One of my favorite artists of the last 20 years, and a singular personal inspiration...Read More
London's winter grimness plows on, giving previous memories of Berlin grey brutality a run for their money. Somehow the sky here in Hackney seems lower, and the promise of snow forever restrained, before inevitable acquiescence into grey drizzle.
Meanwhile, I've embraced the (very) latent Britishness encoded in within, and taken a trip to Margate yesterday, to attend an exhibition at the Turner Contemporary on the work of T.S Eliot - more specifically, his epic poem "The Wasteland".
I can contend that it remains, indeed, as existentially bleak as ever - and find genuine inter-textural resonance (intentional or otherwise) with the work of Burial.
My own work feels dwarfed and clumsy in the light of both these rather different giants, but as part of an ongoing self-directed series of audio-visual sketches, I put together this short video (response?), based on heavily processed macro shots of......some potplants in my flat. The audio was written at our local cafe, cut and pasted from field recordings of me playing piano before teaching my weekly class at the Australian Institute of Music....and liberally spliced with found sound and audio detritus from YouTube.
In the spirit of intentional limitation, both the audio and video sketch are composite creations consisting of no more than 4 tracks each. Quick n dirty. Because "April is the cruelest month"....and its still only early February...
"[T]he world [is] suspended by some unique tear … reflecting disappearance itself: the world, the whole world, the world itself, for death takes from us not only some particular life within the world, some moment that belongs to us, but, each time, without limit, someone through whom the world, and first of all our own world, will have opened up….” - Jacques Derrida
Those who know me doubtlesly appreciate my ongoing fascination with the writings of the late Mark Fisher; one of the great champions of Jacques Derrida.
Fisher's books "Capitalist Realism - Is There No Alternative?" and "Ghosts of My Life" give eloquent shape to the sense of existential "future loss" so many of us feel, swimming in a digital culture defined by 'cultural re-treads' of once radiant fictions.
From widescreen remakes of "Wonderwoman" or "Friends", to a fascination with analogue recording technology, vintage synths (and the recreations thereof) and 'relicked' guitars, the implication persists that a new post-millenial 'authenticity' is measured by ghostly, nostalgic signifiers, forever locked in the amber of an imagined past few actually experienced.
If "the medium is the message", what then is the message, when the medium resembles an opaque replica (plugin, filter, artificial noise-floor) of an older medium, originally designed for 'transparency'?
We are viewing 'through a glass darkly', only this time intentionally, literally.
Reflections of reflections.
Grafton Tanner's excellent "Babbling Corpse" expands further on notions of 'hauntology' examined by both Fisher and Derrida, examining musical forms like Vaporwave through this lens of the uncanny. It's vital reading, well written and engaging.
As part of of my own teaching and composition work, I've just completed the sketch below - a video response to a piece I composed as part of a previous EP, itself something of an exercise in unwitting hauntology. The video itself is composed entirely of youtube clips, most of which are digitisations of kids' toy advertisements from the 50s to 70s - including a number for products for "mothers". I'm fascinated by the maternal gaze here, and that of the 'child' - the lines between volition and passivity which the camera imbues both with, and how these parlay with each other, dependent on product and circumstance.
You may well recognise the brief segments I've culled from the Johnson & Johnsons 'Language of Love' commercial(s) - unlikely examples of prescient hauntology in the 80s advertising cannon. We are as disconcerted by this advertisement's unanswered questions, moved by its exaggerated emotional caricature, framed as voyeurs in an intimately uneasy emotional discourse,
In an era of rampant 'oversharing' on Facebook and Instagram, pre-internet commercials like 1987's "The Language Of Love" are eerily prescient, sitting at a hinge-point between 2nd and 3rd wave Feminism. Prototypical legitimacy via contrived confessional.
Who is this (wealthy?) young mother, so palpably alone in her ward after childbirth?
Where is her partner, family?
Why has her child been taken from her, set to be returned whilst she anxiously waits in psychic limbo?
What is this deep distress which haunts here?
