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!
Lonnie Holley – King’s Place, London – 10/11/18
We set out on a voyage of discovery, literally. End-of-days-rain reducing the M40 to a river, unafraid of becoming the sea. We sallied forth, for London Town: to dock with the mothership. Crawling, past Marylebone, past Euston, past King’s Cross, at a rate of o.1mph. A Dickensian canvas unfolding, precipitation, wall-to-wall carwash hair, thousands of previously waterproof garments, reduced by now to sodden tarpaulins, flapping in the idiot wind.
King’s Place was easy enough to find, as most King’s places are. They tend to stick out from the surrounding real estate like crystal palaces in the mire. Situated next door to The Guardian offices, I’d wager I wasn’t the only fanzine writer in the house on this most inclement of evenings to witness the nearest thing that America has to a genuine prophet in 2018. We’d arrived, supposedly in good time, following the debacle that saw us arrive for Tim Hecker‘s recent Barbican extravaganza by the skin of our teeth. We’d hoped to eat at a leisurely pace prior’s to the night’s performance, in a bid to avoid the subsequent heartburn often the exclusive territory of digestive tracts of a certain age.
For a venue of its size and alleged stature, you’d have expected the King’s Place to have come equipped with a fully functioning King’s Car Park, located conveniently, for the benefit of loyal subjects, arriving with gold, frankincense, myrrh and Lonnie Holley tickets. Sadly, this was not to be the case, and we lost a valuable hour circling the King’s Cross environs, at the mercy of a triumvirate of twittering maps apps, bartering for 4G bandwidth and the driver’s precious attention. After two or three laps, and a wrong-way-down-a-one-way-street experience, we finally orienteered our way to a functional carpark, a 15-minute wander away from the venue. The ticket machine presented the next problem, as it refused card after card, contactless or digitised. The sense of joy on finally extracting our valid parking ticket was one bordering on euphoria. Thankfully, the deluge has partially abated, as we skipped through the puddles, jumping over kerbs.
Once finally inside, the venue itself was warm and welcoming. A sizeable arts-centre complex, on many levels, we were able to graze on burgers and sandwiches, washed down with lashings of iced mineral water, arriving in our seats a few moments before Lucinda Chua took to the stage. Chua, a London based artist/composer and sometime-collaborator with FKA Twigs, delivered an extended cello composition, abetted by a bank of foot-pedals, sampling and manipulating her instrument in real time, to impressive effect. An early highlight occurred when a King’s Place employee strutted self-importantly towards the stage to remove and confiscate Chua’s smouldering incense sticks with an exaggerated movement that reeked of comic petulance. Chua’s annoyance was palpable, but, to her credit, she didn’t miss a stroke. On moving to piano, she revealed a stunning vocal, to perform an unnamed tune of majestic fragility, and then she was gone.
With the stage set, Lonnie’s manager made a few final adjustments to the equipment, before taking his place behind the tapestry-draped keyboard to inform us that if we’d enjoyed Lonnie’s ‘MITH’ (Jagjaguwar) record and were looking forward to hearing songs from it tonight, we were going to be sadly disappointed. He explained that Lonnie doesn’t do repeat performances, and that what we were about to receive was a stream-of-consciousness channelled exposition of improvised intergalactic communication with mother universe. Lonnie duly arrived without greeting, to take his place behind his keyboard. Flanked by Nelson/Patton: Dave Nelson (trombone and synth) and Marlon Patton (drums and Moog bass), Holley plugged us into the mainframe, downloading the universe into the collective frontal lobes of the audience.
Each song began with Lonnie leading the way with a few piano chords and a vocal ad-lib, imploring Nelson/Patton to lay down a constantly evolving undercarriage, and take it to the bridge. Every song performed loosely echoed a compadres from ‘MITH’, in terms of structure and shape, but everything performed on the night was plucked from the hovering mothership: transmitted to earth by telepathy; beamed out from Holley the transmitter by laser. In between songs, Holley disseminated information, drawing us in.
