Benedict Drew/Dubkasm/E B U/Ghostride The Drift/Halcyonic/Jabu/Versa
“No more miserable Monday mornings” – Mark Fisher
We live in a society that conditions us to believe that system change is not possible. We live in times of deflated consciousness. We exist in an unprecedented period of economic anarchy in the UK. Our future dreams are literally shopping schemes. The Apple store our post-everything cathedral, where we worship ourselves: our hallowed space, our self-serving grace. Amongst this Cult Of The Individual, we are always at the centre of our own world. Alone in a crowded room. Staring at a screen.
In order to raise our standards of living to the next gaming level, in compliance with our hardwired desire for survival, in line with unilateral global equality, we need to raise our consciousness. We need to be expressly conscious of our class, our place within this broken system; conscious of the primary goal of equality at any cost, the precious gift of diversity; above all, we need to be universally conscious. If you ever want to experience how inconsequential you are as an individual: go outside, find a green space, lie down, look up at the sky: focus on how insignificant you actually are in the grand scheme of things.
Human beings have an innate ability to survive. We could, therefore, learn much from those who have had to change in order to survive. It’s time we asked ourselves a few uncomfortable questions: Aren’t you bored with all this? Do you feel over-stimulated? Why do we spend 2/3 of our lives at work? Why do we participate in an exchange mechanism that rarely gives us back what we put in? When did you last have an original idea? How scared are you? Isn’t it time we talked about desire? When was the last time you felt valued? How do you rate your sense of community? When was the last time you felt part of something? Can you resist temptation on every level?
Post-Capitalist Desire, therefore, is the concept that we can reimagine the successes of Democratic Socialism and Libertarian Communism through the prism of evolved consciousness, at a universal level. Super-therapeutic practice, according to Jeremy Gilbert, allows us the opportunity to do “something more than just fix people up, to repair some of the damage done by daily life under advanced capitalism, enabling people to become extraordinarily empowered precisely by enhancing their capacity for productive relationships with others.”
The forces of divide and conquer at play within our current system despise the cohesion of collective movements. That’s why they’ve worked so hard, and for so long, to disconnect us from each other, and, more importantly, from ourselves. The Cult Of The Individual is no sociological accident, this is social engineering at its most divisive. Our ability to manage stress has a profound influence on our potentially contracting an array of common diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and multiple sclerosis. A stressed population is a managed population. The big wheel of industry keeps on turning, 24/7, emitting sparks that rain down on us as symbolic violence.
In the shadow of that wheel, when considering our hopes and fears, we find ourselves hopeless and fear-stricken. As Deleuze observes in ‘Postscripts On The Societies Of Control’: “There’s no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons. There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope”. As Spinoza further expounds in ‘Ethics': “Hope is a joy not constant, arising from the idea of something future or past about the issue of which we sometimes doubt. Fear is a sorrow not constant, arising from the idea of something future or past about the issue of which we sometimes doubt”. Hope and fear are essentially interchangeable; they are passive affects, which arise from our incapacity to actually act. Like all superstitions, hope is something we call upon when we have nothing else. We don’t need hope; what we need is confidence and the capacity to act. Confidence is hyperstitional: it immediately increases the capacity to act; the capacity to act increase confidence; we become a self-fulfilling prophesy, a virtuous spiral: “Confidence is a joy arising from the idea of a past or future object from which cause for doubt is removed” – Spinoza, ‘Ethics’
Emerging from this miasma of despair, Extinction Rebellion‘s militant actions in London over the Easter period have provided exactly the kind of inspiration outlined above, to a diverse spectrum of likeminded human beings across the entire globe. Commonality of cause; simplicity of message; passion of delivery; integrity of action; humility of behaviour; these traits have marked Extinction Rebellion’s April Actions as the most impressive green direct activism since the anti-nuclear protests on the 1950s. With over 1000-arrests, and establishment arms aloft at the disruption to holiday period shopping, these brave and vulnerable warriors recognise full well the importance of eco above ego.
Professionally, I work with people largely broken by the symbolic violence of the big wheel. People with little or no option but to manage the pain their lives have become through the medium of self-medication. We talk about the need for personal recovery as the first step to social recovery. We support each other to self-heal through the exchange of mutual aid. We encourage the development of recovery identities, using empowering person-first language; we nurture the recognition of diversity as gift; and learn to transcend the pain of the ego by celebrating the body as the eco-system of precedence, in order for survival to be achieved. There are parallels here with an emerging Acid Communist manifesto. An antidote to hope and fear, the confidence to deliver change through direct action. This is the time for action. This is decade zero.
No stranger to the practice of consciousness raising, Benedict Drew is an “artist who works in sound, video, sculpture, installation and performance. He is also a fearless explorer of our fractured isle. Previous releases have seen him crawl through oceans of Tory slime and sift the psychotropic neural networks of half-hammered, food-fasted commuters”. ‘The Ughhh Ballads’ (Bloxham Tapes) is described by the label as electronic music from the Isle of Thanet, continuing Drew’s exploration of tainted transit, inside and out: “A psychedelic gong bath for the Leave Means Leave generation over two sides of magnetic tape”.
If ‘Crawling Through Tory Slime’ (Mana) seemed futuristic back in 2017, this cassette-only issue finds the rest of the planet catching up. Having lived with the former on rewind for 22-months, I actually felt both qualified and prepared for the arrival of ‘The Ughhh Ballads’. Following Drew on social media, I am visually connected to his expanding worldview via his artwork, I therefore welcome this reconnection on an aural level. Side A finds us trapped in a room with Andrew Neil’s nose (bad feeling); escaping the false memory of a once great nation boogie (good feeling); standing stone tour guide (bad feeling); in praise of the chemical that produces the effect of feeling empathy (good feeling). Side B, meanwhile, casts a spell to protect you from the negative energy radiating from the copy of the Daily Mail being read by the person sitting next to you on the train (bad feeling). Everything we’ve come to expect from Benedict Drew, only more psychedelic. He’s opened up the doors of perception, raised his conscious game, maybe it’s time to follow him down the rabbit hole?
