Feature: 2010s: Favorite 50 Cover Art of the Decade

This post was originally published on this site

It’s telling that the decade’s most memorable innovations in cover art have breached the confines of the record sleeve. It’s a stunt Kanye West famously pulled in 2013, when CD copies of Yeezus hit shelves sans insert. The front of its jewel case stripped bare save for the edge of an orange sticker, the disc was exposed like spilled innards — a reflective organ through which one could stare at their mirror image.

It was a novel concept made even more intriguing in historical context. Yeezus dropped in the last year that revenues from physical music sales would outweigh digital proceeds, ditching the opulent presentation of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for a leaner, more efficient look fit for the streaming era. Now, at the end of the decade, as “Blood On the Leaves” or “On Sight” takes its turn in your playlist’s queue, you’re faced with a photograph of the physical product cropped into Spotify’s 1500×1500 pixel square. The disc’s immaterial surface reflects nothing.

In the digital marketplace, the square dimensions and promotional utility of cover art remain surprisingly unchanged. Save for a few animated experiments at the turn of the decade, the majority of cover art is still static. Parental advisory labels don’t serve any real purpose when slapped on a .jpg, but a mixtape cover just doesn’t look right without one — even today. Although artists have taken to bundling digital downloads with apparel, distressed ashtrays, and sex toys to rake in extra cash while gaming the Billboard charts, I still picture the square image posted onto streaming services when I think of any particular release.

As we transition into the 2020s, it’s likely that cover art will begin to assume a variety of shapes and forms. We’ve already gotten used to bumping snippets of unreleased Playboi Carti songs via ripped Instagram live clips, and somehow the tracks just don’t hit the same when they’re fully streamable in standard definition. Tierra Whack’s 2018 debut record Whack World was released as a series of 15 one-minute Instagram videos, which is infinitely more immediate and accessible than a boilerplate “link in bio” announcement. Maybe the folks uploading .gifs as mixtape covers back in 2012 were onto something.

For now, here are our favorite variations on a square we’ve seen this decade, conveniently organized into five taxonomic groups: Appendages, Flora/Fauna, Mythos, Personae, and Simulacra. Our 50-part primer on thinking outside of the box while working squarely inside it begins below.


..•´¯`•..•. APPENDAGES .•..•´¯`•..


David Bowie – The Next Day

Artist: Jonathan Barnbrook

[ISO; 2013]



Dean Blunt – The Redeemer

Artist: Dean Blunt

[Hippos in Tanks; 2013]



Dillon Wendel – Pulse

Artist: Anne Tetzlaff

[The Trilogy Tapes; 2017]



Eric Copeland – Logo My Ego

Artist: Eric Copeland

[L.I.E.S.; 2014]



felicita – frenemies

Artist: Dannie Russo

[Gum Artefacts; 2014]



Golden Living Room – Post-Internet

Artist: Michael Green

[Phinery; 2016]



Half-Japanese – Refreshing

Artist: Jad Fair

[Joyful Noise; 2014]



Parquet Courts – Wide Awaaaaake!

Artist: A. Savage

[Rough Trade; 2018]


[pagebreak]

..•´¯`•..•. FLORA / FAUNA .•..•´¯`•..


Beneath – Schlocky

Artist: Horfee

[Berceuse Heroique; 2015]



Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart

Artist: Jeremy Schmidt

[Jagjaguwar; 2010]



Candy Claws – Ceres & Calypso in the Deep Time

Artist: Ryan Hover

[twosyllable; 2013]



DJ Marfox – Chapa Quente

Artist: Márcio Matos

[Príncipe; 2016]



Great Dane – Beta Cat

Artist: Emily Bayer

[Alpha Pup; 2014]



ODAE – Ataraxic

Artist: @brushykb

[#veryjazzed; 2019]



Quest For Fire – Lights from Paradise

Artist: Andre Ethier

[Tee Pee; 2010]



Somasis – Spirit Songs For Lovers

Artist: Ala Flora

[Self-Released; 2019]


[pagebreak]

..•´¯`•..•. MYTHOS .•..•´¯`•..


DIIV – Oshin

Artist: Kiakshuk

[Captured Tracks; 2012]



Father – I’m a Piece of Shit

Artist: Max Reyes

[Awful; 2016]



Giant Claw – Soft Channel

Artist: Ellen Thomas & Keith Rankin

[Orange Milk; 2017]



Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – Nanda Collection

Artist: Steve Nakamura

[Unborde; 2013]



Lil B – Pink Flame

Artist: Uncle Grumpy Inc. a.k.a. Young Van Gogh

[Self-Released; 2013]



of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks

Artist: David Barnes

[Polyvinyl; 2012]



oOoOO – oOoOO

Artist: Alison Scarpulla

[Tri Angle; 2010]



The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

Artist: Rhydian Dafydd

[Atlantic; 2011]



Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania

Artist: William Keihn

[In the Red; 2011]


[pagebreak]

..•´¯`•..•. PERSONAE .•..•´¯`•..


Aaron Dilloway – Modern Jester

Artist: Aaron Dilloway

[Hanson; 2013]



Amen Dunes – Through Donkey Jaw

Artist: Deborah Turbeville

[Sacred Bones; 2011]



Arca – Xen

Artist: Jesse Kanda

[Mute; 2014]



Autre Ne Veut – Autre Ne Veut

Artist: Robert Macmillan

[Olde English Spelling Bee; 2010]



Doon Kanda – Luna

Artist: Jesse Kanda

[Hyperdub; 2018]



Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs

Artist: Thebe Kgositsile

[Tan Cressida; 2018]



emamouse – plant spiral bio bombing

Artist: emamouse

[Psalmus Diuersae; 2016]



Hannah Diamond – “Attachment”

Artist: Diamond Wright

[PC Music; 2014]



Noname – Telefone

Artist: Nikko Washington

[Self-Released; 2016]



Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica

Artist: Virgil Finlay

[Mexican Summer; 2011]



Peewee Longway – Spaghetti Factory

Artist: KD Designz

[Empire; 2018]



Shy Glizzy – Quiet Storm

Artist: McFlyy

[300; 2017]



Yves Tumor – Experiencing the Deposit of Faith

Artist: Unknown

[Self-Released; 2017]


[pagebreak]

..•´¯`•..•. SIMULACRA .•..•´¯`•..


Andy Stott – Faith in Strangers

Artist: Amedeo Modigliani

[Modern Love; 2014]



Babyfather – BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow

Artist: Optigram (design) / Dean Blunt (concept)

[Hyperdub; 2016]



Beach Fossils – What a Pleasure

Artist: Unknown

[Captured Tracks; 2011]



James Ferraro – Far Side Virtual

Artist: James Ferraro

[Hippos in Tanks; 2011]



Kanye West – Yeezus

Artist: Kanye West & Virgil Abloh

[Def Jam; 2013]



Macintosh Plus – Floral Shoppe

Artist: Ramona Xavier

[Beer on the Rug; 2011]



Memory Tapes – Player Piano

Artist: Kazuki Takamatsu

[Carpark; 2011]



MORO – San Benito

Artist: Chino Amobi

[NON; 2016]



Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven

Artist: Robert Beatty

[Warp; 2013]



Swept – Cult Desire

Artist: Mason Lindroth

[Self-Released; 2017]



The Caretaker – Everywhere at the end of time

Artist: Ivan Seal

[History Always Favours The Winners; 2016]



Travis Scott – Astroworld

Artist: David LaChapell

[Cactus Jack; 2018]


Feature: 2010s: Confronting Uncertainty

This post was originally published on this site

“If the relation between artistic creation and our history is so difficult to pin down these days, it is precisely because time is accelerating and, as it were, evading us, and because the overlaying of temporal language by spatial language, the primacy of code, which prescribes behaviour, over the symbolic, which constructs relations, shapes the conditions of artistic creation.”
– Marc Augé, Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity

Digital colonization has been a fundamental and increasingly oppressive component of the 2010s. The reach of the network has extended quite far, permeating nearly every aspect of social interaction and cultural genesis, bringing with it the exploitative and individualist logic of capital and those who control it. Over the last decade, the network (and the coding that enables its reach) has creeped into places of work and leisure, of cultural creation and consumption, even of love and relationships in ways unforeseen.

Control of and/or influence within the network has become synonymous with political and economic power. Under global capitalism, the wealth and power afforded by network control has fallen into the hands of a few moguls and corporations who now enjoy enormous political influence. The internet of things and labor automation are becoming more widespread; the former promises more surveillance capitalism, the latter more unemployment and a revolution of infrastructure that renders dozens of professions obsolete. Concurrently, refugee crises and food shortages have resulted in an influx of immigration into almost every nation in the Global North, which has ignited a surge of nationalism, classism, racism, and support for far-right ideologues. The dark miasma of global eco-crises floats menacingly over these radical transformations, an emergency often treated as invisible by policymakers until it stares them in the face via stronger storms, flooding, and forest fires. It seems like every day scientists unveil more alarming climate change data that spell out certain doom, and more often than not, such projections are best-case scenarios.

Instead of utopianism, democratization, and post-racialism, the grim truth is that the internet — algorithms, social media, and the network — seems to have achieved comparatively little in the way of effecting harmonious communities, equal access to information, and equitably prosperous societies. Often, it has done the opposite, having exacerbated racial, gender, political, and class divisions; enabled the rise of the alt-right; acted as a conduit for the radicalization of young men worldwide; and served as a vehicle for capital inequality and exploitation.

In short, it’s hard to be optimistic about the future. In broad terms, both the creation and consumption of media seem to have entered a feedback loop: instead of pushing forward and embracing the realities of our own moment, artistic approaches and even political convictions have often either turned backward or stood still. Naturally, there are exceptions, and much can be said for various significant works and movements that emerged between 2010-2019, many of which we are proud to have covered here at Tiny Mix Tapes. But generally, experimental movements have been increasingly suffocated by the aforementioned trends and corporate takeover to the detriment of liberating art/music that might over refuge. Similarly, independent music publications have been swimming upstream against a tide of exploitation, commercialization, and the encroachment of a network rooted in surveillance capitalism, making it harder to create space for discourse and meaningful criticism. From creation to journalistic coverage to consumption and enjoyment, the network has radically transformed the music industry, resulting in an environment that fails to nurture community, critical discussion, and the artists themselves.

As some cultural theorists and music critics have pointed out, a sense of atemporality and stagnation has emerged across creative endeavors, even society itself. The reasons why aren’t so apparent; perhaps it’s a glaring symptom of capitalist realism, which has resulted in an inability or unwillingness to develop solutions other than (or outside of) neoliberalism for the terrors outlined above; perhaps the usefulness of history as a tool for understanding ourselves and the art we create has been rendered obsolete; or perhaps creativity has simply reached an impasse of oversaturation and overload, so many styles and content available to us that it’s easier to market and make a living off “old” styles than to work to synthesize appealing “new” ones. Most likely, it’s a combination of a lot of things. Whatever the reasons, it’s a phenomenon that is plainly apparent. And all too often, experimental and avant-garde music(s) have been underappreciated or snuffed out before their potential could be fully realized. As I wrote in my review of Triad God’s 2019 album 黑社會 Triad, the decade has felt trapped in “a feedback loop wherein the avant-garde either became an afterthought, was written off as pretentious, or was otherwise abandoned (or mistaken) for pastiche or kitsch in a music culture unwilling or unable to find cohesion in an age of hyper-accessibility.”

I am of the conviction that art, creativity, and novel aesthetic experiences — and the analyses and criticism that rise in their wake — are powerful engines of redemptive change. In that regard, here I’ll explore some ways that the network has affected the creation, consumption, and distribution of music in the 2010s. Of course, any exploration of so complex a phenomenon requires a variety of methods, perspectives, and analyses, surely too many for one essay. As such, my goal here is less comprehensiveness and more to offer an invitation into subject matter that warrants urgent attention. My hope is that this essay will offer insight into the ongoing conversations regarding global technology-driven neoliberalism and the types of culture it produces.

This piece is titled “Confronting Uncertainty,” because our cultural trajectories have largely been shaped by the extent to which we are willing or able to confront the future and whatever anxieties it brings. In the last decade, we’ve experienced radical shifts in ideological consciousness, sociospatial relations, and technology. But with these shifts has come pervasive uncertainty that has produced tangible fear, cynicism, and paranoia. My overall aim is to draw attention to the desperate need to confront the uncertainty of our current condition. While I intend my analysis to be more diagnostic than prescriptive, at least in terms of specificity, I will still argue that if we are to push forward into the darkness, we would do well to embrace more contextual understandings of music so that they might retain their inherent value as powerful tools for envisioning alternative visions and narratives for our future.


Part I: Post-Piracy
“A FAMILIAR VOICE BECKONS YOU TOWARDS THE COMPUTER” by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓

“Will ubiquitous computing be co-opted as a stalking horse for predatory capitalism or can we seize the opportunity to use it for life enhancing transformation?”
– N. Katharine Hayles

Founded sometime around 2007, What.cd was the child of Oink.cd (colloquially stylized OiNK), a private torrent tracker active between 2004-2007 that was ultimately shut down after a two-year anti-piracy investigation led by Interpol. The investigation led to the prosecution of OiNK’s founder Alan Ellis, a British software engineer who would eventually face “conspiracy to defraud” charges but avoid being convicted. But despite the site’s demise and the threat of prosecution, OiNK’s former administrators and loyal members were unphased. They formed What.cd, which would eventually grow far beyond OiNK in size and scope.

For the uninitiated, a torrent tracker is a server that connects a network of users who share files downloaded to their computers via an application (a BitTorrent client) that connects users to each other via a central server (the “tracker”). While public trackers like The Pirate Bay were once widely used and more or less sufficient for downloading popular content, private trackers like What.cd were faster, more reliable, and less visible to authorities and internet service providers seeking to enforce copyright law.

Naturally, access to What.cd was selective, requiring an interview or a coveted invite from a current member. And once a member, there were strict rules and upload/download ratio requirements in place to ensure users were giving back to the tracker just as they took from it. Users were even incentivized to provide site maintenance and support (cataloguing content, editing Wikipedia-style entries on downloading methods, artist information, etc.). The result was an incredibly useful music website and a valuable encyclopedic resource for information.

The genius of a torrent tracker is its horizontal structure of distribution and accountability. Instead of a central database of files, the data is stored within the network itself on thousands of computers; the central server simply serves as a beacon connecting users, or “peers,” enabling them to share and download files from one another. This ensures that, even if the network itself is shut down, the files still remain intact because they are distributed on computers around the world.

Unable to effectively prosecute thousands of users, the best authorities have been able to do is to scapegoat one or a handful of people on piracy charges, and even then, building a case can be difficult. Further, because of a tracker’s decentralized structure, shutting down one tracker is less like the burning of The Library of Alexandria and more like a temporary roadblock. As occurred with the demise of OiNK, users can simply rebuild another tracker through which to exchange the already-downloaded files. Indeed, several trackers have arisen since the demise of What.cd (though it’s questionable how well they’ll thrive in the age of streaming). For authorities, it’s an endless game of whack-a-mole. Shutting down one tracker is akin to decapitating a hydra: more trackers are destined to rise in the wake of the dead one.

With efficiency in mind, torrent trackers should be regarded as the ideal means through which music is consumed in the network age. Trackers and MP3 downloading consume less energy than streaming and are far less precarious. The only problem, of course, is that this model of consumption is the anathema to any industry built on the “scarcity logic” of market capitalism, which cares not for efficiency or public good, but for profit.


As the prevalence of torrent trackers grew, so too did filesharing services. And much of that story begins with Kim Dotcom. By 2005, he was living in Hong Kong, and his track record fell somewhere between a self-professed “hacker” (who had a fondness for embellishing his feats) and a shady internet entrepreneur who had somehow made a hefty sum of money in the data security business. But the world’s economy was becoming increasingly globalized, and the network economy maturing. Now free after a few run-ins with the law, he saw an opportunity to make good money in filesharing. So, while living in Hong Kong, he founded Data Protect Limited, a hosting service that he would rename Megaupload shortly thereafter.

Megaupload, of course, quickly became the standard for file storage, viewing, and sharing until 2012, when it was shut down by the US Department of Justice. Before that happened, Megaupload and sites like it indirectly gave birth to an underground network of music blogs that distributed music files, often illegally, to millions of people worldwide. Music fans and curators who lived in the era of music blogs often reflect on those years fondly as a time when the internet still held promise of a better future, or at least a more fun one, where corporate influence in music and journalism was less pronounced.

Like torrent trackers, the music blog circuit — spearheaded by sites like holyfuckingshit40000, Mutant Sounds, Fantod Under Glass, and others — was characterized by horizontal participation in the consumption and distribution of music. Any number of music blogs offered downloadable records (via MegaUpload, Rapidshare, Mediafire, etc.), from popular to rare, and often included reviews, substantial artist information/history, and comment discussions. And, of course, it was all free.

The staggering extent to which MegaUpload was used to download illegal media is difficult to grasp. At one point, it was estimated that 4% of all internet traffic was directed through MegaUpload. The site had its fall from grace in 2012, partly for reasons outside of copyright infringement (money laundering, racketeering, etc.), but the message was apparent: if music on the internet had a future, then filesharing was not going to be a part of it. It served as a warning to other companies seeking to take MegaUpload’s place. Robbed of the filesharing services that enabled them, the music blogs began to fizzle out in the early 2010s. They took with them the possibility of a more democratized and less corporate way of gatekeeping and curating music online.


Piracy is waning in relevance, less due to the success of copyright law enforcement and more because of a sea change in the technology used to consume media. Cloud storage, more powerful smartphones, and wider availability of WiFi/4G are rendering MP3 storage more inconvenient than paying $5-$10 a month for a catalog of music via Spotify and other music apps. Why illegally download music and then transfer it to your phone or MP3 player when you could pay a relatively small amount and have it all available in your pocket 24/7? Most are happy to sacrifice some autonomy for such convenience.

But the convenience comes at a cost. It’s no secret that the vast majority of artists offering their music on Apple Music, Spotify, et al. see little-to-no profit. As TMT writer Ze Pequeno highlights in his year-end essay “Who Controls Music?,” even the companies themselves are having trouble making profits via streaming, as it is wildly inefficient in terms of resources and costs.

Consumers are hardly better off either. Listening habits are now largely at the behest of prescriptive algorithms instead of people, resulting in more atomized modes of consumption and less cross-genre exchanges. And, sadly, artists are being forced to put their music on Spotify and Apple Music, not to make money, but simply for exposure. No one seems to be benefitting that much, but streaming is still on its way to becoming standard.

To be sure, the age of torrenting and music blogging wasn’t a perfect Eden. It was still marked by the same racial, gender, and class divides endemic within the internet and society more broadly, and filesharing services were certainly used for various criminal enterprises. Still, this era at least offered some promise of more open control of information whereas streaming services do not.

The demise of What.cd and Megaupload exemplify a phenomena that has plagued web development since at least Napster: users help to innovate beneficial, more open, and cheaper means of information exchange better suited to the information age, and then the powerful subvert or appropriate them for capital gain. They evidence a situation in which the music industry was faced with something new — something uncertain — and neglected to adapt in favor of outdated, inefficient, and less democratic modes of production and distribution.


Author and critic Ryan Alexander Diduck prefaces his book Mad Skills: MIDI and Music Technology in the Twentieth Century with the following joke:

There once was a crossing guard who worked at border patrol. Every day at this guard’s checkpoint, a man would line up to cross the border with a wheelbarrow full of sand. Now, the guard was positive that the man was attempting to smuggle something across; surely there was some sort of contraband hidden in the sand. And every day, the guard dutifully sifted through every grain of that sand. But every day, finding nothing, he was bound to let the man across. This same episode repeated itself for thirty years — the same man crossing over the border with a wheelbarrow full of sand, and the same border guard becoming ever more confounded.

Finally, the guard’s last day on the job arrived. He asked the man, “Please! I am retiring tomorrow, so it no longer makes a difference to me, but I must know: what is it that you’ve been smuggling all these years? To which the man replied, “I thought it was obvious. I’ve been smuggling wheelbarrows.”

Diduck continues, “More than simply saying that technologies dictate the ways we use them, the technological vessel gives form and contour to the content.” His book applies this logic to the fascinating history of MIDI, but it also applies here. Instead of recognizing the value of peer-to-peer filesharing (the wheelbarrow), companies continue to fight an uphill battle trying to make music (the sand) profitable. Of course, artists weren’t making money off people listening to their music via torrents or Megaupload. But they aren’t making much money from streaming either (and if they are, it typically pales in comparison to touring/merch sales). The difference is that, where filesharing removed the yoke of exploitative corporate gatekeeping, streaming services have replaced it.


Part II: Hauntology Was the Rage
“SecondLifeBetaViewer 2011-03-28 10-16-36-58” by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓

At the dawn of the millennium, the network still operated largely as an aesthetic ideal rather than an absolute. Cyberspace was imagined as a utopian otherworld full of promise, an immersive place one could enter, navigate, and explore, much like outer space. It was colorful, shiny, metallic, full of knowledge, leisure, and abundance. And, more than anything else, it was arriving. It was perhaps the last cultural impasse when art and music readily centered itself optimistically around the future.

A financial meltdown and a never-ending war on terror later, by 2010 the network was not only still there — it had substantially grown. But a vision of the future and any optimism associated with it had not. In stark contrast to the year 2000, 2010 marked a strange, increasing emphasis on backwards-looking aesthetics. In music, everyone seemed affected with nostalgia, from pop to even the so-called avant-garde.

In 2011, the once-reclusive Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel (whose 1998 album In The Aeroplane Over the Sea is widely considered a magnum opus of indie rock) announced an extensive tour via a head-scratching note on his website:

hello friends in a flock of finches unfolding from the face of a foam horse on the phone to inform you that jeff is heading out for one last u.s. acoustic tour, giving him the chance to play to all the silver citizens dwelling in citys that he has yet to sing in.

The announcement was a shock to most fans, many of whom were now in their late 20s and 30s. The world of indie rock was naturally awash with ecstasy at the news of his return. Notably, however, there was no announcement of new music. He was to be playing mostly solo acoustic covers of songs written in the 90s.

The following January, I was in the audience as he walked on stage to a standing ovation in an ornate music hall. Partly because of the ticket price and partly because of his aging fanbase, many in the crowd were older, donning beards and plaid shirts, holding craft brews from the chandelier-lit lobby. Some couples had kids with them. Even still, many in the crowd were college aged, which means they would have been children when In The Aeroplane Over the Sea was released. I remember it feeling odd that a band over a decade old could attract and maintain a contemporary fanbase.

Perhaps the crowd’s charisma could be explained by the mere spectacle of a reclusive musician returning to the spotlight after so long. Maybe it was simply the undeniable quality of Mangum’s music. Looking back, though, I’m more skeptical. The most compelling reason explaining the positive response to his return is that late 90s indie music was still incredibly relevant in the early 2010s. For years, the umbrella genre of indie rock (and its adherents) had seemed indifferent to the idea of the “future” or even the “now” as developmental frameworks. Of course, there were exceptions, but by and large, it was (and is) a genre that centers itself around the bygone influences of shoegaze, iterations of punk, garage rock, folk, psychedelic, and so on. Unwilling or unable to reify the present moment and where it might lead, artists and fans alike seemed content to recycle old movements and sounds in the early 2010s. Bands either refused to abandon the methodologies of their forebears or otherwise opted to use nostalgia as a vehicle for their art (e.g., chillwave and lo-fi).

The most well-known diagnosticians of this phenomenon are Simon Reynolds and the late Mark Fisher, whose books (Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past and Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, respectively) offered prescient analyses of our era’s cultural lag. James Parker and Nicholas Croggon summarized Reynolds’s theory of retromania thus in a 2014 essay for TMT:

The idea was that, more than ever before, contemporary music is concerned with being “retro,” with repeating its own very recent past. In justifying this central claim, Reynolds detailed numerous examples, both pop and experimental, that referred either explicitly or implicitly to music of bygone eras: the eternal return of 60s- and 70s-era garage rock, Amy Winehouse and Adele’s ludicrously successful neo-soul, the onslaught of 90s Eurodance recently unleashed by David Guetta et al. on the world’s charts. And in the global underground: chillwave, hypnagogic pop, hauntology, hipster house. In each case, Reynolds’ diagnosis was almost entirely negative. For Reynolds, retromania is a sickness, a form of cultural malaise. With each passing year, he worried, the pulse of the present is growing increasingly faint.

Fisher, for his part, understood the phenomenon of “retromania” through a wider lens of an oppressive global capitalism that regards itself as the ideal form of governance. The idea is that culture is less fascinated with the future simply because there is no reason (or salient encouragement) to idealize any vision of societal/economic arrangement other than the one we already have.

Certainly Reynolds’s and Fisher’s theories have holes and exceptions, especially when understood in terms of race in the U.S. (though perhaps that’s expected given that they are English). Still, theirs were prominent modes of analyses for cultural theorists throughout the decade, serving as useful reference points in discussing everything from 80s aesthetics to normcore fashion to vaporwave.

VANISHING VISION by INTERNET CLUB

In a 2009 blog post, writer Adam Harper outlines the Derridean theory of Hauntology:

Hauntological spectres come to bother us and our images from any zone of deficit lying between things as they were / are / will be and things as they are thought or hoped to have been / be / be in the future, thus history haunts (Marxist) ideology, and (Marxist) ideology haunts history; theory haunts practice and practice haunts theory, Utopia haunts reality and reality haunts Utopia, and so on. Art that permits a hauntological reading would facilitate this process of haunting.

Importantly, one year before Derrida published his theory of hauntology in 1993’s Spectres of Marx, Francis Fukuyama penned his well-known book The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama positioned the disbanding of the Soviet Union and the triumph of liberal democracy as the “final form of human government,” thus rendering history an increasingly obsolete metric of orientation. Fukuyama has since revised and denounced parts of his original theory in light of Brexit and the Trump era; still, like Fisher’s and Reynolds’s theories, the idea of liberal democracy as “the end of history” paired with Derrida’s original theory of hauntology are useful in understanding the cultural tension(s) between past and future in the 2010s.

I find the most apparent manifestations/uses of hauntology (as applied to music) in a few genres emergent in the 2010s: vaporwave, Chicago footwork, Jersey club, deconstructed club, and PC Music/so-called “bubblegum bass.” The internet played a major role in the distribution and rise of each of these movements, and each were “hauntological” in their own ways, whether through the co-opting/dissection of accelerationist pop aesthetics (PC Music, deconstructed club) or kitschy deconstructionist sampling of Muzak (vaporwave) or the recycling of viral internet videos/pop-culture soundbites (Jersey Club and footwork). These were genres that looked forward by looking back, enabling the past to “haunt” the present, making a spectacle of media decay and consumption.

But as James Bridle points out, even artists using hauntological frameworks subversively are still paradoxically “steeped in nostalgia.” It bears questioning whether nostalgia is a useful or desirable tool in our current era of crises. While certainly not fruitless, the visions and critiques offered by the aforementioned “hauntological” movements — all more or less reliant on sampling fossilized genres, sounds, and signifiers — can be potentially undermined by their using the past as a central referent. Over-fetishizing and offering pastiche/deconstruction of what once was runs the danger of encouraging us to revel in a ghostly fantasy, one informed more by cynical nostalgia than creativity.

Of course, I am making broad generalizations — though they are somewhat unavoidable in analyzing decade-long trends. I do not intend to lazily gloss over movements that have, with varying success, harbored their own sound in the past decade or otherwise cultivated novel aesthetic experiences. While I am more hesitant than Fisher and Reynolds to unblinkingly diagnose supposed cultural lag as a wholly bad thing, I do think Fisher especially makes a valid point to link the flattening of time with broader trends endemic in global capitalism, and that there are very real oppressive entities benefitting from music culture’s unwillingness/inability to explore new ideological frontiers.

Emile Frankel notes in Hearing the Cloud: “Future critical purchase is often made forceless when it stays entirely stuck in the nostalgia of the past.” Of course, the future, by definition, must be informed by the past, lest it become indistinguishable from what was or is. As such, the question is not whether to discard the past, but whether we can look upon it with a critical gaze while using it as an aesthetic tool.


Part III: The Primacy of Code, The Dissolution of the “Real,” and the Musicalization of Meaning
“WHAT A NEAT CYBERSCAPE WITH MANY MOVING CUBES” by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓

“We live life in real space, subject to the effects of code. We live ordinary lives, subject to the effects of code. Code regulates all these aspects of our lives, more pervasively over time than any other regulator in our life.”
– Lawrence Lessig

Much of the cultural nostalgia in the 2010s had to do with growing skepticism toward technology and the network. Lest we forget Jeff Mangum’s famous no-photo, no-phone use policy during his return tour, assumedly to force people to “disconnect” for 90 minutes. And Mangum was hardly the only performer known to enforce such a policy. The “let’s be here now” call-to-arms became widespread at shows in the 2010s, a controversial attempt to dictate the mode of enjoyment for concert-goers.

While I respect the idea for its good intent, it doesn’t get at the underlying issues that performers seem determined to resolve. Aside from buying into the false dichotomy between the digital and the social (i.e., “digital dualism”), simply banning cell phones/photography during shows fails to acknowledge the fact that the network and code/spaces are inescapably part-and-parcel of daily life. It divorces the question of why we so desire to share and document our experiences via the network from the how, answering for us whether cell phone use is good or bad. And it poses the question as an individual problem instead of one tied up in the systemic mechanisms of social media and the network, the profit-motive that drives it, and the way it prescribes behavior. Most of all, it shifts focus away from the code/spaces that got the audience and Mangum there in the first place, a space that has permeated the music industry such that it is now inescapable, cell phone use or not.

In plain terms, code/spaces are places where computer code is not just present, but an indispensable component of the place as such. In other words, code/spaces include any sociospatial realms that fundamentally rely on code to not only function, but to exist. Airports are an instructive example; also supermarkets and, as we will see, spaces (physical and non) where humans both produce and consume music and other media.

In no small measure, the slow creep of code/spaces into everyday relations has contributed to what I term a dissolution of the real, or a lesser emphasis on distinguishing between what is “real” (here meaning true or more valid with respect to some “other”) and what is not. Such dissolution — produced by, among other things, a widespread mapping of the internet onto both the physical world and social relations — has resulted in less curiosity about the internet as an unexplored frontier or a harbinger of utopian possibilities. In short, the once pervasive idea of the internet as a “frontier” in the public lexicon and consciousness is diminishing now that the internet is manifesting observably in everyday life, hardly replicating the glowing world of cyberspace envisioned in the 2000s. As such, it seems that visionary creativity/inspiration has either disappeared, become less useful, or recognized as carrying false promise.

As the network and the computers that enable it become essential in producing and mediating social and economic activity, “online” and “offline” mesh into one, and the distinction becomes almost meaningless. From Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin’s Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life:

Code/space occurs when software and the spatiality of everyday life become mutually constituted, that is, produced through one another. Here, spatiality is the product of code, and the code exists primarily in order to produce a particular spatiality. […] A check-in area at an airport can be described as a code/space. The spatiality of the check-in area is dependent on software. If the software crashes, the area reverts from a space in which to check in to a fairly chaotic waiting room. There is no other way of checking a person onto a flight because manual procedures have been phased out due to security concerns, so the production of space is dependent on code.

Just as Marc Augé’s non-place prescribes social behavior in the physical world (modeled in the video below by James Ferraro), code/spaces go one step further into the virtual, mediating and often determining everything from social interaction to creative production.

