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Reclaiming Marginal Narratives in a Globalised World:

In Conversation with Autogenesis

Georgina Quach

Located on the site of a former S-bahn railway station bordering Kreuzberg – an area in Berlin that has experienced rapid gentrification over the past decade – Görlitzer Park (or ‘Görli’ to locals) is currently under threat by state attempts to ‘clean up’ the city’s shadier areas. Police crackdowns on rave gatherings and drug-dealing in the park are endangering the liberal values and counterculture that have made Kreuzberg one of the most tolerant and multi-cultural areas in Berlin.

Built in the 1990s, Görli became more than just a site of reunification after the fall of the Berlin wall: it became an inclusive meeting place where diverse crowds from both sides gathered, got drunk and danced together in a haze of ecstasy-enhanced euphoria. Today, the ritual remains: people link up here, buy and sell drugs, then head to their nightclub of choice. As I had quickly discovered whilst trying to cut through the park after dark, Görli still serves as a transactional space where illicit traders operate. A green and pleasant public space in the light of day, this is where I first met Julio Pattio, co-founder of the Berlin-based record label and magazine Autogenesis

Sat on a park bench, we chatted about Berlin club culture, cassettes and the value of music journalism in working towards better intercultural exchanges and a more co-operative globalised world. Together with Mariam Kalandarishvili, Julio has released music by eight international artists (on cassette) alongside a print magazine, which fuses sound and text. To some extent, Autogenesis reflects the crisis point of a certain generation – as an experimental project that pushes back against the commercialization of the underground. Rather than simply representing and speaking for musicians, they’re interested in starting a two-way conversation and representing themselves with the artist. And without pretence or fiction.

What motivated you to create Autogenesis?

Autogenesis is pretty much a logical follow-up to the accumulation of our experiences as foreigners living in Europe. I say “our” because I met Mariam here in Berlin and it didn’t take long for us to realize how we had so many similar disappointments – diasporic people get often caught in a trap of recognition and success, failing to make sure historical justice is obtained … The city of Berlin played a crucial role in this, not in the classical way, since neither of us wanted to work for a start-up or start DJing. It is more in negative terms, in the sense we got tired with how ‘creative individuals’ living in Berlin are sending mixed messages and missing a great chance to actualize the project of a true multicultural city.

Autogenesis is built on the need to address both the rewards and challenges of sharing and representing non-Western music in a global age, which remains, in some aspects, tethered to a dominant Western, Anglo-centric outlook. Over the past few decades, audiences have become more and more exposed to untrodden ground and marginal voices from all over the world. For Julio, however, this opening-out of horizons comes with great responsibility. 

When Julio and I first started exchanging emails, we bonded over the fact that both of us have – in some degree – experienced a sense of displacement, whether that be cultural, geographical or familial. My Vietnamese heritage shapes my life in lots of ways, but as I grow older and more alert to alternate modes of creating, far removed from Western culture, it’s taught me what it means to dig deeper, both into history and ourselves

Autogenesis

When Julio and I first started exchanging emails, we bonded over the fact that both of us have – in some degree – experienced a sense of displacement, whether that be cultural, geographical or familial. My Vietnamese heritage shapes my life in lots of ways, but as I grow older and more alert to alternate modes of creating, far removed from Western culture, it’s taught me what it means to dig deeper, both into history and ourselves, to talk about and enjoy music differently. This involves thinking about how music from outside of Western and English-speaking territories (‘World Music’) should be distributed and represented in mainstream media. 

The tumultuous history of Görlitzer Park (© Huck)

What role does music journalism play in this growing globalised landscape?

Magazines that, until 2005, were just writing about European avant-garde, or covering some non-European music as an exception, are now dedicating pages and more pages to intercultural exchanges and cultural projects coming from far away. We should let go of old habits and structures that favour narratives based on exclusivism and legitimacy and create new spaces for true intercultural dialogue and possible new ways to enunciate our stories. The music journalist must show an effort to respectfully translate the creative text. Because, music is not only music, ever.

How can journalists show this respect for other cultures? 

[Music journalists] should be trained in intercultural skills and competences, instead of just looking for the privilege of presenting the freshest sound ever and to appear as unearthing the uncharted territory of Kazakhstan club culture or Thai folk music. I find it mind-blowing how so much of the non-Western music that gets promoted in Europe comes with captions contextualizing that music in an oppressive environment, facing political danger.