What future awaits which she is so noticeably anxious about?
The dominant tone here is one of deep loneliness, and perhaps a loss of 'self' - an advertisement which speaks to a sudden erasure of one future and the giddy adrenal aftershock of a strange new kind of love.
It struck me enough to create (something of) a video response to.
"The lie is the future, one may venture to say [...]. To tell the truth is, on the contrary, to say what is or what will have been and it would instead prefer the past." - Jacques Derrida
Its just after 8am as I type this, and I’m seated down the back of a gorgeous organic coffee joint in New York’s Meatpacking district, bleary-eyed after attending the Best of Year Awards at the IAC Centre last night.
It's warm, low lit, kind and welcoming as early December varnishes the tarmac with frost outside.
I think that Americans do hospitality better than most, and there's a vitality in this city which Ive missed so very much.
In a previous (and recently re-ignited) incarnation, I was a designer / illustrator – these efforts recently vindicated by some gorgeous work on some evidently award-winning projects for Alex & Co in Sydney, Australia...who sent me here for the weekend. I couldn't be prouder. All art, for me, is cross-modal, interdisciplinary, and often synestheasic - I feel like Alex & Co fundamentally 'get' this - the awards they continue to be nominated for are a testament to a business / design model seeking to be wholistic, dynamic, and interdisciplinary. They are risk takers, in all the right ways.
It's nice to be engaged in these kinds of capacities as a maker-of-work.
Meanwhile…a few photos from... London...
It’s been an incredible few months, based in Hackney , jumping between grimy Dalston, Berlin and now New York for a few more days.
I’m too beleaguered to begin to even comment on the ‘shock and awe’ I’m currently witnessing in London, but the voices of critique and dissent are as strong and pointed as ever. After years watching and reading the work of writes like George Monbiot and Adam Curtis, these slabs of critical theory are hitting home, packing a sucker-punch for those of us straddling the worlds of privilege and survival as arts practitioners and educators. I'm honestly not sure how the story of Britain ends. No one seems to be.
In the light of all things tenuously ‘pre-Brexit’, I’m humbled by the psychic tenacity which London stalwarts are mobilizing in the face of late-capitalism’s protracted death rattle.
London has always been a tough place to survive, and perhaps even more so as class-divides parse further. It's a city unlike any other I've lived in - a definite 'slow burn' seduction, far removed from the curiously robust US postivity, which endures vibrantly in the face of ruthless dictatorship. I'm honored to nestled in Hackey - to take it all in, wide-eyed and very much a small, small fish in a sprawling pond.
After Berlin, I admit I wasn’t entirely braced for the sort of value-shift I’ve encountered in the UK. Meanwhile, the big world turns, and the privilege of being afforded a flat to rent, a bed and warm places to be cannot be overstated. All this with the embrace of an astounding partner…
Gigs and speaking engagements continue, and with them new opportunities and experiments in sonic experimentation, public discourse and teaching work.
I was actually back in Berlin, several weeks previpus, speaking at the remarkable Ableton LOOP conference, as well as making the European debut of my Acharné project, LIVE at the Funkhaus concert hall. The project has been a long time in genesis, and as a live experience was profoundly special to me. The entire LOOP event was unlike any I’ve attended before – a profound exercise in forward-thinking programming and curation, with a welcome focus placed on accessibility, equity and diversity in music practice and education.
Show me a single music ‘conference’ which covers this range of diversity and I’ll be there in a moment’s notice…
Additionally, speaking with Help Musicians, Emika and Nosaj Thing on issues of mental health in arts practice was wonderful, particularly when followed up by a 6am dj set at Tresor the next morning (with luminaries Giles Peterson and Greg Wilson, and new heros JLin, the Discwoman collective and my new absolute hero Sarah Farina.)
Hopefully video footage of the conference will be made available soon. Some vital discourse offered here, and I feel inspired and completely humbled.
2017 has been the year where non-cis voices are finally being heard, and it changes the very fabric of an event like Loop, which is totally greater than the sum of its combined parts. The tide is slowly turning, and thank god that these voices are being given floorspace. We need it.