With a lineage of recorded sound that stretches back to 2003, DJ Stryda and Digistep are stalwarts of the eternally vibrant Bristol underground. Together as Dubkasm, they’ve release five long players and dozens of 12″ 45s. Their sixth full-length, ‘Shady Grove’ (Peng Sound), pays dub homage to their hometown district of St Paul’s: “We dedicate this album to the community of St Paul’s in Bristol, now being stifled by gentrification. We hope this LP is a musical window into a time when the neighbourhood, despite being plagued by poverty and constant racist intrusion from the authorities, had an energy, a rebellious spirit and nightlife that inspired the music which has made Bristol world famous.”
Setting yourself up against the wall of classic dub sides of the 70s/80s/90s when building a contemporary dub album is a strategy fraught with danger, circa 2019. After all, in a medium often best served on 7″, it’s a thin line between homage and parody. Thankfully, with ‘Shady Grove’, Dubkasm have succeeded where other recent attempts have fallen short. Using a spectrum of dub wise production, from the vintage tape-delayed, spring reverb driven, analogue-baked sounds of the 70s, to the digital effects of the 80s and 90s, the vibe throughout is of authenticity. Guided on your aural journey by extensive liner notes composed by the band themselves, ‘Shady Grove’ proves to be part local cultural history, part travelogue, all first class education in the fine art of dub technique. Featuring contributions from local dignitaries: Tony Caddle, Aran Shamash, Rider Shafique, Dub Judah, Blood Shanti, Stanley Andrew, Solo Banton, Bliss Lion, Tom Fenech and Wes O’Neill, ‘Shady Grove’ encapsulates the spirit of a community on the frontline of gentrification.
Referring to her uniquely singular style as ‘Swamp Pop’, Bristolian Ella Paine follows her recent 4-track EP with this full length debut as E B U: the 10-track triumph, ‘Hinge’ (No Corner). Conjuring aspects from radiophonic pioneers Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, alongside elements of Kanky? Ongaku, Japanese environmental music of the 1980s, Paine smuggles her smudged pop sensibilities into the mix to vibrate at ever-higher frequencies, inviting us to ponder the nature of existence through her work. ‘Hinge’ could therefore be imagined as the mechanism on which the doors of perception are hung: an opportunity to explore our sense of self, to embrace our universal consciousness. Explored best both at volume and in great depth, ‘Hinge’ will not be bracketed easily. Be prepared to be intrigued. Be prepared to be smitten.
Having brought much joy to this household throughout 2018, the West Mineral Ltd. posse come again in full effect with Ghostride The Drift, ‘S/T’ (xpc?): a 5-track 12″ on D. Tiffany‘s new imprint. Sounding like little else out there right now, Ghostride The Drift is described by the label as ‘outer rim junkyard elektro’.
Recorded in Berlin in 2018, with Ghostride The Drift Huerco S, Exael and uon have forged a template for exploration as equally magnificent as their own individual work (each released essential records in their own right on West Mineral Ltd. in 2018, you should own them all). Reminiscent in places of Aught artists such as Topdown Dialectic and Xth Réflexion, ‘Ghostride The Drift’ may have seemingly taken forever to arrive, but now they’re finally here, let the celebrations commence.
Following a couple of impressive collaborations in 2018, Bristolian Halcyonic returns to our decks with this freshly minted debut 10″ plate for new imprint, Firmly Rooted. Veteran rootsman Junior Dread rules the mic on ‘Can’t Hide': “wicked dem a run/but you know they can’t hide/they are living in a darkness/cos they can’t stand the light”. On the flip, old skool Bristol don Rob Smith dusts down his RSD alias to deliver a deep dubstep revision.
The latest 12″ on Young Echo Records delivers a pair of drastic reworks of Jabu cuts from 2017’s outstanding ‘Sleep Heavy’ (Blackest Ever Black). ‘Fool If’ remixed by J Glass Dubs breaks up the insistent rhythm of the original, adding sax, synth stabs, and acres of space, to gargantuan effect. Meanwhile, on the flip, SKRS tend to ‘Wounds’ by hoovering up the groove from the final third of the original, hiking it above the vocal in transformational style. If ‘Sleep Heavy’ filled you with soporific euphoria, this is another essential side for your collection. To these ears, Jabu are on the cusp of greatness, and I’m not fussed if they were born that way; achieve it; or have it thrust upon them.
Harmonica-led, reverb-drenched, Versa‘s ‘Passing Light’ (At One) marks another debut for yet another killer label out of Bristol. This one’s been doing the rounds on pre-release digital for a few months now, and it’s an act of pure wonderment to finally have it in my hands and on my deck on 10″ dub plate.
And finally, for those with a need for something more stimulating in terms of architecturally-related reading material, Issue 30 of The Modernist is upon us: “Infrastructure is where the fields of landscape, architecture and engineering meet one another, often in support of ambitious projects realised through collective means. In the post-war period large-scale government schemes were narrated as feats of engineering and focussed on ideas of taming nature or overcoming great obstacles in the drive for progress”.
In the post-capitalist period, large-scale consciousness raising, powering collectivist solutions, is the only way we will be able to tackle the feats of bio-engineering required to save nature, to overcome the obstacles that stand in our way in the drive for genuine progress. This is the time for action. This is decade zero.
Broshuda/The Caretaker/Dive Reflex Service/Nozomu Matsumoto/Msylma/Rian Treanor
“Art has the potential to convey scientific data, complex ideas and concepts in a powerful way that words or graphs fall short of” – Pekka Niittyvirta
Through the simple projection of synchronised beams of a combination of lights of different wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum, two Finnish conceptual artists have created a powerful commentary on the rising sea levels that threaten our planet. With ‘Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16′ W)’, Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho have enveloped buildings and their surrounding landscapes on the Outer Hebrides with white lines symbolising the levels rising seas are calculated to reach in the near future. Everything below these lines will be submerged.
