Feature: 2017: Favorite 50 Songs

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NOTE: Each day this week, we will share a new 10-track mix, which together represent 50 of our favorite songs from 2017. Now, grab your sweatband and leggings: today’s theme is “GYM,” mixed by Corrigan B!

I have a reputation for being ruthlessly optimistic, which is why I typically hate this kind of shit: yearly ritual lamentations on things like racist soap commercials and weird presidential takedowns of professional football players; in retrospectives like this, it seems like we always group our collective grievances in odd numbers, truncating our listing of injustices for brevity and politeness. This approach — of remembering and marking a year like we’re scratching off days on a culturally misappropriated doom calendar — has always struck me as insincere and offensive, but then it ends, and it’s weird looking back at what we went through and what got us through. Another arbitrary amount of time has passed, and yet it really does feel heavy. Death is real. Words fail. Mask on. Fuck it, mask off! So we pick a song and close our eyes and turn it up.

And what were we blaring this year that warped time’s mundane and oppressive rhythms? What mutterings slowed us down when we were spinning out of control? What sounds launched us through uncertainty and landed us somewhere a little more familiar, if even for just a few minutes? There was no high canon guiding our self-care other than what we needed, and aren’t we all a little less particular about what kind of noise lifts us up when we’re fumbling through our first yoga class at the GYM, screaming obscenities into the glowing rectangular VOID, remembering love and loss on the brisk face of the CLIFF, shuffling home through the ALLEY at night, driving away from it all in the COUPE? We don’t have EVERYTHING listed here, but for us, a lot of these tracks were EVERYTHING this year.

So, in that spirit of dissolving hierarchies of taste, this list is not ranked; instead, here are five themed mixes of our Favorite Songs of 2017. How you interact with them is your choice: you can nod along, you can face the noise stoically, you can dance, you can laugh at some of our choices, and most importantly, no matter what anybody tells you, it’s okay to cry. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. However you remember 2017, just know that you’re not alone, and don’t let a crotchety optimist like me tell you to smile through it all. Just pick a song and close your eyes and turn it up. You’ll know what to do when you hear it.

PART 1: “GYM” mixed by Corrigan B


“Tail Lift”

[Hessle Audio]

Given its title, it was unsurprising that Joe’s “Tail Lift” was concerned with momentum. Like the piece of machinery it’s named after, “Tail Lift” was always pushing things upwards. Over the course of its nearly six-minute runtime, the track shook and shimmied, balancing chirps, whistles, chimes, and bells over an insistent, doubled beat that was constantly falling over and into itself. These propulsive movements were adorned, interrupted, and joined along the way by fellow sonic travelers drawn to the upbeat procession — children’s voices, glassy keys, miniature melodies — suffusing the track with a caffeinated, off-kilter mien. Dalliances with the weird were frequent here; cartoonish pops, drums, and squeaks bursting into view as the track underwent one of several mini-implosions, its parts falling to the ground before being picked up again, their order jumbled, soldered-together edges overflowing with molten metal. “Tail Lift” was the sonic embodiment of this aleatory backyard readymade: equal parts humorous, conceptual, and functional; archly constructed and strangely satisfying.

Lil B

“Wasup Jojo”


Feels like a track might be the wrong kind of unit for looking at something by Lil B. Like, look at scales of magnitudes, not at atoms. But on the other hand, everything in the universe is literally in everything else. And I mean that — all of the BasedWorld is in everything Lil B does, and when Black Ken, in its nostalgic Bay Area references, seemed like it was doing something out of reverence for “ancient history,” it turns out that those things were sucked into Lil B’s ambit too. He’s not referring to them; they refer to him from now on: “Wasup JoJo” — it’s a NODE, the busiest in the switchover.

Fever Ray

“To the Moon and Back”


Fever Ray’s Karin Dreijer is so notorious for her enigmatic identity and arresting visuals that we often forget just how gifted a songwriter she is. “Hey, remember me/ I’ve been busy working like crazy,” she reminded us on “To the Moon and Back,” her first song of new music since 2009. A bouncy synth-pop jam more reminiscent of the playful Deep Cuts-era Knife material than Dreijer’s previous output under the Fever Ray alias, the song was crafted from a series of expertly layered synth lines that built to a orgasmic release, a tantalizing taste of what we had been missing.

Nídia Minaj

“Puro Tarraxo”

[Príncipe Discos]

I don’t get into aerobics, but half of Nídia Minaj’s kuduro beats could function as Zumba fodder. If you threw on “Puro Tarraxo” though, you were plain fucked. There was the semblance of slowed-down reggaeton in there, but it was too slow to follow properly; besides, every rhythmic element was either tripping on its time signatures or moshing with the others. It was the sound of getting down on the yoga mat for about 20 seconds before realizing you were waaay too out of shape for this, but holy shit everyone else is doing it so you’ve gotta keep going gotta keep going gotta keep going gotta keep *faints*



[Club Chai]

Club Chai, a collective whose mission is to “[centre] diasporic narratives, women and trans artists, DJs, and producers,” is important. Club Chai Vol. 1, their first major release, put the Oakland-based label on the map, and co-founder FOOZOOL’s track “AZAT” was a diamond among its many gems. Effortlessly mixing an opera-backing sample with a gritty guitar lead, the track exemplified what Club Chai Vol. 1 is all about: dance tracks full of “how the hell did they think of that” moments. We’re already chomping on our nails in anticipation for volume 2.

Kelly Lee Owens

“Anxi.” (ft. Jenny Hval)

[Smalltown Supersound]

Have you ever wondered where those joggers go? You know, the ones you see every day on a routine? Oh, sure, they go in a loop: From start to end, a simple route with clearly defined points of direction. No deviation. No direction. But are they going somewhere? Do they even see anything on their path, observe the world around them? Are they even there? I think not. Joggers mechanize. They aren’t going anywhere. They’re fulfilling maintenance that has no bearing, no effect in the long term. They’ll break down eventually. What meaning will they have then?

DJ Hell

“I Want U”

[International Deejay Gigolo]

Taken from Zukunftsmusik (the title of which is German for “music of the future”), DJ Hell’s “I Want U” is a song about fucking. Specifically, as is obvious from the track’s associated artwork lifted from legendary homoerotic fetish artist Touko Laaksonen (a.k.a. Tom of Finland), it’s about huge, strong men fucking, but the instrumental worked for anyone with genitals. This face-blast of industrial techno pumped harder than Louis C.K. in front of an aspiring female comic, but unlike Louis, this track won’t make you feel disgusting inside after the experience. “I Want U” was an affirmation, an ode to the bears among us. It fed all kinds of muscles.




Drunk as shit. Tumble, starfish, curl. In bed, not in love. Not in love, not in love. Say it without opening Instagram. Too late. Illuminated by neon at the dive. Rose light. Obsessed with it. And you, fuck. Remember yelling along to our favorite songs all summer while driving the hell out of town? Remember glittering my eyelids before the party? Remember wearing backless velvet? I tried getting over it. Promised I would. Hated it. Shit, we were radiant. Magic. I forget why it ended. The crush, the rush. The energy. I would do anything. Text me? Please?

Ariel Pink

“Time to Live”

[Mexican Summer]

He’s one part Bowie, one part nonsense-babbling toddler; he has arguably released more #1 smash hits than anyone in history, but in a dearly departed genre. Here, Ariel Pink returned to the cassette-left-on-the-dashboard production style of his early work, fording two and a half minutes of wind tunnels and monsters before his Trump-era call to arms gained full force. There was a layer of absurdist comedy to his divinations and absolutist pronouncements, but he committed 110% — as we all must. He turned into Princess Ariel for the watery coda and headed home with another W.



[PC Music]

I’m still not sure what a POBBLE is, but I think I want to eat one. The hyperactive Tomagatchi/marshmallow hybrid was offensively PC Music and also possibly the end to human despair. Accompanied by a video that must have been a nightmare to animate, the collaboration between A. G. Cook and Always & Forever Computer Entertainment had enough juice to fry a battery. Where can I buy a POBBLE? Are they like pets? Should I water it? Whatever it is, I’m sure my dentist advises against it.

Come back tomorrow for the “VOID” mix.

Utrecht’s Le Guess Who? Isn’t Like Any Festival You’ll See In The USA

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These days, whenever all the big-name American festivals start to announce their lineups for the year, there’s inevitably a certain, noticeable same-ness. It’s a consequence of those festivals becoming more popular than at their inception, with festival-going becoming an overall more mainstream activity in America; it’s a consequence of the music industry’s contractions and … More »

Lindstrøm – “Bungl (Like A Ghost)” (Feat. Jenny Hval)

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It’s Alright Between Us As It Is, the first solo album from Norwegian producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm since 2012’s Smalhans, finally arrives this Friday. We’ve already heard the infectious, spaced-out disco of “Shinin,” which featured Grace Hall on vocals, and the instrumental “Tensions.” Now Lindstrøm has shared one more preview of the new record: … More »

Feature: Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York 2017

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Red Bull Music Academy returned to New York this year for yet another well-curated series of performances, lectures, club nights, and workshops. As is tradition now, TMT sent a few writers to cover some of these events, which included a hip-hop piano bar show, Brazilian bass music, a showcase for one of our favorite labels, an interdisciplinary performance piece/meditation, and a couple lectures from two vital artists of our time.

Solange: An Ode To
Photo: Krisanne Johnson / Red Bull Content Pool

After the late performance of An Ode To had ended, Solange Knowles took some time to speak to the audience about the piece she had just performed for us, her development as a musician, and the space she had just occupied for her work. Referring to the Guggenheim Museum’s atrium, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed “temple” that has been home to countless exhibitions and performances of significance, Solange spoke of wanting to “immerse my work in the daylight,” of “having a show where I can see the faces” of the people there to see her. This quality of light was one of the most striking things about Ode: the combination of bright sun from the building’s skylight (both of the show’s performances were scheduled in the afternoon) and flat, even museum lighting gave the work a context that immediately made it something different than just “Solange playing in a museum.” And it was true, you could see everyone’s face in the small crowd that was brought in, dress code and all (those in the audience who did not heed Knowles’s request to dress in all white were few, and easily spottable). This, and the fact that much of those in attendance were seated on the ground just feet away from the band, gave the event an incredible sense of intimacy; in staging and tone, An Ode To felt almost private, a personal work by a young artist both in development and at the top of her game, wildly talented and still growing.