If you can attend in future years, please consider it.
I'll leave off for here now (there's a big city out there to explore), but I'll leave you with a couple of free audio tools I've been working up, just for fun.
These (FREE DL's!) are far, far from the conceptual work I've been exploring as Acharné... full-body tools / experiments rather than cerebral exercises.
Id been wanting to do a rework of this tune by The Roots for years, and i think the following (with bonus instrumental) hits some sweetspots. It's far, far from perfect, but a worthwhile experiment in low-end theory, boom and bap...
Good Enough (The Grind) is my second offering here... more familiar to Deepchild listeners, chuggy, overdriven...and even a little bit vocal.
More music news to come, and Im very much interested in visual collaborations as things bleed toward 2018. Cast all your votes for dancing...
Greetings from London!
It's been a really long time since I've put together a promo-mix / podcast, and recently (as part of the promo push for my Luminous Pt. 1 ep, I had the pleasure of being approached by Euphonics to prepare a 1 hour mix/podcast, which you can here below, via Soundcloud.
Additionally, for those in the know, the good folks at XLR8R Magazine have recently offered an exclusive bonus-cut as a FREE download, called 'Blush', which you can grab here. As ever, the press-machine rolls on, as do the releases, sample-packs (ok, I've been doing a lot of studio production of late, including recent packs for Sample Magic and now UNGRGRND Sounds) which are available for purchase online.
There's an entire conversation yet to be had here, regarding the politics of sample/loop making for 3rd party producers, and I'm eagerly awaiting interviewing on the subject! Feel free to touch base for any press inquiries, as ever.
Ok, enough talking. Enjoy the mix / podcast below!
*Oh, and finally I've started a somewhat random Instagram profile, for those interested. It's fairly disparate and populated with largely irrelevant material.
1. Intro Dialogue (Yassin Bey interview)
2. Rhythmic Theory x Pessimist – “Cyclic Motion”
3. Holodec – “Drunk Off That Liqa”
4. Burial – “Rodent”
5. Deepchild – “Invocation”
6. DJ Seinfeld – “Feel De Bum Slap”
7. Abayoumi – “Disagree”
8. Boddika – “Acid Jackson”
9. Djrum – “Untitled 9”
10. Deepchild – “Onit”
11. Paleman – “Etch”
12. Deepchild – “Basement Supply”
13. FJAAK – “Attack”
14. Paul Woolford – “Father”
I recently stumbled across Malcolm Gladwell's brilliant Revisionist History Podcast, which I've been consuming voraciously on slow sojourns across London. As a social anthropologist-cum-critical theorist, I've become even more enamored since hearing his lucid reflections committed to audio format. Its' vital, pertinent listening - and a finessed exercise in discourse which directly challenges the reductionist rhetoric of the newsfeed.
Amid the incredible material on offer, one episode struck me as personally resonant, in which Gladwell touches on the idea of transactive memory, or the notion that individuals in a collective / relationship effectively act as storehouses or portals of a kind of collective memory system - at once holding and forming a more complex memory system. I'm new to the concept, but it feels fascinating to me - a notion which dovetails into my studies into 'hauntology' and nostalgia.
Here's Malcolm Gladwell speaking a little more about this....
And some further reflections on the notion of nostalgia, from Holly Herndon, who's work I find wonderfully populist in the very best of ways.
How do transactive memory systems serve to invent orthodoxies in arts practice? There's so much to unpack here - more questions than answered. Gladwell's reflections on transactive memory and Winston Churchill are fascinating..
It's been a big month. After bouncing from Australia to London to Copenhagen to Berlin and back now to London, I'm soundly ensconced in the bosom of Hackney, head-down in audio production for Sample Magic and others (check out my recent Lo-Fi Techno sample pack here) and slowly acclimatizing to life in the UK, forging connections and dusting off the burnished pipes of pedagogy along the way.