As Kitchin and Dodge point out: “One can make a case for code changing not only the epistemic culture of music-making, but also the dominant kind of sound.” The spread of code into sites of music production and consumption has (from DAWs to social media promotion to downloading/streaming) democratized the industry with respect to the barriers of entry common in the 1970s and 80s (studios, engineering expertise, production costs), and in some ways allowed for greater creative freedom. On the other hand, Kitchin and Dodge note that there are ways that software reliance can actually work to stifle and automate creativity:

Some have argued that the ways in which the design of software structures human cognitive processes can have a detrimental effect on performance. For example, criticism has been directed at the way Microsoft’s successful PowerPoint application has shaped the rules of giving presentations, encouraging a dull linearity of bullet-pointed texted over deeper, more discursive talks; the software overtly focuses the audience on the presentation format and not its content.

Similarly, DAWs like Pro Tools, Ableton, and Logic Pro come loaded with design presets, MIDI instruments, and a claviocentric design that certainly impacts the modes of creative production and output, paradoxically encouraging aesthetic homogeneity rather than diversity. Artists such as 食品まつり a.k.a Foodman, Giant Claw, and the PC Music roster have importantly drawn attention to these modes of automation by making glaringly “artificial” compositions rife with MIDI and cartoonish/plastic instrumental presets. These artists’ work tend to draw attention to vital questions of artificiality, creativity, and authenticity in the age of the network.

DARK WEB by Giant Claw

Music has become less and less a vehicle through which to explore frontiers; rather, music itself has become the end, increasingly divorced from meaningful insight and discourse. In the network age, information (music included) has become musicalized, which is to say, the appearance of information (here, music) is more a spectacle than the information itself. Artists Romy Achituv and Camille Utterback demonstrated this phenomenon with their prophetic 1999 interactive installation Text Rain:

In the Text Rain installation participants stand or move in front of a large projection screen. On the screen they see a mirrored video projection of themselves in black and white, combined with a color animation of falling letters. Like rain or snow, the letters appears to land on participants’ heads and arms. The letters respond to the participants’ motions and can be caught, lifted, and then let fall again.

Importantly, the letters in Text Rain are not random. If a participant stands still long enough, letters arranged to form a poem about bodies and language, a meditation on the very activity in which they are partaking. But of course, rarely did participants stand still long enough to decode the message, instead opting to play with the letters, toss them around, and enjoy the spectacle of their distribution. Author Roberto Simanowski interprets the installation thus:

Suddenly, letters were no longer linguistic bearers of meaning that needed to be decoded, although that was in fact possible since the letters were taken from a poem and formed words and lines, if observers were patient enough to collect them. But of course hardly anyone thought of putting the letters together and reading them when they could be scooped up with an umbrella and balanced on fingertips. Experience showed that the audience didn’t pay much attention to the text in Text Rain.

One consequence, then, of the overproduction and ubiquity of music is its rendering as a spectacle of consumption. Faced with so much music and no time to listen to (let alone reflect on) all of it, listening becomes less an act of meaningful engagement and more like wading through a glut of content, where the act of consumption itself is enough. We’ve seen this happen to varying degrees with a slew of genres in the 2010s, from Chicago drill to “SoundCloud rap” to vaporwave to deconstructed club and its affiliates. More often than not, small music movements are cycled through like memes, trendy fads slated to be discarded as quickly as they come before meaning can be decoded.

Even further, as discussed at the Sonica 2018 roundtable on music and class, available DIY spaces and funding for artists have become increasingly scarce (at least in the US), while the logic of capital has seeped into music production via streaming services, the festival circuit, and other corporate interests that benefit from consistent content engagement. Even the “gig economy” has encroached on the disposable time artists and fans alike have to critically reflect on music, as labor is increasingly outsourced into spaces once characterized by leisure and reflection. The result is an environment dominated by corporate logic and for-profit curation, where some subcultures (particularly dance music and hip-hop) have had to submit to and exist under the auspices of the very capitalist/corporate modes of control they once sought to subvert.


Conclusion: ‘Can you tell what they’re making?’
“SICK BAY – ACCURATE DETAILS” by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓

‘What’s that going thunka-thunka-thunka?’
‘Must be the machine. There’s a huge, black machine in there going round and round. But what can it be making?’
‘Come on now, give me a look! Yes, it’s the machine, all right. A big one! Oh — I see some men working!’
‘What are they like?’
‘There are three of them. The older one must be the father and the two younger ones his sons.’
‘So — a family.’
‘They’re covered with grease, and they’re certainly going at it!’
‘Can you tell what they’re making?’
‘I wish I could.’

–Betsuyaku Minoru, Factory Town (1973)

It is difficult to exaggerate the extent to which smartphones, 4G (increasingly, 5G) networks, and diffuse internet access have reshaped social relations, infrastructure, both local and global economies, and culture in the last decade. Perhaps even more so than the automobile or railroad train, the pervasivity of the network and the conduits through which it is accessed have altered sociospatial reality such that previous modes of cultural interaction have been altogether upended.

As such, one would expect that we would feel considerable distance between now and pre-networked smartphone society. The 1990s and early 2000s should feel an eon away, if it is indeed true that the network has revolutionized various aspects of culture and society. Instead, we see that there is a disparate lag between the progression (and accompanying promise) of technology and culture at large. If, as Augé suggests, time is really “accelerating and evading us,” then perhaps the measure of a decade is becoming obsolete in terms of cultural eras. Maybe time itself is becoming obsolete.

I began by outlining the fundamental paradox of cultural information in the networked age: that a neoliberal/capitalist mode of distribution is inherently incompatible with the democratic potential(s) of the internet. But it seems like that model is winning. I do wish I had an alternative to offer, but sometimes the only way out is through, and the first step toward any solution is recognizing that there is a problem. And right now, the biggest problem I see is the obsolete ethos of capitalist industry in music culture.

As the internet and the media consumption that makes it profitable continue to expand, we are increasingly less able to answer what the “factory” of the network is making and to what end; moreover, we are unable to see and understand who or what controls it. Overwhelmed and despairing, we are increasingly content to observe the spectacle of cultural production instead of reflecting on its purpose. We are teaching people how to code, but seldomly teaching them why; we are better at operating the vehicle of technological and societal change, but failing to invent a road map. Without proper orientation, we can only walk in circles.

The question here goes deeper than technology, the answer more complex than “disconnection.” Opting for a world without the network is understandable, but it’s not particularly desirable or better than a world where the benefits of networked interaction are fully realized and equitably distributed.

As I noted in the introduction, the 2010s have given us much to be pessimistic about. But as the decade draws to a close, one thing we surely have to hold onto is the uncertainty of our condition. As long as there is ambiguity, there will be reason for music. It offers a means through which to untangle the complexities of struggle and uniquely express what other mediums cannot. The future is cloudy, the future of music even cloudier. And the future will not always hold promise, but by definition it will always hold uncertainty. In confronting the uncertain, the goal is never to eliminate the uncertainty itself — the goal is to ensure that it remains there always, offering darkness as refuge from whatever oppressive light blinds us.

Feature: Favorite 100 Songs of the Decade

This post was originally published on this site

Sometimes the most pyrrhic ventures prove the most gratifying. Gleaning a decade’s worth of song in 2019 feels like sifting sand with a hula hoop, the enormity of the ever-accumulating archive sluicing through our woefully inadequate tools, its elusive pith elementally, stubbornly incompatible with the implements of capture at hand. Nothing like an egregiously mixed metaphor to communicate an aporia, a kind of category mistake: I get the sense that we should be doing anything else with the incalculable amount of music released this decade than grasping at straws, while the lion’s share slips through our fingers. If only taste didn’t imply abjection or preference a failure to hold.

But curation demands scission, and we can only deposit some faith that its trimmings might help make something of this most recent and most harried time slide into the future. All of which is to say that we at Tiny Mix Tapes are aware of the glorious futility of any enterprise as conceited as this.

Par for our predictably wonky course, TMT’s Favorite 100 Songs of the Decade are not arranged with the airless authority of the list. Less a ranking than a repertory, presented over the course of the next two weeks will be a succession of 10 themed mixes (count ‘em: that’s twice as many as usual). You don’t need to know what the word “phenomenology” means to understand that this decade’s myriad unruly soundings did not lend themselves to the schemes of valuation and accounting at work in the economization of life itself.

Somewhere between choreography and improvisation, we slunk from the BED to the OFFICE (in whatever configuration it took) to the GYM (or, you know, we wish we had), then, spent, to the BATH, and, revived, hopped in the COUPE (literal or figurative), skidded through the ALLEY, teetered on the CLIFF, convened around the CAMPFIRE, contemplated the VOID, and approached BEYOND. And none of it was soundless. And so we put the cart before the horse in saying that this lilting and braying and bumping and grinding and seething and soothing ensemble of songs did not just soundtrack, post hoc, a readymade ceremony lived in the concretion of stochastic skews and managerial directives and calculated risks.

Not a chance. Like so many granules of wet sand cohering palatial, these songs textured the very grist of our experiential apertures, the hermeneutic hula hoops of our conceptual scaffolds. The broken circle demands a new analytic (way of listening to the music), avows Moten. And then some: I want to listen to what sound does to interpretation. Sounds good. Us too.


BED · OFFICE · GYM · BATH · COUPE
ALLEY · CLIFF · CAMPFIRE · VOID · BEYOND

The BED mix is a new addition to the TMT Mix Collection™. Featuring solo artists with visions of love, maximalist sentimentality, and idiosyncratic songwriting, this early-morning mix offers personal style and endless possibility. Rest easy: from showroom to bedroom, this is how you bring Home™ to the destination of your choosing.

PART 1: “BED” mixed by Adam Devlin


Lily Konigsberg

“Rock and Sin”

[00:27]

[Ramp Local; 2018]

Here was a song about being stuck. Stuck being subject, plastic, always shifting and reforming, losing center. Here was a song about relating to another, tying yourself to them and learning yourself through them. Here was a song about being held, too touching and too scary, close to the edge. Here was a song about voices shuffling, being several. All songs are like this but some are more. Lily’s song was really lovely, deceptively complex, layered, piquing ears; it put us present and gave sweetly. Independent, it worked rightly. Steady walking.


Caroline Polachek

“Door”

[03:49]

[Perpetual Novice; 2019]

To say that Caroline Polachek came on strong would be an understatement. As the frontwoman of Chairlift, the singer conceived of love as a head-on collision, a high-speed, life-or-death chase after the object of her desire. The weight of its impact and the pain of its fallout were subtexts that wrinkled the surface of the band’s sterling production and an ache that Polachek brought to the fore with her gorgeous, operatic voice. “Door,” the first single under her own name, was the sound of the artist changing her mind. Love was no longer a beacon on the horizon but the pursuit itself, a multiverse of possibility unfolding before her that she was poised enough to enter and graceful enough to accept on its own terms. In a feat of songwriting, Polachek demonstrated the boldness of leaving behind one’s old self — and all of its comforts and quiet certainties — to pursue an abstract togetherness with another person. It was a vision of love that was swirling, airy, and brimming with possibility, the closest analog to Kate Bush’s “The Sensual World” this decade. Like Bush’s masterful rendering of “Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy,” the romantic tension that propelled Polachek’s “Door” was her willingness to say “yes” to the unknown within and beyond herself. Polachek did one better, the exaggerated outline of her features merging at the end of the song’s video into the ether, a glowing field of pure white light.


Destroyer

“Kaputt”

[09:08]

[Merge; 2011]

The fading days of the aged libertine. In the haze of a debauched past, “Kaputt” suggested the silhouette of Dan Bejar in a smoking jacket, part Leonard Cohen and part Bryan Ferry, weathering the toll of depravity, standing as the living testament of a God who will keep the promise that it all ends with this. Sure, the trope of the drunk in the midnight choir is as pervasive as that of the teen rebel or the struggling artist, but there are good reasons for that. It represents a lament for freedom of consequences, the demise of the dream of invincibility, and the chance of some measure of glory without compromise. The recent past has seen such sentiment extended to the level of a nation, a generation, and, ultimately, the human species. It is always the same metaphor, just bleaker. At some point, we are all the canary in the coal mine of our own dejection. Girls, cocaine, the nocturne. In terminal retreat, but up for anything. Animals crawl toward death’s embrace. More than this, there is nothing. Bejar wrote a song for America. Who knew.


Jai Paul

“BTSU (Demo)”

[15:01]

[XL; 2011]

“I know I’ve been gone a long time/ I’m back and I want what is mine.” Jai Paul’s falsetto-spun chorus on “BTSU (Demo)” donned Prince-ly airs for a bedroom producer with exactly three tweets to his stage name. We swooned despite the swagger. The pheromone-jacked single from the elusive artist’s official debut album, Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones), still torqued our torsos after its first Myspace sketch in 2007. While street-wise drum pads wooed heat-seeking synths, a woozy bassline cued a charming sax solo. Whether or not he’s back for good, we are reminded that one’s workload is not chained to one’s footwork. More ghost than earthly host, Jai Paul returned without ever really arriving. That’s quite the party trick!


Perfume Genius

“Hood”

[18:29]

[Matador; 2012]

Put Your Back N 2 It was full of songs about quiet desperation that were tinged with hope. None were better than “Hood,” a piano- and drum-driven ballad about feeling unworthy of love. Simply and efficiently constructed, the song’s brevity only strengthened its impact. The intimacy of the vocals, the rawness of the piano, the spry hopefulness when the drums kick in – there was much to cherish in those brief two minutes. I’ve returned to it often over the last decade, sometimes because I needed to hear it, other times because I wanted to spend 120 seconds blanketed by its blissful beauty.


Grimes

“Oblivion”

[20:22]

[4AD; 2012]

Let’s not forget that the #MeToo movement is as much a retrospective on past wrongdoings as an expression of solidarity going forward. Grimes implicitly relayed her own experience with sexual assault on the track “Oblivion,” and the rhythm of the drum machine offered an intriguing tonal contrast with the seriousness of her lyrics. We started with the anxiety induced by the perpetual fear of someone “coming up behind you,” but the narrator at once recognized the need to cope in lieu of a cure. Our respective bedrooms were just a temporary refuge.


John Maus

“Believer”

[24:29]

[Ribbon; 2011]

“Believer” burrowed out brilliantly from a glinting iridescent shaved ice heap-frastructure, its faint succor draining out before it could be properly tasted. This closer was banal Xmas vibes at their most abstractly essential. Like spending all Saturday in a Barnes & Noble just reading and milling around. Didn’t matter if it was “Swear all night on the possum moon” or “Ding Dong Diet, an impossible move,” you were rolling too deep in that driving bassline to care, stricken with an implacable yearning that nonetheless tidily receded like all the wretched transitional pain we continue to coolly contextualize for fun and profit.


Tami T

“Birthday”

[28:32]

[Trannytone; 2019]

It’s hard not to think of them as wasted years, nights ending alone at sunrise, on the floor, outside, in the hospital, at your place, waking up with my contacts left in so I can see clearly how I don’t know how I got there. I kept leaving things behind. This ruins, in the name of fun. Tami T left her window open to let in the sad truth of her sad birthdays, playing her sad keyboard to cheer us up. It didn’t work, but she gave me courage. I entertain the possibility that there’s no climax at dawn, that nothing will save me, and I don’t have to run scared.


Kate NV

“Kata”

[32:40]

[Orange Milk; 2016]

In a decade in which independent music was so dubiously preoccupied with the idea of “chillness” as an aesthetic principle, Kate NV’s “Kata” was authentically laid-back and retro. She delivered the song without avoiding the underlying disharmony inherent in reviving nostalgic signifiers in an era desperate for progress. The torrentially smooth kitsch of its lite-rock colors was like the sweet and silk of honey, while the stammering, nonsensical lyrics and restlessly overlapped lead melodies pushed toward the absurdity of postmodern, maximalist friction. It was a jaunt through both knowing and unknowing, equally blissful and mindful, and a truly independent demonstration of mellow cool in an age of mild hysteria.


Frank Ocean

“Solo”

[38:37]

[Boys Don’t Cry/Def Jam; 2016]

Looming along the edge of the club, or the party, until a break in the vibe reveals how to move. I could slide, but what about my hands, desolate without a message to read. I could spiral until interrupted by the right song, but who will sing it with me. Is it humiliating to want to be the shape of lovers entwined in the stars. Is it more humiliating to be waiting outside in a sequined jacket, resisting the impulse to text: will you come hold me like a shell you might pick up on the beach?

Click next to hear the “OFFICE” mix by Weaver.

[pagebreak]

BED · OFFICE · GYM · BATH · COUPE
ALLEY · CLIFF · CAMPFIRE · VOID · BEYOND

Our floral shop is looking for a new avatar to handle tasks in our virtual OFFICE. You will be taking incoming Skype calls, converting web visitors to users, and redefining our far-side virtual enterprise for the next level of integration and optimization. In order for you to be selected as a candidate, you will need the ability to create deepfakes and vaporware. A pleasing online persona with intuitive keybind skills is also highly valued.

PART 2: “OFFICE” mixed by Weaver


Macintosh Plus

“Floral Shoppe” (花の専門店 Hana no Senmon-ten)

[00:00]

[Beer on the Rug; 2011]


Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus

Much of my young professional life I owe to vaporwave, but Macintosh Plus shaped what adolescence meant to me in my maturity. How not to accept reality and pressure my own psyche into planes of existential dimensions that were constantly slipping through my fingertips. “花の専門店” made me believe I was nothing as C Monster, which pushed me further as C Monster. Nobody ever saw me stutter-step like “花の専門店,” repeating content in micro doses. Macintosh Plus convinced me I could always hide in plain sight.


Nmesh

“Climbing the Corporate Ladder”

[03:47]

[AMDISCS; 2014]

Corporate – /ˈkôrp(ə)rət/ – relating to a corporation, especially a large company or group. late 15th century: from Latin corporatus, past participle of corporare “form into a body,” from corpus, corpor-body.”

The corpus callosum is a thick cluster of nerve fibers that divides the brain into left and right hemispheres. Among other things, it helps with tactile localization, which means it plays a crucial role in enabling one to climb, say, a ladder. And it just so happens Nmesh released a song in 2014 that involved both a ladder and a corpus derivative. “Corporation” adapts corpus to refer to a group (or body) of people maneuvering in tandem to maximize profit. Nmesh soundtracked such maneuvering with “Climbing the Corporate Ladder.” The song never deviated from its central sample/beat despite using variegated samples, tones, and rhythms throughout, kinda how days at the office turn into months turn into years that are the same but different. How to break that ennui, you ask? Well, you climb. You shine. You work to understand the supply and demand. You fall in love with the fluorescent lights, the water jug, the staff fridge, and whatever else with Sysiphian zeal. Work hard and be kind; everything will fall into place, and then, yes, you too will climb. What is vaporwave, you ask? To that I say, have you ever watched an episode of How It’s Made? Have you watched the poetry of manufacture, heard the delicate song of automated labor? Look and listen closely, and you will forget that you ever asked about vaporwave. Instead, you might hear Nmesh soundtracking your own climb to the top.


Omar-S

“Thank U 4 Letting Me Be Myself”

[08:10]

[FXHE; 2013]

I don’t know what “Thank U 4 Letting Me Be Myself” was about (nor can I be certain that it was about anything). Omar-S enjoyed the electronic musician’s luxury of allowing highly specific intent to remain private and highly personal interpretation to run wild. Accordingly, my version of the latter is this: “Thank U” celebrated the mere fact that it came to exist; that circumstances conspired, even if only in the past tense, to provide a spark of inspiration. It was a victory simply to have been heard, driven home with every loop of the gloating bassline.


Mark Fell

“Multistability 1-B”

[15:56]

[Raster-Noton; 2010]

Dry, productive. A serene post-human hallucination. One remarkably singular result of all this bumping, rebounding, making, forgetting, and who’s doing the hallucinating. Each of us, so many; what are the chances? After so long, what are the chances? The result of everything in the midst of it: this one sound repeating, rhythm varied but steady, a chord, a kick. A total investigation, yes, of only one thing, not much else. Robotic precision and contingent encounters, new points of interest melding. I thought this was made for me to dance to. I thought this was the dance, all this bumping, forgetting.


Nonlocal Forecast

“Planck Lengths”

[21:08]

[Hausu Mountain; 2019]

The game is about to begin. And in the black black between title screen and adventure mode, Max Planck says, “We have no right to assume that any physical laws exist, or if they have existed up to now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future.” And Angel Marcloid, the brilliant scorched noodles in Fire-Toolz and the ambient every of Nonlocal Forecast, suggests You have no right to assume that music exists, or if it has existed up to now, or that it will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future. And so we bubble up, every one, and the game begins.


Ford & Lopatin

“Break Inside”

[25:06]

[Software; 2011]

The Brooklyn-based Software Recording Company functioned memorably, and for an abbreviated amount of time during the 2010s (and not uncommon for labels started with a paucity of resources), its founders saw it fit to get things going with a release of their own programming. “Break Inside” was far from the lead single off Channel Pressure, but despite its relegation at the hands of unnamed PR professionals, listeners were rewarded simultaneously for deep listening and for deep fucking. R&B songs and R&B throwbacks tend to benefit from a coital context. Even better that Ford & Lopatin timed humps with synth ruffles.


coolmemoryz

“4月20日「P A N I C 」”

[29:56]

[Self-Released; 2013]

The undersung coolmemoryz — a nod to one of the quintessential theorists of the uncanny, the all-too-Real — was responsible for some of the most quietly (and noisily) invigorating vapor tracks of the decade, released in fits, starts, and bursts before simply… vanishing. “4月20日「P A N I C 」” was an exemplary eccojam amongst a bunch of them bearing the coolmemoryz banner, one that brought together a number of readily definable traits — obfuscated and fragmented samples, haphazard cuts and loops, a queasy and impending sense of dread — in a manner that still feels fresh and hard to properly pin down. The gradual, then violent, breakdown of the central loop seemed to remind us that time’s arrow was against us, always — what could be more OFFICE than that?


James Ferraro

“Global Lunch”

[31:25]

[Hippos In Tanks; 2011]

James Ferraro was an early adopter and definer of this decade’s myriad aspirations. While those influenced by him were doing minimal edits over found music, Ferraro made new replicas from scratch, embarrassing the overhyped future past by showing us how quaint it could be just a few years later. It was his adept navigation of shtick and genuine craft that made Far Side Virtual great, and “Global Lunch” was a perfect encapsulation, portraying an alternate history where all promises came true, the dot-com bubble never burst, and those stiff-lipped Microsoft Marys kept their assistant positions. Synced to the inoffensive, saccharine rhythms of this cyber-world, we tacitly accepted whatever the Company told us as gospel. “The maze has an exit. The pipes are in use. A global world is alive, online.” But today, the reverb suggests too small a room, too limited an imagination. Prioritize scalability. Many, many, many people are typing…


MediaFired™

“Pixies”

[33:33]

[Exo Tapes/Beer on the Rug; 2012]

A strip of forever, rippling enticingly, MediaFired™’s “Pixies” spun a twilight zone out of a four-second snapshot of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights.” Opening with a fade-in, the track whispered into existence, little more than the acrobatic contours of Bush’s voice slowed to a narcotized, hollow revenant of its original. Similarly, it closed with a fade-out, receding into the aether like a memory on the fringes of forgetting. Somewhere between vaporwave and eccojam — its intentions more ambiguous than the former, more pointed than the latter — “Pixies” communicated grave truths about capitalism while embodying its seductive beauty absolutely. What it said, exactly, is best left to the listener, but the effect was pure Uncanny Valley, muddling the sublime with the obliquely grotesque. For the full effect, don’t skip the video above; it’s a real nightmare of a thing.


PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises

“Beauty Plus”

[35:35]

[Beer On The Rug; 2013]


Home: Complete Edition by PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises

Don’t you just LOVE home cooking?! The sensation of your face melting into the rice cooker! Add corn starch for that extra meaty texture — that’s right, taste it, so good on your tongue! I simply adore my husband. I can’t bear to be away from him for even ONE SECOND. Sorry, that’s the food compressor going off! Do you ever think about how “Be Our Guest” is just a tribute to the act of being a servant? What a jingle! Oh dear, I left my hand on the stove again…

Come back tomorrow to hear the “GYM” mix by Alex Brown.

Feature: 2010s: Favorite 100 Songs of the Decade

This post was originally published on this site

Sometimes the most pyrrhic ventures prove the most gratifying. Gleaning a decade’s worth of song in 2019 feels like sifting sand with a hula hoop, the enormity of the ever-accumulating archive sluicing through our woefully inadequate tools, its elusive pith elementally, stubbornly incompatible with the implements of capture at hand. Nothing like an egregiously mixed metaphor to communicate an aporia, a kind of category mistake: I get the sense that we should be doing anything else with the incalculable amount of music released this decade than grasping at straws, while the lion’s share slips through our fingers. If only taste didn’t imply abjection or preference a failure to hold.

But curation demands scission, and we can only deposit some faith that its trimmings might help make something of this most recent and most harried time slide into the future. All of which is to say that we at Tiny Mix Tapes are aware of the glorious futility of any enterprise as conceited as this.

Par for our predictably wonky course, TMT’s Favorite 100 Songs of the Decade are not arranged with the airless authority of the list. Less a ranking than a repertory, presented over the course of the next two weeks will be a succession of 10 themed mixes (count ‘em: that’s twice as many as usual). You don’t need to know what the word “phenomenology” means to understand that this decade’s myriad unruly soundings did not lend themselves to the schemes of valuation and accounting at work in the economization of life itself.

Somewhere between choreography and improvisation, we slunk from the BED to the OFFICE (in whatever configuration it took) to the GYM (or, you know, we wish we had), then, spent, to the BATH, and, revived, hopped in the COUPE (literal or figurative), skidded through the ALLEY, teetered on the CLIFF, convened around the CAMPFIRE, contemplated the VOID, and approached BEYOND. And none of it was soundless. And so we put the cart before the horse in saying that this lilting and braying and bumping and grinding and seething and soothing ensemble of songs did not just soundtrack, post hoc, a readymade ceremony lived in the concretion of stochastic skews and managerial directives and calculated risks.

Not a chance. Like so many granules of wet sand cohering palatial, these songs textured the very grist of our experiential apertures, the hermeneutic hula hoops of our conceptual scaffolds. The broken circle demands a new analytic (way of listening to the music), avows Moten. And then some: I want to listen to what sound does to interpretation. Sounds good. Us too.


BED · OFFICE · GYM · BATH · COUPE
ALLEY · CLIFF · CAMPFIRE · VOID · BEYOND

The BED mix is a new addition to the TMT Mix Collection™. Featuring solo artists with visions of love, maximalist sentimentality, and idiosyncratic songwriting, this early-morning mix offers personal style and endless possibility. Rest easy: from showroom to bedroom, this is how you bring Home™ to the destination of your choosing.

PART 1: “BED” mixed by Adam Devlin


Lily Konigsberg

“Rock and Sin”

[00:27]

[Ramp Local]

Here was a song about being stuck. Stuck being subject, plastic, always shifting and reforming, losing center. Here was a song about relating to another, tying yourself to them and learning yourself through them. Here was a song about being held, too touching and too scary, close to the edge. Here was a song about voices shuffling, being several. All songs are like this but some are more. Lily’s song was really lovely, deceptively complex, layered, piquing ears; it put us present and gave sweetly. Independent, it worked rightly. Steady walking.


Caroline Polachek

“Door”

[03:49]

[Perpetual Novice]

To say that Caroline Polachek came on strong would be an understatement. As the frontwoman of Chairlift, the singer conceived of love as a head-on collision, a high-speed, life-or-death chase after the object of her desire. The weight of its impact and the pain of its fallout were subtexts that wrinkled the surface of the band’s sterling production and an ache that Polachek brought to the fore with her gorgeous, operatic voice. “Door,” the first single under her own name, was the sound of the artist changing her mind. Love was no longer a beacon on the horizon but the pursuit itself, a multiverse of possibility unfolding before her that she was poised enough to enter and graceful enough to accept on its own terms. In a feat of songwriting, Polachek demonstrated the boldness of leaving behind one’s old self — and all of its comforts and quiet certainties — to pursue an abstract togetherness with another person. It was a vision of love that was swirling, airy, and brimming with possibility, the closest analog to Kate Bush’s “The Sensual World” this decade. Like Bush’s masterful rendering of “Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy,” the romantic tension that propelled Polachek’s “Door” was her willingness to say “yes” to the unknown within and beyond herself. Polachek did one better, the exaggerated outline of her features merging at the end of the song’s video into the ether, a glowing field of pure white light.


Destroyer

“Kaputt”

[09:08]

[Merge]

The fading days of the aged libertine. In the haze of a debauched past, “Kaputt” suggested the silhouette of Dan Bejar in a smoking jacket, part Leonard Cohen and part Bryan Ferry, weathering the toll of depravity, standing as the living testament of a God who will keep the promise that it all ends with this. Sure, the trope of the drunk in the midnight choir is as pervasive as that of the teen rebel or the struggling artist, but there are good reasons for that. It represents a lament for freedom of consequences, the demise of the dream of invincibility, and the chance of some measure of glory without compromise. The recent past has seen such sentiment extended to the level of a nation, a generation, and, ultimately, the human species. It is always the same metaphor, just bleaker. At some point, we are all the canary in the coal mine of our own dejection. Girls, cocaine, the nocturne. In terminal retreat, but up for anything. Animals crawl toward death’s embrace. More than this, there is nothing. Bejar wrote a song for America. Who knew.


Jai Paul

“BTSU (Demo)”

[15:01]

[XL]

“I know I’ve been gone a long time/ I’m back and I want what is mine.” Jai Paul’s falsetto-spun chorus on “BTSU (Demo)” donned Prince-ly airs for a bedroom producer with exactly three tweets to his stage name. We swooned despite the swagger. The pheromone-jacked single from the elusive artist’s official debut album, Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones), still torqued our torsos after its first Myspace sketch in 2007. While street-wise drum pads wooed heat-seeking synths, a woozy bassline cued a charming sax solo. Whether or not he’s back for good, we are reminded that one’s workload is not chained to one’s footwork. More ghost than earthly host, Jai Paul returned without ever really arriving. That’s quite the party trick!


Perfume Genius

“Hood”

[18:29]

[Matador]

Put Your Back N 2 It was full of songs about quiet desperation that were tinged with hope. None were better than “Hood,” a piano- and drum-driven ballad about feeling unworthy of love. Simply and efficiently constructed, the song’s brevity only strengthened its impact. The intimacy of the vocals, the rawness of the piano, the spry hopefulness when the drums kick in – there was much to cherish in those brief two minutes. I’ve returned to it often over the last decade, sometimes because I needed to hear it, other times because I wanted to spend 120 seconds blanketed by its blissful beauty.


Grimes

“Oblivion”

[20:22]

[4AD]

Let’s not forget that the #MeToo movement is as much a retrospective on past wrongdoings as an expression of solidarity going forward. Grimes implicitly relayed her own experience with sexual assault on the track “Oblivion,” and the rhythm of the drum machine offered an intriguing tonal contrast with the seriousness of her lyrics. We started with the anxiety induced by the perpetual fear of someone “coming up behind you,” but the narrator at once recognized the need to cope in lieu of a cure. Our respective bedrooms were just a temporary refuge.