Having spent a year as a Brazilian academic in France – teaching a philosophy course that left little room for diversity – Julio understands that mutually beneficial intercultural exchanges require respect and careful research. By taking the time to understand the cultural codes and distinctive features of that particular scene, onlookers can avoid boxing musicians in stereotypical and superficial narratives.

I wanted to call attention to how the western cultural machine is working well and unstoppably also in the dark corners of the underground, where every individual feels so entitled as the saviour of post-modernity, to turn difference into sameness, into the familiar and harmless face of the noble savage.

There is so much harm in having English as this chosen language, conveying ideals of modernity, coolness and multiculturalism, whereas we truly believe it obscures the permissive aspects of language, a form of linguistic imperialism … forcing many to play by the rules of a game they don’t even understand.

Also living in Berlin, Mariam, the co-founder of Autogenesis, is alert to different ways of representing subjects:

I have a BA in Audio-Visual Art and recently finished a MA in Spatial Strategies in Berlin. In my photographic work, which I’ve been focusing on lately, I intervene in the interplay between documentary and staged photography. Photography led me to develop a fascination for print and graphic design, that’s why I’m in charge of all the graphic part in our project and overall aesthetic concepts.

Autogenesis is also a record label. Do you think that more people should start up their own record labels? What is the value of independent labels today – especially for young creatives? 

Autogenesis releases sound and music, yes. I’m very stubborn, perhaps, in my reluctance to use the term ‘label’. We want to continue experimenting with new forms of interactions, new forms of togetherness and new ways to belong to a collective body. In my opinion, the interest of starting up your own record label is the same as starting a new book club in your neighbourhood, it’s the collective body it creates. The safe space it can secure for people coming from different routes. I’m thinking about underground culture that is happening right now outside of this voracious axis between US and EU. I would love to see those amazing creative individuals amongst us connecting and getting together, without the interference of Western efforts to homogenize and to present the underground as their own creation. This is at the root of our radio show: the world clock is no longer set to Europe, times are changing and the world has many different points of gravity now. 

You have a monthly radio show with boxout.fm in New Delhi, India – when is this? What do you hope to platform with this show? 

Oh yeah, kudos to the team at boxout.fm and Nishan for the invitation! We are broadcasting every first Saturday of the month, at 18:00 IST. I have very limited to non-existent skills when it comes to working with sound … I just like talking and discussing with people [who often finish the show themselves haha]. We’ve had three shows so far, and two of them included guests. Each one deals with a completely different range of topics, questions, music styles and other mediums of expression. The main objective is to approach music as something other than just a collection of melodies or dissonance, but rather as historical texts waiting to be dialogically translated.

Georgina posing outside an old industrial building in Berlin

Do you think that making small batches of cassettes is another way into this artist-focused approach  – as an organic, slower mode of distributing music? 

The materiality of what we do is extremely important to us … as far as the releases/issues go we want to keep it analogue. For us it has the potency to pause the contemporary narrative of speed, efficiency and results. It offers us a moment to experience reality in a different pace, listening to our own breath when we are cutting and gluing in a room, far from everything else.

The increasing privatization of public space (and thought) in Berlin, as exemplified by the decline of Görlitzer Park – a battleground between Berlin’s liberalism and conservatism – has left its scars on creative projects such as Autogenesis. From its inception, the park has been a vital space for connecting migrant communities – the majority of Görli’s traders coming from West Africa – who find support by fostering cultural networks. As Kreuzberg gentrifies, Berlin’s fame as a haven for counterculture and multiculturalism is being confronted by rising skepticism – not just amongst anti-racism protestors fighting for Görli’s survival. 

Berlin may be the land of hedonistic love, selfish liberation and the great igniter of body revolutions, but there is very little here about a true and decolonized love, a whole cartography of feelings that would be inseparable from our politics…we are missing the structures keeping oppression, enslavement, violence and ignorance so active. First, we just talk to people with similar minds, we all go to the same steamy club and dance to the same music, while taking the same drugs. Once that wicked weekend is over, we will probably post the same pictures on our social medias, dark, nihilistic, just like the others.

As Julio has witnessed, not just on social media, sometimes artists preach excitedly about self-love and personal development, whilst privately making damning judgements about other individuals and projects. 

Instead of coming together, our contemporaneity is marked by a fierce competition and everyone wants to scream louder than the other, instead of trying to scream together.