This piece was a substantial step in that growth: billed in the program as “an interdisciplinary performance piece and meditation,” Solange took elements from A Seat At The Table and rebuilt them, framing them in new ways — often stripping the arrangements down to their absolute minimum, at others exploding them with a new, startling sense of size. The core band was skeletal, augmented by two backup singers and a recurring cast of dancers and horn players — and though the music was the center of the performance, Solange seemed just as committed to exploring the work physically, leading her ensemble in precise, often beautiful choreography (done in cooperation with dance coordinator Eloise Deluca) and expressive a capella breaks that were, more than just a compliment to the songwriting, as much a piece of the work as her music.

Photo: Stacy Kranitz / Red Bull Content Pool

At times it felt like Solange was ripping open her album and re-examining it on a microscopic level, and the evening’s trajectory from its hauntingly minimal opening numbers to the explosion of feeling in her dual performances of “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “FUBU” (through which Solange walked through the crowd to sing directly to those gathered, causing at least one man she approached during the show I attended to have a complete ‘Oh my fucking god solange is standing right next to me’ meltdown — one of the few instances where the close-quarters of the room served to amplify the singer’s goddess status) felt like an investigation of what exactly the limits of this music were.

Embracing the atrium as a necessary component of the performance — having her players descend down the ramp to the performance area, hiding her horn section under its walls, or more concretely using the chamber’s space to amplify the echo of basslines, solitary snare hits, or the complex three-part vocal breaks, almost dub-like in their hugeness — Solange built something site-specific and yet with resonances beyond this set of concerts. This, and Solange’s ability to fill the historically white space — figuratively and literally — of the Guggenheim with persons of colors (whether her entirely black and brown band or the vast majority of those in attendance) resonated as both an assertion of Solange’s power, and the ability for change within music to ripple out as broader, Earthly changes, and in some way an echo of the work’s broader exploration of expression voiced against its opposite.

Sacred Bones 10 Year Anniversary
Photo: Krisanne Johnson / Red Bull Content Pool

Sometimes I want to be devastated. The morning of the Sacred Bones 10 Year Anniversary showcase, I drew the ten of swords. How fitting. One for each year. The ten of swords is about hitting rock bottom and falling apart. Mine depicts a bull stabbed in the head. One sword even pierces the eyes. Usually I read this card as a warning. Get outside your mind before it eats you alive. I know I should have at least tried to be more vigilant. Instead, I turned to my friend and said that it felt perfect for Sacred Bones.

What I mean is, I entered Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse thinking about collision. A giant moon hung from the rafters. I became aware of the space as malleable and tried not to understand. I wanted to feel it. Emotionally and viscerally. How else can I describe the experience other than to call it spiritual?

Perhaps it has to do with juxtaposition. Like being ripped in half while watching Uniform and again while watching Marissa Nadler. Both strangely meditative. Uniform wrought havoc in the form of relentless noise. Like a vicious cycle indicative of how frustrating and limiting it can feel to live inside a body as the entire world burns. How everything seems impossible, at least everything but clawing up the walls and screaming into a void. Nadler described that void. Glimpsed it and shed light upon the center when she sang, “I can’t go back, I don’t wanna go back, to that house or that life again.” I felt my heart break like a window thrown open in the middle of a storm. Like I was listening alone in my bedroom.

Photo: Ysa Perez / Red Bull Content Pool

I want music to fuck me up and scrape me out and leave me wondering where to go. This is why I love Sacred Bones. Watching The Men play with all of their original members, I thought about how it felt to discover Sacred Bones when I was on the radio in college. I had just begun listening to more dissonant and intense music, and pretty much anything released on Sacred Bones would freak me out. And I loved it. I still love it.

Jenny Hval wore black velvet with a hood. She wore a black wig. She said we would all become family through blood ties. She moved through fog. She received a haircut while singing. She snaked her arms around her collaborators. The line between song and manifesto disappeared, which left me considering the body and the idea of ceremony. Magic as political. I had been inhabited and transformed. Part of me was somewhere else. Blanck Mass made the ritual of noise and light so huge that it was like the whole space had been swallowed.

Zola Jesus ended the show with kinetics. I mean, pop so shattered and frenzied I felt hypnotized. Oscillating between the cathedral and the rave. Between gothic and cosmic. It was an ideal culmination of the energy swirling all night inside Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse. Like a vibration powered by obsession with darkness and weirdness. I felt a shift inside my body upon leaving. Simply existing was totally different.

Piano Nights: Gucci Mane and Zaytoven
Photo: Krisanne Johnson / Red Bull Content Pool

It’s a cliché meme for someone to say “I am the American Dream,” and in an era with such little room for systemic romanticization, such a proclamation is also politically problematic at best. Nevertheless, Gucci Mane is the American Dream.

If you’re like me, or any of the numerous other hip-hop devotees who’ve eventually come around to Guwop, the first time you heard him, you couldn’t understand a word he was saying. “Mumble-rap,” as it’s now called today, may be stylistic affectation for some, but there was no such phrase back when Gucci started doing it; probably because not since Rakim had a rapper put so many words together so poetically while sounding so close to falling asleep.

In some parallel world, an alternate version of myself would never dare to use Rakim and Gucci’s names in the same sentence, but here we are. Rap is “mumble-rap,” the phrase itself is an anachronism functioning primarily as an age identifier of the writer who writes it, and this 31-year-old writer has watched Gucci Mane perform some of his most popular songs in a swank cocktail bar on the Lower East Side, accompanied by his producer Zaytoven on live piano.

Photo: Carys Huws / Red Bull Content Pool

Forget arrest records, jail bids, shootings, rap beefs, Twitter meltdowns, Harmony Korine courtings — forget all that, because it’s not what I’m referring to when I say Gucci Mane is the American Dream. I’m not talking about the American Dream of the bootlegger turned politician or the drug dealer turned real estate mogul. I’m not talking about the American Dream of Fitzgerald’s Gatsby or DiCaprio’s. I am talking about the American Dream of American music.

Arguably our greatest cultural achievements, jazz, blues, rock, and hip-hop music were all originally perceived as amusical by the critical powers that be and eventually recognized as expressions of “higher art,” whatever that may be.

I’m not trying to absolve myself here. When I first heard Gucci Mane, I might not have gone so far as to say it wasn’t hip-hop, but I definitely didn’t hear what others heard, simply because I had never heard anyone rap like that before. I literally didn’t understand what he was saying.

I can only speak for myself , but I’ve personally witnessed yesterday’s proto-“mumble-rap” become today’s instantly sold-out black-tie affair of the millennium — dress code for the event called for attendees to wear their “finest formal wear” — and as far as I’m concerned that’s the American Dream.

A Conversation with Alvin Lucier
Photo: Krisanne Johnson / Red Bull Content Pool

Perhaps the best story told at Alvin Lucier’s intimate gathering in the basement of Red Bull Arts was his response to the question of what, if any, recent versions of his legendary work “I Am Sitting In A Room” have been most meaningful to him. As Lucier described it, after a concert performance of the piece at MIT, a 10-year-old boy came up to the man and declared: “That’s cool!” The boy then later went home and recorded his own version of the work on his laptop and emailed it to the legendary composer. This, Lucier said, was a version he liked a lot.

Watching Lucier speak, it seems much of what gives life to his work — even at its most conceptually adventurous — is this very down-to-Earthness, an embrace of the everyday, the generosity of spirit and lack of pretense that allows the experiments of a child to stand alongside that of a “legitimate” performance venue. Elsewhere, Lucier explained that he wrote his own text for Sitting in lieu of adapting a poem because he didn’t want to use anything “high falutin’.” Though possessed with perhaps one of the most refined imaginations in experimental composition, he insisted that he was uninterested in “theory.” In Lucier’s words: “My decisions are real.”

Through a life-spanning conversation moderated by Red Bull’s Todd L. Burns, Lucier returned to this theme in many forms. When discussing his coursework as a Professor (preserved, in some form, in his text Music 109) he spoke of trying to “demystify” music for his students, of telling them he was not interested in their opinions, but in their “perceptions.” And as he dove into his own use of perception in his work — whether in using the echolocation of bats as a reference for his use of delay, or how his refracted Beatles arrangement “Nothing Is Real” was meant to capture the sense of remembering “where you were when you heard a song for the first time” — one had the feeling of an artist trying to demystify the senses for himself, grounding the mysterious in something sturdy and real. Evocatively describing how those bats use sound to travel in the dark, Lucier slipped us a kind of statement of purpose: “You can’t cheat if you’re trying to survive.”

Threaded through these discussions of technique were lovely anecdotes of the artist’s large and impressive circle of acquaintances, dishing on everyone from John Ashbery and Nam June Paik to Morton Feldman and, of course, John Cage, who was revealed to have apparently inspired (and/or peer-pressured) the first performance of Lucier’s brain-wave piece “Music For Solo Performer” into existence. Though anecdotally anchoring himself among many of the greats of 20th century art, Lucier left the intimate group gathered to listen to him on an appropriately humble, un-elevated note. When asked by an audience member if music had a “spiritual meaning” for him, he answered, simply: “No.”

Fluxo: Funk Proibidão
Photo: Krisanne Johnson / Red Bull Content Pool

This year’s Red Bull Music Academy takeover of NYC began with the announcement that MC Bin Laden, the headliner for the inaugural evening’s Brazilian bass event, would not be able to perform for reasons out of his and the festival organizers’ control. I found out from a friend that this meant he’d been denied entry at the US border, presumably an exercise of ideological power by immigration officials. RBMA itself embodies corporate accumulation of cultural capital, a late phenomenon toward which discerning ravers maintain a healthy ambivalence, suspended between cynicism and the notion that maybe, particularly if the artists can gain control of it, this type of power could be better than the kind that preceded it.

The announcement, emailed via the ticketing agent the day of the event, brought a latent global power strata to the fore that framed the event: the admittedly neoliberal post-nation-state RMBA agenda versus the utterances of the deep-state monolith, which you only find out about through texts from a friend who knows a friend of someone who was at the border.

And so RBMA NYC 2017 began. Even with MC Bin Laden not present, though, the Fluxo event was stacked with a formidable range of Brazilian bass DJs and emcees, strung together under the banner of maximalist sonic valence with NYC party mainstays Venus X and Asmara, Detroit ghetto house forbearer DJ Assault and the indefinable entity that is Chicago’s Sicko Mobb, who themselves are Red Bull-sponsored artists.