John Maus

“Believer”

[24:29]

[Ribbon]

“Believer” burrowed out brilliantly from a glinting iridescent shaved ice heap-frastructure, its faint succor draining out before it could be properly tasted. This closer was banal Xmas vibes at their most abstractly essential. Like spending all Saturday in a Barnes & Noble just reading and milling around. Didn’t matter if it was “Swear all night on the possum moon” or “Ding Dong Diet, an impossible move,” you were rolling too deep in that driving bassline to care, stricken with an implacable yearning that nonetheless tidily receded like all the wretched transitional pain we continue to coolly contextualize for fun and profit.


Tami T

“Birthday”

[28:32]

[Trannytone]

It’s hard not to think of them as wasted years, nights ending alone at sunrise, on the floor, outside, in the hospital, at your place, waking up with my contacts left in so I can see clearly how I don’t know how I got there. I kept leaving things behind. This ruins, in the name of fun. Tami T left her window open to let in the sad truth of her sad birthdays, playing her sad keyboard to cheer us up. It didn’t work, but she gave me courage. I entertain the possibility that there’s no climax at dawn, that nothing will save me, and I don’t have to run scared.


Kate NV

“Kata”

[32:40]

[Orange Milk]

In a decade in which independent music was so dubiously preoccupied with the idea of “chillness” as an aesthetic principle, Kate NV’s “Kata” was authentically laid-back and retro. She delivered the song without avoiding the underlying disharmony inherent in reviving nostalgic signifiers in an era desperate for progress. The torrentially smooth kitsch of its lite-rock colors was like the sweet and silk of honey, while the stammering, nonsensical lyrics and restlessly overlapped lead melodies pushed toward the absurdity of postmodern, maximalist friction. It was a jaunt through both knowing and unknowing, equally blissful and mindful, and a truly independent demonstration of mellow cool in an age of mild hysteria.


Frank Ocean

“Solo”

[38:37]

[Boys Don’t Cry/Def Jam]

Looming along the edge of the club, or the party, until a break in the vibe reveals how to move. I could slide, but what about my hands, desolate without a message to read. I could spiral until interrupted by the right song, but who will sing it with me. Is it humiliating to want to be the shape of lovers entwined in the stars. Is it more humiliating to be waiting outside in a sequined jacket, resisting the impulse to text: will you come hold me like a shell you might pick up on the beach?

Come back tomorrow to hear the “OFFICE” mix by Weaver.

Feature: 2010s: Lips In The Streetlights

This post was originally published on this site

I‘ve written about love before. I’m not going to write about love again. Maybe this is selfish, maybe it is foolish. But I hope it will lead to nuance.

I’ll write about not-love-yet, maybe, about into-love. I want to write through it, to remain porous.

Or: “I’ll write about the process of becoming other: vibration, selection, recombination, recomposition” (Franco “Bifo” Berardi). Maybe then I can return to love.

Or an older swearing-off: “No more ‘I love you’s’/ A language is leaving me” (Annie Lennox).

I want to write about pop music in the last 10 years (a seemingly fatalistic descriptor — these were the last 10 years to occur before…? And then…?). I suspect writing about love is inevitable when writing about pop music. Love isn’t an inevitable end for the human experiment, but it helps a great deal. Pop music isn’t an end either, just a term that retains its gleeful and combustible arbitrariness, as it heads into these next last 10 years. (And to this sticky arbitrariness we must return. Maybe, too, to love.) Pop is, after all, an architecture of surfaces and panes, of the veneers we pass through and the ones that reflect (us) back at us. Let’s believe (we must, we can’t) that the grandest reflecting/refracting surface in pop music is love. Let’s move past and through and into it in order to feel a future, to kiss it better.

Love isn’t the inevitable language of pop music, just its alphabet. Pop music is part of the love club: everything will glow for you. Just let me lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-love you, you gimmie love, gimmie love, gimmie love, gimmie love. Fall into me and then you put my love on top, top, top, top, top (I love it like I love you like Kanye loves Kanye). I got people showing fake love to me. I’ve loved and I’ve lost and I do: I blame it on your love. You can see it with the lights out; you are in love, you are in true love. Go get punched for the love club. Must be love on the brain that’s got me feeling this way. And I think about killing myself, and I love myself way more than I love you, so when you say you love me, know I love you more. Drunk in love. I want you. It’s a love story, baby; just say “yes.”

I’m already in love. I must move into. To choose a verb like “into” over “in” is to elect motion past over sitting still. To move through love is to note the ruptures and hug them as they pixelate and recombine in you. Let the language shift and sheer too; “l-o-v-e-l-e-s-s generation.” This is not a love song, but I’d love it if we made it.

Back to the future, back to Berardi, who thought through “the slow cancellation of the future [that] got underway in the 1970s and 1980s” and constructs 2017’s Futurability as a way toward shifting modes of anticipation and motivation toward nextness. He chronicles, as his subtitle suggests, “The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility.” He asks: “What is a form in relation to its content? And how does it happen that a new form can emerge? How do things generate things, and concepts generate concepts? And finally, more interesting: how do concepts generate things?”

Pop music in the time between 2010 and this day revealed itself as a double-parking mechanism (Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick: “kinda-hegemonic, kinda-subversive”), both the concept-generating things and the thing as a concept. Pop forms came under scrutiny from critical, commodifying, and revolutionary forces alike, the surfaces of those forms poked and prodded before they in turn began to poke and prod. Pop came alive like never before in its trajectory as a transformative plastic apparatus. It also saw itself bought and sold with such aplomb that you could be forgiven for not believing in love left of the dial.

What is pop music in relation to its content, love? How to preserve love’s ability to mutate us without leaving it open to the afflictions of this decade — clickbait critique, vampiric capitalism, diminuating realism? We must find a new utterance for love. We must borrow shapes from Berardi: “Possibility is content, potency is energy, and power is form” (my emphasis).

In Bluets, her 2009 volume of not-love perched at the beginning of this decade, Maggie Nelson writes: “But now you are talking as if love were a consolation. Simone Weil warned otherwise. ‘Love is not consolation,’ she wrote. ‘It is light.’”

I’d like to borrow those shapes, too. I hope I can earn them.

And how does it happen that a new pop music can emerge? A future of pop, a lightness of love must rip the surfaces and panes and navigate the in-between space fluidly and fluently. We have to let it vibrate. To get to next, we have to write ourselves beyond the inevitableness of inevitability.


I. POSSIBILITY
“It was a long night” by вєиנι ℓєвєαυтє α∂αм

“I call possibility a content inscribed in the present constitution of the world (that is, the immanence of possibilities).”

The present constitution of the world is impotence. Days begin too early, crusty with the crunch of paying impossibly escalating rents with depressing wages. We scroll into a news feed broadcasting a world so stuffed with vitriol and cruelty and climatic collapse that we’ve gorged ourselves on poison tea even before the commuter line pulls up. And then we go to work. Mark Fisher, a disciple of Berardi and futurability, of pop and the power of changing consciousness: “The thing about capitalism is that it provides things that nobody likes. When people talk about choice and capitalism — Microsoft, that sums up everything. Nobody wants it, everybody has to have it.”

Or, I was in a (corporate) movie theater this year juggling Skittles when the big angry purple man onscreen snapped his finger and said “I am inevitable.” I gasped (I had dropped my Skittles, you see).

“It isn’t much fun to analyze American pop culture anymore,” Maggie Nelson writes in The Art of Cruelty, another text from this decade, the one that turned me onto that Sedgwick quote above. “The cultural products now seem designed to analyze themselves, and to make a spectacle of their essentially consumable perversity. ‘They really let me showcase my creativity!’ the writers say, while churning out more crap.”

Certainly this essay is more crap. This decade had a lot of crap, some of it very good.

Certainly texts like Avengers: Endgame are such “consumably perverse” objects, worthy more of groans than rigorous critique. If, at the break of the last decade, Iron Man and The Dark Knight (both released in 2008) seemed separate from the customarily pasty entries into metroplexes and maybe even perverse in their elevation of the low (comics) to the maximal (blockbuster), it wouldn’t stay that way for long. In fact, if the Marvel Cinematic Universe began as an experiment in world-building — it didn’t, it was for a buck — it soon revealed itself as a Disney Inc.-backed lesson in monopolizing markets of commerce and interest; when Thanos makes his claim for inevitability, he may as well be cooing, brand barcode redacted, “mission accomplished.”

This decade saw pop cinema narrow its field of produceable possibilities and tie each infallible (unfailable seems more apt) property film to the purse string of a Disney or an Amazon. And so we tilted further toward the disappointing totality of inevitability, easier to imagine the end of cinema than the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What about pop music? We might point to pop cinema’s content-generating-content maw leaking half-chewed hunks into the soundstream: there’s the whiff of such conquered-world totality in Frozen’s “Let it Go” (2013), pre-ordained first filmically before opening on Broadway in 2017, a source of income that begat a source of income. The chart-ballasting success of The Greatest Showman (2017) soundtrack rode the success of another musical’s similar ode to exceptional white masculinity (albeit in confused and optimistic hues) in the blockbuster Hamilton (2015). We might also point to the rash of biopics grinding queer artists (Freddie Mercury, Elton John, constant whispers of a forthcoming installment on Bowie) into cardboard patties more palatable to Oscar’s khaki nostalgia than the kind of sounds prefiguring change.

Or, “Tell me somethin’, girl/ Are you happy in this modern world?/ Or do you need more?/ Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?” And is it just an infinity of A Star is Born reboots, each one denying the past one’s existence in order to be the most profitably consumable version of itself until the next opening weekend?

A breath. While distinctly part of that catchall cloud *popular culture*, pop music feels sometimes separate, due maybe to its elusive and eliding limbs that make it it. It also remains elastically able to exist both in and out of its own context; songs from Irving Berlin musicals are pop music, as is Weezer, as are YouTube covers of Weezer songs. “Baby Shark” is pop music (around the campfire, at Nationals Park, from speakers in subways) but so is Grimes and Janelle Monae. It’s got the ring of that old smutty Justice claiming, “I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it.” And so we must narrow the immanence.

We might consult numbers, though that means embracing the notion that popularity could be bought and sold. This paradigm held true for at least a formidable stretch in this past decade and provides our first and most impotent definition: pop music was what was bought or streamed with the most vigor. Over these last 10 years, Rihanna holds the record with nine #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, followed by Katy Perry with 8 and Bruno Mars with 7. The top 10 is rounded out by Drake (6), Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift (5), Adele (4), and Eminem, Kesha, The Weeknd, Maroon 5, Cardi B, and Post Malone (3). In the doe-eyes and dew of 2009, were these artists inevitably tied to our concept of what pop would sound like? More pressingly: are they what pop is and must be?

If interrogating Billboard Charts for data might seems treacherous, I supply two new arbitrary totems to hold to, both selfish and undependable measures each: pop music can’t accomplish transformation if it’s tied to (1) a commodity’s formula for success or (2) formal rehashings of what already was.

The latter stipulation is easier to act on: if pop’s progress is futurity endless (always a new song, a new form, a new thing in your head until you have a new head), then it must oppose nostalgia. This dispatches with Adele, Bruno, The Weeknd, and Maroon 5, largely aggressively inoffensive gestures in retromania. Whether the gesture is blue-eyed white-muscle shoals, scentless funk-lite, tremulous soul pastiche, or an impressively resilient belief that an ever FM-lighter version of Aerosmith is exemplary songwriting is inconsequential. Pop reminds us to leave the past where it belongs: where it is, or at best on a cassette tape to be consulted with small smiles in brief moments. We can also dismiss Eminem, whose appearances in this decade always quote his presence in the last. Possibility must look toward new possibilities, not old ones (Berardi: “Possibility is not one, it is always plural: the possibilities inscribed in the present composition of the world are not infinite, but many.”)

The former point, of discarding pop only interested in a buck, or the most bucks possible, is harder to parse. I’ll know it when I hear it: I hear it in the over-rendered production of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, the way the record tears through writing partners not as collaboration, but as consumption. I hear it in VIEWS’s dour rehashing of all Drake’s moods and modes into something like an easy-listening career retrospective. I hear it all over Taylor Swift’s Lover, which sports a single that barters actionless allyship for social/literal credit while also proposing that the rich and famous suffer just as much as victims of systemic, prejudiced violence, because, well, blogs and other famous people were mean to them.

The problem (???) is I like those three records. What’s like got to do with what what’s love got to do with it? I fell hard once (and literally!) at a bowling alley for a stranger two lanes over while “Teenage Dream” banged in the Cosmic Hour, thinking, “truly, this love is true” with my three fingers in a glowing ball. I bought two sweater turtlenecks the fall of “Hotline Bling” and thought there was nothing wrong with that. Then I lost one of them to a person I spent two years of my life with, who I thought I would spend my life with. Yesterday, I put a Lover song on a mix tape for a human being I have a crush on. I will give it to them as a way of saying, “I have a crush on you.” This language is still dooming. This decade had a lot of crap, some of it very good. I won’t know it when I hear it.

I wasn’t going to write about love. I knew I wouldn’t hold true to that, partially because I love pop music and partially because I have a crush. I am susceptible to swooning. We are susceptible to pop’s love because our cultural immunity is subject to highs that crave “I Love It” or “Tik Tok” and lows that rush for the cover of “Wrecking Ball” or “Sorry.” I set out to navigate beyond the inevitable and wound up — inevitably — entwined in it. It was stuck in my head.

And so an impasse in our immanence: any attempt at interrogating pop along maximal, capital lines (its draws and intakes, its appeal or grosses) measures pop in terms so foreign to its possibilities (a future, a thing we don’t know yet) that we must disregard this model. Or: Saying something is pop because it is popular ignores the possibility of the underground or weird to attach and change the world. You know that. I know that. It’s worth re-saying, like a melody that won’t dissipate. I don’t want to write about what the streams and Incs. tell me are inevitable. I don’t even know if I want to write about pop music anymore; maybe I just want to hear it, to move in not-pop-yet, into-pop. It occurs to me that I might be at my most impotent when I am writing about love instead of acting on it, or at least dancing about it.

And yet love is the antithesis of impotence. And so pop is the presence of the possible alongside the potential for reaching that new state, that newness. What if the problem isn’t in liking or loving, but in the writing?

To clarify all this churned crap, I crave a jester’s call to potency: “Beyond the truest, hey, teacher, teacher/ Tell me how do you respond to students?/ And refresh the page and restart the memory?/ Re-spark the soul and rebuild the energy?”


II. POTENCY
“Karaoke” by Ramona Forcella

“I call potency the subjective energy that deploys the possibilities and actualizes them. Potency is the energy that transforms the possibilities into the actualities.”

Except this was the decade the jesters abandoned us.

Pop’s great gift is its ability to graft itself to us in moments of need and navigate us toward a next thing. Consider how you were wretching up and feeling little, almost texting them even when you knew you didn’t want them and then suddenly: “thank u, next.” And then suddenly, you felt a thousand feet tall, capable. Consider how “Juice” feels whenever you walk into your depression, how it never mocks how you need it, but rather rocks you toward neon sweetness, fullness. If pop can truly do these things (it must, it can’t), what should our reaction be when it betrays us?

Because if earlier in the text we sought to liberate pop from its corporate strings and unloose it from its needless formal conscriptions, we were unprepared when it doubled back and leaned into the same impotence we were hoping to uncouple ourselves from. The problem with selling yourself at Target is that it endorses the notion that you can buy what made 1989 and Red on those same shelves. As if aching was discountable. As if wanting was a garment. And the problem with making a gospel record after claiming you’re a god isn’t only that it’s a conflict of interests, but rather that it’s actually kind of boring. Why provide an apparatus for wonder when you’ve already worked miracles, wonderfully? Idolatry, like inevitability, is no home for transformation.

A brief fable of two energies: Kanye West and Taylor Swift, married and marred forever that September night at the VMAs in 2009. And rather than let that psychic ugliness define them, they integrated it into their pop; if they seemed a little preoccupied with narrativizing that night, they still absorbed the world and then transformed.

In 2010, it was Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, not a gesture of apology, but a toast to surviving in spite of being damned, doomed — by your family, by your country, by yourself. It was Taylor’s Speak Now, the first measure of converting the written-for-her countryish odes into locomotive gummy pop; if at the beginning of the decade, Taylor Swift was a phenomenally successful country star, it still wasn’t inevitable that she would become a dominant author of pop music. That changed with Red (2012). “And I guess we fell apart in the usual way/ And the story’s got dust on every page,” she sings, prefiguring the dusty, grimy corridors that always-departure Kanye stalks in Yeezus (2013), as much a reaction to the breezy braggadocio of Watch the Throne (2011) as it was an aesthetic step toward full-bile Kanye. And then 1989 (2014), an instructive set for having a heart set to an unremembered 80s. And then The Life of Pablo (2016), not so much a release but a landscape, a million mission statements at once, a celebration of contradiction, of ultralight beam and projectile vomit. Growth has limits; continually amassing moreness isn’t the same as transformation. And Reputation (2017) and ye (2018) feel overstretched and shallow, attempts to sing of fame and mental health but really just reassertions of Taylor Swift’s Taylor Swiftness and Kanye West’s Kanye Westness. This year’s Lover and Jesus is King adopt love and faith, not as actionable philosophies capable of bettering a world, but as aesthetic, as garment, as promotion. These recent records (to paraphrase Fisher’s organizations) provide that which we do not like that we have to have.

You could write the decade almost solely in Taylor and Kanye releases, but they aren’t alone in their selling out and buying in: Grimes and Beyoncé and Miley and JAY-Z hurried into unions with anti-unionists and Disney films and renounced hip-hop as a personal dalliance and used hip-hop as a vehicle to conflate stupid wealth with love. “All that is solid melts into PR” (Mark Fisher again, still). Dominant forces of pop music sought to reassert dominant vehicles of expression (themselves) and cooed, “We appreciate power”

How do we still love that which hurts us? We decided to write an endless cipher detailing this stress. Where did our love go? We replaced its bops and bliss with a lusting after talking about talking about pop music. We thought, “Surely we must have a ghastly portmanteau to hang this from,” and we called it poptimism and lo, the crap was lobbed.

Such crap was emboldened in these last 10 years. Letters and sentences about music, like letters and sentences about everything, had both more homes, less time, and dollar signs on mind (Kanye and JAY-Z: “everything’s for saaale,” 2011) Some music writers leaned into their own venerated and barely subtextual prejudice: “Should gainfully employed adults whose job is to listen to music thoughtfully really agree so regularly with the taste of 13-year-olds? […] poptimism diminishes the glory of music by declaring, repeatedly and insistently, that this is all it can do” (Saul Austerlitz, 2014). Others found well-observed caution in the balance of intentions and results: “It [poptimism] treats megastars, despite their untold corporate resources, like underdogs. It grants immunity to a lot of dim music. Worst of all, it asks everyone to agree on the winners and then cheer louder” (Chris Richards, 2015).

Remember: “it isn’t much fun to analyze American pop culture anymore.” Remember, writing a piece defending The Life of Pablo as inspirational bile (I did that once) or damning Jesus Is King for its void pabulum (I’m DOING that now) is “like planting a flag on the moon after forty countries have landed there before you, or on a moon whose sole purpose is to host flags” (Maggie Nelson, 2011).

Poptimism’s cause always suggested the noble fight: attempts to turn attention to historically underrepresented forms of expression practiced and loved largely by underprivileged communities while actively opposing preexisting notions of cultural critique is still good work. Fighting for the 12-inch version of “Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go” is still divine. But treating poptimism as inevitable is just as defeating as ignoring pop because it’s on the radio. “Ideologies congeal,” Guardian music critic Michael Hann writes of the whole mess. “They cease to be alternatives and become hegemonies […] movements that were insurgent become establishment […] codified by their own set of rules about what and what was not acceptable.”

Or, “Is it wrong to wish 1989 didn’t sound so anonymous? Is it wrong to demand our leaders not make follower music? Is it wrong to feel disoriented and disheartened by the effusion of suck-uppy articles dutifully praising these unimaginative songs? Is it wrong to squirm knowing that these same songs will likely saturate our public spheres for years— or maybe even the rest of our lives?” (Chris Richards, 2014)

It isn’t wrong, surely, to see the machine at work. Attempts to render in words the appeal of extra-effable un-utterable sensations are doomed from the start. It defeats love’s licks and swerves to justify it too clearly, when all you want is to get next to it. So too, though, are attempts to defeat joy similarly doomed. 1989 brings joys, to me at least, but I suspect many others too. It encourages joys in small moments in small bodies, just as Yeezus is the sound this decade that most often settled me down, its restlessness mirroring mine, cooing it, letting me lounge among its spikes. I applaud Chris Richards’s navigations of Taylor’s Big Machine of squeaky-clean dominance. I applaud nuance. The reality of this world, the one drifting toward impotence, is one where Taylor’s songs serve greater masters than the feelings they detail.

The joys remain, though, and maybe they can be the result of nuance, not its opposite. Poptimism, or rather the endless click-cycle of vacillating provocations/reassurances in taste, is impotence not only devoid of energy but also fixated on depriving that same energy from where it could activate forms and instigate change. It’s why we hum songs and not criticism. I think we know that, naturally, when we react to “Bad Blood” and “Waves.” We know how to love what we love without justifying why we love it. We know if we’re inclined to analyze it, it might not be love. We know we’re better served catalyzing love instead of analyzing it, better served by smushing the flutter in our bellies and hearts to craft new artifacts, new things to love. This is how we might actualize new consciousnesses. We know how to synthesize the pop we love without endorsing, consuming, or idolizing it. Sometimes we need reminding, but mostly, we know how to collaborate with our love. It all just seems a matter of caring enough.

Poptimism is half optimism; if on one hand we’ve spent such words and time defending the former section of that construction, the work toward the latter half, toward a fully activated optimism, seems tougher. Still: it all just seems a matter of caring for the brightness.

And so we turn our immanence to light: “Light wave, 飛ぶ/ Skyway, 叶えて ほら/ Future Pop”


III. POWER
“Introspección 2” by Roudoudou Hirons

“I call power the selections (and the exclusions) that are implied in the structure of the present as a prescription: power is the selection and enforcement of one possibility among many, and simultaneously it is the exclusion (and invisibilization) of many other possibilities.”

When I say “writing about love is inevitable when writing about pop music,” I mean this: if we occasion ourselves to impotence in the face of reality, it can only be because a lifetime of days is battering. Our bodies are so chemically and mechanically unsteady that it’s easy to feel lost and drawn and brittle. To those stresses, we add the systems and governances that reject our bodies and their maladies. It is hard to believe in love as a transformative power when it is hard to get health insurance. It hurts to say I love you, when saying it might get you killed. It is impossible to preach sexual healing when black and brown and little bodies are shattered and bulleted every day. The planet is dying. We forget every day. Before we were asking how to actualize next, but this inquiry begs: how do we get through now?

This decade saw us brace for the brittling; we learned to see the light between the cracks and cling to it, add to it. We found our untapped potencies in changeable forms, a pop maudit. If the cocktail of renewable boredom and scrollable reality bred clickbait pomposity, the same sense of endlessness all the time fostered vaporwave, a movement running concurrent to poptimism’s empty manifestos. Vaporwave articulated many of pop’s nobler points: that we must remain plastic and moveable, that we thrive among the refuse because it wasn’t made to take from us, that we must invent new modes. It articulated them in more enthralling tones. “Vaporwave is one genre that problematizes the entire system of lazy critical evaluation, often just by remaining left out of publications altogether,” Grafton Tanner wrote in 2016’s Babbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of Ghosts. “Its avoidance can be attributed to the genres’s skeptical and mocking relationship with history.” This too, is how future pop engages with history. “No more ‘I love you’s’/ Changes are shifting outside the world.”

A future pop must include in its index the zones that Ramona Xavier, Daniel Lopatin, Ryan DeRobertis, James Ferraro, et al. explored. The et al. is crucial. The et al. is us. In their 2014 mediation, The Trouble with Contemporary Music Criticism, James Parker and Nicholas Croggon wrote, “Vaporwave is democratic because, in principle, anyone could do it. At is most basic — which is to say at its most radical — vaporwave consists of nothing more than an act of reframing.” This reframing is the most vital power in our desire to establish a future pop, to set it free and hope it takes us with it.

By chopping and screwing pop’s tonalities and settings (and consequently, the ways in which we critically and personally engage with pop), vaporwave’s zones prepare us for nextnesses beyond rabid capital and senseless attentions. Such zones teach us how to return to the maximal bops we love and move through them on our terms, not the ones being sold to us. We knew what to do with the songs before they tried to pitch us on how to wear them. Vaporwave doesn’t teach irony, no: there is no room in love for irony, and I hear a great deal of love in vaporwave. It teaches us the affliction of affection, of moving out of it and falling back through it, a way into-love around realism. Its greatest lesson — that embracing the weird is just as effective at dismantling systemic impotence — is already being written into our pop, in the frontier camp of Lil Nas X and the skrunchy allness of 1000 gecs.

Into this future index we must also hurl the ambiences and electronics, the ever-mutating flays of Arca and the half-haunted time-skews of The Caretaker, the virtual transfigurations of Kara Lis Coverdale and the post-earth, sci-fi re-renderings of Elysia Crampton. Far from the digestible narrative that these wild experimentations exist as pop’s opposite, we find in them all of pop’s possibilities in still-moving actuality, joyful vibrations of in-between. They teach us to invent a future, and their impact is all over our first transmissions of future pop, of vibration (Charli XCX), selection (Carly Rae Jepsen), recombination (SOPHIE), recomposition (PC Music).

From these actions, we induce combustion; we breathe it in. Redefine what stick in heads: Everywhere at the end of time (2016-2019) is pop. Arca (2017) is pop, as is Klein’s Lifetime (2019) and Grouper’s Ruins (2014) and clipping.’s Splendor and Mercy (2016) and Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica (2011) and Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me (2017) and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah (2014.) And Taylor Swift and Kanye West.

And if we call everything pop music, does our calling it mean anything at all? And if we allow our consciousness of pop to change, then won’t love re-render, too? Rob Sheffield wrote: “Sometimes you lie in a strange room, in a strange person’s home, and you feel yourself bending out of shape. Melting, touching something hot, something that warps you in drastic and probably irreversible ways you won’t get to take stock of until it’s too late.”

These are the strange hot things by which we make a future pop. It is too late. We must be grateful for that. This is the love pop music generates.

Once, a Tiny Mix Tapes writer (whose identity is unremembered by me now, but whose sentiment is so loved) suggested that maybe the best review of pop music would be a document with the single word “BOPS” written over and over and over again. This strikes me as a remarkably honest representation of what goes on in the space of those sounds.

In a matter of re-framing, in pursuit of writing about into-love and through it, these do too:

“Still in love: the frozen moment captured, the held gaze (Rowan Savage, 2013) & how is it possible to walk at a normal speed while coming undone? How is it possible to even breathe while falling in love? How is it possible to just fucking play it cool? (Caroline Rayner, 2017) Pop music is built on a history of love songs and becomings, of a desire to find oneself in another (Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli, 2018) & many of the artists I mentioned at the beginning of this review may have seemed like my entire world at one point, but pop fades like all things, and we seem to consume (and dispose of) music more ravenously now than before. Time shapes us and changes us, and we can’t always take the things we used to love with us as we step forward into the unknown (Sam Goldner, 2016) & the crystallization of a memory collapsing into the open expanse of the new. And this is the sound of this memory repeating, replete with an echo, a beat. In your ears and in your bones. Resounding, reverberating. Re-sounding, re-verberating (Evan Coral, 2019) & it’s a charged bleeding heart of sponsorship and exclusivity thrown into the throat of Yosemite. It’s a white horse galloping fiend-like across the continental divide, with a hoof-print-tire-tread that could pull the land apart (Nick James Scavo, 2016.)”

“Inasmuch as pop music means Carly Rae Jepsen, I believe it’s supposed to save our souls and reunite us with unity, not the ecstasy of forgetting or the ecstasy of remembering, but the act of singing (Pat Beane, 2019) & in the case of Dedicated, ‘love’ should be amended to ‘commitment’ Much of the album presupposes being in a relationship, but the emotional currents of each track find it either slipping out of sync or crystallizing into eternity (Harry Tafoya, 2019) & pop music doesn’t play by the same rules as other genres, and there is rarely, if ever, a purely artistic motivation or auteurist merit. And as far as pop music is concerned, Beyoncé is very nearly without peer; she sells the words and work of others, like it was the only thing that ever mattered to her. And maybe it is; stakes are high for Beyoncé, and as she gets older, they only get higher. (Embling, 2011) But sometimes you just have to let go. Sometimes it’s the best you can do (Max Power, 2013.)”

“In the context of our own narcissistic pretenses and the technologies that mediate our interactions — our constructed identities, our social media performances, our avatars and their simulations — the act of being brutally honest, of being uncomfortably direct through the highly flawed, imperfect thing we call language becomes an act of boldness and, for me, a source of inspiration (Marvin Lin, 2017) & a resonant theme is embracing other forms of love: particularly affection for community and independence from anyone at all (Elizabeth Newton, 2016) & something factual, but not necessarily real. A recollection of fiction and dream, or shared-moments. Whatever we can scrape together. It’s important at all times, sometimes (C Monster, 2018) & it should be danced, sung, knitted, and talked about, if not because it collapses these categorical distinctions itself so that its blood can run, then because keeping your head still and your voice silent is lying (Jazz Scott, 2014.)”

“Funny how sometimes we share the same memories, even if we weren’t there with each other in the first place (B. Levinson, 2016) & we do not enter and meet. We give up and begin. We stop and fade.” (Cookcook, 2019)

Those are just the ones I remember. There are so many more lights in the writing of love.

Our old notion of pop — divorced from arbitrary formal markers and set free to reform — is the song of engagement, with the problems and the hate, with the other bodies crashing on dancefloors and in darknesses, with other sets of lips and clits and dicks and every other thing, with an ear toward alternative bodies and an eye at the horizon. Engagement, then, is love by another name, a necessary inoculation against the constrictions of worldly realism. Future pop won’t inevitably save the world, but actionable love might shift it, warp it, screw it. Pop music is the process of becoming other, our only hope at a future where love surpasses inevitability and reaches realness.

This decade’s reckoning and rendering of pop registered according to reasonable expectations: pop music was a space for optimism and romance to make the best of what we already have. Our work toward a future pop, toward a future, must deny optimism and romance in pursuit of transformation and love. I want to (I will) write about a future pop that renders consciousness as something different than what we currently conceive. We must hear in future pop that which destabilizes as it constructs, that debilitates the inevitable, that refigures all our wild everything into something new.

Listening to the new Francis Quinlan single in the Shrewsbury library in rain because we must keep listening to new things. Because my crush likes it. Because I like: “I know there is love that/ Doesn’t have to do with/ Taking something from somebody.” She bends her voice around that word, “looOVve,” like all those myriad voices that comprise something like the light. I know there is pop music that doesn’t have to do with taking something from me. “I have to stop myself and admit: you make me happy.”

You do. You all do.

Feature: 2010s: Favorite 30 Labels of the Decade

This post was originally published on this site

Three years ago, I was tasked with writing the introduction to our year-end Favorite Labels feature. I lamented the fact that trustworthy (and SANE) music curation had basically ceased to exist in an era where notoriety had become a confusing amalgam of happenstance, advertising algorithms, and cheap-as-fuck digital recording and distribution technology. Needless to say, the trend in that direction has only continued. And yet, even back then, it still felt a little awkward to be championing a list of… well, COMPANIES in the space where a list of “DIY bands” and “independent artists” would usually go.