Although the hypocrisy and competitiveness amongst preachers of liberal values sits uneasily with Berlin’s tolerant image, for Julio, we still have reason to be optimistic. As an independent publisher, Autogenesis have the power to elevate the underrepresented, disrupt the status quo and enact real change, however small to begin with.  

Hence our emphasis on interactions rather than just grouping people as an act of curation. We don’t need curators, we need friends and allies. We need to feel safe to talk about our feelings, our fears and how difficult life can be. But we need this on a true human level, not as part of artists and DJs statements. 

This is what we are trying, to become different people, to speak a different language, to organize our affectivities according to a new vocabulary, to talk about our past with new words, not charged with historical patronization and exclusion, but rooted in individual and collective strategies of empowerment and love.

What lies in the future for Autogenesis (releases, projects, networks, print etc..)?

It’s difficult to find your place when home is nowhere. But perhaps here is exactly where lies one of our strong points, to be a dissonant voice right at the heart of the European cultural circuit. Berlin has become so quickly an idol, that we feel someone has to say the king is naked. Having said that, we do have a few fantastic releases lined up. We are trying to put out four issues every year and it’s been working so far. This is the reason we continue doing this, because of the great musicians and writers we have the chance to meet and exchange with. So, I hope lot more of interactions lie ahead for us.

It’s inspiring to see!


https://www.autogenesis.org/

https://soundcloud.com/autogenesisproject

@autogenesis_magazine

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tl;dr:

britney is punk af

Sunny Parke

It’s Friday night, and you’re heading round to a gaff with your pals from art school. It’s not your usual skeezy piss-up, it’s one of those parties where all the boys have tiny beanies and all the girls have new wave mullets. It is, for all intents and purposes, a Cool Party. It’s good fun, until you notice that the aux is working its way towards you. Christ. What will you put on? The fate of your interactions for the rest of your night rests upon this. 

You pause, and then decide to take the risk. Fergie’s Fergalicious begins to play out the speaker and agonisingly, you wait for everyone to register what’s been put on. A few excruciating seconds pass… and the party goes wild. Party-goers, regardless of their stylistic sub-genre – e-girls, skaters, punks, softbois, club kids and hip hop rats – start cutting shapes to Fergie. The queue is then quickly loaded with pop classics, Sound of the Underground by Girls Aloud, Sweet Escape by Gwen Stefani, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head by Kylie Minogue… 

Congrats mate. You’ve only gone and done it. Hero behaviour.

But try and put Dua Lipa on, currently in the charts with Levitating, a song with an equally optimum BPM for arse-shaking and fist-pumping, and watch your arty new pals filter off the dance floor. Why? Dua Lipa has the same ultra-fun quality as any of the 90s and 00s ladies that everyone in the room was enjoying just a minute before – what’s different? With just one contemporary track, it’s like everyone remembers that they aren’t supposed to like mainstream music. Pop is uncool once more.


Why is current pop music seemingly cursed by its own modernity?  By definition, pop music is “accessible to a general public”. Musicologist Simon Frith stresses the prevalence of “easy listening” and “light entertainment” as core elements of its DNA. 

Yet there’s been a negative attitude to modern pop for as long as I can remember. As an anxious and mildly unattractive preteen, I cultivated a disgust for popular music in the charts. It was, in my tiny stupid brain, a way of demonstrating that I had ‘refined’ taste. In actuality, it meant that instead of enjoying myself at school discos, I was a relentless little hater, standing in the corner and slating Justin Bieber, One Direction, Jessie J and Nicki Minaj. I would have died at the thought that someone would realise that I secretly thought that Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen was kind of good, and slagged it extra hard in case my dirty secret got out. It wasn’t until I started to chill out a bit at 15 that I let pop filter back into my life once more.

I started with Britney Spears – initially, it was done somewhat ironically, enjoying the kitschy cool of being into a washed-up pop icon. I began with the classics like Toxic and Oops!… I Did It Again, and with each saccharine track that I listened to I fell a little deeper down the Britney hole. Eventually, I’d moved completely away from her classic discography and found myself getting into her more unknown recent music. It was brilliant. I bought a Britney t-shirt that was two sizes too small, and while wearing it, began to work my way through the previous generations pop idols. Spice Girls, and then old Beyoncé tracks. Then Gwen Stefani. J-Lo, Nelly Furtado, Fergie. Unrelenting, unfiltered, fun tracks. A whole new genre had opened up for me.