Photo: Krisanne Johnson / Red Bull Content Pool

After being encouraged by the coterie of Red Bull chaperones near to the door to enjoy my evening, I entered the venue to find Sicko Mobb bobbing and jack-balling amidst one another on stage, Ceno wearing a bright red T-shirt with “BALMAIN POWER” printed in shiny bold Impact font across the front. My friend and I quickly situated ourselves behind a car whose interior was rigged with overzealous strobe lights, one of several props situated throughout the venue that upon reviewing the event literature I realized was intended to be a simulation of “the neon-lit car stereos lining the local block parties [in the favelas of Brazil] known as fluxos.”

Despite being obfuscated by a thick wall of smoke-and-strobe that would give Dean Blunt a run for his money, Lil Trav and Ceno breezed through a seemingly arbitrary selection of their metallic, sweet-sad bop songs, still a sound without any real parallels in hip-hop: “Own Lane” and “Go Plug” from the Super Saiyan Vol. 2 mixtape, throwbacks like “Fiesta,” “Hoes Be Goin’,” and “Round and Round.” In lieu of a DJ, an associate played tracks from an iPhone, and following in the tradition of cutting songs short he simply stopped the playback at random points, the music giving way to the sound of smoke and low chatter in the absence of DJ wheel-up sounds.

DJ Assault took the stage shortly thereafter, living up to his name by starting the set out at a casual 145 bpm and playing “Let Me Bang” almost immediately after getting on stage. The venue was only beginning to fill as he warmed up the crowd, plunging headfirst into the obscene territory of booty music blended together with cumbia and proibidão. Obscenity and disorientation seemed to be forming as obvious mantras seeded by the party organizers as I went into the port-a-potty nested inside the warehouse and found it was resonating on beat with the bass, which only served to highlight that there was no respite from the building disorientation of the space. Venus X and Asmara played the mid-event set, rolling out a hip-hop-heavy set that felt somewhat obligatory to the context of the party, and MC Carol did not take the stage until very late, at which point the crowd was not well-positioned to entertain a set of emceeing. We left and hung out in the park, and talked about the slightly off feeling we were left with, and wondered if it was the party or us who was off.

A Conversation with Werner Herzog On Music and Film
Photo: Stacy Kranitz / Red Bull Content Pool

[This lecture review is to be read in the voice of preeminent German filmmaker Werner Herzog: I do not care if this offends him or you; it is critical.]

I was not sure if I would be able to make it to the lecture on time. As it was being held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in one of the many areas of Manhattan with notoriously limited street parking, I elected to take the Long Island Rail Road, which picked me up directly behind my day job in Garden City. Inevitably late, the train did not leave me enough time to reach the venue via public transportation, and because this would have required that I transfer between multiple subways and a bus, I instead hailed a taxi in front of Penn Station. I knew this meant I would have to pay more, as these cabs are permitted by the City to charge extra for the premium pickup location, but I did not care. I had somewhere I needed to be and no way to get there sooner.

Looking at my phone during the 50-block cab ride, I learned President Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey. Also, the publicist facilitating Tiny Mix Tapes’ coverage notified me that the doors were closing. I was dismayed but not altogether discouraged.

When I arrived at the event, a discussion with Werner Herzog on music and film, the gentleman admitting ticketholders and press-listees told me the lecture had only started about five minutes ago. My name being confirmed, I proceeded up the museum steps to a dark auditorium where I was ushered to an empty seat not far from my point of entry.

I saw erected on the stage a faux living room similar to Zach Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns set, but more fully furnished, with couches and a film-projector screen hung above and behind them. At stage right, shrouded in cinematic shadow, stood a tall man looking up at the screen. When the film clip ended, the lights came on revealing him to be Herzog. He seated himself on the couch at center stage and spoke with a nebbish film-critic-type about music in films, his and others.

He indicated he chooses the music for his films almost exclusively by feeling. He cited Fred Astaire’s dance routines as a prime example of the marriage of music and cinema, though in far less romantic terms. He reminisced about teasing Popol Vuh founder Florian Fricke during a friendly soccer match over his interest in New Age thinking and going home badly bruised for it. He said he hadn’t heard the phrase “krautrock” until just a few days earlier. In the Q&A portion of the event, he found occasion to reassert his argument that Elon Musk is acting foolishly in his pursuit of Martian colonization, that humanity would be better served conserving and protecting its home on Earth. He admitted that though there is no purposeful allusion to so-called spirituality in his films, some of his early religious teachings most likely had a lasting effect on his viewpoint and that he always strives to evoke a sense of poetry with his filmmaking to “elevate” the thinking of his viewers.

On my way out, a Red Bull employee offered me a drink from a tray holding multiple colored cans. I took one at random; “Acai Berry”-something, she called it. “Save it for the morning,” she said. Thanking her, I cracked it open and exited to the cultured darkness of New York City’s Upper East Side.

Watch: Jenny Hval – “The Great Undressing” (NSFW)

This post was originally published on this site

Soooo, yeah: Jenny Hval’s 2016 album Blood Bitch wasn’t exactly the worst thing to come along last year.

But that doesn’t mean Hval’s about to slouch a damn inch in 2017. Not only has she already announced more Blood Bitch tour dates, but she’s also just unveiled one of those good ol’ fashioned and very satisfyingly-NSFW videos for album track “The Great Undressing.”

“I don’t want to overcomplicate the message; it’s my opinion that the audience should interpret this film as it suits them,” says the clip’s director Marie Kristiansen:

From an intellectual point of view I was intrigued by what would happen if you watched a naked woman totally ignorant about her own nudity going about a normal day. Would she be perceived as a sexual object? Or would her nakedness and femininity become something ordinary and natural? I have not tried to steer the film in the direction I thought was right, it’s more of an experiment that you should be the judge of. From a spiritual point of view the film explores loneliness and isolation in a world where capitalism and blending in are the two ruling factors.

I did mention that it’s NSFW, right? (You’re totally at work right now, aren’t you?)

Fuck it.

Jenny Hval tour dates:

01.14.17 – Freiburg, DE – Art’s Birthday @ e-Werk
02.02.17 – Berlin, DE – CTM Festival @ HAU 1
02.04.17 – Munich, DE – Ritournelle Festival
02.10.17 – Tokyo, Japan – Vacant (Pollution City – Ultima)
02.13.17 – Tokyo, Japan – Astro Hall
02.28.17 – London, UK – Rich Mix w/ Virginia Wing
03.03.17 – Graz, AT – Elevate Festival
03.04.17 – Budapest, HU – Trafo (Electrify Series)
03.11.17 – Marfa, TX – Marfa Myths
03.29.17 – Austin, TX – Barracuda
03.30.17 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
03.31.17 – Madison, WI – The Sett (University of Wisconsin)
04.26.17 – Bratislava, SK – A4
04.29.17 -Braga, PT – Gnration
04.30.17 – Lisbon, PT Biennial of Contemporary Arts – Lux Frágil
06.29.17 – Sat. July 1 – Roskilde, DK – Roskilde Festival
08.11.17 – Sat. 12 – Oslo, NO – Øya Festival
08.13.17 – Helsinki, FI – Flow Festival

Watch: Jenny Hval – “The Great Undressing” (NSFW)

This post was originally published on this site

Soooo, yeah: Jenny Hval’s 2016 album Blood Bitch wasn’t exactly the worst thing to come along last year.

But that doesn’t mean Hval’s about to slouch a damn inch in 2017. Not only has she already announced more Blood Bitch tour dates, but she’s also just unveiled one of those good ol’ fashioned and very satisfyingly-NSFW videos for album track “The Great Undressing.”

“I don’t want to overcomplicate the message; it’s my opinion that the audience should interpret this film as it suits them,” says the clip’s director Marie Kristiansen:

From an intellectual point of view I was intrigued by what would happen if you watched a naked woman totally ignorant about her own nudity going about a normal day. Would she be perceived as a sexual object? Or would her nakedness and femininity become something ordinary and natural? I have not tried to steer the film in the direction I thought was right, it’s more of an experiment that you should be the judge of. From a spiritual point of view the film explores loneliness and isolation in a world where capitalism and blending in are the two ruling factors.

I did mention that it’s NSFW, right? (You’re totally at work right now, aren’t you?)

Fuck it.

Jenny Hval tour dates:

01.14.17 – Freiburg, DE – Art’s Birthday @ e-Werk
02.02.17 – Berlin, DE – CTM Festival @ HAU 1
02.04.17 – Munich, DE – Ritournelle Festival
02.10.17 – Tokyo, Japan – Vacant (Pollution City – Ultima)
02.13.17 – Tokyo, Japan – Astro Hall
02.28.17 – London, UK – Rich Mix w/ Virginia Wing
03.03.17 – Graz, AT – Elevate Festival
03.04.17 – Budapest, HU – Trafo (Electrify Series)
03.11.17 – Marfa, TX – Marfa Myths
03.29.17 – Austin, TX – Barracuda
03.30.17 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
03.31.17 – Madison, WI – The Sett (University of Wisconsin)
04.26.17 – Bratislava, SK – A4
04.29.17 -Braga, PT – Gnration
04.30.17 – Lisbon, PT Biennial of Contemporary Arts – Lux Frágil
06.29.17 – Sat. July 1 – Roskilde, DK – Roskilde Festival
08.11.17 – Sat. 12 – Oslo, NO – Øya Festival
08.13.17 – Helsinki, FI – Flow Festival

Feature: 2016: A Musicology Of Exhaustion

This post was originally published on this site

Introduction: American Sublime

But how does one feel? Movements, ideas, events, entities. Ruptures, raptures. In their affiliation, in their coalition, in their deafening impact, it’s clear 2016 was our generation’s loudest year. This could be measured materially with some sort of world-eating decibel reader, but it can also be deduced from the simple fact that there were more humans on the planet than ever before. Amidst this increasing noise, it’s hard to ignore an insurmountable fatigue that’s settled into music-making in 2016 — a tiredness that has threaded listening with extra-meaning, meta-meaning, the throes of something beyond its noise and fury, to make something not inexhaustible, but breathing. Panting. Can we even listen to music without opening another tab or six?

Exhaustion, the dissolution of time and place and the systems we hold to, the rundown into desensitization. Together, listening alone. The United States is beating back depression like it’s The Leftovers (HBO). The sole civic participation for many of us this year — itself a sort of compromise — resulted in what felt like apocalypse, a signal that the hum of discontent and terror building for months (lifetimes) would not find relief or counter, but amplification. The attendant content production and life streams turned the marathon election process into an eternal sprint. Discourse wore into wares, and everything continued to feel too much.