Installed at The Taigh Chearsabhagh Arts Centre in Lochmaddy, on the Isle of North Uist, an institution that has already seen its own further development blocked due to concerns around rising sea levels on site, the location alone speaks volumes. With ‘Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16′ W)’, Niittyvirta and Aho have merged artistic vision with visionary art to create an installation that is not only aesthetically engaging, but more crucially, socially conscious. ‘Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16′ W)’ visualises the abstraction of projected data, conjuring up the near future in front of our eyes. The power of art to empower the heart: to brave the rising waves of naysayers; to challenge the status quo, from below.
According to Slavoj Zizek, “the lesson of global warming is that the freedom of humankind was possible only against the background of the stable natural parameters of the life on earth (temperature, the composition of the air, sufficient water and energy supply, and so on): humans can ‘do what they want’ only insofar as they remain marginal enough, so that they don’t seriously perturb those parameters of life. As our freedom to grow as a species starts impacting the world, nature’s response then curtails our freedom. ‘Nature’ becomes a sort of social category in itself”.
It is, therefore, simply not enough to recycle; to buy organic food; to repost memes about climate collapse on social media platforms; to hope that someone will do something about it, eventually. Before it’s too late, obviously. As nature itself melts into thin air. When only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Will you wait until your genetically-modified bulldog spontaneously combusts on your carefully manicured lawn? Will you risk third-degree burns on your way down to Waitrose? Are you looking forward to the first season of ‘Water Wars’ on Sky Atlantic? As Zizek concludes, “maybe, unfortunately, only the shock of an actual catastrophe can awaken us. And then we will become aware of the ridicule of the fights between our nation states, of America First and Brexit games, when our entire world is slowly disintegrating and only a large collective effort can give us hope”.
“Sisters and brothers: today, our Mother Earth is ill. Everything began with the industrial revolution in 1750, which gave birth to the capitalist system. In two-and-a-half centuries, the so-called developed countries have consumed a large part of the fossil fuels created over five million centuries. Under Capitalism, Mother Earth does not exist, instead there are raw materials. Capitalism is the source of the asymmetries and imbalances in the world” – Evo Morales (November 28, 2008)
“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try and do things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have and should have. A broken heart is the worst, it’s like having broken ribs. Nobody can see it, but it hurts every time you breath”. So begins Broshuda‘s profoundly affecting ‘You’ll Aways Stay Beautiful’ (NoCorner). Having experienced both a broken heart (romantically, and metaphorically) and broken ribs (fell off my bicycle a few weeks ago), and in light of the theme of this month’s column, I choose to hear Broshuda’s latest broadcast as a call to arms, rather than self-obsessed wallowing. I’ve spent many hours being inspired by this release, I even texted my estranged younger daughter another vital quote from it: “spend time with your parents, treat them well. Because one day, when you look up from your phone, they won’t be there anymore”. I’ve also started ringing and visiting my mom on a more regular basis. An earnest reaction to a piece of sound art, you may surmise?
As Evo Morales states so evocatively, the clock is ticking: the need for participative change is suddenly imperative. If a graphic designer and sound artist from Berlin can inspire change in an ageing fanzine writer in middle England through the medium of sound art, then there is surely hope for everyone: the power of art to affect behaviour? The power of love? Current data suggests that as a species we are buying more self-help books than ever in the post-everything era. Text-to-speak conversions offer remote counselling online. Cyber-therapists deliver random interventions, eternally. Feedback loops of information, advice and guidance, bouncing off satellites in space, infinitely. Swimming in the same gene pool as recent releases from Sam Kidel and Nozomu Matsumoto, ‘You’ll Always Stay Beautiful’ asks important questions around the compatibility of emotional need and automation, as the artificiality of our accrued intelligence threatens to break all of our hearts, all over again.
‘Everywhere At The End Of Time (Stage 6)’ (History Always Favours The Winners) brings The Caretaker‘s 20-year project to a close in suitably sombre tones. From the haunted ballroom, to our place in this world fading away, The Caretaker has carried us over the threshold of acceptance of our own mortality. Like all truly meaningful art, the project has invoked joy and pain, in a compelling manner that has ultimately proved dependency-forming. Like all addictions, what began in pain has ended in pain, even if we are no longer capable of expressing it. Stages 4-6 have proved the most rewarding. It has been fascinating hearing the format gradually crumble to a residue of greyscale rubble. With each subsequent Stage, the trepidation has mounted. Stage 6’s industrial dub is decorated with fleeting glimpses of what has come before. Rising waves of primordial scree wash over compartmentalised loss. How do we summon any learning from this brutal defeat? Can we in some way celebrate at least the end of what has been a long, slow decline? As rolling thunder pummels redundant synapses, neurotransmitters approach the final broadcast. Our place in this world is truly fading away. Yet, even amongst these formless shadows, the final throws suggest the faintest presence of ethereal escape from this mortal coil, before the needle hits the wax one final time: a choral denouement suggesting testament, and, perhaps, closure?
Vinyl debut from Bristol’s Limbo Tapes, ’01’ is a beatific summation of mesmeric invention, created lucidly within the hallowed confines of the Dive Reflex Service bunker. Hunkered down on the rug of excellence, cutting holes akimbo, this exemplary record is a surefire back-to-back rewind. Largely beatless, the collection is driven by the rhythmic cadence of a loop here, a crackle there, a sample here: the odd lonesome snare or tambourine, buried deep within the mix. Instrumental, except for a stunning vocal cameo on ‘Via Della Morte’ from Jamileh Lee, Dive Reflex Service summon up the spirit of ‘Untrue’-era Burial in a seance riddled with the lineage of a city haunted by the ghosts of magnificence. Pressed on heavyweight vinyl with full-colour artwork and high quality digital download, mastered and cut at Stardelta Audio Mastering. Limited to 300-copies worldwide, act quickly to avoid disappointment.