So why could I get into these 90s and 00s pop superstars like Britney but not the chart-toppers of my own time? Well, the answer is pretty simple – it was safe to enjoy her tunes. Britney has been around for decades, and her iconic …Baby One More Time was in charts before I was even born, meaning that the track was old enough to be long separated from its original teenage girl fanbase, who were a generation or two older than me. Any stigma linking tune to fanbase had worn away a long time ago. There  were no social politics involved. The question was simple: did I like her music? I did. I loved it.

Discovering that my issues with pop were linked to image then forced me to confront my internalised misogyny – the thought that I was somehow ‘above’ music marketed towards my age and gender and was therefore ‘better’ than the girls my age interested in it. To be fair on myself, there was an element of self-preservation in this attitude, as it protected me from the rampant stigma against pop. Negative discourse surrounding the genre comes from every angle – the low-level negativity of boys calling pop ‘basic bitch’ music, to the more scholarly negativity of those classing the genre as ‘low art’. 

For example, Arran Lomas’s viral twenty-minute video, “Why is Modern Music So Awful?” drags pop with alarming conviction as he references science, studies, and stats, as well as employing the odd jargon-heavy bit of wank to back up his claims: “the timbral palette has been homogenised”. Although it’s basically an opinion video justifying why Lomas prefers thickly textured acoustic music, his self-righteous attitude and pseudo-academic presentation is enough to make you feel a bit stupid for being into music that doesn’t display “harmonic complexity”. Even musicologists like Frith fuel negativity around the genre – in The Cambridge Companion To Pop and Rock, he describes how listeners, “can and do despise pop music in general as bland commercial pap”, and that pop is not “aimed at elites or dependent on any kind of knowledge or listening skill”. 

As the musical zeitgeist is inherently shaped by the discourse around it, the presentation of Frith’s sneering comments in such an “academic” context portrays opinion as fact. The apparent legitimacy of Frith and Lomas’ musical elitism against pop results in teenage girls feeling shitty for listening to music aimed at their demographic, and results in a reluctance to engage with the genre . That was at the root of my issue with pop. I didn’t hate being associated with teenage girls – I just hated what liking ‘teenage girl music’ supposedly said about my intellect. I wish I’d known all of this at age twelve and had just enjoyed the music free from internalised shame because, my god, does Boyfriend by Justin Bieber fucking slap.

Misogyny underpinning approaches to pop can conversely be seen when we look at what is regarded as ‘listenable’ pop – essentially when pop is reframed by male DJs and reviewers. For example, during my time at high school, putting on an ABBA track at a party was seen as desperately uncool and the boys would usually filter out the room, grumbling as they left. Yet, at FLY Open Air music festival in 2019, French House DJ Folamour mixed ABBA’s mega-kitsch banger Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) into his Boiler Room set, and the crowd went wild. Almost every comment under the viral Youtube video singles out ‘that ABBA moment’ and Folamour is viewed as a legend for reviving the track from its Mamma Mia mumsy reputation. I’m glad that people are recognizing the track for the banger that it is, but it’s funny seeing how edgy boys who were just too good for ABBA at our parties are now the ones telling me that I simply *have* to watch this iconic Boiler Room moment…

Equally, Charli XCX, mainstream pop queen in the early 2010s, has enjoyed a renaissance of cool after receiving a glowing review on her self-titled album Charli from internet music reviewer Anthony Fantano on his channel ‘The Needle Drop’. Charli was a super formative album for the current music scene and contributed to the sudden rise in popularity of the Hyperpop genre, and so fully deserved the (rare) 9 that Fantano gave her. Charli was therefore classed as acceptable, listenable pop by Fantano, and as a result, it’s not uncommon to see a Charli XCX track crop up the Spotify playlists of people who wouldn’t be seen dead listening to her contemporaries. Fantano is extremely knowledgeable about music and of course his opinion on music is entirely valid, but it gets a little tiring when Needle Drop fanboys only trust that pop music has value if it has received his stamp of approval. Pop requires reinvention by men such as Fantano and Folamour or years of distance from its female-dominated fanbase before it is acceptably listenable.

And no, I’m not claiming that people who don’t like pop are all raging misogynists. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and for some, pop just doesn’t do it for them. No worries at all. It’s just grating when self-touted Music Fans who are quick to tell you that they ‘listen to everything’, from hardstyle techno to Japanese ambient, sampling the most ear-splitting tracks to see if it’s to taste, will openly scoff at the idea that they might expand into the occasional pop song. If it’s fine for me to ask you for your opinion on the new Death Grips album – a band that even a DG fan like myself will admit makes music that sounds like three cavemen found a mixer and made a mixtape together – then it should be fine for me to ask your opinion on Ariana Grande’s new album. Elitism in the music community shouldn’t have reached the point where you can’t admit that you enjoy accessible music.

