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.

Kelly Lee Owens – “Anxi” (Feat. Jenny Hval)

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KLOBack in 2015, London producer Kelly Lee Owens released a throbbing rework of Jenny Hval’s “Kingsize,” a move which clearly defined both her influences and her own brooding techno aesthetic. Now Hval is featured on the lead single from Owens self-titled debut album, which is the follow-up to her thumping EP Oleic from last … More »

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

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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)

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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

Jenny Hval – “The Great Undressing” Video (NSFW)

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jennyhvalundressingvidJenny Hval released her great new album, Blood Bitch, last fall, and today she’s shared a video for “The Great Undressing,” which was directed by Marie Kristiansen and follows around a naked woman going about her day-to-day activities, from eating french fries in bed to going to the gym to buying laundry detergent. More »

Feature: 2016: A Musicology Of Exhaustion

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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