Tokyo-based performance artist and curator Nozomu Matsumoto fucked my head up back in 2018 with his hypnotising debut 12″, ‘Climatotherapy’ (Death Of Rave). ‘Phonocentrism’ (Long Form Editions) takes his art to another level altogether, with its extraordinary blending of diverse sources: Cemetery, DJ Obake and Emamouse, amongst a host of other contributors, to transmit an incredible environmental forecast that sits so succinctly within the theme of this month’s column. Apocalyptic in tone, Matsumoto veers from rap to metal; from ambience to thrash; from auto-tuned chicanery to fretboard shredding; punctuated by haunting vocals from Sumiko Matsumoto. Inexplicably not yet released on wax, available digitally from:
Having lived all over Zuli‘s superb ‘Terminal’ (UIQ) for the past few months months, I was beyond elated to stumble across one of the stars of that set’s unheralded debut full-length: Msylma‘s ‘Dhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-Zaqum’ (Halcyon Veil). The timbre of Msylma’s incredibly affecting vocal on ‘Kollu I-Joloud’ was one of the many reasons I fell for ‘Terminal’ so heavily. So, unexpectedly coming across his debut album without warning came as a massively welcome surprise. Scored by a strictly minimalist instrumental range comprising electronics and percussion, Msylma is ably supported in this regard by Zuli, 1127 and Karim El Ghazoly. Sung passionately in the classical Arabic vernacular, ‘Dhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-Zaqum’ features 11-tracks informed by the ancient pagan traditions of pre-Islamic and Quranic poetry. Available only digitally at present, I am assured by the label that the vinyl will drop by summer 2019.
Fathered and mentored by sound artist and curator, Mark Fell, Rotherham’s Rian Treanor has a four-year developmental arc behind his Planet Mu debut, ‘ATAXIA’. The record’s familiarity in shape and texture draws comparisons to one of his father’s collaborators best work to date, namely Gabor Lazar‘s ‘Unfold’ (The Death Of Rave). From the playful text-to-speak opener, ‘A1′, to the relative maturation of eminently funky closer, ‘D3′, Treanor treads a zigzagging path through a veritable radius of variations. ‘Ataxia’ literally means ‘the loss of control of bodily movements’, and the record’s asymmetrical properties fittingly jar involuntarily against each other with multifarious ease. As intrinsically playful as it is wilfully obtuse, ‘ATAXIA’ grows across its sides towards the recognisable early peak of ‘B2′, only to expand further on the back nine. Elsewhere, ‘C2′ nods towards Equiknoxx‘s languid skank, whilst ‘D2′ cements those earlier Lazar correlations.
Jay Glass Dubs/Eli Keszler/King Midas Sound/Nihiloxica/Daphne Oram/Ossia/Finlay Shakespeare/Tilliander
“Who we are has never been more incompatible with who we need to be. What we have become is the greatest threat to ourselves and the planet. We have been perfectly groomed, psychologically and spiritually, for disaster. We have become hard. We are the people of the apocalypse” – John F Schumaker
Forty-six-years after the New York Dolls established that frustration and heartache is what you got, we are slowly beginning to recognise the surreality of the human personality crisis at the heart of the uber-consumer experience. The state of the average being’s social character is that of mere marketing personality: condemned to eternal suckling on the cathode ray nipple, except even that analogy has now been superseded by cyborg-served algorithmic moon beams done super rapid on a laser beam. The age of cultural infantilism is upon us, psychological neoteny is where it’s at, baby. Thoughtlessness is the new black; the cult of the individual dictates that my pain and sadness is more sad and painful than yours. Narcissism, sociopathy, dishonesty, inequality, all strutting their stuff along a catwalk near you. This moral blindness in the face of mutually assured destruction has become the norm. When I was at school, we had a mock election, the apathy party won. How prophetic that now seems: “We are at risk of losing our sensitivity to the plight of others” – Zygmunt Bauman
Unitary Urbanism emerged from the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus/Lettrist International‘s Alba Platform in 1956, and was further contested by the Situationist International (SI) well into the early 1960s. At its core, it concerned the rejection of functional approaches to urban architectural design, and the compartmentalised practice of detaching art from its surroundings. Unitary Urbanism challenged the grayscale of metropolitan edifice to question where function ends and play begins: “‘Whatever prestige the bourgeoisie may today be willing to grant to fragmentary or deliberately retrograde artistic tentatives, creation can now be nothing less than a synthesis aiming at the construction of entire atmospheres and styles of life. … A unitary urbanism—the synthesis we call for, incorporating arts and technologies—must be created in accordance with new values of life, values which we now need to distinguish and disseminate” – George Williams
Urban Solitude, meanwhile, has materialised from the post-everything miasma of cultural collapse to conceptualise the irony of dislocation theory and disconnection in urban environments. Metropolis: a place called home by many, and a home to many without a place. Urban Solitude imagines the technological bubble we inflate around ourselves to shield us from the energy and competition of the metropolitan landscape, one that can overwhelm every sense of our bodies if left to its own devices. Despite the intensity of our urban surroundings, there are gaps in the space/time continuum, and we access our seemingly cherished solitude via uber-modern means: when left to our own devices. Absence of conversation; lack of human connection; a dearth of any collective experience, the human mind loses focus on what it means to be a part of something bigger than the self. Externally, you are consumed by the streets, you feel a part of their energy. Internally, you are distracted and detached, bonded algorithmically, a slave to the rhythm. Solitude becomes the co-existence of being just another face in the diseased arteries of the metropolitan thoroughfares. Urban Solitude expresses the death of the collective experience to question where society ends and self begins.
Triumphant in the aftermath of ‘Epitaph’ (Bokeh Versions), Jay Glass Dubs broadcasts yet further emissions from the eternal echo chamber in the form of a 7″ for Joachim Nordwall‘s Dub On Arrival imprint. ‘Thumb Dub’/’Index Dub’ deliver exemplary dubwise deconstructionism of the highest order in just under 10-minutes. ‘Index Dub’ is the more abstract of the two cuts, with hints of the choralism of ‘Epitaph’ interred deep within the competing reverberations. ‘Thumb Dub’, meanwhile, errs backwards, into JGD’s recent past, with a cut and dub that vaguely resembles St Etienne‘s version of ‘Only Love Will Break Your Heart’, but I could be mistaken. I often am.