To chart a musicology of exhaustion (as if it were our only option), we should consider 2016’s tension between noise and silence as a paradox that is not only proposed to us in contemporary music criticism and music journalism. Further, it’s how artists deal with exhaustion that allows us to extrapolate from the field of music a form that mirrors the tension between collective action and isolation — how this core upsets the whole of our odd humanly practices, from art to politics, from friendships to code.

It is around the question of exhaustion that crucial efforts can begin to mobilize and regain the force of our solitary and collective moment. Exhaustion happens while movements are rebranded into stories and memories, while signs model and represent it, while traditional structures give these signs meaning, while the current logics of domination continue on. To imagine a future becoming present, we should fist-fight with fire, just to recapture some affective rest stops from semio-capitalism’s endless traffic. We should try to articulate ourselves from hopelessness, against despair, and into action.

In 2016 and in the music of 2016, the question of noise and silence was approached by deafening swarms of musical micro-flows that pivoted angrily and capriciously around our wholly transitional present. Music in 2016 was impatient and brutal. A refusal of musical authority and power, and a refusal of the political and vocal privilege that has allowed musicians to speak abstractly on behalf of others; our new music was unstable, vicious, bitter, insular. Yet, noticeably, 2016’s music was also composed of particular frailty, failure, error, and ultimately vulnerability. It’s impossible to produce an overarching narrative, a singularly transcendent album, a beautiful sense-making system of records that captures the collective spirit of a clear avant-garde for music production. Rather, if anything, we remember how music in 2016 revealed its bare life. It exposed an exhaustion inherent to how infinitely disparate and repetitive music’s forms truly are, forever oscillating between the magnetic poles of noise and silence.

Playing One-On-No-One
Kanye West at Madison Square Garden

Silence is ill-gained nowadays. Isolation is an indulgence, but it’s the only one we must afford ourselves now. This is a moment of humdrum mass hysteria and ambient trauma that calls for collective movements and direct action. It is not time to retreat or compromise, though the affective overload of rn demands retreat if it is truly to be weathered and resisted. How does one stand to behold the sublime?

In a conversation with Boris Klushnikov, Boris Groys says, “[L]oneliness — truly radical loneliness — engenders the possibility and desire to address the whole.” Perhaps the greatest risk for the empathetic machines of our avatars is overstimulation, waiting around every click. When you grow weary of the ways of the world, to withdraw is more than convenience; it is prerequisite for psychic survival. To stay attached, we must remind ourselves of our sensual connection to the world, not merely as a part of it, while at the same time recognizing there are outsides and gaps to the mythologized omnipresence of power structures. The alternative is hyperactivity and endless exhaustion.

No one else this year (except maybe his Presidential foil) could embody this mutation of noise and isolation into exhaustion like Kanye West. In the manifold fracture of subjectivity, Kanye’s theater was traumatizing (his “Famous” video), and his trauma was made theater (in the dehumanizing reactions to his hospitalization, Kim’s attack). The simultaneous release of The Life of Pablo and the Yeezy Season 3 clothing line at Madison Square Garden was a moment of sublime isolation. A portal to a vacant space where the spirit can be replenished, Kanye played the album off his laptop, passing the aux as the afternoon wore on. This was Kanye’s space, an installation of controlled intimacy, one of the few public times and places he could feel comfortable in 2016. Somewhere safe in his Holy War. This invention of familiarity afforded Kanye a stage to share what was decidedly not a party album, but one of the year’s most challenging in its polarities: feedback and praises, self-effacement and carelessness. Pablo’s opener is marked by silence, reintroducing the spectacle of the whole event with a whisper, this prayer. After calling out NIKE’s lack of faith in him, Kanye told his audience they still had to respect Michael Jordan, before adding, “People do come to Madison Square Garden to see me play one-on-no-one.” Kanye addressed the whole with his every gesture.

The Life of Pablo’s re-released, re-mastered versions radically approached 0, the unreleased, unmastered collage “album” that still exists only in service of streaming sites (its updates and reiterations no longer even catalogued in the tactile database of What.cd, one of 2016 and physicality’s losses). The following singles and videos were exploded versions, truncated versions, expanded versions, soundtrack versions: its songs took the shape of their latest release, always a part from the original. Like, Garden of Delete, it would be every one. The album was marked by hyperactivity, the confluence of producers and performers, the spaz in the news of Kanye. A polyphony that resolved into biography, but not of one artist or figure: Which one?

The space of Madison Square Garden became a bed of exhaustion: the face and pose worn by every model, still standing, or sitting down, doing nothing to their present. It wasn’t till the stalemate of the album’s first listen (and final listen in that form, unless you’ve been rewatching the show compulsively like we have) was finished that the fashion models began to resemble active people: Their facades crumbled against the weight of Rihanna’s “Work,” when they felt able to party again. It wasn’t Pablo that scored the afterparty, but songs from the Old Kanye, and from the radio — the artists really one with the people (Beyoncé, Drake, Young Thug). The canopy collected their breath. Plurality without pluralism.

In a well-known 2006 article for The New Yorker on Morton Feldman, Alex Ross spoke at length of Feldman’s immensity, his oeuvre on the verge of forming into what was referred to in our review of The Life of Pablo as a topology of monstrosity. In the work of Feldman, perhaps the Kanye of his time (lol), that monstrosity creeps up in the intense vulnerability of his music, in the manner in which his compositions fall apart in front of our eyes, only to reveal their insular and softly subversive core. Ross stated that this is “the often noted paradox [of] this immense, verbose man [who] wrote music that seldom rose above a whisper. In the noisiest century in history, Feldman chose to be glacially slow and snowily soft.” For one, Feldman’s music presents itself as ecstatically exhausted, reverberating with the scream of a collective epiphany; yet it was starkly alone, introverted, still. In the same breath, Feldman spat a well-known remark: “Polyphony sucks.”

In what seems like 2016’s collective polyphonic nightmare, the sheer immense noise of music’s cumulative voicing didn’t reveal dissonance or harmony between the spaces of their production. Rather, there was merely another release, another music, another source, another output. Critical, analytic listeners could perhaps see shapes on the 2016 release plateau to make out micro-tonal conglomerates of tonality: a small scene here, a trend there, a new tool, a granular synthesis technique, an obscure message, etc. Yet still, for us staring onward, our gaze could only make out a cataclysmic, reverberating pit of musics crawling with tired life; we listened not with ears tuned for meaning, but for a plateauing of its collective form into something like Kanye’s and Feldman’s ecstatic exhaustions. This year, our social movements, our punk culture, our dystopian imagination foreshadowed in many ways the mutation we are now hearing, a mutation where the polyphonic exhaustion of our music was a question not of the 0-to-100 meter between noise and silence — loneliness and collective meaning — but of the gradients, shades, and undertones that exist between the individual body and the collective body in a game of “One-On-No-One.”

We saw this in the subtlety of 2016’s magnificent releases, where music like Lolina’s Live in Paris, Lorenzo Senni’s Persona, Frank Ocean’s Endless,James Ferraro’s Human Story 3 , Sam Kidel’s Disruptive Muzack, and The Caretaker’s Everywhere at the end of time didn’t necessarily proclaim a clear output for critique, but instead functioned as misshapen growths out of forms that these artists have been experimenting with for decades, or at least what feels like decades. Somewhere from Senni and Ferraro’s genius yet beautifully naive experiments with trance and modern classical, to the worn image breakdowns of Lolina and Frank Ocean, to the aching ambient tedium of Kidel’s Muzak-systems, the dealership of exhaustion was clear and served as the basis for our collective shade: Market Collapse, Voyeurship, Relaxx, Disruption. As Feldman notes, reflecting on how progress and vitality end and begin with solitude: “Earlier in my life there seemed to be unlimited possibilities, but my mind was closed. Now, years later and with an open mind, possibilities no longer interest me. I seem content to be continually rearranging the same furniture in the same room. My concern at times is nothing more than establishing a series of practical conditions that will enable me to work. For years I said if I could only find a comfortable chair I would rival Mozart.”

How then to find a comfortable chair and cultivate a Madison Square Garden in our heart?

Resting Face: Avatar OST
Cover art for The Caretaker’s Everywhere at the end of time

The 21+ swarm of millennials is the last generation to have a childhood outside the virtual, only to find ourselves connected now at every intersection. Identity and social media gripped us. What we still sometimes pretend to be intentional has dissolved into a mess of self-disclosure and ambient fraud: you text nothing like you look, your tweets are scaring me, you are logging off. Permanent performance with only malware really paying attention. While Twitter is useful for organizing and consciousness-raising in collectivizing impulses, the semiocapitalist demands of Facebook create an affective treadmill, and the work of our avatars breaks down in the face of what we share. It’s exhausting, and even our musical avatars could use a break. Or, they are actively breaking apart before us.

Compared to the aesthetic overdetermination of PC Music or the headlining ecstasy of Kanye, artists like The Caretaker admits the defeat of connectivity and comprehension in its disintegration loops, the convalescence of memory and dreamspace that threatens at every moment to give way to nothing. This faltering collection of ancient sound is The Caretaker’s manipulation of contemporarily disjointed signs, a radical curation of predetermined music that individuates the character in our imaginations as a symptom of time, as a projection of our listening self. We are The Caretaker, we’ve always been The Caretaker. The performative death of the moniker is the project’s swan song, Everywhere at the end of time, a slowly deteriorating memoir over the course of three years in a regularly expanding six-part release. The release troubles the celebration of degeneration and the process of rearranging the furniture in a single room, revealing a mortal heart to the impression of timelessness conjured by the music. The isolating affect of the looped ballroom music and its timed descent is an architectural rejoinder to the infinitely expanding content landscape that we share and auto-cultivate well into sleeplessness. Our avatars have expiration dates.


This degeneration also sung a death knell in 2016 to those avatars we took solace in, those we listened to in order to subjectivate ourselves into their quests for rupture/rapture. Throughout the 20th century, music looked to futuristic, surreal, functional avant-gardes — movements whose imagination of precarity established musical avatars that seemed to have been peeled off one-by-one in the exhausted death pulse of 2016. In the 20th century, these avatars developed a frail psychosphere, a punchy counterculture with wide, vital imaginations that could eat and spit out oncoming apocalypse. Armed with an aesthetic of excess, uncertainty, randomness, evocation, escape, and power, these avatars were our solace and our peace — our shield against the coming exhaustion.

