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.