Hot on the heels of the unmitigated glory of ‘Stadium’ (Shelter Press), Eli Keszler is back once again, like the renegade master that he most assuredly is, with a new 3-track EP, ‘Empire’ (Shelter Press). Keszler’s unremitting quest for stillness, tranquility and beauty in a dystopian metropolitan landscape continues at languid pace. A soundtrack to urban solitude, clinging abstractly to the illusion of order during unspecified decline, Keszler refines and redefines similar tropes to those explored on ‘Stadium’ at the intersectionality of free jazz, expressionism, percussion and electronics.
‘Solitude’ (Cosmo Rhythmatic): “a meditation on loss. A loss that has been enforced and unexpected. It’s about processing the irrational and incessant feelings of rejection and loneliness, like listening to the tenderness of love disappear to be replaced by skewed logic”. Reduced to a duo, once again, Kevin Martin and Roger Robinson reconvene as King Midas Sound, for a tortuous 12-track trawl through the North Sea of despair. Dressed in partnership with Japanese contemporary photographer, Daisuke Yokota, his monochromatic tones and textures ideally compliment the obsessive, compulsive negativity that dominates ‘Solitude’. Over minimal electronic soundscapes, Robinson recalls the intensity, diction and delivery of Linton Kwesi Johnson in his dread beaten and bloodied despair. This is a painful listen, and anyone who has danced with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross will recognise the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance at play. Melancholic and immersive, ‘Solitude’ is the sound of an amplified pain and sadness more sad and painful than even our own.
Nyege Nyege Tapes maintain their productive start to 2019 with this impressive cassette release from Nihiloxica. ‘Biiri’ expands on the promise of their 4-track self-titled cassette debut with this further 4-track exploration. Honed by a year on the road, Nihiloxica dig ever-deeper into the rich seams of the Bugandan techno underground to mine the progressive developmentalsim at the heart of ‘Biiri’. Fusing electronica to the indigenous core of their traditional influences, Nihiloxica evidence the immemorial at the epicentre of their darkness as a portal to transcend space and time.
Dropping as I type on Modern Love associate, Young Americans, ‘Oramics’ is the long-overdue vinyl reissue of the Clive Graham compendium of Dapne Oram, material originally issued on CD in 2007. Electronic music pioneer and contemporary of Delia Derbyshire, Oram was the founder and first director of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. Distinguished by its eclectic light and shade, ‘Oramics’ has been mastered at Dubplates & Mastering in Berlin to allow the listener to travel back in time for that ‘almost-there-when-it-mattered’ experience. Over two and a half hours through 44-tracks, this is a journey into sound art at the moment of its inception. The sublime ‘Bird Of Parallax’ could have been recorded just yesterday, for all these ears are worth. I defy anyone to explain the process by which such visionary practice can transcend decades to remain artistically relevant to this day. Mic up that Kango, Blixa, this is the sound of ground being broken, echoing down the wormholes of relativity.
Daniel Davies, aka Ossia, has been toiling away on what would eventually become ‘Devil’s Dance’ (Blackest Ever Black) for almost as long as some of us have been anticipating it. In this temporary unequal world, that expectation can still capture the imagination at a time when we are actively encouraged to lower any expectation is a wonder in itself. I’ve been waiting on ‘Devil’s Dance’, doggedly, for months, a period of time equivalent to eons in this era of the short attention span. Set in concrete, built in the vast spaces between sounds, ‘Devil’s Dance’ transpires as it transcends, to dwarf its contemporaries. Sprawling from the speakers with Babylonian intent, Ossia captures the multifarious essence of myriad soundsystem cultures down the ages to fashion a masterpiece of isolationism that invokes the all-encompassing dread at the intersection of solitude and society. At its widest vistas, ‘Devil’s Dance’ embraces the modern composition of Lucy Railton‘s ‘Fortified Up’ with the oscillating glissandi of ‘Vertigo’, the 23-minute culmination of Ossia’s transcendental meditations. Elsewhere, ‘Radiation’ offers glimpses of Mats Gustafsson‘s Fire! through the lens of Ollie Moore‘s sombre sax, whilst ‘Hell Version’ delineates comparable hauntalogical tundras to those of Demdike Stare‘s ‘Wonderland’. Ossia has masterfully defined 2019 barely two months into its infancy: this is a record that will stay with you far beyond its allotted fifteen fame-filled minutes with this fanzine writer.
Previously unknown to me until a month ago, the variegated talents of Finlay Shakespeare’s ‘Domestic Economy’ (Editions Mego) are a revelation to behold. Steeped in the lineage of 80s electro-pop and dark-wave, ‘Domestic Economy’ invokes a pantheon that includes The Normal, Robert Rental, Thomas Leer, Blancmange, Depeche Mode, The Human League, Heaven 17, et al. With a vocal that echoes Mark Hollis, Robert Smith and Peter Gabriel at times, Shakespeare exudes an existential angst that defines the edginess of his art as a balance of emotional and rational practice. Supported and abetted by Russell Haswell, Shakespeare’s uncanny ability to bring retrospective structure to improvisation fair takes one’s breath away. ‘Domestic Economy’ is a post-everything implement that no informed household should be without. It’s a record that keeps on giving, one that will rest close to this turntable for many years to come.
And finally, to complete an admirable roster for this month, and thematically conclude this column, the second offering from Joachim Nordwall‘s Dub On Arrival imprint is this absolute belter from Andreas Tilliander. Swathed in the aura of Basic Channel, ‘Expect Resistance’ conjures the revolutionary intent of the Situationist International (SI) as viral carrier demanding a generational shift away from apocalyptic Urban Solitude towards ‘Respect Existence’. The greyscale is no longer the oppression of our architecture, but instead the oppressive architecture of our very minds. Art interpreting life, life interpreting art. Interpretation is everything. Interpretation matters. We have to reconfigure out what’s going wrong here. One of theses days, we’ll get ourselves organasised. Find the common ground. Identify commons. When we share, everyone wins.
