anything BCM has done. This album is one track that clocks in at just under 41 minutes, and that one track has an overt political message underneath the droning hum of Kneale's instrumentation.
The part of this piece that sticks out the most to me is the extended sample taken from a war protest. It reminds me so much of a huge protest I attended in February 2003 in Seattle where I heard many similar cries from a crowd of close to 50,000. "1, 2, 3, 4, we don't want your bloody war!" and "No blood for oil!" were common chants that day, and the way in which Kneale weaves them in and out of the mix over these 40 minutes is remarkable. In what might be the most important election I'll ever have a say in, I have been longing for more music that makes its message clear. These samples leave little doubt.
I feel like I am in a blender in the middle of this giant protest, especially during the first part of this piece where the sound of a spinning metal blade is backed by the tribal drums coming from the crowd. The intermingling of the crowd is always just hovering below the surface while the drones take center stage. These voices of protest make this song feel alive; they give it an organic quality that is the perfect contrast to the sterile, icy walls of sound Kneale creates. It's like the political machine going up against the people. Maybe I'm overanalyzing it, but for me, it creates a powerful polarization.
As the sounds keep evolving, the song acts as a representation of how the current administration in the United States tries throwing everything it can at the dissenters to find that it only strengthens their resolve. Of course, they'd have you believe these demonstrators are as bad as the terrorists, but the general public is starting to come around. A mechanical voice over what sounds like a piano, laced with vinyl-crackling, seems to portray "big brother" making one last attempt to silence the masses. The machine-like quality to the voice makes the impression stronger. But the protesters drums are never silenced, and as the voice gets louder, the chants grow stronger and drown it out. "No blood for oil!" returns and the administration moves into its final attempt at putting a muzzle on the ever-growing crowd.
Metallic drones return in an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes, but it's no use. As in life, the truth always wins out. Here in America, people are finally waking from their three-year slumber and hopefully the results in November will be like they are on this 40 minute piece. For the last minute or so, the only thing we hear is the dissenters? drums and chants. And most appropriately, we hear a marching band playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, "His Truth is Marching On." It's a brilliant ending to an amazing piece of work. Ming proves once again that no matter how prolific Campbell Kneale is, the quality of his music never suffers. Glory, glory, hallelujah indeed; the truth is marching on. 8/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)