An immaculate communicator, my sense of being in the presence of a unique human being was overpowering. Holley said he’d been over our sea, under our sea, that he’d come to see Queen Elizabeth. The bells of old London Town were ringing for him. He said he’d felt unwell earlier that day, and that monetarily he’d doubted his own strength. Yet, here he was, performing his duties, delivering his message. Essentially: he’d come in peace; he’d come in love; he’d come to empower us. We can all do anything we want to, if we want it badly enough. He told us that he was one of 27-children; that his one regret was missing out on an education; that he knew we were all subject to curfew, that he’d get us all home to our mothers on time. I felt the wisdom of the ages exuding from Lonnie Holley; I felt a warmth of connection that I’ve rarely felt from a performer; I felt the love in the room; I felt the love in the universe, although I knew he was making it all up as he went along, it still touched me deep inside like nothing else I’ve ever witnessed.
I knew there and then that this would drive me back to ‘MITH’ with immaculate connection. I may not have heard it performed as promised in the King’s Place promotional materials, but somehow I’d been involved in an exchange greater even than the sum of its parts. As the final notes faded, Holley lifted two thumbs up to us in salutation: “Thumbs up from the universe”. Then they took their bows.
Making our way out of the auditorium, genuinely affected by the performance, we were amazed to find Holley out in the foyer, greeting his audience, signing autographs. As I thanked him and went to shake his hand, he grabbed it with both of his, and wrapped his thumbs around my wrists: “Thumbs up from the universe”, he said. “Thumbs up from the universe”.
Demdike Stare/Exael/Eli Keszler/Mary Jane Leach/Maarja Nuut & Ruum/Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement
“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up”
It is said that it is easier to imagine the end of civilisation than to imagine the end of capitalist surrealism. As a boy from 1962, I have a genetic predisposition that dictates that I find it easier to imagine the end of civilisation than imagine my own demise. Whether the thief finally arrives dressed in a post-ironic ‘armageddon’ t-shirt in the dead of night, or holding a BBC microphone in broad daylight, only my faith in the quantum indestructibility of eternal energy can save me now.
As the sinister pantomime otherwise known as 2018 limps into panto season, only one man can truly define where we are at. And we may find ourselves creating our own freedom, with the weight of Raoul Martinez‘s accidental birth restrictions draped around our auras. As techno-scientific progress and pseudo-intellectual critical thinking slug it out in the ring according to Byung-Chul Han‘s psychopolitical rules of combat, the propensity of a nominal elite to believe in their own omnipresence matches the arrogance of their puppeteers on the seafront of effrontery.
We live in times where we are told repeatedly by the MSM that anything is possible: populating Mars; automation and the end of surplus labour value; AI ascendency; continued economic growth and prosperity. Yet, as Slavoj Zizek expounds in his latest masterwork, ‘Like A Thief In Broad Daylight’ (Penguin), it is no longer possible for the fiscal elite to fund hospitals, schools, social care or end homelessness. In 2019, the real revolutionary act will be to redefine what is possible. We are drowning in empty freedoms. We are overdosing on unfreedom.
Zizek spoke recently to The Economist in promotion of ‘Like A Thief In Broad Daylight’. In line with trakMARX editor Guy Debord‘s position on plagiarism, we though it fitting to partially reproduce that interview here without express permission:
The Economist: What do you mean by “the era of post-humanity”? What characterises it?
Slavoj Zizek: It is not primarily the automatisation and robotisation of the production process but much more the expanding role of science, machines and digital media in social control and regulation. The detailed registration of all our acts and habits enables the digital machine to know ourselves, even our psyche, better than we know ourselves. In this way, social control no longer needs to be exerted in the old “totalitarian” mode, through open domination—we are already manipulated and regulated when we act freely, just following our needs and desires.
But there is another feature which justifies the term “post-humanity”: the prospect of the direct link between our brain and the digital network. When this happens, we lose the basic distance which makes us human, the distance between external reality and our inner life where we can “think what we want.” With my thoughts, I can directly intervene in reality—but the machine also directly knows what I think. In the last years of his life, Stephen Hawking experimented with a technology to communicate with the world—his brain was connected to a computer, so that his thoughts could choose words and form sentences, which were then relayed to a voice synthesizer to be spoken aloud. Fredric Jameson noted that, today, it is much more easy to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. This sarcastic insight is today becoming reality: it looks that, in some new form, capitalism will effectively survive the end, not of the world, but of humanity.