All I’m saying is, let’s see how Dua’s aptly named Future Nostalgia album, firmly lodged in both the UK Top 40 charts, and the hearts of teenage girls, becomes cool in ten years. Give modern pop a chance, especially if you enjoy a guilty sprinkling of Gwen, or J-Lo at a party. It’s time to stop letting your cool image get in the way of a good time. In fact, there’s literally nothing sicker than unashamedly listening to music that you think is fun, regardless of what anyone else thinks.  When we get down to it, the gals who listened to Britney Spears when her tunes were topping the charts, and loved her with all their hearts despite being told that they were uncool or dumb or vapid for being into her, were the true punks all along. You ladies really were the coolest.

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The Genre That Melted Into Air:

Vaporwave’s Unstable Ideology and the Politics of Art in the Digital Age

Sidney Franklyn

A video frame centres on a pair of hands, steadily working their way through a dozen or so parcels. One by one, the goodies inside are revealed: a pastel anime girl on a white long-sleeve top, swim shorts branded with the SEGA logo, a candle shaped like a disfigured Roman bust. Out of shot, a voice cuts in, explaining that all these items are available at Vapor95, the “go-to” online store for clothing and accessories themed around ‘vaporwave’, a retro internet microgenre built from looped fragments of 80s/90s pop and lounge music.

While the video fits into the ‘unboxing’ category of YouTube, it is essentially a thirteen minute advertisement for Vapor95: long tracking shots of the products displayed in high definition are spliced alongside footage of them being unwrapped. If it wasn’t already obvious that the video wants you to check out the website, the unboxing is put on hold so that Vapor95’s URL can flash up on the screen in big letters. “LINK TO SHOP IN DESCRIPTION BELOW!” is the accompanying message, which the voice dutifully reads aloud.

Written in similarly arresting all-caps is the video’s misleading title: ‘SPENDING $300 ON VAPORWAVE STUFF’. ‘Pad Chennington’ (the username of the video’s author and owner of the aforementioned hands) hasn’t actually spent anything on these items. He puts it euphemistically as having “the opportunity to drop three hundred bucks” — they’re freebies gifted by Vapor95 with the understanding that his endorsement will attract customers from his 70,000-strong subscriber base. Referring to himself as the “vaporwave valedictorian”, Pad has amassed this impressive following over several years by uploading more than a hundred videos dedicated to discussions of the genre.

Unboxings aren’t a staple of my online viewing diet (there’s something uneasy about advertising that masquerades as entertainment) and while this one was undoubtedly a little heavy on the product placement, the format wasn’t exceptional. Businesses like Vapor95 hand out giveaways to popular content creators all the time under this model, and given YouTube’s volatile terms of service, brand deals have become a fact of life for those wanting to earn a living from the site. What caught my eye, is that a self-proclaimed expert hadn’t spotted any irony in commodifying a genre so commonly hailed as a consumerist critique.


At what point does a subculture die? That’s the question I’m asking myself as I sit, staring blankly at the screen. Since they emerge as diversions from the dominant culture, their assimilation into the corporate mainstream has historically functioned as their death knell. When Crass released ‘Punk Is Dead’ in ’78, Steve Ignorant sang: “Yes that’s right, punk is dead / It’s just another cheap product for the consumers’ head”. Commodification of a subculture and subcultural death go hand in hand; you need to be selling something in order to be a sellout.

Commodification in the name of mass appeal is not quite what I’m watching here, however. As successful as Pad’s YouTube channel is within the vaporwave community, it’s still niche. In the decade since it was first amalgamated from the anonymous bowels of the internet, vaporwave has continually flirted with the mainstream without ever quite going pop. Even if the name is unfamiliar, you’ll likely recognise its accompanying artwork from the several instances it has bubbled up to pop culture’s surface. Mic once described The Life Of Pablo’s album cover as having a “brutally simple vaporwave aesthetic”, whilst its influence elsewhere has been seen in the net-art behind Rihanna’s SNL performance of ‘Diamonds‘, the neon glow of Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling‘ music video, and the clunky computer graphics of MTV and Tumblr’s 2015 rebrandings.