But, as I also noted back in 2016, the hype and the topspin and the mega-accessibility and the a-little-too-perfect algorithms and the complacency of streaming services and the whole, ya know, terrifying post-truth, postmodern, post-feelings fragmentation of our current moment has made it more crucial than ever to have, as my former self said, a few “honest-to-goodness curators carving us a path through the madness.”

So, basically, if you still think it’s “not cool” to show love to record labels, sorry, but you’re reading the wrong feisty, independent music webzine. OK, sure; back in the early aughts, it might have been momentarily reasonable under certain circumstances to praise the independent genius of an artist and their work while dissing the oh-so-capitalist powers-that-be behind the scenes who were putting up the dough and cranking the gears of promotion — but come on, now. That’s some Ayn Rand BULLSHIT, and you know it.

The fact is, artists oftentimes NEED labels. And fans need labels, too. Hell, even hoity-toity assholes like ME need them. Everyone involved in this business(!) of making and sharing meaning from artifacts of sonic diachronicity — from the makers to the listeners to the pseudo-anonymous internet critics — we all need them in the same way we need our families: to feel ourselves in the context of a larger community, to make sense of what we’re hearing, even to give us a useful position from which to critique the things we like or don’t like about a particular collection of those sonic artifacts.

In fact, at this point, many of the labels on this decade list straight-up feel to lots of us TMTers like family members — and hell, you’ll likely recognize most of them from “Favorite Labels” lists in years’ past, too. In some cases, they’ve opened up new veins of gold we didn’t even know we were hunting for, as we followed their trails to micro-scenes of untold power, vitality, and richness. In others, we’ve basically reported (in some form or another) on just about every release they’ve bothered to promote this decade; and as such, we’ve grown up together. And just like family, we don’t always see eye to eye on everything, but we respect and stick up for one another’s freedom of expression. Frankly, sometimes, it feels like we know our favorite labels too well, and we really get on one another’s nerves. But at the end of the day (or the year… or the decade), our dumb families’ stupid faces are the ones we want to see most.

So here they are, our favorite labels of the decade. In no particular rank but alphabetical order. Please, dear readers, say hello to TMT’s extended family.


Astral Spirits

[RODRIGO AMADO & CHRIS CORSANO · MAKO SICA / HAMID DRAKE · CLAIRE ROUSAY]

I can’t speak for everyone, but after my daily dispatch of news — divided between celebrating attacks on the defenseless, neglecting the rights of humans and the needs of our planet, and applauding the power, corruption, and lies practiced by our political and business leaders as normal behavior — I’m about ready for a new age, free of overwhelming anger and anxiety and apathy. Some, in fact, have already crossed into new orbits, working away from the sour sounds and ugly sides: specializing in small-run tapes, records, and publication releases (through its sister imprint, Monofonus Press), there was a flush and bloom on everything that Austin’s Astral Spirits did. Each new Astral Spirits release — be it an acrid avant-noise experiment, a set of electronic themes and incidental music, a fresh frisson of free-jazz and relaxed rock, or any combination thereof — brought some sort of positive spiritual therapy and “newness.” With already over 100 releases to its name in a little more than five years, Astral Spirits is a label of love that burns with the raving passion of, and for, the true fanatics of freedom and vision. If our idea of a great music label is one that shoots for the stars and hits them every time, then Astral Spirits is the label that will project us, if not into a new age, then at least into a new state of mind.


Beer On The Rug

[MACINTOSH PLUS · YYU · EYELINER]

Seems kind of pointless to try to illustrate Beer On The Rug’s cultural impact this decade. I think we all realize the influence the label has had in regards to not only music, but also the entire fucking INTERNET (*cough* see Macintosh Plus’s seminal Floral Shoppe, as well as many other classic AESTHETIC albums *cough*).

Writing it off as a solely vaporwave label is misguided, though. BOTR was first and foremost a facilitator of zones, no matter the weather. Its greatest appeal was sonic depth and variety. Take, for instance, the phased-out bedroom-pop of earlier releases by Casino Gardens and Free Weed. Or the meditative club drone of Endo Kame. Or the unmistakably unique yet familiar mutant music of YYU. Then there’s the gloss and sheen of acts like Euglossine and Location Services, the video game walk-through of Graham Kartna, the mind-goo chopped funk & soul of Digital Natives, the hybrid psychedelic New Age trips of Dang Olsen Dream Tape, the robotic intestines and metal veins of Hollow Gem and SUSAN BALMAR, and so on.

But nothing lasts forever: the bulk of Beer on the Rug’s discography has disappeared from the internet — at least temporarily. When asked about this, BOTR responded that the label is “more focused on what’s to come as opposed to ground already covered,” while also trying to encourage fans to seek out physical copies. So, do BOTR and yourself a favor and hit up your favorite retailer, ya nerds! <3 <3 <3


Constellation Tatsu

[HAKOBUNE · SAMANTHA GLASS · LES HALLES]

While the private press era of ambient and New Age is getting a much-deserved series of vinyl reissues and retrospectives, the current crop of Bandcamp labels churning out traditional and modern spins on ambient tropes have ushered in a new golden age. Throughout the 2010s, Oakland, CA’s Constellation Tatsu gently led the pack, unleashing some of the most soothing, meditative, and adventurous sounds committed to tape. “I like to imagine each cassette as a journey for the listener,” said founder Steven Ramsey in a 2014 interview about the label’s ethos. “One that brings the listener outside their comfort zone, brings them back to familiarity (a space to breathe) and in the end leaves one with a deep sense of exploratory-satisfaction.” Such adventures could be heard on cassettes that spanned Japanese guitar drones, hypnotic Midwest electronic experiments, and melancholy French pan pipes, just a few among the many highlights of Constellation Tatsu’s vast catalog. The label was as reliable as the seasons, putting out 2-4 tapes every quarter, each batch containing a diverse set of mellow drones, exploratory synth work, and lush electronics. Constellation Tatsu was perfect listening when you had a strong cup of tea, a comfortable seat, and the time to let your mind wander.


Deathbomb Arc

[JPEGMAFIA · LANA DEL RABIES · JONATHAN SNIPES]

Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of independent record labels come and go. Most have one thing in common: They’re moderately good for a moderate period of time. It’s unfortunate, but all business is tough business, and the business of music can be tougher than most. So, expecting a label to remain consistently wonderful for eternity is pure folly. An exception is Deathbomb Arc. Release after release, we didn’t know what we’d get from Brian Miller’s L.A.-based label, but it was certain that it’d be an altogether amazing journey, diming and priming our brains until the next excess. Starting with the simple wish of publishing music by Turbine, the Deathbomb catalogue has since showcased artists who are agonizingly true and scabrous and beautiful like JPEGMAFIA, Captain Ahab, clipping., Lana Del Rabies, Ed Balloon, and Miller’s Foot Village. Expect to make repeat visits to your Deathbomb Arc releases; you’ll find a gamut of artistic approaches arrayed and most reach musical (and often theatrical) sublimity. This “Genres Unknown” label has been around for 20 years, and the past 10 were as good as the first. You can bank on the next 10 being a helluva lot of boisterous fun, too.


Erstwhile

[Annette Krebs/Taku Unami · Kevin Drumm/Jason Lescalleet · Matthew Revert/Vanessa Rossetto]

The word “erstwhile,” of course, has within it the connotation of a remove, a reflective posture taken in the present directed toward the past. In trying to write an account of Erstwhile Records’s life over these past 10 years, I find myself in a position of nominative aptness, especially as Erstwhile finds itself celebrating its second full decade of life as the 2010s close.

As I listen back through its catalog — beginning with my own introduction to the label, Graham Lambkin & Jason Lescalleet’s Air Supply — I find myself confronting myself like in a hall of mirrors, with the distance promised by contemplation becoming effaced, my own history of listening reduplicating and reasserting itself. I try to define territory and distill some communicable experience from whatever stuff constitutes this listener, but any sort of critical sangfroid becomes an impossibility, as each second passes and each CD sings its last sound; as each composed silence melts into the improvised silence of the park, airport, funeral parlor, ICU, pool hall, bus, restaurant, post office, anechoic chamber; as my ability to bracket and sort phenomena becomes compromised; as my implication in this endeavor becomes increasingly entrenched in these spinal landscapes; as sound becomes space becomes impression becomes listener becomes sound becomes.

Toshiya Tsunoda, whose absolutely monumental Extract From Field Recording Archive will be the label’s last release of the decade, writes that “recorded material is like a map,” but the power of Erstwhile’s catalog was how it asked us to use this map. Like Borges’s imperial cartograph or Jarry’s sunken Paris, we traversed multiple territories along multiple trajectories simultaneously, and they held conversation, court, in our heads. Nothing corresponded without us listeners. The through line that linked the Erstwhilean vertebrae was a Cagean sensibility that emphasized the dizzying spatiotemporal particularity of any given sound — something that could never be separated from its context or its auditor. Sense, language, metaphor, metonymy, scraps of self all blended together. As soon as I hit play, there was no distinction between the world I lived in and that of an Esrtwhile release.

Some impressions over this past decade:

• Annette Krebs/Taku Unami – motubachii: wandering through construction sites in New Orleans during November
• Greg Kelley/Olivia Block – Resolution: waiting in an airport, January, and wondering if I made the right decision
• Graham Lambkin/Michael Pisaro – Schwarze Riesenfalter: December, falling asleep in my hospital bed and waking up to my neighbor crying
• Takahiro Kawaguchi/Utah Kawasaki – Amorphous Spores: sitting outside, around 2 AM in late May, in the darkness, as raccoons try to knock over my garbage can
• Kevin Drumm/Jason Lescalleet – Busman’s Holiday: vomiting while the harsh noise of “The Hunt” shreds my tiny desktop speakers, a different November
• Lucio Capece/Marc Baron – My Trust in You: riding an empty train, headed for Charleston, South Carolina in July, toward a miserable occasion
• Matthew Revert/Vanessa Rossetto – Everyone Needs a Plan: September
• Jurg Frey – l’âme est sans retenue I: writing this, a third November

Speaking of free improvisation or eai or onkyo or Wandelweiser or even collaboration and community does little, I think, to explain what exactly has been accomplished within the Erstwhile catalog over this decade. I suppose all music writing must fail in this regard, as by representation and conceptual schema we grow more distant from what we intended to engage with an erster Stelle. The more I rely on language, the more I betray my intention — that kernel of significance I desperately hope to make legible for others. All I can really do is recommend that you gather yourself, gather your world, gather your CDs, and listen.


Hausu Mountain

[EUGLOSSINE · KHAKI BLAZER · FIRE-TOOLZ]

There is a small technical distinction between a level and a zone. In video game design, a level is always tied to the completion of a specific set of goals. A zone, however, is just a space that players and in-game characters share. It may have restrictions and change depending on the players, but there’s no need to solve or achieve anything to gain access. No wonder Hausu Mountain framed a lot of what it’s released this decade under those terms. The zones it invited us into — including, of course, the Cool Zones batches it used to put out — felt like places we could spawn in or drift into while retaining the thrilling euphoria of a video game bonus stage.

While any origin story of the Chicago label, founded by Doug Kaplan and Max Allison (ex-TMTer Mukqs), will include references to video game music, other important touchstones were Ralph Records and the jam band scene, an unlikely mixture that had inspired them since the label’s inception in 2012. Of course, even if Kaplan and Allison are old enough to have caught the right fumes seeping from underneath their Phish-loving brother’s doors, Hausu Mountain’s music sounded nothing like Trey Anastasio’s. Instead, Hausu Mountain shared with that scene a genuine spirit of communal celebration, opening portals into some fascinating weirdness without wanting to be hectoring, each release exploring the extent to which strange, eccentric art could also be fun and exciting.

Alongside Natalie Chami, Kaplan and Allison are also Good Willsmith, the mothership, for it was the musical project that started the label. Yet their kosmische explorations were just one side of what Hausu Mountain offered. There was also the warped improvisational vibes of Moth Cock, the MIDI dreamscapes of Nonlocal Forecast, the gonzo footwork by Khaki Blazer, the gleeful reimagination of library music from Euglossine, the mutating collages of Eartheater, the glitchy attack on cyberpunk tropes mounted by Fire-Toolz, the densely human reveries of TALsounds, and so much more. Each of these albums and artists were key to understanding the unique community that coalesced around Hausu Mountain, a group of creators and fans who continue to call us into the next, unexplored zone. On to the following peak. And you can bet a long, strange trip awaits.


Hippos In Tanks

[GAMES · JAMES FERRARO · HYPE WILLIAMS]

It’s rare to witness a label having such a deep, long-lasting impact on the aesthetics of an entire decade, but that is what Hippos in Tanks gave us in just over four years of existence. Barron Machat and Travis Woolsey upholstered the foundation of an entire internet, propelling their lineup with Machat’s familial industry connections and a genuine drive to give experimental art a place in the limelight. Whether it was James Ferraro’s ringtone plasticity, Hype Williams’ camouflaged psychology, Laurel Halo’s technicolor dreamcoat, or Daniel Lopatin’s primordial strangeness with Joel Ford in Games, Hippos in Tanks put them all on glorious display, consecrating wildly innovative works onto one star-studded label, artists who by the way are now among the titans of weirdo music.

2019’s cultural landscape makes Machat’s passing in 2015 that much more bitter. His vision of Daniel Lopatin and Arca going platinum has become closer to reality, given the former’s work with A24 and FKA twigs, and the latter’s with Kanye West and Frank Ocean. But regardless of relative reach and fame, the collective produced radically exciting work, from Autre Ne Veut to ADR to Inga Copeland to Teams to Triad God. That Hippos in Tanks is now four years defunct but still leaves behind such a heavy footprint on avant-culture speaks to the label’s sustained vision and magnetic allure. This decade would’ve sounded very different without it.


Hospital Productions

[PRURIENT · RON MORELLI · RAINFOREST SPIRITUAL ENSLAVEMENT]

Ever prolificacy’s flexing blister, Hospital Productions popped off scalding on both sides of this 21st-century score. Label head Dominick Fernow’s impressive work as Prurient, Vatican Shadow, and Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement aside, there’s been more than enough varied, singular releases to make one forget all about the noise luminary in charge of curating ‘em. That cold grip so indelibly extended and fused with the label’s refined aesthetic that there could then be a judicious sort of expansion to what could constitute uplift. There has always been an important wallow/confront through line, yet Fernow cumulatively succeeded in showing the emotional/temporal breadth possible within its fathomless nest of screeching abattoirs.

To put it another way, Hospital continued to thrive on being as much a host to the dodgy thematic propositions traditionally inherent to power electronics as a stalwart, scrutiny-bearing, and adaptable institution. Despite its 2011 ascension from NYC brick and mortar to internet streaming limbo, the last 10 years (most recently with a lil push from Mike/Tara Connelly and Greh Holger’s essential NOISEXTRA podcast) have seen its imposing roster’s ills tempered to a fine, clean-slicing glint.

The radiant onslaught of both newer (Silent Servant, Ninos Du Brasil, Dedekind Cut) and classic (Linekraft, Skin Crime, Orphx) innovators were taxed and taxing by design, eschewing easy ins and, when performing pop moves, doing so on shrewd, hard-won terms. But at the same time, this label spoiled us rotten. L.I.E.S. founder Ron Morelli gave us half a dozen handsome doom-laden house rippers, and we were showered with exquisite mixes, edifying reissues, and stellar showcases… We shouldn’t be so damn accommodated — it’s unbecoming! But, there we were — Pioughd. Thanks a lot, Hospital!


Hyperdub

[BURIAL · DJ RASHAD · JESSY LANZA]

Hyperdub entered this decade as one of the most exciting new labels of a generation, but also one of the most scrutinized. After all, how do you even calculate the amount of pressure put on a label who introduced the world to Burial with its first release? Just like the shadowy, mysterious, and sensitive work of its most famous artist, Hyperdub never even blinked at the challenge and became even more profound, with founder Kode9 doubling down again and again on cultivating artists across genres and generations. Brave experiments like Laurel Halo’s Quarantine and Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland’s Black Is Beautiful later gave way to respective breakthroughs like Dust and The Redeemer. Along the way, it provided a platform for genre-defining releases from Cooly G and DJ Rashad, as well as a caring support when the latter’s tragic death threatened the entire footwork scene’s stability. The label even showed veteran video game composers like Yuzo Koshiro the audiences they never realized they had and merged avant-garde and pop with a rare, holistic vision through artists such as Jesse Lanza and Klein.

Hyperdub didn’t walk the line, it drew it, and its legacy will always be in looking to the future by believing in its artists now.


Kranky

[TIM HECKER · GROUPER · LOTUS PLAZA]

With records like Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and Deerhunter’s Cryptograms, Kranky absolutely crushed the 90s and 00s. But it certainly didn’t slow down for this decade. As its 25th anniversary passed last year, the label continued to pump out quality releases from artists constantly pushing the envelope of ambient, drone, and the outer realms of techno.

Two artists in particular stood out: Liz Harris, whose work as Grouper this decade (2011’s A I A: Alien Loss, 2014’s Ruins) rivaled anyone’s; and Tim Hecker, whose compositions continue to explore the reaches of possibility, especially on last year’s Konoyo. But dig deeper and there was plenty more, from the powerfully patient work of A Winged Victory for the Sullen, to the ayahuasca brilliance of Dedekind Cut, to the forays into psych-rock with Lockett Pundt’s Lotus Plaza, to Harris’s spinoffs into full-band territory, Mirrorring and Helen, all of which wonderfully demonstrated just how expansive Kranky’s sound and roster are.

Clearly intent on fostering its artists’ exploration of every kind of marginal space, Kranky’s output therefore had a sort of mutable quality that made it tough to pin down. Perhaps MJ Guider, who debuted her post-punk dream pop on the label in 2016, summed it up best: “It’s mood and temperament. There are so many different styles, but it’s all very introspective and heady, very comforting but very alien at the same time.”

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La Vida Es Un Mus

[PERMISSION · LOS CRUDOS · EXOTICA]

La Vida Es Un Mus has been shaping and documenting happenings in global punk and hardcore for the better part of the past decade, with a global yet precisely curated approach that set them apart. By intertwining surefire instant classics from Los Crudos, Limp Wrist, Dawn of Humans, Rakta, and Blazing Eye with the developing mini-discographies and flash-in-the-pan records by new punk auteurs like Woolf, Exotica, Permission, Rixe, Runt, La Misma, Nomad, and Juanita y Los Feos, La Vida Es Un Mus exemplified a label’s truly accelerated cyber-punk potential in the world today.

As the disclaimer on the La Vida Es Un Mus site states, “LVEUM is just one person.” While that might not be entirely unusual these days, it lends some clarity to the label’s unified voice and continuity over the years. It also lends some incredulity to its output, which recently hit 200 releases. A listen through any window of its now-vast discography would give a singular but cohesive story of hardcore as it existed in networks around the globe. Qualitatively, the music tended toward the bare-bones, hard-edged, dissonant, idiosyncratic, and disorienting, all of it like a runaway train (and documented by intermittent email newsletters detailing the latest half-dozen or so of releases, sometimes accompanied by personal notes of exhaustion).

While the label has been a guide through much of the most interesting and fully-realized hardcore today, I’d be remiss to not mention other labels Erste Theke Tontraeger, Static Shock, Iron Lung, Drunken Sailor, and Toxic State, who all seemed to, at one time or another, collaborate for the occasional international co-release. Punk, at its best, is a network and so much more than a few institutions, but LVEUM’s distinctive and attractive voice was so appealing for the way it shaped our taste and provided a nexus from which one could branch out to hardcore from around the world.

I would be kidding myself if I thought I could present you a list of the label’s greatest (and thus imply that I’ve heard anything close to the entire discography), but besides those mentioned above, special nuggets include Woolf’s debut EP, Slender’s Walled Garden, Ohyda’s self-titled LP, Belgrado’s Obraz, and ASID’s Asid Tracks II. More truthfully, I recommend you browse the many offerings on Bandcamp, pick any one of the beautiful covers that might catch your eye, and hit play. Chances are, it rips.


N.A.A.F.I

[ZUTZUT · PAUL MARMOTA · LECHUGA ZAFIRO]

Mexico City’s N.A.A.F.I gave us a blueprint for an era. Its tactics, both sonic and social, stretched across territories, histories, and geologies, enfolding like-minded producers, rappers, and singers from the new and old club capitals of the world. With N.A.A.F.I, we became accustomed to the previously unimagined intimacies that connected grime’s oil-slicked futurism to jersey club’s buoyancy, the ways in which shards of glass on the ballroom floor could be thrown into baile club’s exhaust fumes. As the decade unfolded, N.A.A.F.I brought these elements into ever stranger syntheses; to trace the line from Javier Estrada’s Tribal Prehispánico to Lechuga Zafiro’s Testigo is to watch the club be consumed from within, to see its walls brought down by Zutzut’s hyperarticulated drums and Lao’s frigid minimalism. We kept dancing, though; we kept singing, too, to Ciara and Drake, who we welcomed into our underground with open arms. And we had new voices to greet them with, Embaci and Defensa, Linn da Quebrada and MC Bin Laden, voices that were both cute and deadly, voices that fucked and cried and danced with the same intensity and the same determination. We knew things were bad, that the world was ending, and so we needed tactics, ways to survive, sounds to make our own. And then, perhaps, in our own minor ways, we could find ways to continue. For our delirious times: N.A.A.F.I.

An epilogue, from Riobamba, one of many continuing after N.A.A.F.I: “It’s so important to create space for complicating the narrative of the music coming from Latin America, to talk about party vibes just as much as the suffering, violence, the dark shit that happens, and for having club music as a context for this broader range of emotions.” With N.A.A.F.I, beneath the club, the world.


NON

[CHINO AMOBI · MORO · FAKA]

Politics is thought, thought is real, people think: concepts dance, concepts descend, concepts demur, concepts demand. Which is all to say that the conceptual work undertaken by the denizens of NON — from its figureheads to its affiliates — has both a thick history and a kinetic present, confined neither to the dulling mediation and algorithmic monetization of internet flows nor the acquisitive enclosure of institutionalized art spaces.

Illegible to an aspirationally empirical framework partitioning strictly delimited spheres of action — into, for instance, the cultural, the “properly” political, and the economic — the unlicensed citizens of NON refused the metaphor of accessibility that reifies a normative subject of both critique and practice. Nonperformance (or NON’s performance) radicalized the grooves and contours of conceptual possibility, its transnational drift and insolent allegiance to borderless excess a rebuff to any categorization that sought to corral NON’s conceptual legwork within a whitewashed genealogy of avant-gardist esotericism. NON rejected the figure of the dumb proletarian deaf to the soundings of nonperformance, his dumb aperture the narrow constabulary of statist representation. Because sound is politics, politics is thought, thought is real, people think.

Nonperformance, legally speaking, designates the failure to fulfill a contractual obligation. Nonperformance, as Sora Han and Fred Moten and Nkisi and Angel-Ho and Chino Amobi and Embaci and Zarai and Klein and FAKA and MORO and MHYSA and Why Be and Mya Gomez and Alex Zhang Hungtai taught us, provincialized the prescriptions and projections plotted by the teleology of the contract and pries open a radical indeterminacy in whose uncertainty radical practice just might interrupt the reproduction of the lethal extant. When the contract has always ordained a form of death, and when death limns the choreographies of the necropolitical ordinary premised on the ongoing expropriation and extermination of diasporic intimacies and improvisations alike, the stakes of sound and thought and practice for NON-citizens refigured the very terrain that conceptual labor must make its irreducible horizon.


Not Not Fun

[CUTICLE · CIRCLES · VARIOUS ARTISTS]

If you started a record label in 2004, chances are that in 2019 you’re working your way up the management ladder in the private sector, paying down a mortgage, turning down going to shows to hit up hardware stores on Saturday mornings, and occasionally looking in the mirror and thinking to yourself, “Oh yeah, I had a record label one time.” Not so for Los Angeles label Not Not Fun (at least on the latter), which has been plugging away for 15 years. Bedroom psychedelia, experimental dub, late-night shamanic synths, journeyman rock, and trippy ambient tones littered its vast discography, which has been so prolific that for a few years in the early 2010s it was putting out over a dozen releases per year. While the output has recently slowed down (it released three tapes this year), the quality remained spot on. As label co-founder Britt Brown said to our very own C Monster back in 2014, “You need to constantly feel like the shit you’re putting out NOW is as awesome as anything you’ve ever done. The current crop should always be your favorite.” And he meant it. Throughout the years, Not Not Fun magnificently highlighted a varied roster of artists and scenes from all over the globe, running so deep that listeners of all tastes could find at least one release, if not nearly a dozen, that got them nodding their heads and moving their feet.


Nyege Nyege Tapes

[OTIM ALPHA · SLIKBACK · DUKE]

Nyege Nyege, so the oft-touted tidbit goes, names “the feeling of a sudden uncontrollable urge to move, shake or dance” in the Lugandan tongue. It’s a catchy soundbite, for sure, but it still doesn’t quite capture the full and total en-/un-meshing of ourselves to and from our bodies and our machines, our feet from our brains, all in the spirit of the Dance. That might be getting some of the way there toward describing Nyege Nyege Tapes’s impact on the TMT hive mind in the latter portion of this decade.

While the tape side of operations was inaugurated in 2017, Nyege Nyege had its origins as a party, a studio, and a festival in Uganda, as is befitting a label with such a grounding in the intensely material, ritualistic experience of the Dance. As we veer into the new decade, the label’s reach now stretches beyond Uganda’s borders and into other parts of East Africa; it even has a nifty sub-label in Hakuna Kulala and a few vinyl LPs, to boot. Generic specializations played their role in Nyege Nyege’s outreach — electro acholi was repped by stalwarts Otim Alpha and Leo PaLayeng, and we’d be remiss not to mention singeli and the Sisso crew — but what made it so tantalizing to follow was a no-holds-barred, anything-goes approach to releasing and promoting truly vital music from the continent and beyond. To reductively reel off a few names, we had Riddlore’s psychedelic Afromutations, Jako Maron’s reimagining of the native maloya music of Réunion, and the unmoored live band theatrics of Nihiloxica, as well as my personal favorites from Otim Alpha, Slikback, and Duke (linked above).

Fragmentation and glocalization, fostered by the internet (of course), are by now fairly fundamental girders for understanding the state of play in music and its distribution to the four corners of this trash earth. Nyege Nyege Tapes became a pillar of the 2010s by reckoning with and harnessing the streams of hype that coalesced around the most intriguing global sounds throughout the decade, but its commitment to placing its artists front and center, and, above all else, releasing killer tunes, is far more likely to be what we remember the label by when we gaze back upon this rarefied juncture. Soundbite earned!


Orange Milk

[GIANT CLAW · NMESH · MACHINE GIRL]

There are many ways to describe Orange Milk’s decade, but one great way would involve Keith Rankin’s art. The man behind Giant Claw (ex-TMTer Keith Kawaii) founded the label with Seth Graham in late 2010, and both have released amazing solo music on it (as well as together as Cream Juice). However, as Orange Milk’s ostensible art director, Rankin also captured the label’s ethos through a collection of covers in the uncanniest ways. It’s an art we couldn’t easily pin a descriptor on. Surreal? Retro-futuristic? Video game-inspired? I mean, in the cover for Foodman’s Ez Minzoku, there is a decapitated head vomiting stairs, surrounded by giant pieces of floating fruit, incongruous shapes, and a severed hand. And that’s just one example of Orange Milk’s many fascinating covers. These pieces of art stood as extraordinary palimpsests of our digital age, just as much as any of the music released by the label.

Such is the strength of Rankin’s art and the symbiosis it had achieved with the music Orange Milk came to (re)present. And we certainly wouldn’t want to sell the label short on its musical merits. A quick look at its catalogue reveals many indispensable names when writing anything approximating a history of underground / experimental / electronic music in the 2010s: DJWWWW, Fire-Toolz, Foodman, Toiret Status, Galen Tipton, death’s dynamic shroud.wmv, EQ Why, etc. But such a wide array of music is far from implying a monolithic AESTHETIC. Though there were common traits among its cohorts, Orange Milk was also home to Machine Girl’s internet punk, luxury elite’s vaporwave orthodoxy, and Nmesh’s cultural hallucinations. Even within the confines of synth-centric experimentation, its releases stretched from Jerry Paper’s quasi-pop leanings to HCJM’s incursions into the noisier quadrants of hypnagogia. The same applied to temporality and geography: Orange Milk showcased the eccentric Midwestern prodigy of Larry Wish, the unearthed works of Russian electronic music pioneer Noah Creshevsky, and the Argentinean avant-garde dispatches in Aylu’s Walden.

But these were not mere quantitative achievements. Orange Milk’s visionary character came from a realization that the museum items of the future were the meaningless trinkets of today. In all likelihood, some centuries from now, even some of the most random aspects of our culture will survive and share space with the older garbage we already impute fictitious meaning upon. Graham and Rankin wanted to start that process right away, putting such polysemic collisions to music. In the process, they have chronicled the maelstrom of a decade, where the past, present, and future stretched, connected, and spliced, even in spite of ourselves.


PAN

[AYYA · M.E.S.H. · PAN DAIJING]

Origins are no longer very fashionable, riddled as they are with their implicit valuational schemes, silenced occlusions, and constitutive forgettings. But the anachronism of origin can offer small comforts — a stoop to rest your feet on after a long night of dancing, the ease of an old friend’s laugh — that make it just a little easier to recount, to recapitulate, to relate. PAN is not the first Berlin-based experimental electronic music label, but it is an origin for me.

By which I mean: PAN is a place to start and a place to return to. PAN is a point of entry, a crevice that sunders as it swallows, an open invitation you can’t refuse. When Piteous Gate swung wide open and ushered me into the break, into label head Bill Kouligas’s meticulously assembled constellation of experimentalisms past and present, I found no possible orientation to PAN other than headlong.

Yes, I arrived late. And to the cratediggers and the old heads, I will always be late.

All sorts of antecedents elude me, but PAN remains a point of reference so extensive and generous and inexhaustible that it offers inroads backward and forward into the novelty of newfound origins, of traces and milestones. There’s mono no aware’s stratigraphy of transience, Ghédalia Tazartès’s found sound assemblages, Sewer Election’s tape sadism, Lee Gamble’s jungle ruminations and disfigurations, and Pan Daijing’s opera of ache — all inviting rapt attention while beckoning elsewhere, gently.

And then, of course, the beats: at once disarming and rousing, transportative and grounding, familiar and inaugural. When shit bangs like Damaged Merc, Motion, Raven Yr Own Worl, Another Life, or Superlative Fatigue, one is not prone to forgetting. Getting bodied so hard leaves an imprint.

All of which is to say that I am not interested in any history of this decade that neglects the impact of PAN on the ear or the gut. And I think that’s what I mean by an origin: something you wouldn’t be here without. Something that makes you question how to begin.


PC Music

[QT · GFOTY · A. G.]

Pop culture is an economy of signs; commercial pop artifacts are repositories of signs, which are the economy’s currency. Baudrillard names it sign value: it’s how Starbucks sets obscene prices on cheap commodities, relative to their ordinary exchange value; it’s how Kanye sells plain Ts for the cost of my entire wardrobe. Brands are a type of sign, yet signs aren’t limited to brands, nor are brands limited to material culture. Katy Perry is a brand whose sign value fluctuates with its different expressions across time: from quasi-edgy pop rebel to bubblegum party girl to socially-conscious activist. While the currency of Katy Perry as sign may persist, the signified changes just as Katy Perry, the signifier, alters her form accordingly — just as a paper rectangle might be recycled from a $1 mark into a €50 mark.