The Economist: Brexit and the rise of populist politicians seem to show that voters want to be protected from the harder edges of globalisation. So, back to Jameson’s thought, is it still easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of the free-market consensus associated with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan?
Mr Zizek: As with fascism, I think that populism is simply a new way to imagine capitalism without its harder edges; a capitalism without its socially disruptive effects. Populism is one of today’s two opiums of the people: one is the people, and the other is opium itself. Chemistry (in its scientific version) is becoming part of us: large aspects of our lives are characterised by the management of our emotions by drugs, from everyday use of sleeping pills and antidepressants to hard narcotics. We are not just controlled by impenetrable social powers, our very emotions are “outsourced” to chemical stimulation. What remains of the passionate public engagement in the West is mostly the populist hatred, and this brings us to the other second opium of the people, the people itself, the fuzzy populist dream destined to obfuscate our own antagonisms.
The Economist: In 1968, Jacques Lacan told student protesters in Paris that “what you aspire to as revolutionaries is a new master. You will get one.” Does the appeal of populists and so-called strong-men reflect a desire for authority that liberal democracy can’t provide?
Mr Zizek: Yes, but in a way different from the one that Lacan had in mind in his pessimist reading of the 1968 turmoil. For Lacan, the consequence of 1968 was the decline of the old (directly authoritarian) figure of the master and the rise of a new master figure, than of the expert—what Lacan baptised the “university discourse.” Just think about how today economic measures are justified—not as an expression of political will and positive social vision but as a consequence of neutral knowledge: it has to be done, this is how markets work.
Just recall how the experts in Brussels acted in negotiations with Greece’s Syriza government during the euro crisis in 2014: no debate, this has to be done. I think that today’s populism reacts to the fact that experts are not really masters, that their expertise doesn’t work—again, just remember how the 2008 financial meltdown caught the experts unprepared. Against the background of this fiasco, the traditional authoritarian master is making a comeback, even if it is a clown. Whatever Trump is, he is not an expert.
The Economist: Do you want a new master?
Mr Zizek: Surprisingly, YES, I do want it. But what kind of master? We usually see a master as someone who exerts domination, but there is another, more authentic, sense of a master. A true master is not an agent of discipline and prohibition, his message is not “You cannot!”, nor “You have to…!”, but a releasing “You can!”—what? Do the impossible, ie, what appears impossible within the coordinates of the existing constellation. And today, this means something very precise: you can think beyond capitalism and liberal democracy as the ultimate framework of our lives.
A master is a vanishing mediator who gives you back to yourself, who delivers you to the abyss of your freedom. When we listen to a true leader, we discover what we want (or, rather, what we “always-already” wanted without knowing it). A master is needed because we cannot accede to our freedom directly—for to gain this access, we have to be pushed from outside, since our “natural state” is one of inert hedonism; of what Alain Badiou called the “human animal.”
The underlying paradox here is that the more we live as “free individuals with no master,” the more we are effectively non-free, caught within the existing frame of possibilities. We have to be pushed or disturbed into freedom by a master.
The Economist: You have argued for the “occupation” of the digital grid, but how can ordinary people hold big tech firms to account if only a tiny fraction of us are capable of comprehending an algorithm?
Mr Zizek: True, we—the majority—don’t understand the details of algorithms, but we can easily understand how we are controlled by the digital grid. Moreover, I don’t think the experts themselves fully understand how the digital grid really works, plus those who exploit their knowledge also do not know the technical details.
Do you think that when Steve Bannon mobilised Cambridge Analytica, he understood the algorithmic details of its work? Or take ecology: to grasp global warming and the ozone hole, you need science which most of us don’t understand, but we nonetheless can fight against the prospect of ecological catastrophe.