Their art was a glorious attempt to mitigate social pain with the magical forces of what seems like an ancient time. Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Pauline Oliveros, Phife Dawg, Tony Conard : this was a profound canon whose absence is felt as a cold, incised cut in the side of the brilliant underground. It’s as Franco “Bifo” Berardi said, “the terms denunciation and engagement are no longer meaningful when you are a fish reaching the point of being cooked.” Likewise, the death of our avatars who used precarity to craft rhapsodic, focused practices seems easier to take when that precarity became the OST to all our musical activity — not only in its source, but its incessant output, resounding without referent.

The exhausting death of our heros and heroines is but one tone in the deafening polyphony, the frigid silence of the Avatar OST. Although our new music uses the last century’s lexicon — Oliveros’s deep listening in Eli Keszler and Sean McCann, of course Prince (so much Prince) in every pop-ish upstart who traces the mutation of globalized technology and media, Bowie in every musician with gleaming eyes and an extraterrestrial vision. Yet there’s so much more than this glib frame. One listen to the complexly mutant and resounding sounds of Carly Rae, Jenny Hval, Crying, or Arca and the dead seem to be eaten whole into a new living, vital flesh.

It’s not that 2016’s artists are exhausted hacks who can’t show the kind of energy or vitality specific to these fallen icons of a previous time; rather, it’s that their movement has become subsumed by the Avatar OST — by the attempt to find equilibrium between irony and cynicism, noise and silence, the signified and the automatic — all forming the skin that wraps into an exhausted living Avatar-body of human (American?) culture in 2016.

Endless Time: Atomic Clock
Screencap from Frank Ocean’s Endless visual album

We are in a live anachronism. The year’s most celebrated soundtrack is a nostalgic throwback (via ~2012’s vapor-distillation of its musical themes) to an iconic film era during which many of its listeners weren’t alive. The hyperdrive of press releases and Event albums have become rapid to the point of simultaneity, frantically into stillness. The quiet of overexertion. Time has been accelerated and decelerated to the point where tiny music releases become hideouts for time, places where we can measure its (non-)motion, where we can register its shape as real. Of course, we can see the way time is sculpted by the ecstatic manipulation of physical sound (Rashad Becker’s Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. II, Yearning Kru’s Copper Vale), in Kanye’s album-freezing and renanimative release-rollout, in its cataclysmic vision (Elysia Crampton’s Dissolution of The Sovereign). Yet, still, if time is our most common good, our most common language — which of course in 2016 has become the very core of music production — one must bear in mind that our endless, exhausted time is and will always be wider than our common perceptions of it.

The Life of Pablo can become a territory of anticipation, perpetually unfinished and so unrealized in the collective imagination; it never found physical release (and Kanye promised it never will, or, for that matter, be for sale). The ongoing additions and subtractions to the tracklisting and mix mark a disruption of release schedules and an event that troubles our self-production around this sort of market history. The Life of Pablo could never be a classic album, but it escaped any sort of comprehension and managed to become timeless, not by existing out-of-time but by inhabiting its own future as an object. The needlessly transparent (or calculated hype-generating) movements of its title tell a story. The release couldn’t be Swish; it was too hard-fought, graceless, and delayed. And it couldn’t be Waves, whose cyclical crashes and reformations are a reflecting pool for Kanye, but seem pastoral and distant from his distance to the world he addresses. The title had to express a celebrity lifetime, which is the recording of becoming in public, of being subject to a million exhausting cultural knowledges. As a salve for the fatalism that accompanies massive political upsets, Kanye’s sprawling collage-release was something that couldn’t come to pass.

What seemed like it might never come to pass, even as we watched the process, was the black-and-white realtime stream of Frank Ocean’s Endless workshop: a blank projection screen. It was a testament to reclusiveness, the quiet process of solo work that becomes a composite of personalities, drives, persistence. In the promise of the slow and steady, Frank still shifted from “rushing for a wait” to “waiting for a rush,” working in tandem, without recognizing the coalition that had become of himself. The montage of periods and song scraps turned the never-ending into release, but one that was reduced to a herald. And so his music became Everywhere at the end of time.

Within this expanded time, our music then becomes an atomic clock for making sense of its effects on our exasperated socius. The atomic clock, which uses a “electronic transition frequency in the microwave, optical, or ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum of atoms as a frequency standard for its timekeeping element,” is the meter that keeps tabs on the uninterrupted circuit of music-flows, collective synergy, affective plurality, and that production of subjectivity that is exhaustively boundless. Yet it is within the unintelligible whole, this mass of time-less music, that exists the power of our multitude and our solitary listening.

In the mix of our critical listening, our “keeping up” with music, our collective associations, our capacity to bond these units in time, we see a capacity for the invention of new desires and new beliefs — new associations, endlessly.

Split Ends: Estranged Apocalypse

Blinking and blank. The end’s split, an experiment within a shared reservoir where exhaustion is the premise rather than the affect. The year’s most cynical release in this regard was its most omnipresent: “Closer” by The Chainsmokers (ft. Halsey). The landscape is poverty, its refrain: “We ain’t never getting older.” The mattress that she stole and the backseat of her Rover are as human as the “I, I, I, I, I,” and “you” that the voices are singing to and from, an empty hall of mirrors. When they repeat “I can’t stop” — and what can’t they stop? — it’s sung from a place of complete ambivalence, admitting the exhaustion of connectivity and exposing the compulsory movement forward, ever forward, but somehow carried on without value judgment, without protest. Despite the disjointed lyrics, the repetition of the chorus and pre-chorus morphs the song into ambience, a pacifying chant against the demands of work and love. The song stays young, and we, we are old.

There wasn’t a more fitting musical statement to 2016’s gripping exhaustion than Sam Kidel’s Disruptive Muzak. Kidel’s record was special; the piece came about during a research project into Muzak in 2015 from which Kidel composed a series of pieces that shared a similar sound palette to Muzak, but with a “less familiar, less predictable and more disruptive structure.” He tested the compositions by calling up government offices that use Muzak in their telephone queues and played them down the phone instead of his voice. The officials’ responses were recorded and assembled. They established a liminal space where their vocal interruptions and Kidel’s frosty, “disruptive” synth music are indeterminately and independently functioning as disruptions into their own separate, split ambient zones. The dropped calls and the incessant interruptive presentation of the voice/synth split confuse and estrange their intended space. Together, their communication forms an ambient echo-chamber that distills the core of a contemporary exhaustion. Somehow, amidst the superficially annoying timbre of the piece, the music literally disrupts its attempts at fragmentation by redeeming itself into a special ambient sublimity — a sad, broken, ascending, but brilliant place.

Somehow within this sadness is a scenic territory for those who find the world staggeringly heartbroken, a musicology of exhaustion: something not inexhaustible, but breathing. Panting.

Desubjectivation, Reactivation

2016 is a year we can’t cry away, drink away, work away, or get away from. And so we can’t speak summarily, but continue to wander into no-one’s land, hang on to each other, and fight. Online and in moments of depression, communality falls way to the soul eraser of enclosure, invented isolation from the violent-ambient. We must learn to articulate from zero, perform dreadlessness, listen with all our might that we can resist desensitization. We must believe that opening a window in winter does not just make the room cold. Bare earth, bare night.

The wind makes it too hard to hear. The snow is falling, and the streets are full of cries. There is no choice but to listen. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the whisper of the heart: a mutant plea of loneliness that bears self-relation into relationality into “what’s next is.” Re-generation, from zero. Neuroplasticity exercises, breathing exercises. In the endless scroll of media, we become out of touch and out of tune, conditional but ahistoric, a part, deadened, when we could become:

Isolation takes time for self-knowledge to counter the knowledge production that traps us in kind. There are only so many voices that can be played simultaneously without loss. Listening from an exhausted place, there we might reconfigure our imaginations, our beliefs, the shared precarity of our labor and our lives, our becoming-void of compossibilities beyond this world at the end of time. This sounds exhausting, and exhaustion in 2016 sounds like chance, like syntony, like sculptures made of ash. Excessive, activist, sensitive, sensible, sympathetic.

Don’t suffer in silence. Don’t suffer asceticism. Don’t suffer “only suffering can result in great art.” If 2016 can be more than the end of time, if in its terror a learning treasure, if in its death a building year, it is the year in which we must place the utmost faith in umbral sensuality, in the power of emotional elaboration that defaces screentime and screenshots, in the resilience of escape. Be seated at the piano, an incubator for mutation. Music can be the occasion and vehicle for developing counter-rhythms of being in the everyday wash-rinse cycle of news. From permanent noise into the silence of creative imagining, toward refrain. We came from never and must become everywhere more feeling, with closer listening. Our place is endless; the sun is rising.

Poet, be seated at the piano.
Play the present, its hoo-hoo-hoo,
Its shoo-shoo-shoo, its ric-a-nic,
Its envious cachinnation.

If they throw stones upon the roof
While you practice arpeggios,
It is because they carry down the stairs
A body in rags.
Be seated at the piano.

That lucid souvenir of the past,
The divertimento;
That airy dream of the future,
The unclouded concerto …
The snow is falling.
Strike the piercing chord.

Be thou the voice,
Not you. Be thou, be thou
The voice of angry fear,
The voice of this besieging pain.

Be thou that wintry sound
As of a great wind howling,
By which sorrow is released,
Dismissed, absolved
In a starry placating.

We may return to Mozart.
He was young, and we, we are old.
The snow is falling
And the streets are full of cries.
Be seated, thou.

“Mozart, 1935”
– Wallace Stevens

Feature: 2016: Favorite Videos

This post was originally published on this site

As usual, music videos remain stalwart at the front lines of audiovisual innovation. And while P.T. Anderson may’ve directed the shit out of that no-nonsense, edit portal sequence in Radiohead’s “Daydreaming” video, we were more interested in the enduring and ever-refined tradition of classical presentation. The vocalist addresses the audience in a fetching mise en scène, and we are made to understand how inextricable a performer’s visual flair and body language is from their sound. While our list is rife with vids celebrating novel facade, there is also the unceremonious dropping of facade in evidence (along with the inevitable free choreographies of corporeal denial).

Whether it was slo-mo rogue-opulent smoke-and-mirrors extravagance, porno tweaked to our dementedly exacting aesthetic imperatives, perspective tangents off of our point-and-shoot bloodlust, the famous sleeping soundly while an unseen intruder watches and waits, brutal brushes with destabilizing awarenesses splitting your head open and leaving nothing to the godforsaken imagination, or just Yung Lean playing pretend Kurt Cobain in the woods, 2016’s best videos had everything and nothing to say. There was an odd, in-the-moment-infallible sanctuary to even the most passive of these diversions. Flaccid slings and broken arrows, spilled from on high with drooling confidence. Steep grades and stiff grips fronted at our mangy corner of stinking heat, roundly searing us raw-eyed, hazy hellevision junkies. All the while, a reflecting skin of imperceptibly expanding circumference has lapped at our proud, idle, and yet radiant flirtations with disassociation and pulse-pounding antipathies unknown.