Vaporwave’s visual style was ripe for reintegration back into our collective consciousness since it was from those recesses that it had originally taken its inspiration. Like the consumer iconography it calls back to, vaporwave art is at once both omnivorous and unmistakable; corporate detritus left over from last century is reconstructed into heady collages of 3-D rendered imagery, obsolete electronic hardware, and looming cityscapes, with releases credited to fictitious conglomerates such as Saint Pepsi, New Dreams Ltd., and Luxury Elite. This hallucinatory mix of pixelated vistas, classical statues, and Japanese script might seem eclectic in isolation, but their relative consistency across releases (tied together by a trademark purple colour palette) ensures that there is a method to the madness.

The cassette cover for Macintosh Plus’ Floral Shoppe, released 2011

Defining vaporwave’s sound is a little trickier. In the summer of 2010, Daniel Lopatin’s Eccojams Vol. 1 provided an initial template; vocal snippets from 80s pop were chopped and screwed into woozy, club non-anthems that induced you into a trance as often as they jolted you out of one. By imperfectly replicating songs of the past, Eccojams’ sonic and temporal indeterminacy left fertile ground for reinterpretation, and it wasn’t long before distinct variants started cropping up. French house, ambient, nu-disco, and trap have all found themselves subsumed into its amorphous production, and while vaporwave is often mistakenly credited as being the first entirely internet-based music genre, perhaps it’s a result of this malleability that it became the first to survive its teething period….

…Though not without its hitches. Unlike vaporwave’s now-defunct predecessors, such as ‘seapunk’ and ‘witch house’, checking for vaporwave’s vital signs proves not so clear cut since undergoing deaths and rebirths has become the signature feature of its short lifetime. In the ruthless arena of internet culture, where desperately short attention spans redefine zeitgeists as quickly as they define them, chronicling the exact dates of these demises can feel a little like drawing a line in quicksand.

The morbid slogan ‘vaporwave is dead’ first appeared in mid-2013 after pioneering artist Ramona Xavier announced what appeared to be her retirement from the genre. Antithetical to its message however, the intrigue behind the statement’s stark cynicism helped draw attention from outside the forums on Reddit and Last.fm that vaporwave had previously been confined to. In a tongue-in-cheek effort to ‘kill off’ the genre’s stagnating sound, prominent artist David Russo anonymously released Vaporwave Is Dead at the end of 2015, though in similar fashion to Xavier’s announcement, the album’s ominous title only piqued further interest. According to data from Google, it would take another year before web searches for the term ‘vaporwave’ started to decline.

The cassette cover for World Class’ Luxury Elite, released 2015.

Vaporwave is far from the first music genre to come attached to a ‘poseur’ discourse. But the extent that its community was fixated on invalidating its own existence — making ‘vaporwave is dead’ the genre’s default status — perhaps is owed to its anti-commercial associations.

Of all the ways we imagined The Communist Manifesto might persist in its cultural reach over the previous decade, what surely must be the most bizarre manifestation was its role in creating a folk etymology for a net-era music genre. Writing for Dummy in June 2012 during genre’s formative throes, Adam Harper pointed out that alongside its verbal similarity to ‘vapor-ware’ (advertised products designed to raise brand awareness without ever making it to market), the word ‘vaporwave’ was reminiscent of bourgeois capitalism’s ever-changing social conditions as described by Marx.

Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones”, Marx wrote, “all that is solid melts into air”. Since demand for innovation in consumer goods is constant, so too is innovation in the production of those goods. This constant innovation destabilises the role of the industrial class, resulting in an uncertainty that ultimately hinders social mobility. The relevance to vaporwave, whose artwork unapologetically glamourised finance-sector skylines and the futures they promised in digital ephemera, was hardly out of place.

Harper wasn’t the first to see a satirical slant to the corporate muzak much of the genre sampled, nor was this his only interpretation. As easily as he called early vaporwave pioneers “sarcastic anti-capitalists revealing the lies and slippages of modern techno-culture”, so too were they the “willing facilitators” of said culture. But here an irresistible narrative began to take hold: a plucky band of bedroom-based producers united not by geographical convenience, but solely through their unwavering political idealism, were taking on global capitalism one free-to-download release at a time. Despite Harper’s insistence on vaporwave’s conflicting doctrines, in the space of a few lines an anti-capitalist reading had been codified into the genre’s definitive raison d’être.