Just as language is a hermetic system whose signifiers convey arbitrary meanings & are meaningful only in relation to each other (i.e., they’re tautological), so the economy of pop culture functions via its own arbitrary signifiers & self-referentiality. PC Music was born in this discursive environment as a platform that accelerates tautology via a genuinely irresistible pop aesthetic in order to vacate pop culture signs of their signified & thus expose the shell of the mere signifier itself, which is glorified, interrogated, celebrated, & ridiculed by turns. Where commercial pop artists often give us reactionary gestures of gravity that deemphasize the naiveté of the “idol” persona, for example, PC Music offered us saccharine synths, high-pitched vocals, & exaggerated femininities, harmonized through a clubby veneer that was decidedly non-threatening & for that very reason quite often uncanny.

Perhaps there’s a risk of “over-analyzing” what’s enjoyable about pop music in its own right; for better or for worse, the growing popularity of SOPHIE & Charli XCX isn’t owed to post-structuralism. Nonetheless, that PC Music’s aesthetic sincerity was uncanny should give pause; often the crew offered us forms that felt almost too obvious. But, as Althusser pointed out, that which is “obvious” is precisely so inasmuch as it’s rooted in ideology: Flourishing in the same decade that gave us vaporwave & deconstructed club, PC Music furthered a broader ongoing reflective process by which we came to terms with the evolution of the discourse of pop culture over the past several decades & its state, place, & role within the capitalist ecosystem today.


Planet Mu

[RP BOO · JOHN WIZARDS · KONX-OM-PAX]

With Machinedrum’s epic Room(s) (2011) and DJ Nate’s mind-bending footwork in Da Trak Genious (2010), Planet Mu started the decade off fuckin’ HOT. And it just kept the hits coming, hits that bridged the divide between UK bass, future garage, and Chicago ghetto tech, fusing so many different influences together to create something truly unique, vital, and global.

For me, the Planet Mu record that stands out most this decade is the underrated 2013 gem John Wizards, where a South African production savant joined a Rwandan refugee to produce a Shangaan electro album with the dreamlike magical quality that extended it way beyond the townships. But there are so many more: Jlin’s revolutionary, kinetic insanity on Black Origami (2017); RP Boo’s hypnotic juke on I’ll Tell You What (2018); Konx-om-Pax’s foray into the club and the bliss of the carefree comedown on Ways of Seeing (2019).

And that’s not it! Planet Mu’s artists (Ital Tek and Kuedo, in particular) kept pushing the wonky subset known as purple sound forward, moving it into a kind of Tangerine Dream-meets-footwork utopia that I never wanted to leave. And then somehow the Holy Mu kept pumping out releases by IDM legends like u-ziq and Venetian Snares while exploring new directions in deconstructed club (Antwood’s three full-lengths) and ambient (Meemo Comma’s brilliant release this year, Sleepmoss).

Writing this decade piece, I kept feeling like all this shit is criminally underrated. And it is! Without Planet Mu, music would be a lot worse off. Its artists simply never stopped moving forward. I’d try to predict where the label is heading in the next 10 years, but sorry, I’m bonged out dreaming my way though John Wizards.

So basically, the future.


Príncipe Discos

[DJ NIGGA FOX · P. ADRIX · DJ MARFOX]

There’s no way to talk about dance music trends over the past decade without mentioning kuduro & its diasporic turn. From Jennifer Lopez plagiarizing trans icon Titica to the countless producers globally incorporating the Angolan dance rhythm into the architecture of their beats, kuduro shows no signs of dying out. But rearticulation — that’s another thing. Coalescing into a dance scene during the turbulent period of Angola’s struggle for independence, kuduro took on new life in the Portuguese métropole, as second-generation migrants infused the scene with tougher club sounds, oblique cultural references, humorous samples, & a healthy amount of experimentation.

Príncipe Discos deserves major credit for bolstering that once marginal scene to the mainstream, which goes back as early as 2006, when a group of DJs from the Lisbon projects got together to release a massive compilation of tracks spanning the stylistic range of kuduro, batida, tarraxo, & more. While Príncipe’s first proper releases came out a few years after, its core ensemble of DJs hasn’t changed much, save a few surprising & exciting new additions. Most DJs featured on the original mixtape (e.g., DJ Marfox, DJ Nervoso, DJ N.K.) are going strong today, & others from the early days are reaching new audiences with international shows & releases on other imprints, most notably Warp. Tracking the scene’s evolution through its key artists in real time is a true joy: it’s watching the kids on the block grow up & shine beyond everyone’s expectations.

None of this would’ve been possible without Príncipe, which is both a space to rearticulate community identity & make sense of history, & a form of resistance against the otherwise racist discourse of “ghetto” — a term & aesthetic these artists have wholly reclaimed. From Noite Príncipe, the regular dance party hosted by the Príncipe crew going on its eighth year now, to the genuinely iconic artwork of Márcio Matos that adorns & unifies these artists’ releases both on Príncipe & beyond, there’s just no talking about the Lisbon scene without talking about Príncipe Discos. Because it’s not just a record label, but a scene & — no pun intended — a movement.

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Psalmus Dieursae

[HARI HAN · /F · ROBBIE S. TAYLOR]

Online translation tools can only reveal so much. The phrase “Psalmus Dieursae” may bear the semblance of language, but it doesn’t “mean” anything in particular. Break the syllables apart in Google, and you’ll end up with an equation that just barely checks out: “Psalmus die ursae” in Latin = “song day bears.” It’s a pretty unintelligible cluster of nouns, but not so abstract that it doesn’t start to form some nebulous cloud of meaning on the page. You can’t help but imagine quarter notes floating in the screen’s white space and dancing bear cubs setting up camp beneath an url sky. These words flirt with definition, but retreat frustratingly into their obscurity.

It’s the perfect name, then, for a record label that does as much to obfuscate the output and identities of its artists as it does to distribute their work. Now only accessible through archived copies of its currently-blank website, Perry Trollope’s netlabel (est. 2014?) was an ever-changing library of sound collages, free-jazz exploration, and .pdf files of notebook scribblings, each installment seemingly transmitted from a world just beyond our understanding. From its sparsely-furnished homepage, which housed little more than black hyperlinks on a cream-colored backdrop, visitors were left to their own navigational devices. Clicking on one at random could lead you to a zip file of electroacoustic dreamscapes, a dadaist collage, even an ASMR video. It was a step back into the pastoral internet of the mid-aughts — unpolished and intimate, if not a little scary. Files could disappear or transform overnight. Many of our own posts featuring Psalmus’ work feature now-broken links and can’t be accessed via streaming services. It’s hard to tell whether listeners were meant to be in on a complex inside joke or its subject.

Most notably, Psalmus Dieursae introduced us to many of our favorite online personae. Emamouse, a Tokyo-based folktronica producer who performs wearing a felt mask, released a handful of records (and a manga/short film!) through the imprint. Trollope’s pseudonymous project /f earned our Eureka! distinction in 2014 and has continued to crank out inscrutable noise epics ever since. We still treasure Hari Han’s feathery ambient compositions and crayon drawings.

As long as our hard drives stay intact and the Wayback machine stays up and running, so too will Perry Trollope’s atavistic vision of a simpler netscape: an age of Mediafire blogs and niche forum communities. The mediums — .wavs, .pdfs, .mp4s — were always the message. The rest is just noise.


PTP

[YATTA · 0COMEUPS · N-PROLENTA]

Earlier this year, sonic vagabond and TMT favorite Lolina begged the question: “Who is experimental music?” Sneakily dissonant in its syntax — staging an ostensible confrontation between the nominative case of the interrogative pronoun and the fiercely contested conjuncture of “music” and “the experimental” — the provocation at once ridicules the hagiographic critical paradigm staking out “the experimental” as the exclusive domain of canonical white men (rest in piss, Harold Bloom!) and underhandedly poses the possibility that experimental art-making can (or is it must?) transgress boundaries demarcating classical distinctions between subject and object, artist and audience, process and product.

At PTP, the unstinting, unsettling, unfinished experimental work of care repaired these alienated categories; bodies and merchandise, rigidly disaggregated and arranged in the seething chain seized and drained by capital, conspired to relate otherwise. Accomplices swerved and ducked out of tallied position to take care, not stock.

“This is a care without responsibility, a care without guarantees, placed in danger.”

PTP’s beautiful experiment eluded capture of any sort, insisting on a notion of “the experimental” that baffled the purse-clutching, land-grabbing, back-stabbing claims of hermeticity and autonomy; that reneged on those reified proprieties; that weaponized relation between sound, saliva, self-preservation, city, personae, paraffin.

On gang/on Geng: “the curator becomes the accomplice when she helps to produce this uncomfortable care, a care that is dangerous, made together but open to anyone and anything, a beautiful care that enlivens attention, heightens sense till sense and meaning coincide.” Drawing from and experimenting with the rich collective productions, social reimaginings, and conspiratorial caretakings tagged and thumping throughout NYC — Wu Tang, Powerule Crew, Mobb Deep — caretaker Geng less curated than colluded, clearing space within the chokeholding architectures of foreclosure and incarceration for séances of breath, ugly cries , lustrous comeups, and, above all, love stories .

Because it was all love.


Recital

[IAN WILLIAM CRAIG · SARAH DAVACHI · SIMPLE AFFECTIONS]

Despite our best efforts, the past won’t let us go. Throughout the last decade, Sean McCann’s Recital label allayed that encumbrance, carried on its own shoulders the weight of abandoned aesthetic traditions, and became itself a catalog of musical histories in reformation. Sean McCann’s Music for Private Ensemble was a rapturous bounty; Ian William Craig’s A Turn of Breath was untouchably smoldering; Sarah Davachi’s Let Night Come On Bells End the Day eked out pleasure in mellifluous drones; Karla Borecky was genteel, Matthew Sullivan celestial, Roger Eno like white smoke. Recital carved lines in the stone of history between what came before and what happens now, and, in essential projects like the singularly ambitious and collaborative “dream LP” Simple Affections, made music of coinciding voices.

But that’s only half the legend told. Recital was not just a counselor of progress, but an antiquary of a musical underground, a collator of collapsed time and lost sagas that were invariably a blessing to receive: unearthed sound experiments and poetry from legends like Dick Higgins, François Dufrêne, and Geoffrey Hendricks; unreleased folk curios by The Ivytree; reverent reissues from Loren Connors; and unexpected one-offs like the live radioplays of Towards a Total Poetry. Every Recital release, regardless of source or inspiration, was an exquisite surprise to be discovered, a celebration of some obscure class of workmanship, and a niche of warm appreciation for anomalous art and its authors.

Reading McCann’s publicity notes for each release, one gets the impression that Recital as a marvel of curation could only exist in a digital environment that allowed for immediate contact between globally divergent artists and collaborators, yet the label’s entire project was to honor the record of a past dotted with insular, regional scenes distinguished by a particular grade of experimentation. Heading into the uncharted horizon of a new decade, Recital remains an unparalleled museum for tomorrow. Its artifacts are sanctuary.


Room40

[LAWRENCE ENGLISH · PINKCOURTESYPHONE · ALEXANDRA SPENCE]

This decade began auspiciously for the Australian field recordist Lawrence English, and it has only improved since. On January 1, 2010, English’s label Room40 released its 10th-anniversary compilation, titled simply 10. If we’re lucky enough to see 20 drop this coming January, it will highlight an impressive roster recruited in the label’s second decade. Room40 has seen luminaries including Portuguese improviser Rafael Toral, English sound theorist David Toop, and Japanese insane person Merzbow join its ranks in the past 10 years.

Room40’s remit is to blur the boundaries between noise, ambience, and field recordings. English himself led the way in the 2010s with two major statements on the relationship between noise and political expression: an exploration of informational repetition by way of feedback loops on Wilderness of Mirrors (2014) and a meditation on affective responses to global catastrophe on Cruel Optimism (2017). On the ambient side, Richard Chartier’s pinkcourtesyphone project arranged sizable blocks of reverb and distortion into beguiling shapes on Elegant and Detached (2012) and Indelicate Slices (2017); on the field recording side, this year’s haunting Waking, She Heard the Fluttering by Alexandra Spence wrests beauty and horror out of found sound.

Actually, looking back, it seems that Room40 has fulfilled its remit. The boundaries are blurred. Attempts at categorization have been defied. Spence’s field recordings are noisy as hell. English’s noise comes in waves of ambience. Pinkcourtesyphone’s ambience roars into noise and subsides into clips of found sound. Room40’s new goal for the 2020s? Continue honing what can only be called “the Room40 sound.”


RVNG Intl.

[HOLLY HERNDON · JULIA HOLTER · KAITLYN AURELIA SMITH & SUZANNE CIANI]

I’m notorious for effing up quotes, but I will never stop collecting them. One I wrote down ages ago is by artist Rita Ackermann about Michael Jackson, how “He was able to compress a bulldozer and Bambi into one song. That’s also the main focus of my own work. I want to show such a duality in its most raw form — with a fragility that triggers aggression.” This seems to sum up the work philosophy of Brooklyn’s RVNG Intl. Co-founded and run by Matt Werth, the label has since 2003 gathered seemingly incongruent threads and woven them into complex pieces. Each release was like a trip through the looking glass, to test the limits of music and language. And with its FRKWYS series, it unleashed some of the most memorable and meaningful mishmashes of the last decade in experimental and new music. Painstaking rumination might be behind its releases — from its regular issues and the aforementioned collaborations to its Beats in Space, Freedom to Spend, and ReRVNG archival choices — but I like to think the label came to these musical inventions freely, with a willingness to try almost anything to bring something “new” into the often-tired landscape. Going against the grain of the current climate, RVNG Intl. has issued works that capture a fresh strangeness and an artistic freedom that few labels would tolerate. Music should make us feel, and if you can’t feel the music released by RVNG Intl., what can you feel?


Sacred Bones

[JOHN CARPENTER · AMEN DUNES · ZOLA JESUS]

They’re Pokémon cards; they’re comic books tucked in plastic sleeves; they’re cereal boxes lined up on a supermarket shelf. Sacred Bones’s record sleeves are as integral to the Brooklyn label’s success as its penchant for post-punk and crepuscular aesthetic. Almost all of them are stamped with an ouroboros and imprinted with a tracklist that resembles a list of active ingredients — a letterhead logo that feels almost clinical, imposing order on the discography’s array of ghoulish and psychedelic artwork. There’s an obsessive need to collect them all that stems from the intersection between uniformity and variety. The catalog numbers are even printed prominently on the front covers! Label founders Caleb Braaten and David Correll have made an effort to maintain this consistency from its founding in 2007, citing the futurist and spartan artwork of Factory Records as a key influence.

Factory’s legacy even seeps into Sacred Bones’s sound, especially in the former half of its history. Alongside gloomy garage-rockers like Gary War and Blank Dogs, synth-centric acts like TR/ST and Led Er Est carved out a nostalgic niche for the label, capturing the attention of an 80s-obsessed indie zeitgeist at the turn of the decade. The most memorable releases of the period, though, came from Sacred Bones’s more eclectic contributors. Amen Dunes’s Through Donkey Jaw appeared on many of our staff’s decade lists, transmitting spectral folk-rock through a watery atmosphere. Zola Jesus’s early work with the label was a fascinating precursor to her recent cinematic output — beautifully brittle and caked in distortion.

The decade’s latter half has seen Sacred Bones wear many hats. Though unexpected, its forays into the film world have fit neatly into the label catalog, sandwiching John Carpenter’s Halloween score and a handful of Julee Cruise demos between works by Black Marble and Jenny Hval. And let’s not forget the 1976 Plantasia record it reissued this March: a synthetic, New Age ficus blooming from its surrounding selection of vintage punk and industrial electronica. The vibes might be funereal, but, yes, there are even slivers of optimism interred with the ‘Bones.


Shelter Press

[BULBS · JAB · GABRIEL SALOMAN]

Less a record label than an immaculate virtual boutique of musicianship (plus lovingly crafted visual/textual artifacts known as books) at its most supra-threshold tactile, Felicia Atkinson and Bartolomé Sanson’s “publishing platform” has been remarkably consistent since its 2012 inception.

There was the elaborate controlled melting and stricken atrophy of Ben Vida’s final Damaged Particulates installment in 2016, as well as Gabriel Saloman’s alternately stark and murkily idyllic Monument Building triptych, which was truly transportive, despite many of us not getting to see the choreographed dance it was made for. There was D/P/I’s spark shower playgroup of triggered automation and ostensible 2016 bow-out, Composer. Also the kit-muted Music is Rotted One-Note-esque velvet gloved throttling of percussionist Eli Keszler’s Stadium. Flautist John Also Bennett gave us two peace-imbuing yet tense minimalist sonic habitats (one in collaboration with Christina Vantzou). And Atkinson herself has presented some of her best work here (2017’s low, squirmy, and fatalistically reflective Hand in Hand), in addition to cementing a powerful collaborative magic with the great Jefre Cantu-Ledesma.

For a small concern, 48 albums in less than 10 years is impressive enough. But for each to retain such essentially distinct textural character for all that time casts a special glow on the endeavor. Rather than missteps, Shelter Press offered curious genre detours, slowly ironing out the more fickle wrinkles of preference. It almost felt like a staggeringly intricate exhibit or compilation given an indefinite extension. It was not scene-specific or specific at all, beyond a desire for greater media intersectionality in experimental music. As a result, Shelter Press has been a fine example of how experimental approaches to music can dissolve their imposed margins of obscurity and properly reward the curious past their bewildered enticement.


Stunned

[WARM CLIMATE · VODER DETH SQUAD · BERBER OX]

Phil and Myste French didn’t invent the cassette tape, but by 2010, their label Stunned was the undisputed champion of the medium. At a time when physical media was under attack from digital files and the emergence of streaming services, Stunned seemed to prize musical objects as important as the melodic messaging therein. The label provided an outlet for artists to express themselves inexpensively. Let’s take a chance on an artist, a scene, and an idea — and the whole idea of Stunned followed. The artwork was especially vivid, a pastiche of graphic and color as unpredictable and experimental as the music it was encasing. The artists, young and wild, expressing themselves in a manner befitting the singular aesthetic of the label’s design choices: art pieces in 4.25 x 2.75-inch packages.

Stunned brought us early releases from M. Geddes Gengras, High Aura’d, and Sparkling Wide Pressure. It took on a variety of noise, drone, and experimental pop that had no discernible place in a world increasingly attached to indie music rather than independent artists. And all of it arrived on cassette, a medium so outdated in the mainstream at the time that its affordability in both creation (dubbing parties at home on a stereo setup) and shipping (media mail) made it accessible to not only labels pumping them out, but also DIY artists on a shoestring budget. Even as social networks were becoming the norm, Stunned seemed to bring these disparate sounds, personalities, and artistic values together to create a community that built upon the label’s ethos. So when Phil and Myste shuttered Stunned in 2011, it was a relationship ending. Although all parties involved moved on and like-minded independent music began to thrive, along with the cassette tape, a lot of it felt hollow without Stunned along for the ride, especially given the label’s lasting impact throughout the decade.

Thankfully, Stunned found “it was impossible for us to stay away for long.” Eight years is an eternity in music these days, but Stunned’s clandestine return this year through Phil and Myste’s own musical outlet, Nite Lite, still felt relevant and of this time. Whether this was a reawakening or one final kiss goodbye, its timeliness was matched only by its necessity.


Sublime Frequencies

[MARK GERGIS · KOUDEDE · BORANA TRIBE]

When your ears have been desperate to lock in with the nexus of human eloquence and brevity (though the bounty is staggering), for (roughly) another 10 years now, Sublime Frequencies was your Huckleberry. This desperation reaches across cultures and the fool’s errands that we run through our inherited tools of expression (namely music and diplomacy), even if time has often shown we can’t have nice things in this regard. As fine as it’d be for that fine point of grace to be a home, it evaporates with our hunger for it. In this light, Sublime Frequencies continues to stay the course, capturing insistent yet unassuming moments in time and space that elevate its raw quality to something more emotionally vital than its potential curio status for Western audiences.

Be it the deep, windblown blues of Group Inerane and the Guitars from Agadez series or travelogues like Mark Gergis’s I Remember Syria (reissued in 2014), ritual music like Olivia Wyatt’s hypnotic document Staring at The Sun: Ethiopian Tribal Music, or the enchanting folk-pop universe of Omar Khorshid’s Guitar el Chark, Sublime Frequencies have faithfully presented its Middle Eastern, North/West African, and Southeast Asian sounds with an emphasis on authentic and ethical representation of the artists.

The label has unerringly balanced its potentially luddite-ish aversion to polish with a showcase of the vast sonic potentiality contained within spare, ancient, and modern instrumental elements in a natural environment. Both the intimacy and ear-expanding quality of these artifacts have not been dulled by the 2014 decision to put many of its titles (sold out and otherwise) on Bandcamp. If anything, it likely helped to nudge the label beyond its money-to-burn completist collector market. The vast trove of incredible music and footage (its mesmerizingly immersive DVDs are well worth seeking out) might get slightly lost in translation, but the sheer force of the passion behind these rituals/performances has been unmistakable and appropriately humbling to behold.


Warp

[APHEX TWIN · ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER · FLYING LOTUS]

The 2000s was a period in which Warp, the de facto electronic label, was largely bemoaned for capitulating to the indie trends of the time. Bands like Maxïmo Park and Grizzly Bear didn’t fit the classicist’s view of what Warp was “supposed” to be. Turns out, the label was only just getting started. This decade, Warp had the boldness to release music from artists as disparate as Danny Brown and Drexciya, just because both of them fucking rip. This stretching of genre in its ranks found the label combining the experimental electronic fortitude it was known for — whether it was Richard D. James imbuing importance amongst the cavalry or Autechre feeding the purists that mutated techno we all so enjoy — with young guns like Kelela, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Yves Tumor, who helped define not only the label this decade, but contemporary music in general, each subverting electronic music standards in some fashion. Warp’s visionary approach was also complemented by its ears on the past, whether it was reissues of landmarks by LFO, Boards of Canada, and Stereolab, or something as simple as Broadcast’s presence on their website, a reminder of what should and could have been.

Perhaps most significantly, there’s an undeniable influence from Warp’s leadership that flows through all these musicians. Artists were offered not only enough resources to build upon their previous works, but also the freedom to pursue whatever wild ambitions came to mind, resulting in a vast range of treasures dedicated to pushing the envelope, releases that felt all-around bigger and bolder. It’s why Warp is the label supremé of our time, the standard to which all music labels should be held.

Feature: 2010s: Empty Essence

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Art of Illusion

We don’t even have to think about music anymore. Music is actually everywhere this decade. And we’ve begotten the perpetual illusion of tangible sound. Us: * vibing with the movement/force of music emoji* If you and I have ever interacted IRL/URL together, I respect that moment eternally; there’s so much sound we’ve felt [upon levels] that together we’ve practically shared an ethereal energy, forever. Unequivocally, sound traverses “everywhere” this decade because,,,

Bluetooth technology currently shapes the size of sounds in all spaces, wirelessly. Whether you streaming sounds while cooking in the kitchen, through blaring speakers poorly taped to rusted handlebars biking down 8th Ave., peering across the sands-faded umbrellas of Long Beach, while soaping up during a midnight shower, or directly into your ear canal, Bluetooth technology is reptilian and as adaptive as you want it to be. As we consume music/sounds, we — individuals — possess the ability to behold music/sound immediately, molding it as the resonating acoustics of our space. And, for me, the immensity of sound absorbs my anxiety at an intensive healing rate.


We mentally embrace the ownership of music/sounds surrounding our lives.

Some of us appreciate the nostalgic abandonment of Sophie B. Hawkins’s “As I Lay Me Down” while trapped in a T.J.Maxx on 125th Street, whose chorus I can’t stop whistling for the next three hours, not buying a thing. Feeling the immensity of “Love In This Club” during Young Jeezy’s verse somewhere handling Summer 2007 and “feeling the burn.” Carefree back-skating on blades in the rink to “Say My Name,” sweaty on the outside, going at my own pace. Listening to Nirvana and being called a “poseur.” These are my shitty-/contextualized-personal examples of the way I absorbed the culture of music in my youth.

At some point, the word “modern” has to deteriorate in meaning.

When we hear “Immaterial” by SOPHIE off OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, how do you feel?

I can listen to this near and with anyone. I don’t care; this song makes me feel myself. I can wake up from a deep-drunken sleep and survive an hour subway ride, still listening to “Immaterial” over and over off a Sony-clip speaker, and I have no idea what it is, other than the purest legal drugs. Music is the future of medicine; “Immaterial” was effervescence throughout Summer 2018.

When we hear “Everybody” by DJ Rashad & Freshmoon off the I Don’t Give A Fuck EP, how’s your individual emoticon?

I remember having my good-friend Ken listen to “Everybody” after a long day at the beach, while my wife was buying a gallon of ice cream inside Fairway, just after watching the infamous video this song was based on. Ken was equally amused and astonished at the level of intricate trolling in “Everybody.” He equal parts dying-laughing and O_O, as “Everybody” penetrated both of our individual experiences. My wife opens the door and immediately pauses the music because I had turn’t the car’s audio speaker system.

When we hear “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn, where ya soul be at?

Buzzing my head completely at 29 years old, including my face, looking like Caillou. It’s around 3:43 AM on a Tuesday, and I’ve drafted a text — “Taking an emergency day off tomorrow. I’ll fill out HR paperwork and send my coverage schedule shortly” — that I’ll send out at 4:45 AM, which includes a completed form for paid time off and a coverage email ready to click moments after. Showering around 3:59 AM, water spraying off my head as I rub my hands across it, dancing inside my mind, Robyn filling my confidence by +10.

Music was my segue into Tiny Mix Tapes. I was confident writing about music after reading Keith Kawaii’s Chocolate Grinder post on some Umberto track that had me vibing at the time of its release. It was P’s review of DJ Rashad’s Just A Taste Vol. 1 that made me believe in the power of Tiny Mix Tapes’s audacity to taste it all. CUT TO: a future that flourished in abundance of,,,,,

CG—®8’ing

My illusion for the past nine years was the feeling of readers witnessing me listen to music through my writing as C Monster. No subscription. I’ve always appreciated the time we’ve spent together, whether I was listening to your music and/or you were reading me on Tiny Mix Tapes. If we’ve yet to share this time, it’s always around! Let’s_start_a_conversation.


Enchantment of the Arcane: The popularity of Curator Selected systems vies with the popularity of Collector Systems, to a degree

Curator Selected

– Spotify, iTunes, TIDAL, and satellite radio.
– YouTube, SoundCloud, DatPiff, Bandcamp, and MixCloud.

– Experimedia, Boomkat, FatBeats, Midheaven, Bleep, and Tomentosa
– What.cd, OiNK.me, and Soulseek
– Labels, straight up.

Collector Systems

– The public library[periot]
– Musicians/artists/podcasts
– Discogs.com
– Bandcamp
– Record Stores, Thrift Shops and Garage Sales are the dig

Digital music’s major impact on genre expansion/melting and how this affects this personification of tangibility

to feel this music: chameleonic adaptation. Now we have physical tapes and records and CDs again. However, streaming platforms be birthing URL communities and ostracizing/destroying DIY communities, while digital platforms can also provide tangible experiences through concerts in the middle of a Fortnite match, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare been draggin’ Pryce since, forever. #foreverdrizzle

Music enchants us all to be; behold the side effects of music:

Pinhead In Fantasia to morph into baroque cenobites.
Eye Contact to dance amidst the indie scene standing around and nodding.
Just A Taste Vol. 1 to believe change is real and sustainable.
A I A to protect us from the aliens we’ve become.
OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES to break us free of our cocoon.
Beyoncé to push goddess selves outward.
Black Is Beautiful to egregiously forget.
Eccojams Vol. 1 to thieve the best.
Pop 2 every song be like,,,,,,,,

1992 to wake me up for two years straight; flag football legacies.
The Narcississt II to feel vulnerable.
Double Cup to be in heaven.
Floral Shoppe to: “Never sleeping again!”
PRODUCT to making the most out of anything.
DARK WEB to the old heads.
Quarantine to DeForrest Brown, Jr.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to being four months too late.
Cocaine Daughter to spending the perfect day off; to horcrux.
Espresso Digital to exerting one’s energy into one’s every last fiber of being.
Sounds of Sisso to
Arca to bringing it back to square one.
Age of Transparency Vol. II: The Avatar Sessions to love everlasting.
Whack World till about 15 minutes, exactly.
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late to enduring mid-decade excess.
Teen Dream to low dip.
Real Raga Shit Vol. 1 too hot at a venue in Brooklyn that you only in your boxers, with no AC, and ya best friend still snapping photographs of a musician’s van who keeps telling your best friend, “Please don’t take photographs of our van, please. Thanks!” *Click*
Higher Powers to every last grain of sand on a deserted island.
PC Music x DISown Radio to M$O$N$E$Y.
Slime Season to repeating a ritual so routine it becomes overwhelmingly calm.
Carrie & Lowell to finding guidance within the slime.
Between Two Selves to chew the lady-go.
Valley Tangents to having a superpower that is music and to only believe in Jesus if it means every last drop of music were in His name; no, I’m not religious, but Jesus was tight, and I’d want to be his friend, so I think there’d be a way for that to happen//////////
RIP Chrysalis to feeling all the feels and it feels. 😀
Capacity to inhale and exhale, simultaneously.
Superimpositions to embracing the embers.
Skid Row to knowing there was a proper follow-up made for Terminator 2.
Boogie Chillen / Hills Of Cypress to those night rides back, lost, from Brooklyn, the person in front of you throwing out a revolver from the passenger seat; I look like a cop!

Freetown Sound to continue love eternal in NYC.
Canto Arquipélago to navigating island-jungle terrain on an excursion, with a guide frothing meditation.
Babylon to showering in your own voice echoing in the bathroom.
Angel Activate to shroud yourself in the immersion of undefinable sound.
Secret Mix to proper hoe-out.
Pharma to take all the drugs in the bag.
A Public Ranking to conjure the depths of disparity.
No.00 in Clean Life to resurrect,,,,,

On Patrol to staking out with a mustache wearing sunglasses, slow-sipping on a disposable straw around midnight.
White Flame to living and breathing the proof of truth.
Theme For Gasoline Weirdo to purify yourself in splendor.
CLASSROOM SEXXTAPE to text the wrong person a string of bad ideas while they respond in emojis, so ya strangers be riffing and are both oblivious.
JE M’EN TAPE you as in we, the Queen’s “we,” also you’ve been granted impenetrability from everything ephemeral and physical, Terminator 2-mode.

I DARE YOU TO: go through all the music articles on Tiny Mix Tapes between 2010-2019 and witness how much we covered. We are the 99%. I believe in all the catfish-and-strangers who’ve participated in Tiny Mix Tapes the past nine years. Our words have provided energy to people either through the gravity of their meaning or just by writing “OMG Listen to this!” Tiny Mix Tapes is the enchantment of strength in belief.