We shut our solemn mouths and tubed our stupid time away. Together. As ‘twas and ever shall be.


Director: Televape

Forever, vaporwave will stem from identity issues involving cultural indifference. I was introduced to vaporwave as a trans-aesthetic genre that toed the fine line of accepting when and where one can engage with humanity in a post-nostalgic canvas. And still, vaporwave remains haunted, redundant, high-noon, midnight marinade, smeared, Terminator 2 [chopped and screwed], mistaken for a soap opera, “and I’d probably enjoy it in English.” Hilarious! @tinymixtapes #FavoriteVaporwaveLabel2016 Watching テレヴァペ’s is genuinely upsetting. Who are these women? What am I misunderstanding? Please, explai— actually, I’d rather not know and let the pixelated image-withdrawal blissfully trail empty memories between earlobes.


“Sin Rumbo”

Director: Jesse Kanda

L’Arrivée D’un Train En Gare De La Ciotat terrified audiences in 1985. The train appears in the background, moves across the space, disappears in the bottom left of the screen, and audiences screamed: What keeps images from crashing through the frame? Do frames keep us safe? Arca violates the frame to create offscreen between-places, the overflow of trans-forms, Entrañas. Inside-out reverie finds mutant cohesion in the body-bending cinema of Jesse Kanda, but for frequent collaborators, there’s still something sick between the frames of “Sin Rumbo.” It’s not the unfolding billowing rippling dying flesh of Kanda’s other images; it’s Arca’s bruised face, sweat and hematoma and inner fluids outer, a plea of “no saber.” Frames won’t save us. Our consensual overflow of frame is an art of creating safeness; aggressive laceration of that same flesh is trauma. “Sin Rumbo” is the image of violated body, of fluids spilled out on a nightclub floor, eyes looking back at us watching. We look away, terrified: What keeps images from crashing through the frame?



Director: Sam Shea, James Thomas Marsh

What is the limit of a body? Is it a fixed thing, or is it flexible? How far can one body be changed and remade through imagination or force of will? In “Ecdysisyphus,” Eartheater plunges into these questions, uploading her own body into a 3D cosmos and throwing it all in flux: melting, duplicating, shattering like clay and ultimately flattening into a wisp thrown through the wind over some moonscape. Much as how Eartheater’s music challenges the borders of genre, song structure, and performance, here she pokes at and deflates the limits of physical space, whether through recreating herself as a digital model, freed to do “impossible” things, or in the constantly shifting sci-fi/low poly style that disrupts anything like realism. Condensing liftoff and comedown into one burst, this is one trip that lingers in waves long after it ends.


“Buta” feat. Miss Red and Serocee

Director: GAIKA

The club as a moratorium on rationality, intoxication as a vessel of the supernatural, erotic gyration doubling as incantatory rituals. GAIKA and his creative team put all that into video form by taking lessons on simplicity from the unlikeliest of sources: Trading a bland pop rapper for a vengeful shaman, those pastels that invited your boring uncle to create his first memes for a shebeen’s grimy black light, pursuing in the essential rattling of Brixton bass music the insinuations of the netherworld. In short, by manifesting through images what he has forever felt in his own flesh: a black British musician in a London amidst a ruthless class war. The result is a video that, much like GAIKA’s music, embraces his status as a perennial suspect of savagery; proud to bear his original stigma, anointed in the transgression of the nocturnal. Thus, he delivers an audiovisual piece with enough menace and authority to claim: “I am GAIKA, and this is my kingdom. Behold my power!”

Jenny Hval

“Female Vampire”

Director: Jenny Berger

Now I know what it feels like to get a Snapchat from Satan. The video for “Female Vampire,” the lead single on Jenny Hval’s Blood Bitch, was shot entirely on an iPhone by Norwegian director Jenny Berger Myher. It would fit well in any of the dark, trippy 1970s horror flicks that inspired it. The video follows a group of cryptically dispassionate young women out of a subway station and into an orgy of face peeling. That the skin is clearly artificial makes these scenes only slightly less disturbing. After everyone has a handful of someone else’s flesh, the video trails off with close-up shots of the women’s pained faces trapped behind metal fencing. An act of liberation melts into an image of captivity. “It hurts everywhere,” whispers Hval. “But at least it hurts so good.”

Kanye West


Director: Kanye West

Released to instant infamy (even when the video only starred one President), “Famous” got the people going in an ethically bankrupt, especially Kanye West fashion: its demolition of intimacy, the triggering juxtaposition of abusers and victims, a precisely inflammatory body-cast. A live-mural of elision and capture, “breathing and imagining,” before the #MannequinChallenge, before Kim was attacked. Fame is a panoply of gazes, never neutral, never pure, but “Famous” bookends its overdetermined slumber party with pastoral imagery, a foil for the semiopolitics beading at the video’s every pore. When Kanye meets our gaze, near the video’s end, his eyes seem to repeat his earlier quote, “We culture.” His bootleg iconogasm was exploitative, disturbing, transfixing, provocative. Liberated? Not like this, no matter what Kanye wants (us) to feel.


Kel Valhaal

“Tense Stage”

Director: AUJIK

Unknown Japanese animator AUJIK delves deep within the tunnels of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s intricate Qabala in the warping, petrified video for “Tense Stage.” Burrowing straight to the core of a fabricated dimensional cerebrum, AUJIK discovers a pulsing, vibrant scenery of cheap distortions, cultural artifact, and luscious internal astrology, pulling us to the absolute bottom of the well before revealing impossible doors that lead back to the outside. It’s an ever-flowing, radiating garbage heap, a porridge of majesty and crap that beckons us even as its destination becomes increasingly unknowable. Somehow, by the time we reach the twin halos at the passage’s end, it feels like we’ve learned something terrifying.

Lil Yachty

“1 Night”

Director: Josh Goldenberg and Rahil Ashruff

Green screens inevitably equal fun, and when they’re done super right, as in the spazzy aquatic scene scapes of Lil Yachty’s “1 Night” video, it’s silly as bliss. Directed, produced, and edited by Josh Goldenberg and Rahil Ashruff of NYC studio Goldrush, the hyper-saturated visuals are dense with meme-inspired gems, including, but not limited to, a shot of Yachty modeling in Yeezy Season 3, a really cute kitten, some prime use of your favorite nautical emojis, Gerald from Hey Arnold! wearing Yachty braids that then explode into rocket launchers, a split-second shot of a burning boat, cute cameos by manga artist Akira Ito and social media stars Lean Squad, Yachty squatting on a surfboard next to a fake hammerhead shark in full orange wader regalia — I won’t go on, just go indulge.

Tim Presley

“Long Bow”

Director: Guy Kozak

Alive together and nodding. At a modestly attended live event, we mute our enthusiasm to ward against the echo chamber of fleeting attention. Stoic self-awareness is a default position of decorum, but it’s gotten to be its own stupid dance. When the “singer” in this video takes a knee for the breakdown, a ring of camera operators hover over him, and one abruptly flits to the right. The ragged edits and surplus of angles on these uncanny mundane reflexes play like jokey shrugs at existential apoplexy. Like sharp turns from holding out to letting go. We suddenly perceive all manner of congregation for the oversanctified mess that it is, and embrace it anyway. We proceed to just jam on that sound and bite our pursed lip down. We tap our fingers to the rhythm on a splash-prone cup. We firmly perch on enjoying the ride, like a pomeranian on a swing set.


“Era (ft. Kastle, Born In Flamez & Gronos1)”

Director: Rob Jabbaz

A couple months after ruinist futurism duo WWWINGS released their debut LP PHOENIXXX on Planet Mu, their entrenched battlesound met up with Taipei-based Rob Jabbaz’s entrenched battleground. “A story about forgotten equipment” turning on and lashing out against their environment and one another like a sentient MechWarrior uproar, the unkept industrialization from Jabbaz and GXXOST (f.k.a. Lit Internet) and AWRWSW (f.k.a. Lit Daw) is a short film with major-picture intrigue.

Young M.A


Director: a piece by guy x Young M.A

In a hip-hop year dominated by industry titans and schizophrenic fashion-rap, “Ooouuu” rose coolly above the noise to bless us with the Brooklyn rapper’s focused, unassuming vision. The accompanying visual, which for many (myself included) served as an introduction to Young M.A, is consistent with her quiet self-assurance: for the first 45 seconds, M.A and her crew silently eat Chinese takeout, pour champagne, and drink Hennessy. Then the smoky, smasssshhed intro and the quintessential crew love shots: standing on the street corner, vibing in the crib. The video birthed as many visual memes as the track did lyrical ones: Young M.A on the couch, turning to Eli on the right, “Ayo Eli, why they testing me?,” and then to bro on the left, “Like I ain’t got a hitter to the left of me;” the “Headphanie” line, coinciding with the dome-receiving motion performed ‘round the world; M.A’s signature gold front-touting freeze frame, which would eventually become the album art for the digital single and which made the record instantly identifiable in the Apple Music store. The video has a special aura, because you can tell everyone participating knew that something special was happening: the sense of imminent success is palpable, and at 86 million views and counting, this video rose to the top without any industry support or wave-jumping: “These haters on my body/ Shake ‘em off.”

Yung Lean

“Miami Ultras”

Director: Marcus Söderlund


Leany moves his weight in soaked earth. Wilted sprouts of raspy sincerity sprout at his self-dug grave.


Bucket hats and trading cards are shed for the fruits of fertile ground. Flora drips from a formless dress. Fresh blood clings to neatly trimmed follicles. The forest exhales wintry puffs of vapor. Lean’s ego may lie six feet under, but the formerly(?) Sad Boy is something more than alive.

Feature: 2016: Vis Medicatrix Pop

This post was originally published on this site

“You’re not gonna hork, are you,” says a mother to a daughter. It’s a question, technically, but it’s phrased like a statement. The girl shuts her eyes, shakes her head. She is not going to hork. The man in the parka and basketball shorts sneezes into the parka’s shoulder, chases the convulsive air expulsion with a “scuse me scuse me scuse me.” A bald white beard of a man yawns looking out the nearby window, crosses his legs, careful with the hem of his himation. I think: markedly less voluminous than the Roman toga but still elegant, sure. I think: 9:07 AM on a Sunday morning and already the Lawrenceville MinuteClinic is hopping. I think: I don’t feel good.