Any hesitation over just how committed these musicians really were quickly became overshadowed by a vision of DIY digital punks. Harper’s fingerprints appear all over subsequent writing. In a feature on the neo-nazi subgenre ‘fashwave’ (‘fascism’ + ‘vaporwave’), Mic contributor Jack Smith IV recycled the same Marx quote, claiming that “many believe this is the origin of the term”. Less than eighteen months after Harper’s initial Dummy piece, Michelle Lhooq turned Harper’s retroactively-made ‘vaporwave/vaporware’ observation into canonical history, stating in a comment for VICE that the name was “a spoof of the term ‘vaporware’” (in reality, ‘vaporwave’ stuck after it was picked out by artist Robin Burnett from a cluster of Last.fm tags as the music evoked “fogged-out environments”). For Lhooq, vaporwave was unequivocally “punk” in that it was “driven by a subversive political objective: undermining the iron grip of global capitalism”. Her sentiment finds a spiritual successor in a 2016 Esquire article, in which we’re told that although vaporwave “might mimic the aesthetics of capitalism … it has more in common with punk. It’s political”.

rihanna.png
A still taken from Rihanna’s SNL performance of ‘Diamonds’, broadcast 2012.

Seen through these eyes, vaporwave ‘lived’ so long as there were artists to take aim at capitalist behemoths and listeners hungry for their dogma. Vaporwave’s online gatekeepers pronounced the genre ‘dead’ as soon as Rihanna reappropriated its aesthetics for her SNL ‘Diamonds’ performance in late 2012, but in truth, it’s not mainstream exposure alone that kills a subculture. Tempting though it may be to attribute the death of a subculture to a single watershed moment, efforts by big brands to capitalise on their burgeoning popularity are inevitable. A subculture dies when the very values that set it apart are compromised by its own community.

Determining their exact time of death proves impossible to pin down precisely because subcultures die when no-one is looking. Over-exposed under the public spotlight, it’s only a matter of time before ideological decay sets in. Recognisable features remain, but without the legitimacy of being an underground movement, their previous urgency wanes taking external interest with it. Wasting away, they slowly cross the threshold of collective memory. By the time someone remembers to check in on them, they find little more than a hollow copy. The final nail in a subculture’s coffin doesn’t come via a corporate buyout; you’ll know it’s dead when it’s rotting from the inside.


Holding a bandana up to the camera, Pad tells us he doesn’t ever plan on wearing it, he just wanted “one of everything … a taste of every little thing”. In his unboxing video’s sequel (in which the ante is upped to $500) we’re shown a sweatshirt with a vaporwave album cover printed in black and white. The original art is an eye-watering assault of cyan and hot pink, and Pad understandably prefers this monochrome version: “I don’t think I could ever see myself like seriously going out and wearing the actual Macintosh Plus album cover”. Except the next item he unwraps is an identical sweatshirt printed in the colours he just said he’d never go out in.

His reasoning? “I saw this on the site too and I said ‘why not pick one of these up’”, Pad admits, before unwrapping a t-shirt, some sweatpants, and a hoodie all with the same vibrant colour scheme, none of which it is clear he will ever put on. Under this business model, he’s been put in the strange position of selecting items based on a predetermined number value rather than by their use to him. Kanji lettering on a baseball cap is dismissed as “Japanese characters or Chinese characters, I’m not really sure” and we’re mistakenly told the female bust is “definitely a helios statue”, but should we really be surprised Pad isn’t bothered by details when half the reason he owns these products is so that they can be used to sell more products?

Dig a little deeper and discerning Pad’s position on commodifying vaporwave turns into its own rabbit hole. Throughout his video introduction to ‘mallsoft’ (a vaporwave subgenre named for its recreation of ambient sounds in shopping centres) released about a year before the unboxing, Pad envisions for us a stereotypical ’80s American mall. Emblazoned across a video montage of bustling escalators is the word ‘hyperconsumerism’, as Pad’s narration guides us through a vast imagined structure, its pristine walls gently echoing the sprinkle of faraway fountains, the air scented with cinnamon buns and buttery pretzels. Don’t be fooled by this consumerist honey-trap, “the persuading store displays” are fit to burst with an “over-abundance of goods we all thought we needed”.

Cover art for 猫 シ Corp.’s, Palm Mall, released 2015.