Writing for Tiny Mix Tapes has beheld the enchantment of feeling hidden, using pseudonyms, not relying on the demand for clickbait article titles, and replying “No” to PR emails. One of Tiny Mix Tapes’s most common writer-motifs: observation is both literal and visual; setting the achievable goal of tying together what’s in between the audio and the written word.

Champion by Teamm Jordann

Tiny Mix Tapes is my mental strength that binds me to an enhanced musical experience. It’s so hard to communicate with people about myself; this is why I will forever communicate to people about their music. If you made music or helped perpetuate it this past decade, I really appreciate you. You’ve enchanted me with tropes of socio-mental protection and armor that helps me simply live. C Monster has been the best fake-it-till-u-make-it mentality ever, so thanks, y’all!


Tiny Mix Time Travels

Defining and recalling music is like eating lunch the next day thinking you heard James Ferraro play a live set in your dream last night. Outside of sound, one recalls music (REAL DATA COMING):

– memory
– media/marketing
– storytelling/world-building/Conceptronica
– creative inspiration
– clear mind; stop ripping me offfffffthxffffff

Yet, like these frames of mind, we all evolve with the music that’s shared with us listeners (e.g., Future > Young Thug > Playboi Carti > Lil Uzi Vert). This entire decade, I been writing like nobody reading. C Monster is the documentation of my early

adulthood and how I thought about expanding my mind from home, tangible creativity at the touch key/-board stroke, enhancing theory without ever acknowledging it and feeling completely alone. Because of this, I’m impatient and good at keeping track of time. I gauge lots by time, including sobriety and standard lengths of tasks. Unfortunately, I lose lots of memory, because I’m spending time on organization and prioritization.

I’ve been writing from my couches for years. Two-to-three-to-four-to-five hours on Friday and Saturday nights of my life have been reserved the past eight years

for Tiny Mix Tapes. This is where I behold my personification of music from varying sounds, absorption, and the space I occupied with music. I don’t like going out to shows or clubs; I always preferred staying at home listening to music on my couch playing The Tekken Tag Team Tournament Two, tho, wearing only boxers and slides. Sucking on the legal drug of music with a side order of weed sneeze:

Beige Loveseat from Larkspur

This couch was on the brink of rotting by mid-2010. It was faux-leather and deteriorating, passed down from the house I lived in as a child, gone through Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. My future-wife kissed me for the first time on it. And its existence stopped in Fairborn, OH while I was looking for an exit:

Broken beer bottles around the edges of the beige loveseat being pushed into the carpet, and Rick Ross confronting every last bit of mentality on a Thursday night. I still go to Family Video, where my boss asked me why I’m renting Crank: High Voltage, so he gives me a discount, and I’m blasting “Shine Blockas” by Big Boi & Gucci Mane and drop back down on that beige loveseat, watching Jason Statham get tore up on mute with Teen Dream, Crazy For You, and Sleigh Bells harkening off CPU-aux speakers behind me. CUT TO: after getting bummed over Before Today, Halcyon Digest, Stridulum, and Yellow Swans’ Going Places, crying a little in my underwear, unsure of any direction. Cuts on my feet. The next morning on the same couch, where I’d front on Sun Araw, James Ferraro, Pocahaunted, and Dylan Ettinger’s New Age Outlaws, falling in and out of sleep on my beige faux-leather loveseat, thinking I’m brinking. But it was all just noise and new feelings.

Before we moved all our stuff to Port Washington, NY, our dog, Mahdi, hadn’t seen me for eight months, so when she did, she jumped on me while I was laying on the beige loveseat, licked me like crazy, and peed all over me. My future mother-in-law and I left it by the apartment dumpster in Fairborn, OH.

Black Leather Couch at Beverly Manor

This the couch where I slept for a minute, sleeping in a room over my 56-year-old mom and 93-year-old Grams. The black leather couch was my Grandpa and Grams’ couch. They had it lifted onto the second floor when the wall was gone, because it was impossible to get up the curved steps. There I became “Demon Eyes,” entranced by the mysteries of music.

Deep dives into Monopoly Child Star Searchers after the 2009-2010 crossover with stickier percussion and transhuman expletives. LA Vampires featuring all our favs (Matrix Metals, Zola Jesus, Ital). Then them Outer Limits Recordings be sending out all the mixed signals with Rraro and OESB. Crystal Castles picks up where Treats left off, and Love Remains becomes the longing for my future-wife, who still lived in Ohio.

Savage Young Taterbug accessed my escape. Hung on to Hubble’s Hubble Linger for months, as the Empire State Building contended with the Chrysler Building in the NY skyline, thinking of shows fading with Shea Stadium. And then I get a taste of basement-fight beats from Bolo Yeung with a Vol. onetwo punch, and I’m smacked with a nod.

Big Blue Couch (Savannah’s find), 2011-2012

I’m living full-time again with this person who moved to NY for me. I lived with her for a year prior, had an eight-month hiatus, and now she living with me and my mom and Grams (both of whom she had never met). Shortly after, we moved across town and had our own big-blue couch to watch Wheel of Fortune; clap through with Pat Sajak, but emotions coverly lay tremulous.

Late nights recovering in a stooper of depression and OD trailing along with the healing properties of Dolphins Into The Future (past-and-present) off the tape deck, blaring Robyn’s Body Talk via simultaneously to rid myself completely of negative crystal energies. Fall sucker to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s immediacy, feeling like a fool listening to it three months later and becoming the revert of cultural appreciation without really talking to anyone about it, when Kanye West fucked me up mentally and I didn’t share my feelings with everyone else, so I became a shell. This decade is all Kanye’s fault, but I’llleave it at that.

At this point… first came what was gorgeous and defining from last decade into what we’re calling “This decade.” James Ferraro’s Last American Hero was an anthem for ambient fiends, rockers, and ballad believers. The ultimate jam sesh you listened in on but refused to participate in for the glory of serendipity was KWJAZ’s self-titled release on Not Not Fun. NNF also brought us the glimmering gems dazzling on each hazy track of Peaking Lights’ 936, including Orbital Express by Cruise Family, in a marble-madness of sequence and careful manipulation of mind. Cruise Family at the time ran the label SF Broadcast, which dropped the greatest 20 minutes on cassette that this decade had to give, Nachtbote.

Grouper’s A I A all at once became the epiphany of music and equinox states of extraterrestrial being, dripping in outsider-rock lite, presenting it in a clouded package of pure unabashed relaxation and stress so overwhelming it knocks you into a coma-like state of existence. Meanwhile, the laugh factory of Run DMT’s Dreams co-existed in a hailstorm of LAWLZ and unpredictable sentiment. All while The Pathway Through Whatever ushered in what Chuck Person had trouble angelically figmenting, Mediafired™ being the sole established author of vaporwave.

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Ford Fusion (back seat), 2010-2015

Flashback: Barack Obama was president for the majority of this decade. He gave us Cash For Clunkers, and in November 2009, I took that deal. I traded in a Jeep Cherokee Sport, including a 40oz-smashed windshield, broken wipers, a door that didn’t open, other doors that wouldn’t lock, and a rusted-out hole in the passenger seat. I got a 2010 Ford Fusion, which first introduced me to the power of .

The last few releases that meant “soul” to me in Ohio, before I lost belief in the existence of a “soul” in New York, was Dirty Beaches’ Badlands, Best Coast’s ‎Crazy For You, Pocahaunted’s Make It Real, and maybe something by Dum Dum Girls. Maybe Japandroids. However, after moving to Long Island and upping my daily speed with the rest of the meat, typical music with guitars and stage-presence ego made me feel like either musicians were “playing with themselves” (a.k.a. guitars are dicks) or lead singers were copies of copies of Michael Keaton from Multiplicity. Long Island got me stressed on traffic, so after every day of work — where the loud, towering TMT rap god Samuel Diamond made me the biggest fan of MYSELF — I’d smoke a bong (that lived with the spare tire in the Fusion’s trunk) out behind a paper company dumpster and bang all musics. Mysteries of the mind like Ferrari Jackson’s Lush, BEBETUNE$’s Inhale C-4 $$$$$, or Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 making it feel like mind expansion was as free drugs as YouTube or torrents. When footwork/juke hit in that Fusion, time seemed to propel: DJ Rashad’s Just A Taste, EQ Why’s Chitokyo Mixtape, Paisley Parks” GETO GALAXY, and Everything DJ Nate. Satanicpornocultshop’s remake ep on repeat. The ecstasy.

Rich Forever branded a hip-hop odyssey, while Kool Keith’s Total Orgasm brought the veteran rapper a whole new audience to disect. Seapunk somehow polluted hip-hop by the wonderful way of Fantasea by Azealia Banks. Mykki Blanco raised the bar for on-the-low artists in Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss. The cartoon world of Captain Murphy’s Duality. And then just random one-offs that cycled the for weeks at a time: “Beez In The Trap,” “Nightmare On Figg,” “Spend It.”

Vaporwave hit different in the Fusion’s , but it blended with early beat-tape culture. Experiencing each aaronmaxwell EP dripping just quick enough to keep me hooked, fully arrested by the full-nude bombardment of beats in Cops and Cops 2, and the overly blown soul in Matthewdavid’s Smoke Hustle Mix was all equally reframing how I drove, let alone how I experienced sampled music. Saint Pepsi birthed the blend between big-time beat and ethereal vape, ‘specifically Empire Building. The covert psychedelic softness that oozed through the Fusion’s while listening to Empire Building may have been what snapped all circuits I had left scrambling around in my mind. Until I interviewed Ryan (Saint Pepsi) in the front seat of the Fusion, eating Taco Bell, and driving around Jones’ Beach in the fall… never actually transcribing and publishing the interview, forever keeping all the secrets of vaporwave.

Here’s a brief reminder: Alex Gray can not only club as D/P/I, but his culture of remix is bafflingly honorable, as one’s brain melts down the back of they spine. The Fusion also beat the shit out of releases like DJ Clap’s Best night Ever, shit I digitally fucked with in Chocolate Grinder mixes, and of course the most beautiful E+E track, “Energy.” Also, any time I was listening to Sun Araw, I was absolutely whacked out my twisted mainframe, so as “Impluvium,” The Inner Treaty, or Belomancie slithered from the , out the Fusion’s back window, dark, 6:44 PM coming home from work, headlights shining bright: EVERYONE IS A FUCKING COP!!!

The greatest pieces of this decade was SOPHIE’s “Ray-Ban x Boiler Room 005.” I’ve listened to this set so many times I can whistle it all by heart, including the annoying intro prank call. SOPHIE was the transpheric atmopurity been waiting for, whether or not it was “live” within illusion of all grandeur. “Ray-Ban x Boiler Room 005” was the blend of curator and collector remix culture, playing both her “singles” of PRODUCT and collections of edits. The enchantment was 100% body armor. I AM unstoppable listening to this mix. Thanks, Ray-Ban! This DJ set was the last thing I listened to in the Fusion; I crashed the Fusion to SOPHIE’s “Ray-Ban x Boiler Room 005.” This is absolutely one of the greatest things that has happening****** to me, constantly. #blessed

Brown Corduroy Couch, 2012-2015

Grams

This couch lived at the Beverly Manor (a.k.a. “Ye Ol Morrissey Estate”); scotch-on-the-fucking-rocks. When one day I get a package — which Grams called a “Bonanza” — from Monet Maker with MISTA THUG ISOLATION, which I put on immediately while opening the seal to a package I think contains a USB, but it’s chocolate instead. I toss Grams’s spaghetti dinner on the stove and offer her first bite of the chocolate to “completely ruin” her dinner. She absolutely dared to ruin her dinner. On my way to put her pasta on the plate, I eat the rest of the chocolate and immediately realize it’s weed chocolate. Three games of Scrabble later and a careful balance of water and scotch, Grams’s vocabulary is of a poet, and we still chillin’ on that Brown Corduroy Couch. #holoGrams

Landon

This is Papaya in the New Kingdom at TMT.com. He was my most neutral influence on music. Landon straight don’t give a fuck. I still buy weed from the service Landon slanged from for a minute. My man Cesar now has what I need. But Landon got me reading zines in the city library parking lot like I just had stolen it from a child inside. Lots of Dolphins into the Future talk, internet CLUB, and The Narcissist II being hella tight on genre. Banking on outsiders like Angels in America and Gem Jones, while deep-diving Monopoly Child Star Searchers zones, followed by Dreams West epiphanies. “Huff” —ing. Witnessing a double-dribble without any cyber-/bathdub Heat Wave Fuckd in the Game. Addressing the inches of Motion Sickness of Time Travel Ballades. Finding foliage among Macintosh Plus’s Floral Shoppe. Eerie echoes of Earn’s dubious grin in Romantic Comedy. Landon was the first I head of Guardian Alien and kept me steady on Torn Hawk.

Savannah

We talking wifey? Mature Themes was us taking marital showers at the gym because Hurricane Sandy knocked out all our power; white-knuckling the Fusion steering wheel after a three-hour trek home from work in feet of snow during the Nor’easter, only to find Brad from Digitalis sent me a huge box of goodies to write up. Savannah holding the box next to Grams, as this couch at the time was at Beverly Manor. Arriving late in a yellow cab and missing Gang Gang Dance play Eye Contact at the south pier of Manhattan Island with Mickey, only to end up three-way wobble dancing to Diplo bumping a half-ass “Bam Bam,” while Savannah was still *future 100-emoji*. Cuddling at our apartment finally to Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland’s Black is Beautiful and Josephine Foster’s Blood Rushing. Texting Domino’s deliveries to Jonathan Dean with heated marital conversations like, “Why is you flexing our spending?” (my words, not hers…). The only place to dance to The Knife’s Shaking The Habitual is sharing a single blanket, grinding and reading on this couch. And learning how to best Robert my Pattinson while nodding with:

Savannah accepted the humor in Mac DeMarco’s Rock and Roll Night Club and Free Weed, because of Ween by way of The Beatles. Hearing her in the shower sing every last Magic Eye song. Wading with post-Lost withdrawal in the finite tide of Ou Du Monde by Mpala Garoo. And being goofy together. Discussing the intricate heartfelt creepiness of Autre Ne Veut’s Anxiety on vinyl spinning before us, having went to the album release a night before, and Daniel Lopatin tryna kiss a woman by the bathrooms downstairs in the venue she playing, “No, no, no.”

DeForrest

DeForrest eats garbage! Well, he ate garbage when we first met. Him listening to old-man Swanson nonsense that actually hit. I invited him to stay at our place on Long Island one night. Discussing Actress. Feeling his vibes with wanting to connect. Talking about synesthesia and thinking back to him bug during the last nights for 285, with Jessie, slamming Britney Spears and not really connecting dots. DeForrest gushing forever about Quarantine. Hashbrowns the next morning.

Mickey

A frequent couch conversation every Saturday night on Xbox Live:

C: What celebrity does Lil B cool-it with?
M: Whatever celebrity lives in Berkley. Lil B has never not been in Berkley. I’ve met people from Berkley who know Lil B and The Pack, and not as some kind of joke.
C: We saw Lil B live in Amityville, NY….
M: Omniscience! Didn’t you read his fucking book?
C: He published a book?
M: Yeah, he been published a book, forever. Ima find this shit on Amazon. Yeah, his book is $99. GoodWill Seattle is the only one selling it.
C: What makes White Flame the stand out BasedGod mixtape of this decade?
M: It’s purist world-building. So many BasedGod mixtape tropes were built within White Flame. Lil B gaslights you into the idea of Basedgod. You think, “Yeah, I know.” But you don’t know. It feels like you know, but you don’t. And the lyrics; he just assume you know.
C: More gaslighting than Red and White Flames, and Blue Eyes?
M: White Flame is the hottest flame of all. Well, but then there’s invisible flame. Like that Ricky Bobby fire. That’s the realest. I’m waiting on Lil B’s Invisible Flame… tbh, I think he was just way more high recording this album. White Flame ain’t no joke.

Marshall

Marshall initially introduced me to Tiny Mix Tapes. Mr P asked Marshall at my wedding, “So you’re the guy who ruined Clifford’s life?” Marshall only listens to Guided By Voices now, alone. When we dangle, he usually puts up some 90s grunge. Listening to music from when we was in middle school, playing Resident Evil, The Tekken Tag Team Tournament Two, Left 4 Dead 2, Halo: Legacy, etc. has physically put a groove in this couch, wherever it is now. Mahdi somehow magic-trick stealing only the patty from Marshall’s Whopper, like a tablecloth: the meat be gone, but the lettuce, onions, pickles, buns, ketchup all still remain.

Mahdi

Mahdi put up with all the music Savannah couldn’t. Mahdi was our dog/prisoner. She had time outside. She had a cell inside. She was more like our prisoner on house arrest. She was NOT a fan of the drastic ups and downs in Arca’s &&&&&. She loved to cuddle to anything Inga Copeland. We was bad-asses as, mid-November, Savannah asleep, windows down and leaves blowing in, Dirty Beaches’s Drifters/Love Is The Devil, together wearing glasses, inside, at 1:13AM. Completely smacked, both sprawled in front of the couch, she took a few tongue-laps of warm saki from my mug when I wasn’t looking, as we piece together Nu.Wav Hallucinations, get saved by Seth Graham’s and Lieven Martens’s entire collection, and mellow on The Bardo Story by Salvia Plath.

Diving deep into Skyrim with double-decking Home™ and ClearSkies™ by PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises on cassette, Mahdi jumping at dragons on screen. Finishing our outdoor adventures with Unknown Mortal Orchestra II, tailwaggin’. Finding ourselves plant-gazing to D/P/I’s Fresh Roses. Finishing off this couch watching Mahdi trying to bite and drag my speakers out our system when Cocaine Daughter hits the 23-minute mark, I’m in and out of sleep on this couch, in a haze, watching her successfully disconnect all sound after sitting on the carpet before me smiling, speakers down, wires everywhere.

Birkut

Lots of time on this couch was spent thinking about everyone else listening to what I was listening to, and Birkut was that guardian angel. Ya standard bloke, too. It was probably Alex Gray’s D/P/I or DJ Purple Image works that had me notice. I kept following his works on TMT, wrote to him in the editorial back-end of the website frequently, and was at ease knowing others were experiencing the same. While understanding FULL WELL everyone else at TMT did the same. Just, this was different, maybe. I could see P or Keith listening to wild nonsense, but seeing Birkut in pictures in Europe looking Ivy was almost reaffirming basic bitches bounce. When listening to Classical Curves and Angel Activate, I felt Birkut was laughing along. Finding the majestic vape dynasty of Infinity Frequencies felt like I was some on the same wavelength as Birkut. Losing my mind with Birkut listening to Correct Sound and Бh○§†. I’m not crazy or obsessed with Birkut, but he eventually (later) came to my job, and the night before, we were talking over Miles Bowe at a bar quoting White Flame. Real Raga Shit is the narrative of my delusional friendship with Birkut.

Esteban

Stephen’s a brother of mine. From Ween to Nicki to Britney to SOPHIE, Stephen introduced me to nearly everything after leaving my moms. Stephen is the only person I feel the most music with, and when I feel music alone, I feel music like Stephen feels music. Even if Stephen doesn’t like the music I’m feeling, I feel the music Stephen might not like, like Stephen would like that music. Sort of like when you start sneezing or laughing the same way another person sneezes or laughs because you been by them for such a long time. When I am Stephen listening to music, it enhances my Joy Factor a hundred-fold. This next couch we physically had trouble putting into our apartment, so we removed the door, and I almost hit a bridge in Astoria picking it up from Stephen’s place….

Blue-Couch: Reincarnate, 2016-2019

This is when I moved into NYC; wifey and I moved to Flushing, Chinatown — the Korean “part” — and Mahdi died two years later; we owned a shitty blue coach that owned the last fibers of canine in our apartment and then got a gigantic blue couch that Mahdi would’ve dug like a son-of-a-bitch. Grams died Christmas Eve day, and I started working at the [most-best full-time job I could ever imagine] (shout-out to co-worker in-life Ken Francis, who’s totally not in this at all, maybe, pictured above… I can’t remember at this point, legit), I started to miss not talking to Mr P at my publishing full-time job. Before Flushing, I’d watch epics like Waterworld, the Blade: Trilogy 3.85, and Terminator(s), writing web-copy for the entire week — after writing for four-to-five hours on Tiny Mix Tapes the night before — and work for TMT full-time dippin’ too much slime too. I’m so grateful for Mr P to let me write as C Monster on TMT for so long. I should’ve been fired lonnnnnng ago. 🙂

I don’t remember what year Savannah and I got married, but it was the second time I met Marvin (Mr P) after that one long night, having met Gumshoe, his wife, and Marvin at a Not Not Fun show in Austin during SXSW, just before out first (next-day) sex-toy factory showcase, and vibes was chill. Mike McHugh came thru, and Dave Gurney and Liz Louche and

Joe Davenport wrote:

Jonathan Dean 2016.

. We saw Marvin with Keith and Lee this year. Whenever I want to gChat w/ Mr P and can’t because he’s being an UltraMan, I write to him on TMT. I’ve tango’d with too much of “chat with Marvin, hubby #2?” or “write on Tiny Mix Tapes.” Marvin is a digital pimp. And he got C selling too much taste. Here’s the past few years thinking back while on our Blue-Couch: Reincarnate, because time travel: LET’S GO!!!

Beyoncé’s Lemonade is a stolen moment from me on this couch by Marshall and Stephen one day I wasn’t around, and they went IN on the visual album with Savannah. I have REM-dreamt of this moment happening with me also, more than twice.
• Tierra Whack’s Whack World will be the prefect transfer between the 7-train to the D-train at 5:25 AM for exactly 15 minutes of early-morning commute energy.
Charli XCX’s Vroom Vroom filtered karaoke nights in K-town lip-syncing to the music video drowning in soju slushies.
Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound was a three-year background noise cooking breakfast on Sundays, like a soulful Sesame Street jam-sesh.
Lolina’s Live in Geneva blared throughout our apartment as I walked around after coming home from work when a squirrel broke in through the plastic of our AC unit; I swatted at him under furniture with a long bamboo stick, and paused the album to call our super, only for him to laugh at me through the phone.
Typhonian Highlife’s The World of Shells had me rush and lose my apartment and car keys lost down a sewer in Chinatown on my way to see Spencer play the album live, went with him and Lieven and Matt to an all-red Russian bar, took Rambo shots, puked at the bar, got water and cleaned it up so quick it convinced me I had experienced magik, just in time for me to get home in Chinatown around 3:33 AM to fish out my keys from the sewer with a wire hanger.
Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me: fuck this shit get me crying on the subway after work, like — WTF? Why ya put yourselves through this? There’re other ways of release!
• QUICK PLUG: PLEASE READ Reed Scott Reid.
• Björk’s Post ,,,oh, yah, finally felt this release this year. Never listened to it. Stephen always loved it. I fake-hated it b/c i was never in the mood, but I be cool with that, then. Now I stay Post.
Jeremih’s Late Nights: The Album got so many people pissed off from loving this shit, like,,, why LOL — also OMG remember the reign of Brooklyn Russell,,,,,, ultimate crunch, b “THANKYOUYES!”
Lorenzo Senni’s Persona made me the rave voyeur of all the Boiler Room and “life” sets I listened to while gleefully avoiding the anxiety of being at these events.
• Big Thief’s Capacity gave me one last taste of rock appreciation, feeling like playing guitar in front of my senior high school class and thinking I’m the coolest kid in the whole world!
Young Thug’s JEFFERY SHOOOOOOOO
• Nina’s Complications gaslighted the vast array of Dean Blunt expectations without his touch, learning Korean from old grumpy men in the corner store before moving uptown.
Shygirl’s Cruel Practice keep me doing mad male kegel exercises.
Sleepy Crew Street School II: strolling through Times Square a little full on cart food, a couple of beers from the pub, few pulls from the vape — “Every vape is different” *cough*cough* — and ending with talking to Douglas about a new Uber app that’s “beyond Communifest Manifesto; he’s on Das Kapital Vol. 1 Section 3 levels of rethinking it,” as he passes out bus-tour flyers to hoards of tourists passing by.
DJ Nate’s Take Off Mode is knowing when enough is enough, but feet stay moving.

IN CONCLUSION

C Monster v. Tiny Mix Tapes, 1259 U.S. 1769, was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects under-compensated freelance writers’ (on the internet or otherwise) liberty to demand a tax-bracketed salary enough to obtain health insurance without having to rely on government systems.

C Monster sues Mr P for gradual hearing loss from 2011-2019, citing Chocolate Grinder posts, Music Reviews, and DeLoreans as evidence.

I could’ve been Pitbull if I learned Spanish; thank you, Miles Bowe, for witnessing me. Turns out, C Monster has always just been “A working title.” Also, stay listening to what kids be listening to in middle school “these days.” It’s just as awesome/bad as when all of us were in middle school. You can be in middle school forever through music!

We was “we” when we was older (i.e., “How do you listen to music?”). Frigrurie it out 4u,b:) If you read this far, you’ll care enough to know that…

Feature: Empty Essence

This post was originally published on this site

Art of Illusion

We don’t even have to think about music anymore. Music is actually everywhere this decade. And we’ve begotten the perpetual illusion of tangible sound. Us: * vibing with the movement/force of music emoji* If you and I have ever interacted IRL/URL together, I respect that moment eternally; there’s so much sound we’ve felt [upon levels] that together we’ve practically shared an ethereal energy, forever. Unequivocally, sound traverses “everywhere” this decade because,,,

Bluetooth technology currently shapes the size of sounds in all spaces, wirelessly. Whether you streaming sounds while cooking in the kitchen, through blaring speakers poorly taped to rusted handlebars biking down 8th Ave., peering across the sands-faded umbrellas of Long Beach, while soaping up during a midnight shower, or directly into your ear canal, Bluetooth technology is reptilian and as adaptive as you want it to be. As we consume music/sounds, we — individuals — possess the ability to behold music/sound immediately, molding it as the resonating acoustics of our space. And, for me, the immensity of sound absorbs my anxiety at an intensive healing rate.


We mentally embrace the ownership of music/sounds surrounding our lives.

Some of us appreciate the nostalgic abandonment of Sophie B. Hawkins’s “As I Lay Me Down” while trapped in a T.J.Maxx on 125th Street, whose chorus I can’t stop whistling for the next three hours, not buying a thing. Feeling the immensity of “Love In This Club” during Young Jeezy’s verse somewhere handling Summer 2007 and “feeling the burn.” Carefree back-skating on blades in the rink to “Say My Name,” sweaty on the outside, going at my own pace. Listening to Nirvana and being called a “poseur.” These are my shitty-/contextualized-personal examples of the way I absorbed the culture of music in my youth.

At some point, the word “modern” has to deteriorate in meaning.

When we hear “Immaterial” by SOPHIE off OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, how do you feel?

I can listen to this near and with anyone. I don’t care; this song makes me feel myself. I can wake up from a deep-drunken sleep and survive an hour subway ride, still listening to “Immaterial” over and over off a Sony-clip speaker, and I have no idea what it is, other than the purest legal drugs. Music is the future of medicine; “Immaterial” was effervescence throughout Summer 2018.

When we hear “Everybody” by DJ Rashad & Freshmoon off the I Don’t Give A Fuck EP, how’s your individual emoticon?

I remember having my good-friend Ken listen to “Everybody” after a long day at the beach, while my wife was buying a gallon of ice cream inside Fairway, just after watching the infamous video this song was based on. Ken was equally amused and astonished at the level of intricate trolling in “Everybody.” He equal parts dying-laughing and O_O, as “Everybody” penetrated both of our individual experiences. My wife opens the door and immediately pauses the music because I had turn’t the car’s audio speaker system.

When we hear “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn, where ya soul be at?

Buzzing my head completely at 29 years old, including my face, looking like Caillou. It’s around 3:43 AM on a Tuesday, and I’ve drafted a text — “Taking an emergency day off tomorrow. I’ll fill out HR paperwork and send my coverage schedule shortly” — that I’ll send out at 4:45 AM, which includes a completed form for paid time off and a coverage email ready to click moments after. Showering around 3:59 AM, water spraying off my head as I rub my hands across it, dancing inside my mind, Robyn filling my confidence by +10.

Music was my segue into Tiny Mix Tapes. I was confident writing about music after reading Keith Kawaii’s Chocolate Grinder post on some Umberto track that had me vibing at the time of its release. It was P’s review of DJ Rashad’s Just A Taste Vol. 1 that made me believe in the power of Tiny Mix Tapes’s audacity to taste it all. CUT TO: a future that flourished in abundance of,,,,,

CG—®8’ing

My illusion for the past nine years was the feeling of readers witnessing me listen to music through my writing as C Monster. No subscription. I’ve always appreciated the time we’ve spent together, whether I was listening to your music and/or you were reading me on Tiny Mix Tapes. If we’ve yet to share this time, it’s always around! Let’s_start_a_conversation.


Enchantment of the Arcane: The popularity of Curator Selected systems vies with the popularity of Collector Systems, to a degree

Curator Selected

– Spotify, iTunes, TIDAL, and satellite radio.
– YouTube, SoundCloud, DatPiff, Bandcamp, and MixCloud.

– Experimedia, Boomkat, FatBeats, Midheaven, Bleep, and Tomentosa
– What.cd, OiNK.me, and Soulseek
– Labels, straight up.

Collector Systems

– The public library[periot]
– Musicians/artists/podcasts
– Discogs.com
– Bandcamp
– Record Stores, Thrift Shops and Garage Sales are the dig

Digital music’s major impact on genre expansion/melting and how this affects this personification of tangibility

to feel this music: chameleonic adaptation. Now we have physical tapes and records and CDs again. However, streaming platforms be birthing URL communities and ostracizing/destroying DIY communities, while digital platforms can also provide tangible experiences through concerts in the middle of a Fortnite match, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare been draggin’ Pryce since, forever. #foreverdrizzle

Music enchants us all to be; behold the side effects of music:

Pinhead In Fantasia to morph into baroque cenobites.
Eye Contact to dance amidst the indie scene standing around and nodding.
Just A Taste Vol. 1 to believe change is real and sustainable.
A I A to protect us from the aliens we’ve become.
OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES to break us free of our cocoon.
Beyoncé to push goddess selves outward.
Black Is Beautiful to egregiously forget.
Eccojams Vol. 1 to thieve the best.
Pop 2 every song be like,,,,,,,,

1992 to wake me up for two years straight; flag football legacies.
The Narcississt II to feel vulnerable.
Double Cup to be in heaven.
Floral Shoppe to: “Never sleeping again!”
PRODUCT to making the most out of anything.
DARK WEB to the old heads.
Quarantine to DeForrest Brown, Jr.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to being four months too late.
Cocaine Daughter to spending the perfect day off; to horcrux.
Espresso Digital to exerting one’s energy into one’s every last fiber of being.
Sounds of Sisso to
Arca to bringing it back to square one.
Age of Transparency Vol. II: The Avatar Sessions to love everlasting.
Whack World till about 15 minutes, exactly.
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late to enduring mid-decade excess.
Teen Dream to low dip.
Real Raga Shit Vol. 1 too hot at a venue in Brooklyn that you only in your boxers, with no AC, and ya best friend still snapping photographs of a musician’s van who keeps telling your best friend, “Please don’t take photographs of our van, please. Thanks!” *Click*
Higher Powers to every last grain of sand on a deserted island.
PC Music x DISown Radio to M$O$N$E$Y.
Slime Season to repeating a ritual so routine it becomes overwhelmingly calm.
Carrie & Lowell to finding guidance within the slime.
Between Two Selves to chew the lady-go.
Valley Tangents to having a superpower that is music and to only believe in Jesus if it means every last drop of music were in His name; no, I’m not religious, but Jesus was tight, and I’d want to be his friend, so I think there’d be a way for that to happen//////////
RIP Chrysalis to feeling all the feels and it feels. 😀
Capacity to inhale and exhale, simultaneously.
Superimpositions to embracing the embers.
Skid Row to knowing there was a proper follow-up made for Terminator 2.
Boogie Chillen / Hills Of Cypress to those night rides back, lost, from Brooklyn, the person in front of you throwing out a revolver from the passenger seat; I look like a cop!