Black To Comm/Commodo/E B U/G36/Jay Glass Dubs/Sam Kidel/Jay Mitta/Nkisi/Szare
“The algorithm is trying to capture the perfect parameters for manipulating a brain, while the brain, in order to seek out deeper meaning, is changing in response to the algorithm’s experiments: because the stimuli from the algorithm doesn’t mean anything, because they genuinely are random, the brain isn’t responding to anything real, but to a fiction. That process, of becoming hooked on an elusive mirage, is addiction” – Jaron Lanier:
The surreality of existence in Perfidious Albion in the era of surveillance capitalism is duality incarnate. Do you cut down on gear or live in fear? It’s a big decision in a town called Malicious Intent. The algorithms of the night harvest your behavioural surplus. Data-as-labour science inform material infrastructures: stacks. These computational power systems delineate automated platforms that recursively break down a problem into two or more sub-problems of the same or related type, until these become simple enough to be solved directly: “Platforms offer a kind of generic universality, open to human and non-human users. They generate user identities whether the users want them or not. They link actors, information, events, across times and spaces, across scales and temporalities.” – McKenzie Wark:
Same as it ever was: 95% of your thoughts are the same as yesterday; 80% of your thoughts are negative. Algorithms know this. Algorithms know it’s easier to make sad faces than happy faces. As with all dependencies, it’s not the high that ultimately moves us, it’s the anticipation of that high. The memory of that high. The ghost of that high: hauntalogical repetition, a future high that can only ever be lower: “It’s about the hunt, the search, the excitement of the chase. And that has to do with the brain’s incentive and motivation circuitry, the nucleus accumbens and its projections to the cortex, and the availability of dopamine” – Gabor Maté:
No matter what we may think we need. No matter what we may be told we need. Want never gets. The actual experience of ownership pales in comparison to the sociological imagination of expectation. Everything’s for sale, baby. Everything’s reduced. Reduction diminishes discourse. Polarity diminishes responsibility. Nobody’s fault but mine? “While it is impossible to imagine surveillance capitalism without the digital, it is easy to imagine the digital without surveillance capitalism. The point cannot be emphasised enough: surveillance capitalism is not technology” – Shoshana Zuboff:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana. Progress deems it necessary to replace original problems with a more general or complicated problems in order to initialise recursion: there is no systematic method for finding proper generalisation. Instead of progressing, isn’t it time we regressed? What if the answers don’t lie in our future, but in our past? “The most painful loss of human freedoms began at the small scale – the level of gender relations, age groups and domestic servitude – the kind of relationships that contain at once the greatest intimacy and the deepest forms of structural violence. If we really want to understand how it first became acceptable for some to turn wealth into power, and for others to end up being told their needs and lives don’t count, it is here that we should look” – David Graeber And David Wengrow:
Duality seeps through the brickwork of cultural edifice, like rising damp. Every sad face, every happy face. Surplus data divides us. Fear has gone viral. The very platforms that allegedly help us to communicate with each other instead encourage the isolation that gives birth to self-doubt. The doubt that means we are ultimately on our own, even when surrounded by people. This creeping bent, this dystopian paranoia emits from every pore of Black To Comm‘s ultimately disturbing ‘Seven Horses For Seven Kings’ (Thrill Jockey). Marc Richter‘s first new material under the moniker since 2014 is a departure of sorts from the tramlines of the project’s lineage. Like a Burial record on Southern Lord: the curtains are drawn, the robes are donned, the dry ice swirls, and hope lies crushed on the stage floor. Richter himself concedes that ‘Seven Horses For Seven Kings’ is deliberately uneasy listening: “In recent years it has become very difficult to promote a real underground culture. Social media seems to have standardised people’s opinions, and suddenly everything seems either black or white, while I’m personally more interested in the grey areas”. Assembled from unspecified samples from Richter’s vast collection of vinyl, he’s keen to point out that he does not regard his music as ambient. Manipulation, slight-of-hand within the shadows of the creative process, reveals an enigma of sound that defies categorisation. ‘Seven Horses For Seven Kings': a transcendent experience at the dark heart of the human machine.
Building on the promise of last year’s smouldering ‘Dyrge’ (Black Acre), Commodo delivers arguably his finest work yet, in the form of stellar two-tracker: ‘Rikers’/’Daytona’ (Deep Medi Musik). I wasn’t entirely convinced by Commodo’s ‘How What Time’ full-length for Black Acre back in 2016, there was little sense of a true identity, just the nagging suggestion that Commodo still hadn’t found what he was looking for. ‘Dyrge’ reignited my interest, and although ultimately frustrating in its limitations, most of the core economies that make ‘Rikers’/’Daytona’ so expressive can be found nestling within its norms and values. There are nods to Ryuichi Sakamoto, alongside an undeniably kinship with the likes of Henry Greenleaf: an emerging generation shaped by the liberation of ‘Untrue’.
Bristolian Ella Paine primes us for her debut long player as E B U later in the year with this enticing four-tracker for No Corner. ‘Falling’/’Light Show’ arrive with accompanying mixes from O$VMV$M and Broshuda respectively, reducing the glitch of the originals to paired down dub and muted bleep. Dressed in artwork, design and print by Harry Wright & E B U (front cover), Broshuda (back cover), O$VMV$M (insert), Studio Tape-Echo (centre label design/layout), and 16 Tonne Press (print), E B U is set to capture hearts and minds in 2019.
Last seen underpinning Nazamba‘s utterly essential ‘Vex’ (Pressure) at the back end of 2018, Japanese anarcho-dub-punks G36 return with the follow-up to 2018’s ‘Floor Weapons Vol. 1′ (Pressure). ‘No Escape’/’Black Mass’ (Hotline) ramp up the expectations further: the siren call modulation of the ‘No Escape’ clarion, pulsating riddims pinning the future to the floor of the now with a body fold takedown; the ritualistic inference of ‘Black Mass’, an underground collective with malevolent intent. Pressed on heavy manners wax in an edition of 500, in printed reverse board sleeves with stickered centre labels designed by Studio Tape-Echo, G36’s stock is rising.
