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.