Loads coming up, including a cameo at the Ableton LOOP Conference in a couple of months, as well as the usual mix of gigs, audio commissions an lecturing work around the place.
Meanwhile, I thought given the current state of world politics, I'd dig up and make available a cover version I produced of The Specials "Racist Friend", some years ago. Enjoy.
MOUSSY STUDIOWEAR 8/25(FRI)Debut.
『How Long？ My Satisfaction』
I've very much enjoyed working with Sample Magic for several years now - producing audio loops, Ableton Live presets and more. I'm more than excited to finally launch my most recent offering, which we've (perhaps somewhat generically) called "Lo-Fi Techno". As with most of my work, it really is an extension of my work, study and musical output. In other words, these sample packs (others of which include Analogue Techno and Analogue House are really representative of the kinds of material you'll hear on my albums as both Acharné and Deepchild.
These packs are, of course, royalty free to use - in other words, by purchasing, you are infact free to use them in your own productions without purchasing additional publishing / licensing rights.
With this in mind, I hope that for fans, students and producers alike, they add something to the collective collaborative musical experiment. Whether or not they end up on big room releases like this or this or are just fun to mess around with, I'm so excited to be able to release these into the world.
Naturally, I'd LOVE to hear from any of you making use of these tools, loops, instruments.
I love the experience of hearing how others 'hear' these micro-sketches, loops, noodles and hooks...
And here, a few tracks which have made great use of my production work in the past...
My last album, "Innocence and Suburbia", has been receiving some wonderful press of late, most recently from the esteemed Kate Hennessy at The Guardian.
Having stepped away from Berlin for a while, it's been quite a change of cultural climate here in Australia, and I'm honored to know that (despite the lure of the beach, and our draconian 'lock out laws') this album has landed on willing ears. There's not much to add, here, but read on... a remarkable selection of fellow antipodeans are also mentioned...
Amidst my constant posts about pedagogy, futurism, melancholia and neoliberalism, it's easy to lose sight of the gratuitous joy of pop music.
Ariana Grande has certainly become the subject of much focus of late - a bona-fide post-tween idol, placed front and centre in the light of the recent tragedy in Manchester. More power to her for her gracious response to the tragedy too.
Grande's work tends to be heavy on the saccharine teen-love side of things, underscored by some moment of simply superb songwriting... and (imho) a devastatingly great set of vocal chords.
Ariana is a legit singer.
Full credits for the original "Into You" can be found here which stands as one of my personal favorite pop sculptures of 2016...
I decided to take this on as a remix exercise to re-imagine a slightly deeper, more grown-up take on the original, which (to my ears) is a little heavy on an over-tooled EDM production aesthetic - which is somewhat tragic, as the original track and vocal arrangement is superb, classic pop-writing perfection.
I've offered my instrumental retake as an additional download here too - incase anyone would like to take it and make it their own (remix of a remix anyone?). I'd love to hear what other vocalists might bring to the table here. Take it and run with my blessing.....
Ultimately, "Into You" has always sounded like a backroom, bump-n-grind exercise in woozy love-making. It's the spirit I've tried to channel here - in all its 'austerity-free' glory.
Let's face it - the warmth of human bodies under low light with a little red-wine will liberate us in ways in which Thatcherism and it's acolytes could only dream of.
Deep respect to Ariana, and all those makin' love, bleedin' down the night, and shinin' on in dark times. Love, especially today for friends and familyin London, Manchester Berlin and across Europe.
I miss you all deeply. Play these loud - bonus points for anyone who sends through video evidence, which I'll gladly post here.
Here are 20 or so additional sketches / downloads from my Soundlcoud page, for any interested - a mixture of mastered, unmastered, work in progress and previously released works. And yes, that Alicia re-redux has well and truly clocked 100,000+ plays now. Who knew?
A selection of some personal favorites from the last 10 years of releases, as my 6th album, "Neukölln Burning" reaches its 5th anniversary of release...
