Hit Me With Your Algorithm Stick


A Column

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


Jean Encoule - January 27th, 2019

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