Although I am trying as quickly as I can to get through my backlog of reviews that I’ve been putting off for some time, I had to pay a particular amount of attention to this one – though, more for the band itself than for the specific song in question today. I guess I should introduce the artist itself first. Kirlian Camera are an Italian rock band that have been active since around 1979. They have undergone various lineup changes through the years, although the core of their creativity has remained with founder Angelo Bergamini through the group’s entire run. They have recorded and released a number of records, all while staying pretty much fixed in the underground goth electronic darkwave scene. They are described on their Wikipedia page as a “pioneering act of the Italian synthpop scene” and have remained pretty active to this day.
Now, this particular band is probably the most controversial group I’ve covered in this challenge so far. I’ve quickly found out that Kirlian Camera have been guilty of portraying some pretty seedy fascist elements in their music. Namely, they sampled a portion of a speech by nationalist Corneliu Codreanu in one of their songs, along with accusations of performing with Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia as a backdrop and even incorporating the Hitlergruß during concerts onstage. In 1999, they were cited by Alfred Schobert in Der Speigel as an example of a “neo-fascist element” that resided in gothic subcultures, along with contemporaries like Death in June and Sol Invictus.
As I mentioned in another review, I went through a bit of a goth phase in high school, though much of this was due to my particular penchant for dark dreary music to match the freshness of my teenage angst. Nowadays, while revisiting much of this music (along with newer stuff), I’ve become a little more skeptical about the connotations that may come along with the gothic subculture, though they usually are implicit and unintentional. It certainly does seem likely that the subculture would seem inviting to neo-Nazis. I read a great article on this particular topic, which notes that the gothic scene shares with nationalism “elements of esotericism, occultism and neo-paganism”, such elements often “exploited for the purposes of far-right propaganda”. It’s entirely true that members of the scene have appropriated Nazi symbols and clothing into their style; although it’s mostly out of pure ignorance, the door these actions opens up to legitimate white supremacists is a very real consequence. I’ve always saw the goth subculture as being more involved in a nihilistic worldview than anything else, but I can easily see how others could skew this ideology into one of cold nationalism and pure, hard fascism.
With that said, I am not accusing members of Kirlian Camera of being white supremacists. Despite accusations made against them, they have outright denounced the suggestion of far-right contexts in their music and have noted themselves as being totally apolitical (which doesn’t exactly fix the dilemma, but I’ll save that for another soapbox…). I listened to a few of their songs, and they all seem relatively fixed in the dreary, melancholy vibe implicit in darkwave. “Odyssey Europa” is particularly boring, with staticky production, predictable synths, and boring lyrics that add nothing new to the subculture that hasn’t already been covered hundreds of times. Given that English is probably not the lead vocalist’s first language, it’s hard to belief that she finds much meaning in incredibly vague lyrics like, “I’m lost to words, lost to everything” and “my identity will be cancelled”. Running under three minutes long, it doesn’t even feel like it’s worthy of a single release – it’s such an obvious example of filler material, it’s actually quite embarrassing.
I actually wish I was covering their much more interesting earlier single “Blue Room”, certainly exemplary of much of the best parts of 80s darkwave. Nevertheless, as I listened through a number of their other songs, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that listeners of the far-right would find some appealing nature in the dark, cold nature of their synth-laden music that lies cleanly across their entire discography. It’s almost as if those buzzing keyboards carry a weight of nationalistic diction of their own – though it’s certainly not the band’s own doing, the connotation is nonetheless present. The real problem comes into play when one’s music, whether or not it contains explicit white supremacist ideologies, is nonetheless welcoming to a large number of fans who adhere to fascist beliefs. In such cases, remaining apolitical isn’t an option – or at least it shouldn’t be. Even though “Odyssey Europa” isn’t necessarily an example of such, the goth subculture nonetheless has a Nazi problem, and one of the best ways to fight back is to make music that revokes the invitation of their presence.