“I don’t feel good.” It’s been building a couple of days, the restless repositions in bed and the swallowing, the wondering when the throat pressure will turn to throat pain. And the waking and walking is all too-little-sleep and too-much-caffeine, a curdling of cream cheese spread thin across too much stale bagel. Bodies are weird, the way you can feel something twisted around in the insides, something gnarly floating poking pressure into all the parts of the belly and the temples and the tonsils. When I’m inching congested, the skirting precipice of anvilling into real illness, my brain works overtime worrying about how sick I’m getting, whether or not I’ll ever get better. I intake my own fluids back into a nostril, I drum coughs from a place below ribs: What does sick sound like?

“I don’t feel well,” says the bald white beard man, and I can’t tell if he’s reminding me to be more specific with my diction or if he’s reminding himself why he’s spending the first real cold morning of December 2016 chill on the ice of a plastic chair in a mock waiting room in an unheated drug store in a New Jersey town named for the naval hero of 1812, famous for his dying cry, “Don’t give up the ship!” “‘Don’t give up the ship!’ lives on as a popular rallying cry in US Navy culture, and Captain James Lawrence is still waterlogged dead, and Lawrenceville is still too cold in December and still too stocked with the shaking sick of waiting rooms.”

Bald white beard looks at me, cocks his head at me, snorts.

“Sorry,” I say, and point at my congesting chest. “Dramatic when sick.”

He nods. “We feel dramatic.” The Mother is glued to the blue light of her phone, and The Daughter is sniffling and standing and sitting, sniffling and standing and sitting, engaged alone in some rule-less waiting room game, and Parka Basketball Shorts is nodding along to his headphones, eyes half open and watery and red. Bald white beard readjusts his legs and his himation’s hem, goes on to nobody, everybody:

“Maybe we’re not ourselves when we’re sick. We’re our brains in our bodies, all the time, and when we’re sick, the whole vessel feels foreign. We get to feel dramatic,” he gestures at me, “or dopey dazed,” he points at Parka Basketball Shorts, “or even horkful,” he points at The Mother, who waves back, not looking up from her phone. “When all we are is a set of symptomatic circumstances, it’s no wonder that we don’t feel well or good when we feel sick.”

“Hippocrates helped propose and popularize the notion that our bodies (products of self and health) exhibited temperament based on a mixture of four independent humors,” says Hippocrates. “These distinct, almost elemental parts, added up to our krasis, our complexion. Our natural constitutions were the result of cocktailing humors, humors that could build up or leak into release, throwing us off our balance, into a state of dyscrasia.

It’s a bizarro primal-proto germ theory, a hinging set of cloudy beliefs: humorism both gives us back our agency (wellness isn’t dependent on jealous or mischievous gods and fortunes) but also limits that agency by tying our fulfillments to the natural machinations of our bodies,” says Hippocrates. “Which is how life works anyway, probably.”

Hippocrates, in the white beard and plastic chair in the Lawrenceville MinuteClinic, re-crosses his legs, massages the knob of a barking kneecap, probably why he’s here in the first place. “Investigating intentionally-vague pillars (yellow bile, blood, phlegm, black bile) for biological well-being is messy; humorism is an outdated cipher for diagnosing a body.”

“But so is to pop music!” says Parka Basketball Shorts before sneezing and putting his earbuds back in his head.

Hippocrates nods. “Everything’s moving all the time, forward in vessels called years, around in little circles called lives. Between years and lives, we make things, art and medicine, probably as an instinctual desire to read symptoms and find meaning; probably as an unnatural response to seeing something that matters in the face of nothing that does. We script ciphers, invoke pop music and outdated medicines as ways of re-balancing things that don’t make sense. We feel better. Every year and every life feels sick sometimes. ‘Life is a marathon’.”

He sighs. “Every body gets sick. ‘Imma shift the paradigm/ Imma turn up every time.’”

Henry Peacham, “Cholera,” Minerva Britanna, 1612.

In Act IV of Julius Caesar, Brutus appeals to Kanye: “Must I give way and room to your rash choler?/ Shall I be frighted when a madman stares?”

Kanye stares; we stare back. Between us is The Life of Pablo, pop choler, the yellow bile of this year. Sitting in cold waiting rooms post-Election Daze and pre-Newest Year, comprehension in retrospection is tricky, but we can scrunch and recall the history of getting The Life of Pablo into this world, screaming. The weird spew of last February (it was cold then, it’s cold now; it was Kanye then, it’s Kanye now) confounded us, the constant unsettling of expectation in the shock/thrill of making things. Kanye is choler like fire, and at its best (“Waves,” “Real Friends,” “Wolves”), The Life of Pablo is the heat right under the skin, the artifact looking ahead to a future not yet apparent. Pop music punctures the time and place it exists in; radio immortality reconfigures our years into something better than they were. In the face of complacency or oppression, pop choler realizes art’s ambition to make sense of nothings, feeling (serenity, peace, loving) life reconfigured from an unfeeling world. “Thou wouldst be great,” Lady Macbeth says to Kanye, “art not without ambition but without/ the illness should attend it.”

Kanye nods, a god dream, and vomits all over Rome.

Because the same heat can burn too hot, art in illness, locomotive choler burnt up in overgrown cholera. The same February that flushed out The Life of Pablo saw the surfacing of fever, the World Health Association declaring Zika Virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Zika — culled from the Zika Forest in Uganda, from “ziika” in the Luganda language, meaning “overgrown” — like The Life of Pablo, is too much, too quick, life lived as burnt-up acrid reactivity.

From Kanye West’s untitled sculpture exhibit at L.A. gallery Blum & Poe

The Life of Pablo, overgrown and leaking waste, is yellow bile for 2016, pop music as literal release (“you’re not gonna hork, are you”), toxic entity to be puked and flushed and purged from a body. Fever pimples up in the ripple “goddamn” of “Famous,” over-sweats in the rank ego of the same song’s music video, peeling agency back until it’s stripped in the waxy dead flesh, feverish hallucination confirmed: “I been outta my mind a long time.” Choler and ambition mean to move beyond selves and self-tragedies, but too much heat means that the fire is under no one’s control, that it’ll leave nothing but ash. Mosquitoes are the problem, and mosquitoes are the medium for communicating the problem; pop music, like health and disease, is the two-way mirror, revealing of a matter and the matter itself. Overgrown means chokes and choking. Lack of agency and ego-devotion leads to pop music as a fever to be sweat out, the furious release as un-leasing of The Life of Pablo. Pop music as fever means art as vomit, a purging that doesn’t necessarily lead to resolution (vomit as verb, vomit as noun). The Life of Pablo and Kanye West’s performative hate/exhaustion are symptoms of each other, symbolizing imbalance in our larger pop biology.

Without waste, we don’t get healing. Without fever, it’s cadaver. We need expulsion ambition; every body gets sick.

“But The Life of Pablo isn’t symptomatic of Kanye any more than Zika is symptomatic of 2016,” I say, rising from my slouchy waiting room crouch. “Pieces of entities aren’t the sum of entities, and pop music isn’t symptomatic of historical events, really. You can’t understand an individual pizza pie because you had a piece of mozzarella once.”

Parka Basketball Shorts takes ear buds from ears. “Foul on the pizza point. Sick sounds symptomize sickness: what does sick sound like? Sick. And maybe be more specific by what you mean by ‘pop music.’”

“I think pop music gets to sound like anything, really, as long as it sounds like humanity engaging humanity,” says Hippocrates. “There’s something about its engagingness. For all the perceived and received toxicity of The Life of Pablo, it still registers in terms of a moment of needing to be heard.”

“‘Fade’ is a banger, kind of kind of,” says The Mother.

“It’s the choosing. Pop music chooses engagement over nothing. That’s optimistic maybe, as a grand state of how songs matter and mean, but songs comes from people, so why not put some faith in that art? Engagement means that pop elects its own spot in the world, forsakes art in a vacuum for a mess on the planet. Investigating its songs as symptomatic of a year’s matter is investigating a body for means of why it feels a certain way. The biology of 2016 exists in discrasia, in “bad mixture;” we examine the emerging, engaging symptoms of that imbalance, moments of crisis, moments in pop music. Congruence of those moments is made possible because both come from human bodies. Brains in bodies on a planet. With those odds, we choose engagement.”

And the sick bodies of the MinuteClinic look each other in the tired eyes, supremely proud of ourselves. The Daughter stands up, sits down, sniffles back some of the blood running slow out of her left nostril.

“I have big dreams,” she confesses. “And blood powers.”

Henry Peacham, “Sanguis,” Minerva Britanna, 1612.

Bodies are weird, the way you can feel something twisted around in the insides. Feeling sick also means knowing what wellness feels like; the virus replicating inside cells, the strained muscle swelling, and the dialed-up earbuds smacking ear drums all indicate a body transformed away from a natural state. Bodies are weird, the way you can feel the needle in your arm taking blood from your neck.

“You feel good?” asks Carlo, the man who stuck the needle in my arm. He’s smiling and rolling, a brain in a body with the right temperament to be working the South Brunswick Municipal Blood Drive, but still: he’s watching the red stuff from inside me pool in a plastic bag pint.

I feel the flutter of the red stuff in the fat vein in my neck as it runs away from inside me. It doesn’t feel good. I don’t feel good.


“I’m good,” I say and from the bed next to me, a flash of fang, snick and coo. “Don’t be afraid/ It’s only blood.”

Blood Bitch is good; Blood Bitch is only blood, a flash fang transfusion of 2016’s fluid out of our bodies and then back in. Blood Bitch is biting and bitten, pop art schlock high-low love: is that the inside of me in a bag on a countertop? Jenny Hval’s transfusion of lolling monologue pop and vicious pulp investigation pools and bleeds and begs: what fluids do we seek, what fluids do we seep?

Blood was the balancing humor, the circulating agent that would keep the other humors in check and would move around our inside-stuff so that we could continue to walk around balanced versions of our selves. Healthy blood is sanguine cohesion; stasis means pieces equaling each other. We bleed in health, we bleed in trauma (Hval: “The reason why you menstruate is because you haven’t conceived. A potential life died inside of you, you know?”) Pop democracy is every song wanting to be heard (“choosing engagement over nothing”); body democracy means needing every blood type to keep our collective balanced. The crisis of democracy is when choice and consent are bled against will and threatened. It’s not a blood drive if they decide when they want it; the crisis is the removal of choice.