Freetown Sound to continue love eternal in NYC.
Canto Arquipélago to navigating island-jungle terrain on an excursion, with a guide frothing meditation.
Babylon to showering in your own voice echoing in the bathroom.
Angel Activate to shroud yourself in the immersion of undefinable sound.
Secret Mix to proper hoe-out.
Pharma to take all the drugs in the bag.
A Public Ranking to conjure the depths of disparity.
No.00 in Clean Life to resurrect,,,,,

On Patrol to staking out with a mustache wearing sunglasses, slow-sipping on a disposable straw around midnight.
White Flame to living and breathing the proof of truth.
Theme For Gasoline Weirdo to purify yourself in splendor.
CLASSROOM SEXXTAPE to text the wrong person a string of bad ideas while they respond in emojis, so ya strangers be riffing and are both oblivious.
JE M’EN TAPE you as in we, the Queen’s “we,” also you’ve been granted impenetrability from everything ephemeral and physical, Terminator 2-mode.

I DARE YOU TO: go through all the music articles on Tiny Mix Tapes between 2010-2019 and witness how much we covered. We are the 99%. I believe in all the catfish-and-strangers who’ve participated in Tiny Mix Tapes the past nine years. Our words have provided energy to people either through the gravity of their meaning or just by writing “OMG Listen to this!” Tiny Mix Tapes is the enchantment of strength in belief.

Writing for Tiny Mix Tapes has beheld the enchantment of feeling hidden, using pseudonyms, not relying on the demand for clickbait article titles, and replying “No” to PR emails. One of Tiny Mix Tapes’s most common writer-motifs: observation is both literal and visual; setting the achievable goal of tying together what’s in between the audio and the written word.

Champion by Teamm Jordann

Tiny Mix Tapes is my mental strength that binds me to an enhanced musical experience. It’s so hard to communicate with people about myself; this is why I will forever communicate to people about their music. If you made music or helped perpetuate it this past decade, I really appreciate you. You’ve enchanted me with tropes of socio-mental protection and armor that helps me simply live. C Monster has been the best fake-it-till-u-make-it mentality ever, so thanks, y’all!


Tiny Mix Time Travels

Defining and recalling music is like eating lunch the next day thinking you heard James Ferraro play a live set in your dream last night. Outside of sound, one recalls music (REAL DATA COMING):

– memory
– media/marketing
– storytelling/world-building/Conceptronica
– creative inspiration
– clear mind; stop ripping me offfffffthxffffff

Yet, like these frames of mind, we all evolve with the music that’s shared with us listeners (e.g., Future > Young Thug > Playboi Carti > Lil Uzi Vert). This entire decade, I been writing like nobody reading. C Monster is the documentation of my early

adulthood and how I thought about expanding my mind from home, tangible creativity at the touch key/-board stroke, enhancing theory without ever acknowledging it and feeling completely alone. Because of this, I’m impatient and good at keeping track of time. I gauge lots by time, including sobriety and standard lengths of tasks. Unfortunately, I lose lots of memory, because I’m spending time on organization and prioritization.

I’ve been writing from my couches for years. Two-to-three-to-four-to-five hours on Friday and Saturday nights of my life have been reserved the past eight years

for Tiny Mix Tapes. This is where I behold my personification of music from varying sounds, absorption, and the space I occupied with music. I don’t like going out to shows or clubs; I always preferred staying at home listening to music on my couch playing The Tekken Tag Team Tournament Two, tho, wearing only boxers and slides. Sucking on the legal drug of music with a side order of weed sneeze:

Beige Loveseat from Larkspur

This couch was on the brink of rotting by mid-2010. It was faux-leather and deteriorating, passed down from the house I lived in as a child, gone through Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. My future-wife kissed me for the first time on it. And its existence stopped in Fairborn, OH while I was looking for an exit:

Broken beer bottles around the edges of the beige loveseat being pushed into the carpet, and Rick Ross confronting every last bit of mentality on a Thursday night. I still go to Family Video, where my boss asked me why I’m renting Crank: High Voltage, so he gives me a discount, and I’m blasting “Shine Blockas” by Big Boi & Gucci Mane and drop back down on that beige loveseat, watching Jason Statham get tore up on mute with Teen Dream, Crazy For You, and Sleigh Bells harkening off CPU-aux speakers behind me. CUT TO: after getting bummed over Before Today, Halcyon Digest, Stridulum, and Yellow Swans’ Going Places, crying a little in my underwear, unsure of any direction. Cuts on my feet. The next morning on the same couch, where I’d front on Sun Araw, James Ferraro, Pocahaunted, and Dylan Ettinger’s New Age Outlaws, falling in and out of sleep on my beige faux-leather loveseat, thinking I’m brinking. But it was all just noise and new feelings.

Before we moved all our stuff to Port Washington, NY, our dog, Mahdi, hadn’t seen me for eight months, so when she did, she jumped on me while I was laying on the beige loveseat, licked me like crazy, and peed all over me. My future mother-in-law and I left it by the apartment dumpster in Fairborn, OH.

Black Leather Couch at Beverly Manor

This the couch where I slept for a minute, sleeping in a room over my 56-year-old mom and 93-year-old Grams. The black leather couch was my Grandpa and Grams’ couch. They had it lifted onto the second floor when the wall was gone, because it was impossible to get up the curved steps. There I became “Demon Eyes,” entranced by the mysteries of music.

Deep dives into Monopoly Child Star Searchers after the 2009-2010 crossover with stickier percussion and transhuman expletives. LA Vampires featuring all our favs (Matrix Metals, Zola Jesus, Ital). Then them Outer Limits Recordings be sending out all the mixed signals with Rraro and OESB. Crystal Castles picks up where Treats left off, and Love Remains becomes the longing for my future-wife, who still lived in Ohio.

Savage Young Taterbug accessed my escape. Hung on to Hubble’s Hubble Linger for months, as the Empire State Building contended with the Chrysler Building in the NY skyline, thinking of shows fading with Shea Stadium. And then I get a taste of basement-fight beats from Bolo Yeung with a Vol. onetwo punch, and I’m smacked with a nod.

Big Blue Couch (Savannah’s find), 2011-2012

I’m living full-time again with this person who moved to NY for me. I lived with her for a year prior, had an eight-month hiatus, and now she living with me and my mom and Grams (both of whom she had never met). Shortly after, we moved across town and had our own big-blue couch to watch Wheel of Fortune; clap through with Pat Sajak, but emotions coverly lay tremulous.

Late nights recovering in a stooper of depression and OD trailing along with the healing properties of Dolphins Into The Future (past-and-present) off the tape deck, blaring Robyn’s Body Talk via simultaneously to rid myself completely of negative crystal energies. Fall sucker to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s immediacy, feeling like a fool listening to it three months later and becoming the revert of cultural appreciation without really talking to anyone about it, when Kanye West fucked me up mentally and I didn’t share my feelings with everyone else, so I became a shell. This decade is all Kanye’s fault, but I’llleave it at that.

At this point… first came what was gorgeous and defining from last decade into what we’re calling “This decade.” James Ferraro’s Last American Hero was an anthem for ambient fiends, rockers, and ballad believers. The ultimate jam sesh you listened in on but refused to participate in for the glory of serendipity was KWJAZ’s self-titled release on Not Not Fun. NNF also brought us the glimmering gems dazzling on each hazy track of Peaking Lights’ 936, including Orbital Express by Cruise Family, in a marble-madness of sequence and careful manipulation of mind. Cruise Family at the time ran the label SF Broadcast, which dropped the greatest 20 minutes on cassette that this decade had to give, Nachtbote.

Grouper’s A I A all at once became the epiphany of music and equinox states of extraterrestrial being, dripping in outsider-rock lite, presenting it in a clouded package of pure unabashed relaxation and stress so overwhelming it knocks you into a coma-like state of existence. Meanwhile, the laugh factory of Run DMT’s Dreams co-existed in a hailstorm of LAWLZ and unpredictable sentiment. All while The Pathway Through Whatever ushered in what Chuck Person had trouble angelically figmenting, Mediafired™ being the sole established author of vaporwave.

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Ford Fusion (back seat), 2010-2015

Flashback: Barack Obama was president for the majority of this decade. He gave us Cash For Clunkers, and in November 2009, I took that deal. I traded in a Jeep Cherokee Sport, including a 40oz-smashed windshield, broken wipers, a door that didn’t open, other doors that wouldn’t lock, and a rusted-out hole in the passenger seat. I got a 2010 Ford Fusion, which first introduced me to the power of .

The last few releases that meant “soul” to me in Ohio, before I lost belief in the existence of a “soul” in New York, was Dirty Beaches’ Badlands, Best Coast’s ‎Crazy For You, Pocahaunted’s Make It Real, and maybe something by Dum Dum Girls. Maybe Japandroids. However, after moving to Long Island and upping my daily speed with the rest of the meat, typical music with guitars and stage-presence ego made me feel like either musicians were “playing with themselves” (a.k.a. guitars are dicks) or lead singers were copies of copies of Michael Keaton from Multiplicity. Long Island got me stressed on traffic, so after every day of work — where the loud, towering TMT rap god Samuel Diamond made me the biggest fan of MYSELF — I’d smoke a bong (that lived with the spare tire in the Fusion’s trunk) out behind a paper company dumpster and bang all musics. Mysteries of the mind like Ferrari Jackson’s Lush, BEBETUNE$’s Inhale C-4 $$$$$, or Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 making it feel like mind expansion was as free drugs as YouTube or torrents. When footwork/juke hit in that Fusion, time seemed to propel: DJ Rashad’s Just A Taste, EQ Why’s Chitokyo Mixtape, Paisley Parks” GETO GALAXY, and Everything DJ Nate. Satanicpornocultshop’s remake ep on repeat. The ecstasy.

Rich Forever branded a hip-hop odyssey, while Kool Keith’s Total Orgasm brought the veteran rapper a whole new audience to disect. Seapunk somehow polluted hip-hop by the wonderful way of Fantasea by Azealia Banks. Mykki Blanco raised the bar for on-the-low artists in Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss. The cartoon world of Captain Murphy’s Duality. And then just random one-offs that cycled the for weeks at a time: “Beez In The Trap,” “Nightmare On Figg,” “Spend It.”

Vaporwave hit different in the Fusion’s , but it blended with early beat-tape culture. Experiencing each aaronmaxwell EP dripping just quick enough to keep me hooked, fully arrested by the full-nude bombardment of beats in Cops and Cops 2, and the overly blown soul in Matthewdavid’s Smoke Hustle Mix was all equally reframing how I drove, let alone how I experienced sampled music. Saint Pepsi birthed the blend between big-time beat and ethereal vape, ‘specifically Empire Building. The covert psychedelic softness that oozed through the Fusion’s while listening to Empire Building may have been what snapped all circuits I had left scrambling around in my mind. Until I interviewed Ryan (Saint Pepsi) in the front seat of the Fusion, eating Taco Bell, and driving around Jones’ Beach in the fall… never actually transcribing and publishing the interview, forever keeping all the secrets of vaporwave.

Here’s a brief reminder: Alex Gray can not only club as D/P/I, but his culture of remix is bafflingly honorable, as one’s brain melts down the back of they spine. The Fusion also beat the shit out of releases like DJ Clap’s Best night Ever, shit I digitally fucked with in Chocolate Grinder mixes, and of course the most beautiful E+E track, “Energy.” Also, any time I was listening to Sun Araw, I was absolutely whacked out my twisted mainframe, so as “Impluvium,” The Inner Treaty, or Belomancie slithered from the , out the Fusion’s back window, dark, 6:44 PM coming home from work, headlights shining bright: EVERYONE IS A FUCKING COP!!!

The greatest pieces of this decade was SOPHIE’s “Ray-Ban x Boiler Room 005.” I’ve listened to this set so many times I can whistle it all by heart, including the annoying intro prank call. SOPHIE was the transpheric atmopurity been waiting for, whether or not it was “live” within illusion of all grandeur. “Ray-Ban x Boiler Room 005” was the blend of curator and collector remix culture, playing both her “singles” of PRODUCT and collections of edits. The enchantment was 100% body armor. I AM unstoppable listening to this mix. Thanks, Ray-Ban! This DJ set was the last thing I listened to in the Fusion; I crashed the Fusion to SOPHIE’s “Ray-Ban x Boiler Room 005.” This is absolutely one of the greatest things that has happening****** to me, constantly. #blessed

Brown Corduroy Couch, 2012-2015

Grams

This couch lived at the Beverly Manor (a.k.a. “Ye Ol Morrissey Estate”); scotch-on-the-fucking-rocks. When one day I get a package — which Grams called a “Bonanza” — from Monet Maker with MISTA THUG ISOLATION, which I put on immediately while opening the seal to a package I think contains a USB, but it’s chocolate instead. I toss Grams’s spaghetti dinner on the stove and offer her first bite of the chocolate to “completely ruin” her dinner. She absolutely dared to ruin her dinner. On my way to put her pasta on the plate, I eat the rest of the chocolate and immediately realize it’s weed chocolate. Three games of Scrabble later and a careful balance of water and scotch, Grams’s vocabulary is of a poet, and we still chillin’ on that Brown Corduroy Couch. #holoGrams

Landon

This is Papaya in the New Kingdom at TMT.com. He was my most neutral influence on music. Landon straight don’t give a fuck. I still buy weed from the service Landon slanged from for a minute. My man Cesar now has what I need. But Landon got me reading zines in the city library parking lot like I just had stolen it from a child inside. Lots of Dolphins into the Future talk, internet CLUB, and The Narcissist II being hella tight on genre. Banking on outsiders like Angels in America and Gem Jones, while deep-diving Monopoly Child Star Searchers zones, followed by Dreams West epiphanies. “Huff” —ing. Witnessing a double-dribble without any cyber-/bathdub Heat Wave Fuckd in the Game. Addressing the inches of Motion Sickness of Time Travel Ballades. Finding foliage among Macintosh Plus’s Floral Shoppe. Eerie echoes of Earn’s dubious grin in Romantic Comedy. Landon was the first I head of Guardian Alien and kept me steady on Torn Hawk.

Savannah

We talking wifey? Mature Themes was us taking marital showers at the gym because Hurricane Sandy knocked out all our power; white-knuckling the Fusion steering wheel after a three-hour trek home from work in feet of snow during the Nor’easter, only to find Brad from Digitalis sent me a huge box of goodies to write up. Savannah holding the box next to Grams, as this couch at the time was at Beverly Manor. Arriving late in a yellow cab and missing Gang Gang Dance play Eye Contact at the south pier of Manhattan Island with Mickey, only to end up three-way wobble dancing to Diplo bumping a half-ass “Bam Bam,” while Savannah was still *future 100-emoji*. Cuddling at our apartment finally to Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland’s Black is Beautiful and Josephine Foster’s Blood Rushing. Texting Domino’s deliveries to Jonathan Dean with heated marital conversations like, “Why is you flexing our spending?” (my words, not hers…). The only place to dance to The Knife’s Shaking The Habitual is sharing a single blanket, grinding and reading on this couch. And learning how to best Robert my Pattinson while nodding with:

Savannah accepted the humor in Mac DeMarco’s Rock and Roll Night Club and Free Weed, because of Ween by way of The Beatles. Hearing her in the shower sing every last Magic Eye song. Wading with post-Lost withdrawal in the finite tide of Ou Du Monde by Mpala Garoo. And being goofy together. Discussing the intricate heartfelt creepiness of Autre Ne Veut’s Anxiety on vinyl spinning before us, having went to the album release a night before, and Daniel Lopatin tryna kiss a woman by the bathrooms downstairs in the venue she playing, “No, no, no.”

DeForrest

DeForrest eats garbage! Well, he ate garbage when we first met. Him listening to old-man Swanson nonsense that actually hit. I invited him to stay at our place on Long Island one night. Discussing Actress. Feeling his vibes with wanting to connect. Talking about synesthesia and thinking back to him bug during the last nights for 285, with Jessie, slamming Britney Spears and not really connecting dots. DeForrest gushing forever about Quarantine. Hashbrowns the next morning.

Mickey

A frequent couch conversation every Saturday night on Xbox Live:

C: What celebrity does Lil B cool-it with?
M: Whatever celebrity lives in Berkley. Lil B has never not been in Berkley. I’ve met people from Berkley who know Lil B and The Pack, and not as some kind of joke.
C: We saw Lil B live in Amityville, NY….
M: Omniscience! Didn’t you read his fucking book?
C: He published a book?
M: Yeah, he been published a book, forever. Ima find this shit on Amazon. Yeah, his book is $99. GoodWill Seattle is the only one selling it.
C: What makes White Flame the stand out BasedGod mixtape of this decade?
M: It’s purist world-building. So many BasedGod mixtape tropes were built within White Flame. Lil B gaslights you into the idea of Basedgod. You think, “Yeah, I know.” But you don’t know. It feels like you know, but you don’t. And the lyrics; he just assume you know.
C: More gaslighting than Red and White Flames, and Blue Eyes?
M: White Flame is the hottest flame of all. Well, but then there’s invisible flame. Like that Ricky Bobby fire. That’s the realest. I’m waiting on Lil B’s Invisible Flame… tbh, I think he was just way more high recording this album. White Flame ain’t no joke.

Marshall

Marshall initially introduced me to Tiny Mix Tapes. Mr P asked Marshall at my wedding, “So you’re the guy who ruined Clifford’s life?” Marshall only listens to Guided By Voices now, alone. When we dangle, he usually puts up some 90s grunge. Listening to music from when we was in middle school, playing Resident Evil, The Tekken Tag Team Tournament Two, Left 4 Dead 2, Halo: Legacy, etc. has physically put a groove in this couch, wherever it is now. Mahdi somehow magic-trick stealing only the patty from Marshall’s Whopper, like a tablecloth: the meat be gone, but the lettuce, onions, pickles, buns, ketchup all still remain.

Mahdi

Mahdi put up with all the music Savannah couldn’t. Mahdi was our dog/prisoner. She had time outside. She had a cell inside. She was more like our prisoner on house arrest. She was NOT a fan of the drastic ups and downs in Arca’s &&&&&. She loved to cuddle to anything Inga Copeland. We was bad-asses as, mid-November, Savannah asleep, windows down and leaves blowing in, Dirty Beaches’s Drifters/Love Is The Devil, together wearing glasses, inside, at 1:13AM. Completely smacked, both sprawled in front of the couch, she took a few tongue-laps of warm saki from my mug when I wasn’t looking, as we piece together Nu.Wav Hallucinations, get saved by Seth Graham’s and Lieven Martens’s entire collection, and mellow on The Bardo Story by Salvia Plath.

Diving deep into Skyrim with double-decking Home™ and ClearSkies™ by PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises on cassette, Mahdi jumping at dragons on screen. Finishing our outdoor adventures with Unknown Mortal Orchestra II, tailwaggin’. Finding ourselves plant-gazing to D/P/I’s Fresh Roses. Finishing off this couch watching Mahdi trying to bite and drag my speakers out our system when Cocaine Daughter hits the 23-minute mark, I’m in and out of sleep on this couch, in a haze, watching her successfully disconnect all sound after sitting on the carpet before me smiling, speakers down, wires everywhere.

Birkut

Lots of time on this couch was spent thinking about everyone else listening to what I was listening to, and Birkut was that guardian angel. Ya standard bloke, too. It was probably Alex Gray’s D/P/I or DJ Purple Image works that had me notice. I kept following his works on TMT, wrote to him in the editorial back-end of the website frequently, and was at ease knowing others were experiencing the same. While understanding FULL WELL everyone else at TMT did the same. Just, this was different, maybe. I could see P or Keith listening to wild nonsense, but seeing Birkut in pictures in Europe looking Ivy was almost reaffirming basic bitches bounce. When listening to Classical Curves and Angel Activate, I felt Birkut was laughing along. Finding the majestic vape dynasty of Infinity Frequencies felt like I was some on the same wavelength as Birkut. Losing my mind with Birkut listening to Correct Sound and Бh○§†. I’m not crazy or obsessed with Birkut, but he eventually (later) came to my job, and the night before, we were talking over Miles Bowe at a bar quoting White Flame. Real Raga Shit is the narrative of my delusional friendship with Birkut.

Esteban

Stephen’s a brother of mine. From Ween to Nicki to Britney to SOPHIE, Stephen introduced me to nearly everything after leaving my moms. Stephen is the only person I feel the most music with, and when I feel music alone, I feel music like Stephen feels music. Even if Stephen doesn’t like the music I’m feeling, I feel the music Stephen might not like, like Stephen would like that music. Sort of like when you start sneezing or laughing the same way another person sneezes or laughs because you been by them for such a long time. When I am Stephen listening to music, it enhances my Joy Factor a hundred-fold. This next couch we physically had trouble putting into our apartment, so we removed the door, and I almost hit a bridge in Astoria picking it up from Stephen’s place….

Blue-Couch: Reincarnate, 2016-2019

This is when I moved into NYC; wifey and I moved to Flushing, Chinatown — the Korean “part” — and Mahdi died two years later; we owned a shitty blue coach that owned the last fibers of canine in our apartment and then got a gigantic blue couch that Mahdi would’ve dug like a son-of-a-bitch. Grams died Christmas Eve day, and I started working at the [most-best full-time job I could ever imagine] (shout-out to co-worker in-life Ken Francis, who’s totally not in this at all, maybe, pictured above… I can’t remember at this point, legit), I started to miss not talking to Mr P at my publishing full-time job. Before Flushing, I’d watch epics like Waterworld, the Blade: Trilogy 3.85, and Terminator(s), writing web-copy for the entire week — after writing for four-to-five hours on Tiny Mix Tapes the night before — and work for TMT full-time dippin’ too much slime too. I’m so grateful for Mr P to let me write as C Monster on TMT for so long. I should’ve been fired lonnnnnng ago. 🙂

I don’t remember what year Savannah and I got married, but it was the second time I met Marvin (Mr P) after that one long night, having met Gumshoe, his wife, and Marvin at a Not Not Fun show in Austin during SXSW, just before out first (next-day) sex-toy factory showcase, and vibes was chill. Mike McHugh came thru, and Dave Gurney and Liz Louche and

Joe Davenport wrote:

Jonathan Dean 2016.

. We saw Marvin with Keith and Lee this year. Whenever I want to gChat w/ Mr P and can’t because he’s being an UltraMan, I write to him on TMT. I’ve tango’d with too much of “chat with Marvin, hubby #2?” or “write on Tiny Mix Tapes.” Marvin is a digital pimp. And he got C selling too much taste. Here’s the past few years thinking back while on our Blue-Couch: Reincarnate, because time travel: LET’S GO!!!

Beyoncé’s Lemonade is a stolen moment from me on this couch by Marshall and Stephen one day I wasn’t around, and they went IN on the visual album with Savannah. I have REM-dreamt of this moment happening with me also, more than twice.
• Tierra Whack’s Whack World will be the prefect transfer between the 7-train to the D-train at 5:25 AM for exactly 15 minutes of early-morning commute energy.
Charli XCX’s Vroom Vroom filtered karaoke nights in K-town lip-syncing to the music video drowning in soju slushies.
Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound was a three-year background noise cooking breakfast on Sundays, like a soulful Sesame Street jam-sesh.
Lolina’s Live in Geneva blared throughout our apartment as I walked around after coming home from work when a squirrel broke in through the plastic of our AC unit; I swatted at him under furniture with a long bamboo stick, and paused the album to call our super, only for him to laugh at me through the phone.
Typhonian Highlife’s The World of Shells had me rush and lose my apartment and car keys lost down a sewer in Chinatown on my way to see Spencer play the album live, went with him and Lieven and Matt to an all-red Russian bar, took Rambo shots, puked at the bar, got water and cleaned it up so quick it convinced me I had experienced magik, just in time for me to get home in Chinatown around 3:33 AM to fish out my keys from the sewer with a wire hanger.
Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me: fuck this shit get me crying on the subway after work, like — WTF? Why ya put yourselves through this? There’re other ways of release!
• QUICK PLUG: PLEASE READ Reed Scott Reid.
• Björk’s Post ,,,oh, yah, finally felt this release this year. Never listened to it. Stephen always loved it. I fake-hated it b/c i was never in the mood, but I be cool with that, then. Now I stay Post.
Jeremih’s Late Nights: The Album got so many people pissed off from loving this shit, like,,, why LOL — also OMG remember the reign of Brooklyn Russell,,,,,, ultimate crunch, b “THANKYOUYES!”
Lorenzo Senni’s Persona made me the rave voyeur of all the Boiler Room and “life” sets I listened to while gleefully avoiding the anxiety of being at these events.
• Big Thief’s Capacity gave me one last taste of rock appreciation, feeling like playing guitar in front of my senior high school class and thinking I’m the coolest kid in the whole world!
Young Thug’s JEFFERY SHOOOOOOOO
• Nina’s Complications gaslighted the vast array of Dean Blunt expectations without his touch, learning Korean from old grumpy men in the corner store before moving uptown.
Shygirl’s Cruel Practice keep me doing mad male kegel exercises.
Sleepy Crew Street School II: strolling through Times Square a little full on cart food, a couple of beers from the pub, few pulls from the vape — “Every vape is different” *cough*cough* — and ending with talking to Douglas about a new Uber app that’s “beyond Communifest Manifesto; he’s on Das Kapital Vol. 1 Section 3 levels of rethinking it,” as he passes out bus-tour flyers to hoards of tourists passing by.
DJ Nate’s Take Off Mode is knowing when enough is enough, but feet stay moving.

IN CONCLUSION

C Monster v. Tiny Mix Tapes, 1259 U.S. 1769, was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects under-compensated freelance writers’ (on the internet or otherwise) liberty to demand a tax-bracketed salary enough to obtain health insurance without having to rely on government systems.

C Monster sues Mr P for gradual hearing loss from 2011-2019, citing Chocolate Grinder posts, Music Reviews, and DeLoreans as evidence.

I could’ve been Pitbull if I learned Spanish; thank you, Miles Bowe, for witnessing me. Turns out, C Monster has always just been “A working title.” Also, stay listening to what kids be listening to in middle school “these days.” It’s just as awesome/bad as when all of us were in middle school. You can be in middle school forever through music!

We was “we” when we was older (i.e., “How do you listen to music?”). Frigrurie it out 4u,b:) If you read this far, you’ll care enough to know that…

Feature: 2010s: Against The Post-Internet

This post was originally published on this site

“Of course, the decision to use ‘post-’ as a discursive frame is ultimately a political act. From that perspective, ‘post-’ communicates a haziness or murkiness — a blanket generalization that is an empty descriptor. ‘Post-’ announces that challenging instances of passage and transformation can only be articulated through what they proceed. But is this enough?”
– Zach Blas, “Contra-Internet Aesthetics,” in You Are Here: Art After the Internet

This we know: the world, in its current form, is ending. In the last 10 years, two phenomena that will shape the remainder of the 21st century have become inescapable: the beginnings of the climate crisis, with its proliferation of floods, fires, and famines; and the ongoing enmeshment of the internet into our daily lives. We are now, as James Ferraro said in 2011, “wearing the Internet, eating it, hearing it, talking about it all the time.” Things are moving, and we are running out of time.

As believers in culture, in the abilities of people to form the world, it’s vital to recognize the ways in which we think and make art about these epochal shifts. Beyond providing succor and community in dark times, art can be revealing: bringing us to terms with the terms of our world. It can show us how our world might be made different, how it could be freer, more equitable, held in common.

But art can also obscure, adding opacity to an already obfuscated world.

Enter the post-internet, a term initially developed in contemporary art circles and latterly applied to a certain strain of experimental music, of the type that TMT has spent the last decade covering. This essay seeks to critique this term, as well as the various ways it has been employed, in order to argue that as a descriptor, it not only fails to capture the texture and scale of the internet, but also registers a more general failure to adequately historicize our contemporary moment. Both as a concept and as a discourse, the post-internet reduces the complex set of economic, political, social, and technological changes that make up the present to a simple binary. Within this framework, the internet is an event whose singularity causes a total rupture of history, splitting it in two. Both past and present are reformed in its image, with the past now existing solely as the period before the internet’s emergence and the present being defined wholly by its effects. The future is in turn transformed, persisting only as a vague shadow of the present.

This essay is then ultimately about the relationship between present and future: about what futures we can and can’t imagine from the vantage of the present, and about how a certain aesthetic of “futurity” has taken hold of contemporary music. This aesthetic’s universalizing claims, its positioning of itself as having a unique grasp of our current moment, should be challenged. At the decade’s end, a singular phenomenon shouldn’t be taken to stand in for a whole host of epochal changes: a map shouldn’t be mistaken for a territory.


Origins
“spazio – tempo” by Pelos

“Is ‘post-’ not more of a stylistic convenience that evinces a blind spot, an inability to account for the present in its specificity and singularity? Is it not an easy shorthand for what could be called an impasse to think the contemporary?”
– Zach Blas, “Contra-Internet Aesthetics”

Let’s start at the beginning. The term “post-internet” was first placed into wider circulation by artist-writer-curator Marisa Olson between 2006 and 2008. In an essay reflecting on her initial intervention, Olson argues that it was important to emphasize how art about the internet was taking place both online and offline, rather than existing solely online, as was assumed to be the case at the time. Olson found that, in her own practice, she had been drawn to making work that was “after the internet in the sense that “after” can mean both “in the style of” and “following.” She was not alone in noticing these shifts and cites various other practitioners and critics, who had also begun to use this terminology to describe their art, which was “created with a consciousness of the networks within which it exists, from conception and production to dissemination and reception.” So far, so simple: the post-internet refers to the becoming-quotidian of the internet, and the artistic and critical engagements that emerge in response.

Problems arise when Olson attempts to historicize the term, a task she accomplishes by substituting awareness of a phenomenon for historical consciousness more generally. For her, a “historically-aware, continuum-synthesizing definition of the postinternet is itself exemplary of postinternet thought, insofar as it reflects this awareness.”

In this tautological formulation, being able to determine that a series of art works and discourses are “post-internet” is evidence that, as a concept, the post-internet has historical purchase. Covertly, this grounding in the historical requires the self-consciousness of the individual to operate, as it is the individual who, understanding themselves to be a subject of the internet, is able to make art “after the internet,” thereby capturing it in history. Individual experience here becomes the primary conduit through which the deep structures that underlie society — economy, politics, ecology, technology, culture — express themselves. What is troubling about Olson’s individual-centric approach to history — one that emerges from New York, the epicenter of the Global North’s cultural hegemony — is that it allows her to make a claim that

postinternet artistic practices […] have not only a special kind of relevance or currency, but that they are also part and parcel of an as-yet unspoken, totalizing, near-universal set of conditions that applies to all art as much as it implicates all art in transporting the network conditions under which we live.