"The Detroit electro duo Drexciya used the ocean as a springboard (and while we’re talking about metaphors, I’m sorry for mixing them there) for one of the most elaborate conceptual frameworks that electronic music has known. For the millions of enslaved Africans who did not survive the Middle Passage, the ocean was a graveyard. Yet Drexciya managed to take this genocidal history and spin it into the basis for an experiment in Afro-futurist science fiction. In their musical (re)telling, the unborn children of pregnant women who were thrown overboard did not perish; they adapted and survived. These Drexciyans, as this ambitious mutant species was known, flourished underwater, breathing through gills and utilizing webbed appendages, battling the forces of human greed atop their Wavejumpers." - Philip Sherburn
“Our technology forces us to live mythically” – Marshall McLuhan
I was recently asked by a colleague to offer up some reflections on the topic of depression, and I seek to offer some initial musings on the subject below.
In typical style, these are more a selection of personal conjecture, grounded in curiosity, anecdote, speculation. I speak primarily from personal experience as a performer, though now also as a curious academic, navigating my way through a very real, complex bunch of conditions. I hope you'll forgive my verbosity.
The myth of the 'tortured artist' is intimately enmeshed with the official histories of the Colonialist / Judeo Christian arts canon.
From St John Of The Cross to Vincent Van Gough, the image of an isolated practitioner (usually male), battling an eternal 'dark night of the soul' is a familiar one.
It's also a myth effectively repurposed, in subtle, but somewhat different light by the multitude 'liberation theologies' across the African Musical Diaspora, which have quietly derailed 'white spiritual individualism' from the vantage point of a marginalised majority.
Examined elegantly in books like Lewis Hyde's "Trickster Makes This World" (for those interested in further reading) we encounter the archetype of the 'trickster / shaman', cosmically fucking with the earnest and morally assured - usually with pants around his ankles, laughing loudly all the while.
On one side of pop history we might encounter the sorts of self-negating archetypes embodied by Sid Vicious, Leonard Cohen, Metallica or Hillsong Church.... on the other, George Clinton, Sun Ra, Fela Kuti, Drexciya, Linton Kwesi Johnson - and (of course!) so many nuanced shades in between, particularly in emergent digital community.
I realise I'm painting very clumsy brush strokes here, but you get the idea... I hope.
These individuals are far richer, more complex and nuanced than their public personas might suggest - and this is central to my thesis. The public persona of the artist is a product of industry, as much as reality. And this industry needs blood, hysteria and drama in order to fund itself.
I'm fascinated by examining projections - spectres of the real; in diving a little deeper beneath the surface waters to discover richer cultural oceans they've sprung from.
"The current ruling ontology denies any possibility of a social causation of mental illness. The chemico-biologization of mental illness is of course strictly commensurate with its depoliticization. Considering mental illness an individual chemico-biological problem has enormous benefits for capitalism." - Mark Fisher, from "Capitalist Realism"
I think it could be worthwhile to unpick how populist archetypes frame and condition our experience as arts-workers, as I believe that the exercise might help offer up useful tools for self-reflextion, as we examine the reality that sometimes 'music' might actually be making us sick...
I'll touch on industry economics in subsequent posts.... though studies like the above from helpmusicians.org.uk are indicative of real systemic problems and workplace realities facing many arts-workers.
I contend that this culture of real-world struggle is in fact fed and inflamed by the sorts of 'transcendent' narratives embedded in contemporary music culture - many the results of a particular flavour of post-war individualism.
Is there an alternative paradigm beyond the 'vocational / transcendent' we might imagine? I think so.
For musical traditions (eg Sufi, South American, Japanese) beyond the direct influence of the 'gospel' legacy, the image of the artist 'martyr' is often supplanted by that of an artist 'shaman' - two very different embodiments of performative suffering - and perhaps even subsequent collective 'deliverance'.
The former archetype sits alongside its twin sibling of the Buddhist 'hungry ghost' - both the martyr and hungry ghost seeking deliverance through either deprivation / isolation or over-consumption / grandstanding. Twin heads of the "Janus of illusory separation", to mix somewhat awkward metaphors.