Still from the trailer for Jenny Hval’s Blood Bitch

Our body throbs with poisoned blood. Imbalanced monstrosities prick away consent from blood, lobbing hate at the female form (“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her… whatever”) and mandating containment (“lock her up!”). Personal democracies, rights to choice and rights to bodies, played out on a national scale, the matter of a nation electing hate instead of choice, it seemed. A woman’s choice and an election of a woman feels fractured and assaulted, with even national language regarding with a stoppage in (Kelly Oliver: “Sex implies consent. Without it, sexual activity is not sex but violence. Thus, the very term ‘nonconsensual sex’ is an oxymoron.”) What does body vigilance look like in the face of the eradication of consent? (“I’m so tired of subjectivity/ I must justify my presence by losing it.”) Blood health means: justify presence.

Blood Bitch justifies presence by flipping the consent conversation; the threat against femininity becomes feminine power, the female vampire draws blood, hers and yours. “Female Vampire” is the “transient, restless,” the transfusion of bleeding into drinking, powerless to power. By losing her previous presence as human, Jenny Hval establishes a new agency in the “here it comes here it comes here it comes” of the female as vampire and as artist, a new agent of blood health and identity. “There must be some kind of art form/ Where I can call my blood,” she wonders on “Period Piece,” and the imaginary answer (pop music) Blood Bitch provides to the real crisis (a state of wellness) is “there are multitudes.” Blood health in 2016 means multiplicity of types and voices and forms, evident in Blood Bitch’s invocation of slummy 1970s horror films and gothic pop and synthesizers and spoken-word samples. The matter of Blood Bitch denounces body conservatism by imagining realities beyond hate-mongering: it self-defines and engages in the new form, an erotic engagement in its own consent. There’s no place for despair in pop music, in big dreams and blood powers (“Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it”); a right to make a choice means a right to fight for it. The multitudes of Blood Bitch bleed on their own terms and refuse being held in or drained (“No one ever told me or taught me not to contain it.”). Blood health is democracy and engagement and multitudes, a right to choose.

I’m here writing, working, making myself available for love,” Hval confesses, in spite of the threat and in spite of the crisis. The election is in your body, the agency in your veins. Blood health is love and pop music, bleeding on your terms, an imaginary solution to a real problem.

“I have big dreams,” says The Daughter, wiping blood off her lips. “I am valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve those dreams.”

“Drink this, my love,” The Mothers says to The Daughter, pocketing her cell phone and holding out a bottle of water, an arm for The Daughter to grab on to.

“They tell you to drink plenty of fluids,” says Parka Basketball Shorts. He unscrews the plastic cap of a bottle. “Orange Gatorade is the healthiest-looking Gatorade.”

“Drink plenty of fluids,” says The Mother. She pulls tissue from her pocket, scratches the white against the blood above The Daughter’s upper lip. She opens her eyes a little wide, feels the little change in the place past her sinuses, brings the bloodied tissue to her own nose just in time to cup a sneeze. “Plenty of fluids.” The Daughter sits in a plastic chair and The Mother holds the gene-soaked tissue out in front of her; in illness and pronouns, the blood is hers and the sickness is hers and the body is her, too. She looks at The Daughter, at the fracture trickle of blood from the left nostril.

What are you doing, my love?

Henry Peacham, “Phlegma,” Minerva Britanna, 1612.

We bleed and we leak, red matter and salt water. We’re sacs of canals and ducts, mucosae to regulate, hormones for building, acids for in-taking, and brain proteins for helixing us up until we’re who we are. The human body is art in fluidity, a tributary planet, 70% ocean. The rest is complexion and thoughts, an emotional output dependent on the washing health of the fluids inside. Good things beget good things. Hippocrates stood by the humors because it meant standing by the body: his principle vis medicatrix naturae means the healing power of nature, means that left to itself, the body is its best physician.

Left to itself, the body is its best physicians, because left to itself, the body gets sick. Phlegm is the runniness and slowness of the body’s fluids coating themselves transformed before they can get better. Like a twisted ankle swelling up, we have to transform our self a little in order to get better. Even as we symptomize sickness, white blood cells are righting the ship, always well, we’re always ill. The balm bomb of phlegm, like pop music (engagement means I just heard this song, I need to hear it again, immediately) is contradiction.

LEMONADE is phlegm for the pop body, the transformed contradiction of love-sick music that looks like illness but feels like healing. LEMONADE is the body imbalanced, pop proof that to feel better, we have to get worse first. With the tonic shock of LEMONADE, Beyoncé leans into imbalance, the choler snarl like Kanye and the blood mediation of Jenny Hval. LEMONADE mitigates rage and liberation and betrayal and sounds sick for it. Love is imbalance (“Your love’s got me looking so crazy right now”), so how could it feel stable? Left to itself, the body gets sick: “What’s worse, looking jealous or crazy?

Beyoncé in the process of healing

You can taste the dishonesty, it’s all over your breath,” sting the first syllables on “Pray You Catch Me,” and the narrative is set. Personal betrayal and feelings of desertion pervade LEMONADE, a roiling of humors that leads to “Freedom.” “Love Drought” is an elegy for our former mixed fluids, the force that washes away “Sandcastles.” Choler shows up as dragon snarl on “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” transfused to something like healing in the blood of “Forward.” The male voice is antagonistic on the former (Jack White, nasal) and conciliatory on the latter (James Blake, soulful), but they’re grounded by the lovestrain in Beyoncé’s voice, the phlegm that keeps everything grounded in healing, even violence, even pain.

Fluids get mixed, poisons swapped for salves. Flint and Standing Rock stand in for the adultery narrative, the continent and politic deceived (Jesse Jackson: “The people of Flint have been betrayed”) and the sanctity of veins ignored (Judith Bender: “We think that Iowa’s aquifers should be protected because it is water that gives Iowa the best way of life.”) Like Kanye thinning his own toxins through retch en mass and Blood Bitch wrenching the choice to bleed back through the fangs and skin of the female vampire, LEMONADE’s phlegm mandates the trans-formation of the body toward action. Flint sparks: personal body betrayal and national fluid crisis flood over into moral mandate, Beyoncé’s single voice chorused in the “I slay, we gon’ slay” of “Formation.” Phlegm symptomize sick and symbolizes the action toward wellness, and pop music is the agent for the transformed body. “We have been treated like we don’t matter because we are from Flint,” said Melissa Mays of the Coalition for Clean Water. “It’s our job to stand up and say no, we’re done. We’re not going to put up with this anymore. “I’m a wave through the waters, tell the tide: ‘don’t move’/ I’m a riot, I’m a riot.

Vis medicatrix naturae,” says Hippocrates. It’s optimism, but it sounds like medicine.

Vis medicatrix Kanye,” says Kanye West, ambition that sounds like vomit.

Vis medicatrix blood,” says Jenny Hval, choice that feels like a seeping.

Vis medicatrix phlegm,” says Beyoncé, healing that sounds like a riot.

Engagement in our selves and the things that move and move in us is love, sounds like pop music. The transformation of a life’s machinations into an art of insides means that, in the face of illness and nothing, we engage in our messy, fluid humanity. Pop music is love and transformation, of wholes into pieces and then back again. Bodies mean their matter; meaning means matter matters. Freedom means fluidity.

I’m up at the Lawrenceville MinuteClinic. I’m out of the waiting room, a now-naked body in the fluorescent sterility of another room meant for waiting — no more clinic of critics, self-examination at last. There’s a body-length mirror on the door. There is me. I see the ghostpressings of ribs, the full veins, the way the skin fits snug over the ocean of organs. I see the body, and I see it begin to shift.

Henry Peacham, “Melancolia,” Minerva Britanna, 1612.

The shifting body feels like freedom. We’re at the mercy of our selves, sometimes, our biologies boiled thin to gender and health and humor and complexion. But the promise of liquidity promises motion beyond pallor. Pop music is verb-al, the puncturing of normativity. Inside our veins is the capacity to be outside our heads; we are not inside our guts.

Entrañas begins in celebration of un-vesselling the self, the inside art of Arca’s trans-clang glinting the grazing animal want in “Culebra,” perching self-identification on cliffs of falling sound in “Think Of.” Entrañas is not interested in establishing a whole via meaningful pieces; Entrañas is its whole, every sound is its self. Balance of a self means fluid navigation, a pop music for multitudinous moments.

Freedom is fluidity, but every body gets sick; it’s impossible not to read spillage as sickness. Even if I don’t mean something, I still must matter.

From a post on Arca’s Facebook page

I’m naked in front of the mirror. I’m in front of me, exposed. There’s the exploded boils, “Turnt” parts where blood stuck earth (March, Brussels Bombing) and the gaping holes in the chest, “Fount” for inner fluids (July, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling) and the “Lulled” flesh lines etching pus where the healing never happened (July, Dallas shooting) and the bruises where metal “Clocked” tissue (July, Nice terror attack). There’s a rage and a bleeding and a riot, but mostly there’s a deep-veined melancholy, a mourning place where the black bile cries, the body leaking its self, drained (June, Pulse Massacre.) Entrañas celebrates a created self, the motion of feeling transformed free. But the trans-text pop exists in this place, the complexion in a context of a world that sounds increasingly sick. Entrañas is black bile elegy, a reverie cry of te pierdo otra vez más. Aimlessly, Entrañas is “I lose you once again,” proof that we’re always both pronouns, loser and the loss.

I’m naked in front of the mirror, and I hear me laid bare. I’m sick and I’m healthy, transforming and stuck, engaged and eulogizing. I’m Captain Lawrence, the dying flooding, “Don’t give up the ship!” and I’m the ship itself, sunk. I’m fever and verve, bleeding and drinking, healing and fighting, celebrated and despairing. Pop music and health exist as dual mirrors, each facing the other, contradictions like selves that can only look toward a future. But I walk — still I walk:”Sin Rumbo” means an end but ends with that, the devotional “pero camino, aún camino.”“Pop music’s contradiction is its hook (engaged, I just heard this, I need it again), and that’s depressive if you let it be, like health, like self. But it’s also proof that there’s a future moment, a getting-beyond trauma, and that getting-beyond sounds like a song, vis medicatrix naturae. We engage and we listen; the alternative is nothing. Love is a body, a multitude of people waiting for help, to help each other. Pop music is like love and our selves. It’s a question, technically, but it’s phrased like a statement.