There are risks of manipulation here, of course, but we have to accept them. We have to abandon the naïve faith in the spontaneous wisdom of everyday people as a guideline of our acts. That’s the paradox of our era: our most ordinary daily lives are regulated by scientific knowledge, and the dangers of this (often invisible) regulation can be fought only by a different knowledge, not by New Age wisdoms and common sense.
I first encountered Demdike Stare back in 2012, with ‘Elemental’ (Modern Love), but my head was awash with punk fury back then, and the experience passed me by. They sat there stubbornly on my hard drive during the ensuing years, however, and with each further tentative exposure, I became more intrigued. It wasn’t until the arrival of Testpressing #7’s ‘Rathe’ (Modern Love) in 2015, that I truly fell head-over-heels. With the release of ‘Wonderland’ (Modern Love) in 2016, that mild infatuation became full-blown obsession. Informed by the work of recent signings to their own DDS label, Equiknoxx, ‘Wonderland’ got down and dirty with digital dancehall: ragged ragga-jungle, dubbed-out synthesis, 808-patterned overload, spiral loops, bouncing breakbeats, and snapping grooves. ‘Wonderland’ hiccuped, stumbled, and flipped. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. ‘Wonderland’ had arrived: music for haunted dancehalls. Over the course of the last two years, Demdike Stare, Modern Love and DDS Records have become central to my ever-expanding vinyl collection: broadening my horizons, expanding my parameters. Alongside the aforementioned Equiknoxx, DDS have since gifted me Shinichi Atobe, Conjoint, Orior and Robert Akai Aubery Lowe. Whilst Modern Love has brought me Lucy Railton, Turinn, G.H. and Andy Stott. Without the Demdikes, I’d not have found Move D‘s ‘Kunststoff’ (Ava). The Demdike era has been influential, to say the least.
It was with a mixture of surprise and acute expectation, then, that I approached ‘Passion’ (Modern Love), Demdike Stare’s out-of-the-blue 9-track double album, as it landed last week. With no preliminary fanfare, no pre-release hype, the arrival of this floor-filling pedigree filly caught me on the hop. It’s not been far from the turntable since, though, and first impressions are that it’s more strident than ‘Wonderland': pedal pressed closer to the metal; windows of abandon wide open; all caution thrown wildly to the wind. In a year crammed full of essentials, it’s most definitely a contender. From the stuttering oscillation of the opening ‘New Fakes’, to the atmospheric divisional joy of the closing ‘Dilation’, DS explore the nooks and crannies of sound system culture with a frenetic wantonness. ‘At It Again’ sets the pace, a furious maelstrom of radiotelegraphy. ‘Spitting Brass’ fills those dancehall bassbins with solid aural gold. ‘You People Are Fucked’, a mashed up killer, the record’s most memorable bass line, in and out in under three minutes. Fucked up pop music, in a dancehall style.
A copper-bottomed absolute belter flew in this month, in the shape of another double album, this time Eli Keszler‘s ‘Stadium’ (Shelter Press). Having spotted this one coming a mile off, thanks to Shelter Press bunging the clear wax edition up for preorder on their Bandcamp page, my internal hype machine had been working overtime, deep within my psyche. I was hopped up on ambition for these sides, long before they landed. I’d heard a couple of tracks, watched Keszler’s career blossom (oPN/Daniel Lopatin, Lauren Halo) with interest, and I’d decided I was going to dive into this one from the top board, weeks before the postman finally knocked. Sitting somewhere between Conjoint‘s ‘Earprints’ (DDS) and Jan Jelinek‘s ‘Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records’ (Faitiche), ‘Stadium’ looks set to trouble the scorers as we head into list season. Recorded in response to Keszler’s moving of his home from South Brooklyn to Manhattan, ‘Stadium’ could be seen as a reflection on the psychogeographical, environmental and sociological aspects of change. Relaxed yet urgent, complexed yet schematic, this is avant-jazz outsiderdom striving for inclusivity.