The latter shamanic archetype of the might in fact be deemed a community asset - part priest, yet less invested in personalisation of, 'art as moral product', leaning instead toward 'art as process'.
In a public arts (read performative!) roll, many of us find ourselves embodying / exploring both incarnations at various times .....at least when it comes to writing press-releases....
Guilt and shame.
These twin currencies both tussle throughout the canon (I kissed a girl and I liked It!), and offer great grit for the pop mill. And yet.... I often wonder if the construct of the 'fucked up artist' invoking these notions is in part just self-actualising convenience - a marketing construct designed to precluding mature engagement with them.
Drama, at its most base level, lubricates our new media economy - from Donald Trumps vitriolic Tweets, to speculations about Katy Perry's mental decline. It's intentional stuff, and it serves to further fortify existing arts archetypes - imbuing them with bankable neurosis.
You get the gist.
I offer this as someone whose life has been legitimately marked by actual 'depression', in addition to extreme privilege; the latter concession offered as a way of demarking 'vanilla' struggle from the kind of claustrophobic, illogical terror which pays heed to neither class nor circumstance.
I say this, also, as someone who's made some decent work from the bowels of mental exhastion*, yet who feels now that I have little interest in imbuing struggle with any implicit moral value.
No one has a monopoly on suffering - but it might just be in our collective interest to examine boldly why arts-culture tends to elevate it.
I contend that if we genuinely seek to unpick the romanticism of 'suffering for art', we might actually find some useful ways of ameliorating the struggles of actual depression - some very concrete tools and strategies. We might also benefit from some harsh scrutiny of the traditions (religious and economic) which perversely lionize 'struggle' for its own sake - or rather, for the sake of cultivating a sort of 'spiritual scarcity' - one satiated by consumption.
To cite a caricatured example, the central premise of talent shows like X-Factor, posits that those who 'succeed', or 'triumph', or 'win' (note the language of exceptionalism here) are inevitably validated due to their perceived struggles. These earnest struggles (be they suicidal inclinations, financial disenfranchisement, personal loss, health issues) are often legitimate, yet the exploitation of them by cultural industry feels indicative of malevolent shadow of "Capitalism 101"; a grain-fed dissatisfaction rooted in the curious legacy of notions like the Protestant Work Ethic .
"tell me why you've chosen that song?"
"....I lost my best friend 2 years ago...."
A common fiction tacitly suggests that 'unless you know what it means to suffer, you can't make good art' - in fact, your work might very well be unworthy of trust. This (to quality my statement) has frequently been my experience quarters of the electronic music world with personal investment in topographically specific 'urban' genres (eg. 'Detroit techno' or 'Newcastle Hardcore').
On paper, this sounds legitimate enough. But it's really a half-truth, hiding some profoundly elitist assumptions.
God is not a dj.
The real fallacy here is - of course - that there are those (most likely 'non-artists') who somehow haven't understood the 'authentic' depression a rarefied arts class might spend lifetimes being railroaded into embodying. The fallacy consumers must be liberated by the work of a 'visionary' - a sacrificial, tortured 'artist' - who possesses a preternatural insight beyond the scope of the everyman.
I don't find this a particularly helpful or liberating notion. I don't believe that anyone has a monopoly on suffering, or on the genuine gifts which arts practice can really offer us - simple reminders of our shared journey, and our beautifully transient, gorgeously irrational human lives.
Producing work now on a weekly basis with genuinely marginalized voices, I have good reason to assume there might exist a different, more robust, pragmatic (perhaps even joyful) framing of 'the musician' and 'music practice' in our collective story. We need not romanticize or fabricate struggle for an artist's work to engage deeply with the cultural imagination, in it's many hues.
To be continued....