A memory of someone no longer with us. An inscription on a tombstone: ‘Epitaph’ (Bokeh Versions) arrives to confirm that Jay Glass Dubs is effectively giving notice on everything but his primary identity, with this, his debut long player. Half a decade of subverting contemporary dub mores under his belt, Dimitris Papadatos‘ philosophical approach to echo-chamber science slips off This Mortal Coil to rise like a phoenix on ‘Epitaph’. Featuring vocals from fellow Greek songstress Yorgia Karidi, and saxophone from Ben Vince, the record pushes way beyond the confines of previous EP, ‘Plegnic’ (Ecstatic), to forge a panoramic new vista of sound that I’m only just beginning to explore. Personally, I preferred ‘Plegnic’ to JGD’s 2018 release with Leslie Winer, ‘YMFEES’ (Bokeh Versions), but that inconsequentiality is now rendered redundant, as ‘Epitaph’ is a staggering progression from both. Like a 4AD compilation forced into an airtight studio with This Heat, this is a record that spoils the listener with its breadth, as it taunts them for not being able to take it all in at one sitting. Jay Glass Dubs is dead: long live Jay Glass Dubs.
Operating at the level of enemy within the infernal machine, Sam Kidel moves from the call centre culture of ‘Disruptive Muzak’ (The Death Of Rave) to subvert the stacked platforms of Google’s data centre in Iowa, with ‘Silicon Ear’ (Latency). Triggered by the humming banks of Google’s servers, Kidel performs what he calls ‘mimetic hacking’ to extract algorithmically-generated notes, rhythms and melodies from cabling installations to create: “music that deafens the silicon ear”. As Latency duly advise: “The generative audio patch Kidel used to make Voice Recognition DoS Attack seeks to disable the functionality of voice recognition software by triggering phonemes (the smallest units of language). The project, first developed for the Eavesdropping series of events in Melbourne, exploits a weakness in voice recognition that cannot distinguish between individual voices. When you speak while the patch is playing, the cascading shards of human expression mask your speech and thus protect you from automated surveillance, questioning our vulnerability in the face of global data giants. In amongst these displaced sounds, Kidel fed additional musical elements into his patch to create the version of the project heard on this release”. ‘Silicon Ear’ actually has to be heard to be believed, Kidel is at the top of his game here, epitomising everything this month’s column seeks to connect.
Nyege Nyege Tapes pick up 2019 where they dropped 2018, with the frenetic insistence of Jay Mitta’s debut long player for the label, ‘Tatizo Pesa’. A companion record to 2018’s exemplary Bamba Pana release, ‘Poaa’, ‘Tatizo Pesa’ keeps the BPM register up in the 180s with expedited alacrity. Blending jab jab, soca, footwork, hardcore and flash core, Mitta rattles the rimshot with his syncopated Singeli, Sisso Studio style. By welding traditional Tanzanian folklore to Western post-rave culture, Jay Mitta, Bamba Pana and their ilk are triggering a tsunami of East African dance music destined to wash up on shores hemispheres away from their epicentre.
NON Worldwide collective curator and activist, Nkisi, is as oracular as her name would suggest. Nkisi are spirits, or an object spirits inhabit – this is entirely appropriate, as the music she has created on ‘7 Directions’ (UIQ) is nothing short of sacred. Currently residing in London, Nkisi was born in the Democratic Republic Of The Congo, and raised in the city of Leuven, near Brussels, exposing her to Congolese music and Belgian hardcore and gabber. These seemingly disparate influences, alongside the African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo and the writings of Kongo scholar Dr Kimbwandende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau, inform the timeless polyrhythms of ‘7 Directions': “When we hear before we see, voice and sound waves interplay between consciousness and hallucinations. Allowing the rhythmic to experiment with conditions of perception, disrupting predetermined expectations. Through manipulating rhythm, we create movements of energy, this energy determines collective behaviour and allows for new ways of producing knowledge. When we hear before we see, we can think about predicting the future and the manipulation of imagery that happens. Through visionary possession we are renewed from within, in a system of systems. The pattern of patterns in being, it reaches and remains forever incomplete”- Nkisi. This has been on repeat chez Encoule ever since it landed, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Following a new year period binge-listening to Zuli‘s ‘Terminal’ (UIQ), we seem to be stuck in UIQ cycle here in the tMx bunker.
“Over the course of nearly a decade of releases, Szare have have been a mainstay of UK dance music, cementing their reputation through a string of essential releases for labels like Horizontal Ground, Idle Hands, Field, Project 13 and Different Circles“. Their three-track debut for newly minted Bristol label, Polity Records, ‘Miner’/’Cut With Glass’/’Drop Shadow’, is their most expansive output to date. Intense and precise throughout, all three cuts signal a developmental trajectory close to vertical. Up for preorder now at Rewind Forward, but not scheduled to drop until early February, this one is already freaking out the geekometer in the tMx bunker.
“In a world that feels like it’s regressing into tribalism, many of us who don’t fit into any one specific group identity feel sidelined at best” – Zuli
When a body’s in trouble, who do you talk to? When you want to feel somebody and the body won’t let you. Who do you talk to? Who? In this age of dislocation, we seemingly struggle to connect. With ourselves. With others. With anything of any profound meaning or import. Those once trusted institutions, wilted on the vine. Prolific communicators, hanging on the line. Who do you talk to?
When a system’s in trouble, who do you trust? In these end of capitalist surrealism days, it gets harder every twenty four hours to tell the rehearsed from the propaganda; the support from the marketing; the control from the authority. There is no opinion internal. No organ eternal. No mast to pin those colours to. No shoulder to cry on. No pail for those crocodile tears. Fear is our only weapon. Fear is our only enemy. Traditional dominators, exposed in a hail of shame. Established promulgators, the song remains the same. Who do you trust?
In the season of lists, subjective objectivity becomes hypernormal. Graded, faded, paraded. Floated, gloated, bloated. MSM, social media, fixated on extremes. Sociological imagination flourishing in-between. We don’t seek to be prescriptivists. We won’t arbitrate. We trust that you will form your own sentences and paragraphs from the trakMARX alphabet. Potential. Purpose. Passion. We’ll leave it there.