Hot on the metaphorical heels of the recent ‘blisss’ compilation and Pontiac Streator & Ulla Straus’ stupendous ‘Chat’ 12″, West Mineral hit pay dirt, once again, with this essential debut long player for the label from Exael. ‘Collex’ (West Mineral) builds on the promise of 2016’s ‘Miche’ (Lillerne Tape Club) cassette, mutating somewhere between the Berlin-infused dub of Chain Reaction Records and the constantly deconstructing fallout from ground-zero Chicago techno. ‘Collex’ sounds like it could have been both written and recorded by AI, it feels that ahead of the game. Metal machine music for a compromised human world.
Meanwhile, back at planet Modern Love, four pieces for flute and voice composed between 1985-2018 comprise Mary Jane Leach‘s ‘(f)lute songs’ (Modern Love). A contributing member of NYC’s avant-garde community since the 1970s; an active member of DownTown Ensemble, MJL has worked in her time with luminaries such as Arthur Russell, Ellen Fullman, Peter Zummo, Philip Corner and Arnold Dreyblatt. Following the release of ‘Pipe Dreams’ (Blume Editions) in 2017, MJL’s star has risen accordingly here in the UK, and Modern Love have duly embarked on their second avant-classical outing of the year with ‘(f)lute songs’. Featuring Italian flutist Manuel Zurria (Alter Ego), alongside treated vocals, it’s genuinely impossible throughout to discern which is which. The four pieces here combine in a 37-minute suite that takes the listener on a journey of somnambulistic reverie, equally stunning in emotional depth to that of Sarah Davachi‘s ‘Gave In Rest’ (Ba Da Bing): “Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt” – Kant
“The presiding spirit of ‘Muunduja’ (shifter) is a state of being between states, the warping of time’s arrow using sound”. Estonian duo Maarja Nuut & Ruum’s debut is a spectacular triumph, forging the gaping chasm between traditional folk music and electroacoustic expression. ‘Muunduja’ (130701) takes its time to establish its plateau within the psyche, but once there it resolutely refuses to relinquish its position. A record to be heard without and felt within, ‘Muunduja’ is a riot of competing textures and timbres. Affluent in its resources, expectant with promise, Maarja Nuut & Ruum conjure the spirits of their ancestors to forge future soundscapes of glitchy reverence.
Recorded back in the winter of 2017, this new vinyl edition of ‘Red Ants Genesis’ (Hospital Productions) sees Low Jack & Equiknoxx join Dominick Fernow’s Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement on this remixed riot of collaboration frenzy. With Phillippe Hallais, Gavsborg and Time Cow joining him at the controls, Fernow joins that loop of dread artists connected to me by their association with Demdike Stare, and, having previously been largely unmoved by much of Fernow’s work as RSE, ‘Red Ants Genesis’ has been somewhat of a revelation. Dark ambience in a dancehall style, the deeply dubbed sonic tar of these recordings coats the lungs, challenging one’s tympanic membranes to rupture.
Alter Echo & E3/The Caretaker/Sarah Davachi/Tim Hecker/Lonnie Holley/Manonmars/Teresa Winter
“Push a button/Activate/You gotta work/You’re late” – Joe Strummer
When Francis Fukuyama coined the phrase ‘The End Of History?’, he had no idea what a tough gig it was going to be to come back from that prophetic statement. With history stubbornly refusing to die, just about every statement he has issued since has subsequently been little more than a futile attempt to dig himself out of the perpetually self-refilling trench he dug himself (and us?) back in the early 1990s. This should act as a warning for those who skate the thin ice that divides prophet from profit. Back once again, with a new tome entitled ‘Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition’ (Profile Books), Fukuyama this time liberates Plato’s concept of ‘Thymos’ (a contemporary rival of Aristotle’s eudaimonic principle of flourishing) to suggest that all we really need is recognition and dignity. An overriding need for compromise connects thymos and eudaemonia, the concept of a third way that is central to any solution-focussed collectives planning on saving us all from impending doom. In the land of the blind capitalist, the one-eyed plagiarist is king.