We have moved seamlessly from a minor situation of artists and critics discussing a trend in new media art in the Global North to a reading of this art as possessing “a special kind of relevance or currency” in diagnosing global, universalizing shifts. There’s a slippage at play here, whereby post-internet art is tacitly positioned as having a special purchase on the totalizing set of shifts characteristic of the internet, which will imminently apply to all art. For Olson, “post-internet” art succeeds because it is alert to this near-future: it can capture its effects and singularize them into the individual artwork, providing advance warning of a condition that is becoming generalized. In so doing, Olson creates a conceptual framework within which a singular embodiment of a phenomenon can come to stand in for the phenomenon more generally. This emphasis on the singular reappears in various forms whenever the post-internet is invoked, to deleterious ends.

For example, we can notice how the turn to the singular engenders — and in fact requires — a limited engagement with the historical. By treating the internet as a monumental event that has shaped the entirety of the present, the post-internet, as both a discourse and a concept, gains its particular “currency.” History must be stripped of complexity, ossified and binarized, for the post-internet to function. This denuded sense of the historical is reflected in Olson’s understanding of the post-internet era, which for her “may be ahistorical insofar as it has no degree-zero.” This assertion’s appeal to generality, its belief in the total subsumption of the contemporary by the internet, refuses to countenance historical complexity, instead allowing for a subsequent assertion that “We are now in a postinternet era. Everything is always-already postinternet.” In these terms, history is rendered as a thing that happens, that has already happened, not something that can be shaped, that emerges out of economic, social, political, or cultural forces. The internet’s emergence can then be posited as a rupture, something that, by clearing away the vestiges of the past, announces a new future. In the face of this epochal shift, art exists simply to register these changes and to self-consciously comment on them from within.

No politics, no struggle, only content.


Post-internet music
Arca (photo: Drew Gurian via Facebook)

Turning now to contemporary music, we can trace how this uncritical discourse has been imported (uncritically) into recent scholarly and popular work.

In the most sustained academic theorization of what the author terms “Post-Internet music,” Michael Waugh’s “‘My Laptop Is an Extension of My Memory and Self’: Post-Internet Identity, Virtual Intimacy and Digital Queering in Online Popular Music,” we see a familiar rehearsing of the same limited approach to history that we encountered in Olson. On the article’s first page, Waugh commutes the historical content of the internet down to a singular effect, “[emphasizing] the wider significance of the term ‘Post-Internet’ for the identity politics of the post-millennial generation.” Through this reverse telescopy, the vast history of the internet’s emergence becomes binaric, reduced to two distinct generations of internet users: a post-internet generation and its predecessor. The latter generation (which is not even given a name of its own) makes a distinction between online and offline, while the “Post-Internet generation” “[has] little experience of a world without constant connectivity or social media,” seeing the internet as a “natural element of daily existence.”

Again, history is rendered mute here, overwritten by a model in which the complexity of the internet’s emergence is reduced to a narrative of one generation succeeding another. Waugh’s main argument is that “Post-Internet” musicians like SOPHIE, Arca, and Holly Herndon make music that reflects an awareness that everyday life has been saturated by the internet, which is plausible enough, while also engaging in an extremely limited way with both posthumanism and queer theory, making no significant attempt to think through the relation between technology, race, sexual identity, and nation.

Most importantly, however, and as in Olson’s work, Waugh’s argument positions “Post-Internet” art as a form that is ultimately reducible to the experiences of the individual, whose only relation to the contemporary is one of reflection, acknowledging historical shifts without hoping to influence them. “To be truly Post-Internet,” Waugh argues, “is to be incapable of separating the virtual from the organic, and this is due in part to the constant uploading (and shaping) of information about one’s self to digital media.” There is no room for historicization or action here, only a myopic focus on information and the self.


Whiteness
Artwork for EasyFun’s self-titled EP on PC Music

For popular analyses of the post-internet, we can look to Adam Harper, one of the decade’s most influential writers on experimental music, and notice a similar reliance on singularity and universality when the subject of post-internet music arises. In a 2018 article for Red Bull, “Charting the evolution of post-internet music,” Harper traces the emergence of a recognizably “post-internet” aesthetic in underground music. For Harper, collectives like PC Music and Activia Benz, as well as club nights like JACK댄스 / Non Stop Pop, attest to an orientation toward the internet as subject matter, with a fondness for sounds that figure the internet as a source of retro-kitsch, gleaming surfaces and complex architectures. At the same time, a parallel strand of club-focused material, beginning with Jam City’s Classical Curves, similarly renders the effects of the quotidian internet through high-definition sound design and the collaging and collapsing of various regional club styles.

Harper then turns to a critique that began to be levelled at PC Music et al. as their popularity increased: that this music is “[c]onceptual music […] music about ideas or postures rather than emotions; its makers are veiled pretenders rather than authentic, expressive artists.” This critique gathered momentum in 2015 when GFOTY, in a feature for Vice, was accused of making racist comments about the Malian two-piece Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a scene that, in PC Music’s case, struck an ambiguous balance between critiquing and celebrating consumption from within the overcapitalized Global North, attempts to joke about the cultural cachet of whiteness and the purported backwardness of musicians from the Global South fell flat.



The GFOTY incident is useful here because it illustrates one of the limitations of the concepts proposed by Olson et al. Following Harper, we might think of PC Music and its affiliates as the “first wave” of post-internet musicians, inasmuch as their music expresses the kind of self-conscious awareness of constant connection that Olson was initially interested in. What GFOTY’s ironically racist comments reveal, then, is that this self-consciousness is often tied up with an understanding of oneself as a subject unmarked by race. While GFOTY’s embodiment of the affects and drives of the extremely online provides a useful framework for understanding the psychological and sociological impacts of digital capitalism on its subjects, it has less to say about the foundational role played by race and coloniality in this capitalism’s formation. That GFOTY’s critique of digitality ran aground when confronted with histories that precede and shape it exposes a limit-point for a thinking that doesn’t account for the internet’s emergence by and through the colonial configuration of the earth and its reproduction through these selfsame extractive modes (e.g. coltan production).

Beyond the partiality of this critique, however, what is at issue here is the lionizing of an ultimately singular mode of expression as definitive of “the future” of music making. This partiality has a geographic dimension too, as many of the producers and artists from this first wave reside in the cultural capitals of the Global North, locations that provide them with particular entry points into the socialities engendered by the internet, in a manner that’s not necessarily global (see: Jace Clayton, Uproot). In many ways, this joining of geographic specificity and global significance is mirrored in the post-internet art scene, which as Zach Blas argues “would seem to account for a widely and wildly divergent grouping of people and practices, but […] is rather taken up by a considerably moderate collection of hip, young, ‘digital native’ artists and art institutions mostly in the West, a reality that contradicts its temporally totalizing implications.” What is important to keep in mind here is how the post-internet’s initial formulation as a concept seems to inevitably result in this mistaking of the singular for the universal.

Indeed, one way we might understand this synecdochic movement within the post-internet is as an expression of the totalizing impulse of whiteness as an epistemological frame. Even Harper’s rehearsing of the distinction between conceptual music and more “authentic,” “emotive” music neatly reproduces what Denise Ferreira da Silva calls the “analytics of raciality,” wherein subaltern subjects are understood as “affectable” (they are acted on by the world), while dominant (i.e., white) subjects act on the world (see: de Silva, Towards a Global Idea of Race). It follows that the totalization and historical blindnesses characteristic of the post-internet as a concept is the result of a short-sighted focus on novelty, singularity, and futurity. This is a tendency that forecloses a conception of the internet that could account for the histories of coloniality and racial capitalism that underwrite it. In so doing, it moves us away from understanding how we arrived at the present moment, and instead engages in a thinking that is always stepping over the past, impatiently striving to reach the future.


Authenticity and Emotion
Photo: Lotic

Returning to Harper’s article, we can see a further way in which post-internet thinking reduces itself to a limited set of investments, this time in its relationship to “authenticity” and its substrate, the “emotive.” At the time of her comments, GFOTY was strongly criticized by Lotic, a response that Harper takes to “clearly signal a shift of focus in underground musical aesthetics away from conceptuality and toward a new form of authenticity rooted in the personal expression, experience and solidarities of people who experience structural oppression.”



What is interesting here is how Harper transposes Olson’s and Waugh’s binaric thinking of and in the internet to a new locale. Just as Waugh neatly divides the history of the internet into two eras, the pre- and the post-, Harper too sees the conceptual as meeting its opposition in the guises of the authentic and the emotive. This is a curious binary, which despite its best intentions manages to again place the racialized subject of the internet into a position of reaction and affectability. Artists like Lotic are positioned by Harper as “more sincere, emotive and more politically direct (you might even say honest)” than their ironic, conceptual predecessors. Positioned as having a uniquely clear connection to the world around them, Harper renders these artists as speaking “truthfully” to their context, in contrast to the “playful” (read: insincere) speech of PC Music.

We are moving here from one kind of subject-supposed-to-know to another. The first tells us about the recombinant nature of the internet, its multimodal capacities and its flattening of culture and geography. The second speaks to a world in which the internet forms part of racial capitalism’s strategies for surveillance, containment, and extraction. Again, there is no attempt to grasp how these two positions may not in fact be separable but are instead intertwined, and that the internet is not simply an either/or proposition — either a place of postmodern play or one of structural oppression. We instead remain trapped in a discourse of authenticity and emotion, founded on a singular subject who is understood solely to speak transparently about their position: Lotic’s music is an “honest” expression of their struggles, rather than a complex invocation of black queer life. Authenticity is then wedded to a simplistic differentiation from the inauthentic that, when placed under further scrutiny, can be seen to recapitulate an understanding of the internet’s emergence as a rupture rather than as a part of any historical continuity.

Musicians like Lotic are judged by Harper to be authentic because they give voice to “real” conditions of existence (of dispossession and subjugation), while the musicians who cluster around the PC Music axis are coded as “inauthentic” because they are removed from these same conditions and can consequently use them as fodder for jokes. As Harper has it, “[r]ather than ironic music for the internet age, some of today’s most vital producers make a passionate music for the age of Black Lives Matter, Me Too, and queer struggle.”

The dichotomy that opposes the rational from the emotional, and the real from the ironic, fails to acknowledge that these conditions may in fact be conjoined. Instead, authenticity becomes a route away from post-internet music — like GFOTY — whose reliance on ironic detachment is degraded in light of its dearth of “passion,” which then serves as evidence for its dismissal. But, as Erika Balsom argues in You Are Here: Art After the Internet, within an era characterized by the almost total subsumption of everyday life by capitalism, authenticity is no refuge, as it too is reconfigured, “[deriving] its force from posing as an alternative to, rather than an engagement with, the status quo.” Against the “immateriality” of contemporary capitalism and the internet, authenticity “seeks to remedy a supposed lack,” marking it as “a fundamentally conservative withdrawal from the present.” This is not to say that Lotic’s music does not provide us with a lens with which we can view the contemporary; it clearly does. But what is frustrating about post-internet discourse is that, as a result of its limited historical framework of binaric opposition and rupture, it depends on tired dichotomies and concepts in order to create positive content of its own.

We can observe another instance of this oppositional tendency in Harper’s view that artists like Lotic represent a new vanguard of post-internet music. In his words, “Arca, Pan Daijing, Yves Tumor, Klein, Toxe, Rui Ho, Visionist and many others” communicate emotion (as against concepts), making “a music not (or not yet) of any particular genre, not from History or Culture as previously constituted (by the hitherto powerful, of course), but from bodies and the resonances between bodies.” Capitalized History and Culture recede, subsumed into the body and the movements between bodies. In order to produce a statement about the difference of post-internet music, it must emerge through a singular form — in this case, the body.

But this body’s absorption of history, culture, genre, and geography, as well as its subsumption of these objects into the movement of its relations, removes the present — as a site of history — from view yet again. Art is delinked from the worlds from which it springs, and the post-internet recedes from the terrain of the present. In Harper’s refusal to admit forms of music production that do not speak univocally in favor of music that speaks from a place of authenticity or transparency, we see an understanding of culture that is always reducible to its producer, never to the histories that might have spurred its production. From Olson onward, the post-internet has been premised on an understanding of the internet as an unprecedented rupture of our world, one that in its desire to “crush the past” in order to make way for something new limits itself to the privileging of singularity and novelty. Within such a framework, music is defanged, always making sense, speaking from a place of truth — what in this schema is more truthful and less contestable than a body’s experience? — and never signifying otherwise.


Crisis and history
Photo: Grimes

“I’ll start by making two claims, which I won’t return to since they speak for themselves and because they are — as far as I’m concerned — incontrovertible. With the first, I’m paraphrasing Nicholas Mirzoeff in saying that ‘post-’ should not be understood as ‘the successor to’ but as ‘the crisis of’. Having established this, let’s get one thing straight: every artist working today is a postinternet artist. Let’s move on.”
– Jesse Darling, ‘Post-Whatever #usermilitia’ in You Are Here: Art After the Internet

If, to come at it from another angle, the invocation of the post-internet is an acknowledgment of crisis, what might the crisis of the internet be? Let’s turn to Grimes and Mat Dryhurst.

Grimes is in some senses an avatar for post-internet music’s aesthetic and ideological development in the 2010s. In interviews immediately preceding her breakout Visions, she describes her sound as post-internet, in that it’s informed by the increased availability of music and the subsequent destruction of generic boundaries engendered by the internet. In this way, Grimes is one of the first musicians to self-consciously take on the mantle of the “post-internet” and to engage with its sonic affordances, and has subsequently charted a thrilling and controversial path through the 2010s. As of the time of this writing, she is poised to release an album that — ironically? — celebrates the coming climate crisis. In this latest incarnation, as a Silicon Valley adjacent defender of union busting and in her — ironic? — embrace of the monumentality of Anthropocenic destruction, she represents one endpoint of the dehistoricized, depoliticized thinking that orbits the post-internet, conceiving of the planet’s destruction as monumental and unstoppable: the sudden wrath of an angry god. Yet again, we are trapped within the world of the individual, as the complexities of climate change are embodied in the “character” of an “anthropomorphic Goddess of climate Change.” Unsurprisingly, within this version of the present, there is little scope for a different world. Instead, when the destruction that “we” have wrought on other people and on our planet is revealed, all that is left to do is to stare in silent awe, frozen in the face of forces beyond “our” control.

Who the “we” and “our” are here is crucial, as they are reproduced in Mat Dryhurst’s rendering of the current juncture in the history of the internet. Dryhurst, Holly Herndon’s partner/collaborator and a critic in his own right, posted this (since-deleted) tweet in August of this year:


Dryhurst rehearses a similar trajectory to Grimes, from a post-everything optimism to a pragmatic realism in which the dream of the internet reveals itself to be a nightmare in which we stand by and watch our own destruction. But as Julia Kaganskiy notes in her reply, the “we” and the “us” are assumed here, indicating that what Dryhurst is doing is of a familiar type: mistaking a singular experience for a universal one. As with Olson, Waugh, and Harper, Dryhurst founds his conception of the internet as a utopian commons on a dehistoricized model of rupture, in which an idealized pre-history is differentiated from a dystopic present. Without this idealized pre-history, however, Dryhust would not be able to make these claims about the contemporary, as his periodization would have to admit continuities between our present era and the world in which the internet emerged — a post-WWII U.S. obsessed with decentralizing its infrastructure to minimize the damage from nuclear attack and a world structured around colonial extraction. The internet was never a utopian project for all.

So, if this is one type of crisis — of a thinking that wraps itself up in the internet only to find its limits in the latter’s indivisibility from the colonial and racial capitalist structures that birthed it — then might we be able to find some other, more generative crises? Because, as the members of the communist/communizing journal Endnotes reminds us, crisis is what makes the world of the capital-relation go round. The task then might be to find forms of crises, which with Endnotes again afford the possibility of non-reproduction.

Where are the crises of the singular? How do we ensure the non-reproduction of its thinking, reliant as it is on the individual or the body, on a history that admits no continuity, only rupture? What are the aesthetics with which this crisis could be brought to bear?


Laughter, stutter, break, and blur
Elysia Crampton (photo: Boychild)

“My problem with getting lumped into these worldings — particularly with online/consumer groups — is that even the ones taken as the most futuristic, and therefore thought of — by default — as optimistic, feel mired in colonial ideas of execution and seem to blindly carry out the functions of a system that privileges this mode of educated whiteness that takes its own prejudices as an unspoken given. The stuff with the sharpest, newest production value, often signaling an easy-to-read deconstructed ethos, gets taken as the most progressive work, even when this is clearly not the case. We forget to ask ourselves the simplest questions sometimes, but more frequently, we forget to ask questions at all.
– Elysia Crampton, interview with Tiny Mix Tapes

Elysia Crampton’s work this decade offers us a possible escape from the post-internet. Across her edits, mixtapes, albums, and performances, Crampton has charted a course away from music-as-linear history and the telos of the individual. Take Demon City, the album she made by “being-with” her friends and collaborators. As part of the process of co-writing the album, she drifted away from the self-possession common to the individual and toward a possession by and with others. In her words, “[h]ow does my friends’ — [who are] from all different backgrounds — support of me inform my own autonomy, my own agency?”

Crampton is presenting us here with a form of self-determination that is not hinged to the individual, but instead arises through collectivity. It is an attachment to others and their circumstances built on solidarity, on an appreciation for what is held in common. Autonomy is not the end-goal of the artistic process, but a part of it, one that must be brought into dialogue with the various backgrounds — historical, cultural, geographical — of her collaborators. Music-making becomes a collective process, in which producers engage with the various fabrics of which they are part, “[acknowledging their] involvement in the world’s happiness or the world’s functioning.”

This vexed relation to the individual comes into view on “Dummy Track,” which is co-written with WHY BE and Chino Amobi. Here, a riotous clattering of drums floats into the ominous rumble of monstrous laughter. As the drums resolve themselves into a steady beat, a second laugh becomes tangled up in the percussion’s momentum. The syncopated laugh comes to function as a multivocal sonic object, both an element of the drum track and a melody in and of itself. This sonic confusion — between laughter and music, music and laughter — creates an arena within which the singular is made untenable and unsound. Instead of a singular body that laughs, the listener is given only the laugh’s carnivalesque echo, its fluid movement between subject and object in what we might call, echoing a line from her previous album, American Drift, a mode of “slip infinity.” Indeed, Crampton herself refuses to pin down which part of her musical heritage that the laugh — one of her sonic signatures — comes from, instead saying that:

it’s always there, and what I like is that no one can locate a real owner, there’s no master or originator there, so it’s just part of this legacy that finds its way into my work and I just carry it on.

Against the individual, Crampton is instead enfolded in a trans-generational play of influence that resolves itself into a sonic mantle that she takes on and continues. Ownership of this sound is less important than its persistence, ensuring that its legacies are respected, its attachments attended to. This is a mode of music-making for the present, one that neither shies away from history nor lets itself be overcome by it. It is a music-making that understands that history is made “under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” The past does not recede into obscurity here, crushed by the momentousness of the internet. Instead, it is reworked, returned to the present in a new form, giving the lie to a historical consciousness constructed according to a series of pre-s and post-s. Through her employment of laughter, Crampton is participating in what Stefano Harney and Fred Moten see as the necessary rejoinder to the individual’s “enclosure and settlement of the earth”:

The play […] is to desediment, to exfoliate, to renew the earthly and inseparable assembly, the habitual jam, by way of and in the differentiation of what will be neither regulated nor understood. All we got is us in this continual giving away of all.

If Crampton provides us with a sociality for contemporary music-making, the fractured, looping nature of her music provides us with an aesthetics. Indeed, Crampton joins a number of other musicians whose response to our present predicament is to proliferate styles that, in their generic and sonic experimentation, wedded to an orientation toward the dancefloor, strive to create a situation of “inseparable assembly” by and through a production of sound that moves beyond regulation and understanding.

It’s worth signaling my commitment to provisionality here. Against the totalizing, universalizing theorizations of the post-internet, I want to offer an avenue into forms of music-making that do not talk with one voice or signify in one way; music that speaks but in words that might not be understandable yet. What seems important to me about this music is its commitment to unfolding, to an aesthetic mode that dwells in the zone of the unresolved, a fact reflected sonically in this music’s multiplicity, in its assembling of textures, genres, and affects that are themselves in a state of process. It is also notably a music that gains from being in transmission, from being resolutely of and for dancefloors, taking on new forms as it reaches new audiences and signaling a need for working out what it can do in common.

We could then look, for example, at the stuttering aesthetics of Príncipe, whose producers — DJ Marfox, Nidia, DJ Nigga Fox, DJ Lycox, DJ Firmeza, Normal Nada, et al. — make music that drags and scrapes, shaping affective spaces structured by fragmentation and mutation. The present here is figured as one of vertiginous drops, queasy silences, and sudden accelerations, qualities shared amongst the skewed beats of Equiknoxx, the pummeling weight of Slikback’s collaborations with SVBKVLT, and in Kelman Duran’s alternatingly leaden and buoyant edits. This is a music that runs circuitous laps around the listener’s synapses, refusing to settle or be settled. It is a music that warps: as in the trans-fusions of Mexican DJ collective and record label N.A.A.F.I, whose admixtures of regional club styles rumble ominously and whose pop-hybrids fizzle with joy. And it is a music that flutters, as in the microsonic excesses of Siete Catorce & AMAZONDOTCOM and Oli XL.

O Meu Estilo EP by DJ NIGGA FOX

What the music of these producers share is a sense of contingency and possibility: an aesthetics made to the measure of our crisis-ridden era. Always in the process of shifting, this music takes us into spaces not yet known, whose boundaries are not yet concretized. Against the post-internet’s obsession with the future, with a ruptural break from the past, this music returns us to a different, roiling present.

With this music, we tumble, stutter, break, and blur, a series of movements that require an accounting of the past and a staying-with the affordances of the present: How did we get here? Where can we go?

With this music, we elide the smooth ahistoricity of the post-internet’s version of the current moment, its interest in the individual, and in the subsumption of the local by the global. In its stead, we have collectivity, uncertainty, and a particular kind of rootedness.

This music could not come from just anywhere; it is grounded in the histories of its transmission, in colonization and decolonization, in abandonment and hope, construction, and destruction. It requires an internet connection, but is not defined by it. Landing with odd cadences, stabs of melody, and non-reproductive rhythms, this music sounds itself both in and as the here and now, the afterlives of coloniality and racial capitalism — our impending climate catastrophe and a world that could be (and has been) different. It is a rendering of and a response to these unequally distributed crises, opportunities and worlds that are, I would argue, the posture required for our moment, one that is contingent and unfinished, danceable, despairing, and joyful. It is not the sound of the future, of futurity or of the futuristic, of the pre- or post-internet. It is a sound for the present. Against the blank map of the post-internet, the sound of a (possible) territory.

Feature: 2010s: On Devastation

This post was originally published on this site

“You love being devastated,” Max said as we drank gin and tonics at my dining room table the night we found out about Hugo’s closing for good. Hugo’s, the bar where Max and I yelled about listening to Moonface during the worst years of our lives, where I yelled about the time I saw Moonface play the entirety of Julia With Blue Jeans On and Spencer Krug sat down at his piano and told us that he’d be playing the songs according to their sadness. I yelled about accidentally sneaking into a bar in Austin where Waxahatchee was playing, then running into Katie Crutchfield in the bathroom and gushing, because when I heard her sing “The radio counts your thoughts,” I recognized the feeling of driving across the South with a lover I could not bear to leave, even though I knew better, the feeling of confusing music with meditation, the feeling of letting 20 or more hours blow through the car and graze my skin, the feeling of calling the whole thing healing. I yelled about Katie singing “You’re the only one I want watching me” the night I dragged my sister to see Waxahatchee with me in Harrisonburg, the first time I heard “La Loose” slowed way the hell down until I could no longer recognize it as a dance number and realized how the words expose a kind of love as doomed as a night with all the stars thrown from the sky.

Call 911, or call my mom, because someone has got to come collect me. This is what I scream to Jo on the phone while wandering the grocery store in velvet and cheetah print and smelling like pussy, or while walking home at two in the morning after thrashing on the floor like a demon at karaoke, or while waiting in the emergency room with a hand needing stitches. What Jo screams back is a promise to flip a table. I call Jo from the show while Lorde covers “New York,” so they can scream along with me all the way from Chicago, “You’re the only motherfucker in the city who can handle me,” then “You’re the only motherfucker in the city who can stand me,” then “You’re the only motherfucker in the city who’d forgive me,” until we disappear from each other’s screens, collapsing and heaving, because we love to mythologize the songs we hear while dancing at shows, or while riding the bus with headphones, or while waiting in line for coffee, because we love to create narrative, and destroy narrative, and because neither of us wants to be alone in the wreckage.

Ocean Vuong asks, “why can’t the language of creativity be the language of regeneration,” and I want to imagine how it would feel to say that a song I love, an album I love, blooms like a magnolia, to say that a song carries me to the river and washes the blood from my knees, to say that an album calls me in from the porch because dinner is hot and waiting on the table.

Would it feel like Titus Andronicus playing “Four Score and Seven” at Strange Matter, everyone in the crowd throwing their arms around each other and singing along with Patrick Stickles, “This is a war we can’t win, after ten thousand years, it’s still us against them,” and everyone proving him wrong by inviting everyone else into the moment, calling everyone else into the movement, making sure no one feels lonely, no one feels forgotten, and no one feels heartbroken, promising to look out for each other and check in on each other and give whatever we can, because the enemy is everywhere, and we will not retreat a single inch, and we will be heard?

Would it feel like Grouper playing in the chapel at the University of Virginia, crouched on the floor over her electronics with static projected in the background, like someone experimenting in their bedroom, recording and looping a cicada, or sharing transmissions from elsewhere in the cosmos, voicemails from beings we have no idea how to conceptualize, or recalling a dream involving a choir singing in the balcony of a church with its doors flung open in the snow? Would it feel like “(2nd Heart Tone) Mary, On the Wall” playing through computer speakers while lighting a candle for the full moon, learning to read the cards arranged on silk, learning a little about the magic, then more about the magic, as the seasons change, struck with a memory of a woman singing on the porch at the beach in the middle of the night? I remember and remember without seeing where to put it down.


Anne Carson writes, in Autobiography of Red, describing Geryon, the winged red monster and gay teen, reacting to a photograph taken by the grandmother of his lover, Herakles, of an erupting volcano, “Geryon did not know why / he kept going back to it. / It was not that he found it an especially pleasing photograph. / It was not that he / did not understand how such photographs are made. / He kept going back to it.” I mean, I would keep going back to it, like I keep going back to a video of Pharmakon performing at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Margaret Chardiet illuminated in red while beating a sheet of metal, then yelling, then howling, then moving into the crowd, like I keep going back the night I saw P.S. Eliot play at Market Hotel, the way they opened with “Broken Record” just like I guessed and played “Cry Uncle” directly into “Bear Named Otis,” the way Katie Crutchfield sings, “I write you letters all the time,” then, “Our parents met on the back seats of Datsuns,” and how it all feels so big and destined in a Southern fashion that I have no idea how to explain other than to describe a wedding on a humid night in September.

No one else worked in the dark room on Friday or Saturday nights, or at least not while I was taking a photo class in college, during fall, which meant I could pick the music. I developed pictures of trash, flyers drifting off a garage, televisions abandoned in the grass, rotten wood leaning against brick. I tried making everything about texture, but I could not compose, and I was shit at figuring out the light. I did what I could, soaking the prints in chemicals, watching the images materialize, listening to St. Vincent singing, then screaming, “Come cut me open,” or listening to Victoria LeGrand singing, “I’ll take care of you,” or listening to Angel Olsen singing, and asking, “Where is my harmony?”

Desire embarrasses me, but watch as I bend over backward until my hands touch the floor, then watch as I fold my legs behind my head. The shape I make, a rainbow cleaved to the ground, where someone could climb for shelter, or the shape I make, a knot to be untangled with both hands.


I bought red pants with a high waist and wide legs to match New Mexico. I mean the desert, terracotta shattering, rose blooming, the mesa jagged against the sky. I mean Patricia Charbonneau in Desert Hearts (dir. Donna Deitch), revving backward down the highway in her black convertible, then opening her porch door until it creaked, looking Helen Shaver up and down as though to say “have mercy.”

Denim on denim, tied and revealing, not giving a shit.

While driving across the desert between Albuquerque and Jemez Springs, I put on One Direction, because the piano in “Steal My Girl” could shred the sky like an angel and crush me. “I don’t exist if I don’t have her. The sun doesn’t shine. The world doesn’t turn.” I want to have a problem with such possessiveness, and I want to have a problem with such patriarchal desire, but I hear the song as cosmic and embarrassing devotion, a feeling that gathers in my throat until I fucking weep. Or, until Chris rolls down the windows, and I yell the song into the air.

Carrie Lorig writes, “I try to put my devastation on the ground. I try to put it on the ground and pay it. My devastation, I pay it.” What I want to know is how. My devastation, pitchers being emptied into a river. My devastation, a window spilling light into the background of a photograph. My devastation, a pit made of weathering steel. I have no idea how to even begin to hold it. I have no idea what I could possibly owe it. Maybe the lavender I found growing everywhere in Albuquerque, or maybe the turquoise rings scattered on the street. Liz Bowen writes, responding to Carrie Lorig, “i want to stop owing my devastation i / think it should pay me / my devastation should make an offer of me / don’t you think my devastation should put me / on the table.” What if my devastation has embodied me. What if my devastation has swallowed me. What if my devastation has emptied me. I have no idea how to tell the difference.

All I can think to do is dive into the river as Craig Finn playing Walt Whitman says, “I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket, and buried him where he fell,” as Sufjan Stevens sings, “Bury the dead where they’re found.”


Ella Longpre writes, “In an act of forgiveness she excuses herself from the table. You remove the table (throw it against the wall), the table is now what you have done and she has disappeared.” The truth is that Caroline and I pulled the dill, squash, fennel, kale, marigolds, and the garden became what we had done. The truth is that the kitchen became what we had done, the road became what we had done, but what about the marsh in Florida where we saw anhingas darting through the water like snakes and roseate spoonbills probing the reeds, birds we could not have dreamed and colors we could not believe, and what about the stereo playing serpentwithfeet singing, “With you, I can empty myself of all my rivers and become a remarkable sky”?

Hauled ass down the mountain in a Ford Super Duty, closest to a monster truck I will ever drive, while light from the afternoon disintegrated until the world seemed lunar except for the road that I want to remember being red as hell. Found a snake jacket on the trail that Chris wanted, but Elizabeth and I said absolutely not, because you never know what kind of curse might follow you home. I carried one bottle for drinking, one for gathering water from the river, the hot spring, plus grasses and blossoms. Chris and Elizabeth called it a spell bottle. I called it a witch bottle. Magic turned to sludge either way, but it still lives on my dresser with a bottle shaped like a grinning crescent moon. I could say that we were listening to Hop Along, because Chris and I talked about Hop Along the first time we walked his dog along the river, but the truth is that I switched the radio to silence to keep an eye on the mountain.

I look up whether it is legal to shoot a dog. I have to know after hearing Frances Quinlan sing, “Honey, you know I had to shoot that dog you loved so much. You know I had to do it,” and then, reversing, “I know you had to shoot that dog I loved so much. I know you had to do it.” I have to know whether this is business as usual or an emergency. I have to know which is more heartbreaking, or which is more gracious, and whether either can be forgiven.