A is for:
Alpha Steppa – ‘Liberation’/’Pray’ (Zam Sam Sounds)
Alter Echo & E3 – ‘Ah Mi Guide’ (Scotch Bonnett Records)
Thomas Ankersmit – ‘Homage to Dick Raaijmakers’ (Shelter Press)
Aspect – ‘Stand Clear’/’Untitled’ (Droogs)
Felicia Atkinson & Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – ‘Limpid As The Solitudes’ (Shelter Press)
Shinichi Atobe – ‘Heat’ (DDS)
B is for:
Daniel Bachman – ‘The Morning Star’ (Three Lobed Recordings)
V/A – ‘bblisss’ (bblisss)
John Bence – ‘Kill’ (Grooming)
Ursula Bogner – ‘Recordings 1969-1988′ (Faitiche)
C is for:
The Caretaker – ‘Everywhere At The End Of Time – Stage 4/Stage5′ (History Always Favours The Winners)
Conjoint – ‘Earprints’ (DDS)
D is for:
V/A – ‘Danske Båndamatører // Danish Tape Amateurs 1959-1976′ (Institut for Dansk Lydarkæologi)
Sarah Davachi – ‘Let Night Come On Bells End The Day’ (Recital) // ‘Gave In Rest’ (Ba Da Bing)
Deadbeat – ‘Wail Ball & Cry’/’Dub Ball & Flange’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
Demdike Stare – ‘Passion’ (Modern Love)
E is for:
Julius Eastman – ‘The Nigger Series’ (Blume)
Ekuka Morris Sirikiti – ‘Ekuka’ (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
Moulay Ahmed El Hassani – ‘Atlas Electric’ (Hive Mind Records)
Exael – ‘Collex’ (West Mineral Ltd.)
F is for:
Mark Fell – ‘Intra’ (Boomkat Editions)
4625 – ‘4625-001′ (UVB-76 Music)
Flame 1 – ‘Fog’ / ‘Shrine’ (Pressure)
G is for:
Henry Greenleaf – ‘Fold Together’ (Par Avion)
G36 – ‘Floor Weapons’ (Pressure)
H is for:
Head Technician – ‘Profane Architecture’ (Ecstatic Recordings)
Tim Hecker – ‘Konoyo’ (Kranky)
Heights & Worship – ‘Selassie’s Song’/’Break Every Chain Mix’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
Lonnie Holley – ‘Mith’ (Jagjaguwar)
Holsten – ‘Abscess’/’Momentum’ (Droogs)
I is for:
J is for:
Nicolas Jaar – ‘Pomegranates’ (Mana)
Jay Glass Dubs – ‘Plegnic’ (Ecstatic Recordings)
Jan Jelinek – ‘Loop Finding Jazz Records’ (Faitiche)
K is for:
Roland Kayn – ‘Simultan’ (die schachtel)
Eli Keszler – ‘Stadium’ (Shelter Press)
Sam Kidel – ‘Silicon Ear’ (Latency)
L is for:
Gabor Lazar – ‘Unfold’ (Death Of Rave)
Mary Jane Leach – ‘(f)lute songs’ (Modern Love)
Stephen Legget – ‘Bathhouse’ (Firecracker Recordings)
LQ & Headland – ‘Fat Neck’/’Mineral Run’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
Lurka – ‘Heat Mover’/’Battery’ (Timedance)
M is for:
Manonmars – ‘S/T’ (Young Echo Records)
Nozomu Matsumoto – ‘Climatotherapy’ (The Death Of Rave)
Abul Mogard – ‘Above All Dreams’ (Ecstatic Recordings)
Move D – ‘Kunststoff’ (Ava Records)
N is for:
Nazamba – ‘Vex’ (Pressure)
Di Luigi Nono – ‘Non Consumiamo Marx Musica Manifesto Numero 1′ (die schachtel)
Marja Nuut & Ruum – ‘Muunduja’ (130701)
NYZ – ‘SHFTR FRQ” (The Death Of Rave)
O is for:
Ojar – ‘Cycles’/’Fear Not Dub’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
154 – ‘Wherever You Go, I Will Follow’ (Boomkat Editions)
O Yama O – ‘S/T’ – (Mana Records)
P is for:
Bernard Parmegiani – ‘Mémoire Magnétique, vol.1 (1966-1990)’ (Transversales Disques)
Bernard Parmegiani – ‘Les Soleils de l’Île de Pâques/La Brûlure de Mille Soleils’ (WRWTFWW Records)
Pendant – ‘Make Me Know You Sweet’ (West Mineral Ltd.)
Pugilist – ‘Roll Off’/’Hemisphere’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
Pessimist – ‘SPRTLZM’/’SCIFI’ (Pessimist Productions)
Q is for:
R is for:
Lucy Railton – ‘Paradise 94′ (Modern Love)
Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement – ‘Red Ants Genesis’ (Hospital Productions)
S is for:
Schlachthofbronx – ‘Dun Dem’/’Soundbad’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
SKRS – ‘Paradise Magic Traxx’ (Ancient Monarchy)
Sons Of Kemet – ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ (Impulse)
Strategy – ‘Dub Mind Paradigm’ (Khaliphonic)
Pontiac Streator & Ulla Straus – ‘Chat’ (West Mineral Ltd.)
T is for:
TNT Roots – ‘Chant Down Babylon Verse 2′ (5 Gate Temple)
Topdown Dialectic – ‘S/T’ (Peak Oil)
U is for:
Uon – ‘S/T’ (West Mineral Ltd.)
V is for:
Versa – ‘Seed’/’Planting’ (Zam Zam Sounds)
W is for:
Teresa Winter – ‘What The Night Is For’ (The Death Of Rave)
X is for:
Y is for:
Young Echo – ‘S/T’ (Young Echo)
Z is for:
Zuli – ‘Terminal’ (UIQ)
It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. See you in 2019!