“Ideas improve. The Meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author’s phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea” – Guy Debord
When Nick Griffin appeared on BBC 1’s ‘Question Time’ back in 2009, Mark Thompson, then-Director-General of the BBC, defended the BBC’s decision to invite Griffin on to the program, stating: “The BNP has demonstrated a level of support that would normally lead to an occasional invitation to join the panel on Question Time. It is for that reason, not for some misguided desire to be controversial, but for that reason alone, that the invitation has been extended.” Considering for a moment the credibility of the BBC in 2018, that statement surely needs dragging out into the light and thrashing to within an inch of its life with an extendable pr-24x side handle baton. It could be argued that the Rise And Fall Of UKIP Perrin began in earnest with Griffin’s root-for-the-underdog mentality, brazenly flaunted that night, launching a race-to-the-bottom class-over-conscious submarine lifeboat weighed down by the ballast of nationalism versus localism. Questions asked on the night by the audience included: ‘Why is Islam a wicked and vicious faith?’ and ‘Can the recent success of the BNP be explained by the misguided immigration policy of the government?’ Sound familiar? Hidden in plain sight, the Hegelian dialectic: problem, reaction, solution.
Only when we see these manoeuvres as part of a bigger picture can we begin to comprehend the extent of the collusion. As George Monbiot sets out in his recent piece for The Guardian, ‘A Despot In Disguise: One Man’s Mission To Rip Up Democracy': “any clash between ‘freedom’ (allowing the rich to do as they wish) and democracy should be resolved in favour of freedom”. The constitutional revolution of the last forty-odd years has been painstakingly executed with extreme stealth by a cabal of elite capitalists funded by the likes of Charles Koch, shadowy figures who make odious individuals such as Alan Greenspan and Milton Friedman seem like Morecambe and Wise. This bonfire of regulations has everything to do with vanity, executed with the kind of impunity that only money can buy. The destruction of state architecture: austerity; dismantling of public services; tuition fees; the neutering of our education system; the debt-saddling of our young.
To see, or to not see, is that the question? Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous theatre, or to take arms against the eternal sea of dicotomy, and by opposing, end this duality? By Thymos or by eudaemonia, whether we demand recognition or dignity, moral absolutism or consequentialism, instead of the simplification of polar extremity, we embrace instead the space of spectrum advocated by Bill Hicks in ‘It’s Just A Ride: “Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defence each year, and instead, spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would, many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace”.
To take back control, the concept requires control to have been theoretically relinquished at some stage or another. This has patently never happened, not once. The opposite of John C Calhoun’s definition of freedom is enslavement, the spectrum of collectivism in-between those extremes embraces possibility, potential, purpose and passion. To paraphrase the words of chairman Strummer: They’ve got you down on the killing floor, and they want to keep you there. Their bank accounts are all that matter, you don’t count. We can’t make any significant progress, we can’t get ahead. We can’t stop the regress, until we’re dead. Look out for rules and regulations: Repression, gonna start on Tuesday. Repression, gonna be a Dalek. Repression, I am a robot. Repression, I obey.
Forward thinking future dub made present; the oppositional possibility of duality. Be here now in this spectrum of sound, with Scrub A Dub Records. US tag team Alter Echo & E3 unite with Bristol’s Ishan Sound in a display of dub wise internationalism to fashion anthemic styles in two complementary flavours. Zam Zam Sounds meets Young Echo sounds. ‘Ah Mi Guide’ (Scrub A Dub Records) builds on the damage caused earlier this year by Dubkasm‘s ‘Enter The Gates’ (Dubkasm Records). A prophetic sample from Rider Shafique; a gargantuan basic channel; a brace of vershuns: equal in stature to the pillars of Jachin and Boaz. Chant down the walls of Babylon.
As The Caretaker‘s ‘Everywhere At The End of Time’ series enters ‘Stage 5’ (History Always Favours The Winners), parallels emerge from the gloom of confusion. Is the entire series a metaphor for the collapse of democracy? The connectivity of ‘Everywhere At The End Of Time’ to the totalitarian suicide note of Brexit cannot be ignored. They both began their inexorable destruction of relative reality back in 2016, and both are primed to climax in spring 2019. Nostalgia; collective amnesia; progressive dementia: all stations on Hick’s ride to oblivion. Considering labelling theory momentarily, isn’t it about time history was rewritten by the losers?
