Pure Useless Beauty


Written by Irene Handel, photography by Olga Kudina and Gohan Gavrilin.

An encounter with English Electronic Melodeclamationist pop group: Pure Useless Beauty, who are playing at the Stanislavski Electrotheatre, Moscow, in September.

‘Let us throw flowers on the ground and tread upon their pure useless beauty.’ Lorca.

Sometimes you have to do what you love, just for the hell of it. Even, or especially, if it makes no sense. Oftentimes absurdity is the only sane response to the obscene comedie of human existence.

Pure Useless Beauty are the better part of Theatre of love. ToL is an underground movement existing as a catalyst for life affirming acts of intelligence down on the disco floor. Once (in the 1960’s) there existed an art provocateur movement, rooted in surrealism, called ‘the situationists’ – the situationists created actions which dramatized absurdities. For example a group of people dressed as Santa Claus would enter department stores at Christmas time and subsequently find themselves being forcibly removed by burly security guards for committing the heinous crime of giving free gifts to children. Santa Claus would be thrown out by his beard and land in the gutter. That is situationism. Punk band The Sex Pistols, also turned to this technique with their ‘God Save the Queen’ anthem, for which, absurdly, they were arrested. Much as ToL admire the punk ethos, they are in some ways its antithesis. The theatre of love do not seek provocation, they seek harmony and beauty, not conflict. Dramatic art without conflict is said to be an impossibility. But ToL are not interested in the merely possible.

Pure Useless Beauty are the reincarnation of ToL. Classical English poetry and contemporary electronic music are the alchemical elements of their magic mixture of madness. Live instruments and theatre freak performers combine to express their love of organized words and noises. You will recognize Chatterton and Thomas Hood and Byron and Keats being recited in accordance with Schubert’s notion of melodeclamation; you will recognize Indian and contemporary dance and Tilda Swintonesque theatricalities; you will recognize cool grooves and mellow guitar licks punctuated with funky trumpet stabs and sharp riffs and you will recognize deep house loops and drum and bass beats – but for the life of you, you will wonder what the hell they are all doing in the same place at the same time. You might even note the fact that these incongruous elements seem to be getting on really well, in what some would call a unique confluence of eclectic perversion.

Pure Useless Beauty came about because melodeclamationist, Martin X, had tired of everything else. Like Charles Grey in the tales of the unexpected film, ‘The man who ate a ghost’ – he just wanted to taste something different – Anything! As long as it was from out of this world! Remember Sergei Diaghilev’s comment to the King of Spain! “Your Majesty, I am like you. I do no work. I do nothing, but I am indispensable.” That’s Martin’s motto.

Thus ToL’s, Pure Useless Beauty, was created – to engender a movement of electronic melodeclamation and to take and invert Diaghilev’s plea for ‘interested artists’ in the ‘classical’ world by taking interesting ‘classical’ poetry into the electro-pop music world. In other words they are infiltrating the disco floor with the high genius of Keats, Byron and Shelley, not merely for perversion’s sake but because these maverick poets belong to the world of the night – albeit they have been kidnapped by a gang of academic eugenicists who wish to succeed in emasculating their high genius and pickle their genitals for consumption at literary gatherings. But if Shelley and Byron and Keats were alive today and 20 odd years old, as they were at the height of their genius, of course they would be night-clubbing!

Great Poetry is about love, death and beauty, not vacuum cleaners. Pure Useless Beauty break as many of the rules as possible – they’re old and young, savage and tender, their prog-pop incongruity and glam-slam, disco-ball melodeclamations, juxtaposed with high genius poesie.

Pure Useless Beauty are: Sergei Taff, composer, Anton Rivera, Guitars, Marja Pijlkass, Trumpet, Gosha Gavrilin, saxophone, Bob, melodium, Natasha Che, vocals, Titus, theatre freak, Martin X, melodeclamationist – Pure Useless Beauty: “All that’s best of dark and bright.” (Byron)

Contact [email protected] for the Pure Useless Beauty rider.