*I remain a practicing artist invested in developing tools to navigate the quagmire of bipolar type B depression, generalised anxiety disorder and a curious history of mental-health struggle - one (in my case) marked previously by a hyper-vigilance which has thankfully softened over the years. It's manifested in multitude forms since my teens - from anorexia through insomnia, substance-abuse and self-medication, suicidal fantasies, panic attacks, claustrophobia and leaden fatigue. Subsequent to a decade of medication protocols (concluded over 3 years ago) I've found remarkable tools in the form of diet, exercise, and radical re-imagining of what a work/life balance might look like in a gentler light. I'll discuss these in future posts...
I'll start here by offering up a quote from Ayn Rand.
She's an individual who's philosophy on 'productivity' I find a startlingly disconcerting....yet certainly (willingly or otherwise) one co-opted by many authors of 'aspirational' 20th century capitalism. The Rand narrative espouses individualism, competition and the free market economy - and along with this, corollary myths of 'efficiency' and radical individuation as indicators of social progress.
Rand was a prophet for the many powerbrokers of this this epoch, yet now appears specter-like and almost quaint in the light of Messrs Trump, Thatcher, Reagan and co... her writing is both pointed and defiant, and in an odd way almost refreshingly uncensored in its lack of sentimentality. Where contemporary US Republicans insist 'God' underwrites their economic mandate, Rand grimaces in disdain that her thesis should require divine approval.
Rand's work, Atlas Shrugged and personal philosophy of Objectivism form part of the unofficial cannon of neoliberalism.
Arguably, Rand was also a Rachmaninoff fan.... Trump, interestingly enough, also (with unexpected diversions into.....erm....Steve Reich?).
Roughly a year ago, I had the pleasure of attending composer Max Richter's "Sleep" concert at the Sydney Opera House. I first encountered the fellow Berliner and current darling of the contemporary-classical world through his work on Erased Tapes.
I was previously moved by his elegaic score for The Leftovers, rarely having encountered a more elegant meditation on the collective experience of grief in television format. Its still recommended viewing, and ridiculously on-point scoring / music supervision.
Richter went on to compose the wonderful title music for Charlie Brooker's dystopic Black Mirror series; a brutally mirthful, "Gilliam-eque" commentary on the cognitive dissonance inherent in late-stage capitalism's hyper-mediated multiverse.... Brooker's work reads like 12-guage discharge, smattering effigies of Murdoch's straw-men across the plastic storefront of fading McMedia.
Black Mirror renders in stark relief the disconnect between our need for grace, community and connection, and the terrifying void of the surveillance state, reality television, social media, online 'self-actualisation' and more. It's both harrowing and screamingly funny, and territory well canvassed in the past by Terry Gilliam.
But back to Sleep, and what made it so remarkable for me...
What, I believe, ties together both Black Mirror and The Leftovers (aside from Richter's involvement) is an attempt to dramatically engage with the ginding fatigue we experience as 'collateral damage' from the neoliberal condition.
What do we 'do' with loss, with the inexplicable, when the institutions of church, state and work-mythos are proved bunk? Where do we go? How do we deal....?
Perhaps our latter-day plagues find form as Depersonalisation, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Chronic Fatigue, or just vanilla-flavored loneliness... hygeine neurosis, orthorexia, fixation, conspiracy theory, ADHD, over-medication, alcoholism, suicidal morbidity.
Most likely, a combination of the above. You get the idea. You understand because you feel it to. There's 'something in the way of things', as Amiri Baraka would say....
"...I can see something in the way of our selves
I can see something in the way of our selves
That's why I say the things I do, you know it
But it's something else to you
Like that job
This morning when you got there and it was quiet
And the machines were yearning soft behind you
Yearning for that nigga to come and give up his life
Standin' there bein' dissed and broke and troubled
My mistake is I kept sayin' "that was proof God didn't exist"
And you told me, "nah, it was proof that the devil do..."
- Amiri Baraka ("Something in the Way of Things (In Town)", exerpt)
This fatigue is informed by the concurrent disintegration of 'traditional' value systems (for better or worse) and slow nose-dive into a sort of 'post-moral' Randian universe. (*Ayn Rand's rejection of altruism and advocacy for radical market deregulation were major influences on many boomer entrepreneurs, including (apparently) the late Steve Jobs....*)
But i'm digressing, once more.