Renaissance is inevitable post-flux. As Zizek states: “What happens the day after the revolution?” With ‘Gave In Rest’ (Ba Da Bing Records), her second long player of 2018, Sarah Davachi poses theistic questions that challenge our perception of faith in an age of no universal truth. The sanctity we feel at the heart of the religious experience is the connection we lack at the heart of our commercial existence. The crisis of disconnection in an age of loneliness, the cancerous cells in the blood of an unholy communion. Davachi converts spiritual import to secular export alchemically in her most deeply affecting statement yet. There is a beauty here that arches back centuries to a time we all felt connected to ourselves. A time before the drought.
Duality abounds on Tim Hecker‘s masterful ‘Konoyo’ (Kranky): lone v collective; organic v synthesised; consonant v dissonant; Western v Eastern; abstract v concrete; past v present. The here and now for Tim Hecker is a riot of possibility, and in all probability if you’ve never dived into a Hecker ocean before then ‘Konoyo’ is the catalyst you need to get utterly drenched in potential. Both sonically, and visually (live at The Barbican, with Kara-Lis Coverdale), ‘Konoyo’ shatters every reconnection and trumps every expectation. A recent discussion I was involved in bemoaning the live performance music medium circa 2018 could learn a great deal from experiences like this. No matter where we’re from, where we’ve been, or, incidentally, where’re we’re at, there is always something new to learn. No one has seen it all.
I don’t buy many records with vocals on them these days. My patience at the demise of lyrical craftsmanship; the banality of verse/chorus tedium; the vacuous nature of the social commentariat; the total irrelevance of much of it. It is indeed a joy, therefore, to discover someone who can both sing and craft lyrics with the kind of assured presence one immediately relates to as authentic. Lonnie Holley is the closest thing fucked-up America has to a prophet right now. A 68-year-old artist and found-object curator whose third long player, ‘MITH’ (Jagjaguwar), is set to trouble the scorers on an endemic level come close of play, 2018. Compared elsewhere to Gil Scott Heron, James Blood Ulmer, Wesley Willis, Tom Waits, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Eugene McDaniels, Al Jarreau and Louis Armstrong, to name but a few, with an additional twist of lemon from the cosmic brotherhood of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Sun Ra and George Clinton. I’d add a smattering of Van Morrison, circa ‘Astral Weeks’ (for the improvisational aspects), and ‘In The Garden’ (for the meandering stream on consciousness sentimentalism). Wrap it all up with a gold bow as a future classic set to stride a universe of connectivity, with both those who’ve heard it all before, and those who haven’t.
One of a host of shining stars that lit up Young Echo‘s self-titled sophomore album back at the beginning of the year, Manonmars returns here to drop his s/t debut on Young Echo Records for our delight and delectation. Intelligent poetry, laconic delivery, exceptional musical content, courtesy of Amos Childs and Sam Barrett, Manonmars builds effortlessly on his contribution to the aforementioned ‘Young Echo’, and references to that record abound. One of the things I admire about Manonmars approach is his brevity. On first listen, I came away wishing some of it hard gone on longer, but now I’m settled into the record, like a comfy stained armchair, I realise that 30-minutes is the perfect length for a post-everything hip hop record. As we approach the season of lists, scoring, oneupmanship and holier-than-thou recommendation, Manonmars has already booked his place.
Teresa Winter returns, unexpectedly, with the follow-up to 2017’s uniformly excellent ‘Untitled Death’. ‘What The Night Is For’ (The Death Of Rave) again reflects the uncertainty in which we collectively find ourselves in 2018. Thematically, duality features heavily: freedom/repression; legal/criminal; theistic/occult; brutal/sensitive; insider/outsider. Mining the vast chasm of avant-classical tropes that have opened up around the likes of Kara-Lis Coverdale, Sarah Davachi, Felicia Atkinson, et al., Winter brings shards of chimeric popular intention and disturbing tabs of psychedelic discombobulation to the party. A dream made real, or a waking nightmare? I’ll leave that one to you.