Navicon Torture Technologies: An Introduction to "Power Romance"

Love thrives on inextinguishable pain, which tears the soul, then knits the threads again. A mote of love exceeds all bounds; it gives the vital essence to whatever lives, but where love thrives, there pain is always found. - Farid Al-Din Attar The Conference Of The Birds (1177)

The terms "love song" or ballad, to most, are synonymous to the amorous emotions and romantic narratives which are the building blocks of many of our favorite songwriters and poets. As the tapestry of human sentiment, regarding love, is an evolving, infinite spectrum within the fabric of humanity, so to, are the ways in which love is expressed and articulated within music.

The power electronic project, known as "Navicon Torture Technologies" is but one of of these expressions, and in the scope of intimate, musical reflections of the heart, is quite a unique one. In 1997, Lee "Leech" Bartow unleashed Navicon Torture Technologies onto the world with the brutish elements of power electronics and noise, and the daunting atmospheres of dark-ambience. NTT became a genre in of itself, which Leech subsequently coined "Power Romance."

Unfamiliar with the power electronics genre? It can best be described as audible chaos, consisting of experiments in frequency modulation, sound distortion and analogue synthesizer manipulation. The lyrics in power electronic productions (if any), are usually loud and volatile, and extremely harsh in nature; they can range from religious or militant political themes, to outright psychotic musings and nihilistic rants. It's an acquired musical taste in which the listener, more often than not, either becomes hooked, or rejects its utility and entertainment value completely. 

The foundation of "power romance" and its conceptual makeup consists of themes of emotional dissonance and detachment, the angst of a maimed and conflicted individual peppered with the wounds of unattainable ideals and shattered dreams.

Leech illustrates a dreary and dismal realm of bone-chilling loneliness. Here, the hopelessness in the air is palpable and the only companions are the echoes of disphoria and abysmal anguish, vehemently pulsating within the minds of those jaded souls whose only crime was a momentary lapse in discretion: having dared to love.

There are those who laborisouly seek love, yet never find it. Some discover love, yet lack the capability to secure it. There are, of course, those empty, tragic individuals who will assuredly go to their graves without ever knowing it.

Unrequited ardor, the hunger for revenge, and the drives which move one to the brink of suicide, these are indeed the patchwork of NTT's "love stories", of which there are absolutely no happily ever afters.

Leech's experiences run the gamut of all of the above, and as many artists do, impales his tortured corpse before us, so that we may reflect on the brilliant drops of crimson pooling beneath his feet, the aftermath and carnage of his inner warfare -- the prime mover of his very being.

While the quintessential romantic displays his heart on his sleeve, Leech prefers to violently claw at his chest, until his is brazenly revealed.

Musically, the compositions are a mesmerizing amalgamation of Lecch's visceral, electronically-processed screams, set to the backdrop of layered undulated drones, heavily distorted melodic scores and string synth arrangements. The sheer depth and dimension of the topical themes, content and richness of the musical composition, sets NTT in a league of its own, unique from most contemporaries within the power electronics genre.

Menacing geometrical sigils, intriguing symmetrical photographic images, and titles such as "Self-Contempt As An Occupation" and "Dripping With The Power Of Her Flesh" adorn NTT's CD cover art, playing to the tastes of devoted fans and the curiosity of the uninitiated alike.

Are these works the spawn of a man who's entirely devoid of love, or simply the aftershocks of a marred heart who has loved too deeply?

A consensus of what exactly "Navicon Torture Technologies" means has never been reached, and Leech prefers it this way. Art should, as a rule, be subjectively interpreted through the senses of the spectator. 

Arthur Schopenhauer once proclaimed, "Treat a work of art, as you would a prince: let it speak to you first." Hence, my interpretation: NAVIgate one's CONsciousness through love's TORTURE, by way of musical TECHNOLOGIES.

Between 1997 and 2007, NTT released a wealth of material, including EP's, singles and collaborations with various heavy hitters of the power electronic/dark-ambient scene, such as Steel Hook Prosthesis, Jarboe, Herbst9 and Deutch Nepal, to name a few. 

Though NTT boasts about 20 or so "official" albums, most works were only made available through limited edition cassettes and/or CD-Rs. Some of these may be found online (via MP3's) for those people interested. A few dozen tracks may also be sampled on this YouTube playlist.

In 2009, NTT's final album entitled "Gospels Of The Gash" was released. This collection was originally issued as a 2-disk package of choice recordings made between 2005-2007, with 2 bonus disks of material consisting of collabs and remixes. In 2009, however, "Gospel's" two bonus disks received an official, well deserved re-release, subsequently known as "Your Suffering Will Be Legendary".

Lee Bartow's last performance as NTT soon followed; he is now working under the moniker "Theologian", an equally dark and harrowing incarnation of Lee's tumultuous and creative genius.

Though NTT has been laid to rest, we may still pull its recordings out from time to time, and as with photographs of an old girlfriend, we may relive the past, at first, with a sense of nostalgic elation. The somber melodies entrance you, and her scent permeates the air. Whispers of her voice increasingly reverberate within your mind in every the swell of acidic prose, while the accompanying visual representations of each track force you to endure her static, yet captivating gaze burning into your soul with fervor.

You relive, then die again. This is love. This is Navicon Torture Technologies.

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