For my students reading, there's certainly some creative research I trust this post affords. Start with Any Rand, bounce to Amiri Baraka, and then grab a drink (but for the love of god, please don't make it Pabst Blue Ribbon. It has no flavor nor redeeming qualities).
Meet you back here in 15...? Watch this first, though...
So, to Max's "Sleep'. A 31-part, 504 minute work (weighing in at around 8 hours of performance), Sleep was designed to be experienced as an exercise in hypnagogia, exploring the borderlands between the waking and sleeping states. Labelled as a 'lullaby', or a 'mediation' by reviewers, I contend that the performance was all this and more (and quite beautiful work by soprano Grace Davidson, in addition).
What really struck me, however, were some fundamental truths the work spoke to - the fact that the performance itself (from 11pm to roughly 730am in the morning) demanded a surrender into unknowing, forgetting, physical acquiescence, lack of cognitive proficiency, let alone efficiency
Sleep proffers counterpoint to say, for example, Facebook's "On This Day" audiovisual memeography. It engenders forgetting, rather than remembering. An exercise in deconstruction, release, in half-lit experience, smeared recollection and in what I'll call "sacred inefficiency".
Unless under the influence of stimulants (or jetlag), staying awake and attentive for the duration of the night's performance is rendered impossible, as is soundly sleeping through the work. I feel that, to 'try' to do either, would probably be missing Richter's point. 'Sleep' offers a place where 'mindfulness as hypervigillance' is beautifully unravelled.
"Sleep" offers a reminder that we require physiological rest - and that perhaps our arts experience / practice might help afford a quiet reminder of this, beyond a consumption based-model.
Nowhere to go.
No-one to be.
Nothing to be achieved.
Nothing to be acquired.
Nothing to remember.
I remember 'waking' at 730 in the morning, looking across Sydney Harbor, as winter rain fell in thick sheets.
What struck me as I looked around, was not so much the music, but the people who had been part of the experience. Disheveled, half-naked (well, I was) and curiously vulnerable, the experience for many had offered itself up a a requiem, meditation and perhaps reminder or some kind of rebirth amid the tumult. There were more than a few tears observable during the night - what strange magic was this?
Who are we when we 'stop' - really stop, perhaps even collectively.
What lies beneath our need to forget and to decouple (yet also far beyond mere amnesia, nihilism, indifference?) and how can we embrace it fully in wakefulness and in sleep....
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Recently, I asked some students and fellow teachers I've been working with to remix my work. I am stunned by the results. There's also a previously unreleased original track, "The Child", tail-ending this little EP. I'm deeply humbled, and grateful to have had this opportunity.
"Emerging from the shadowy half-light of Acharné's debut album release, "Innocence And Suburbia", Seppüku Records presents 3 exceptional re-interpretations of the album's title track, and an exclusive unreleased original.
Unifying these remixes, is the unlikely fact that all artists involved are both practitioners, teachers and students of music; active students and co-workers in the artist's pedagogical sphere.
All re-interpetations are the result of both personal engagement with original album material, and experiments in composition strategy developed by Rick Bull (Acharné) during a recent semester spent teaching at the Australian Institute of Music, in close collaboration with fellow teacher Luke Warren (Microlot).
From Kcin's ruptured noise-floor aesthetic to Benefield's mutant piano inflections, we've experienced in these exceptional reworks a breathless reminder of the joy of 'unlearning' a little of what students are frequently taught remix culture 'should' signify in an often claustrophobic hyper-normalised sonic world.
All re-interpretations are unified by an shared sense of expansiveness, textural detail and stunning sound design, by some of the the antipodes most remarkable young composers.
The student is the teacher...."
Released June 6, 2017
Remixes by Amelia Benefield (Benefield), Luke Warren (Microlot) and Nicholas Meredith (Kcin)
Original works composed by Rick Bull (Acharné)
Mastered by Jay Hodgson Mastering Assistant: Jennifer McIntyre
Artwork by Tom Phillipson