The lilt in Pad’s voice seems to disapprove of the false value placed in commodities and the unsavoury methods used by corporate advertising, and what’s worse is that it sounds like we still live under these conditions, though “nowadays this experience has basically been distilled into a more practical form” with the internet. The transition from real to virtual plaza is seamless; a theory as to why vaporwave artists are so drawn to the aesthetics of 80s artifacts is that the consumer culture of Reagan’s America mirrors our contemporary obsession with the newest handheld technology. Yet even as he acknowledges this, Pad can’t help but find himself longing for “the grand exposure these commercial structures exuberated”. With an enticing pile of objects strewn around him, he is the persuading store display.

How does Pad reconcile this? “Vaporwave is consumerism to the fullest degree, and it is also anti-consumerism to the fullest degree”, he writes back when I ask him this question, “it all depends on how you want it to be for that moment in time”. To Pad, political themes in vaporwave aren’t a means to provide social commentary, they’re an aesthetic choice. “It’s fun to re-imagine and romanticise subjects like consumerism [and] extreme corporatism”, he elaborates, since their troubling economic implications don’t belong to the drudgery of our own world but a hyperreal dystopia. The listener is taken on a “complete trip to a setting”, protected from the harsh realities of labour exploitation, drastic wealth inequality, and monopolised markets by a stylised veil of fantasy escapism.

His response might seem frustratingly elusive, but Pad’s political apathy is the rule, not the exception. Last summer saw him make a guest DJ appearance at the first vaporwave music festival ‘100% ElectroniCON’, named after host George Clanton’s label 100% Electronica. Covering the event for Document, Nick Fulton thought it “a little ironic” that fans were encouraged to don their 100% Electronica-branded gear given the genre’s public romance with anti-consumerism. But when he puts this to Clanton, the notion is unceremoniously shut down. Clanton accuses “book-learning types” of commenting on vaporwave’s relationship to consumerism as merely a way to make “some of the more boring artists of the genre more interesting”, whilst for him and “the majority of listeners, it’s about the sound and the feeling”. He’s definitely right about that last part; if you were expecting the comment section under Pad’s unboxing video to have their teeth bared, think again. The closest they come to outrage is disaffected sarcasm, typed in the spaced out capitals typical of vaporwave art:

???????????????????????????????????????????? ???????? ???????? ???????????????????????? ????????????????????????????


Is this, then, what a dead subculture looks like: ideological core sloughed away, plastered over with a price tag? Underground music history would tell us as much; the merchandising of ‘cool’ relies on radical art movements being sterilised of their divisive politics, thus making them palatable for mainstream audiences. This template for assessing cultural history relies on the assumption that there is a distinct radical agenda to co-opt. But as a product of the web’s erratic cultural diaspora, vaporwave was never singular in its intentions.

Returning to Harper’s article for Dummy, the cracks in the genre’s fractured identity had always been showing. Later writers would come to mythologise Harper’s Marxist references to the point of being the genre’s ideological bedrock, but a quick glance up the page would have told you these speculations at vaporwave’s anti-corporate beginnings belonged to one of several contrasting interpretations. Frustrated with half-remembered versions of his ideas being regurgitated online, Harper took to his Tumblrwith a list titled ‘10 popular misconceptions about my original vaporwave article’. Numbers four and five read: “It said vaporwave was anti-capitalist”/“It said vaporwave was pro-capitalist”.

Harper had posited a tension between producers railing against late-stage capitalism’s systemic pitfalls and those “shivering with delight” at the prospect of societal decline. But under closer scrutiny, one of his article’s two interviewees refuses to fit comfortably into even these two categories, resembling something closer to a total disengagement from any political discourse than a “willing facilitator”. The first, Robin Burnett, was correctly identified as a “staunch anti-capitalist”, explicit that their repurposed corporate training video instrumentals reflected concerns with the idolisation of commodities. Curiously however, when Harper asked Ramona Xavier about the political implications of the corporate stock music she sampled, her answer was enigmatically ambivalent. She conceded her production technique was “sarcastic”, though the work itself was emphatically “sincere”. The “most effective social commentary”, she concluded, “is the one without dialogue”. She might not revel in the consumer culture Burnett was so preoccupied with resisting, but neither is she wholly opposed to it; Macintosh Plus, the artist whose album cover appeared branded on the merchandise in Pad Chennington’s $500 video, is one of Xavier’s many aliases.

Promotional material for 100% ElectroniCON Festival.

It’s hard to imagine “staunch anti-capitalist” Robin Burnett having their own line of branded clothing, though to call Xavier a ‘pro-capitalist’ implies her work is self-consciously political, something to which she herself gives little indication.

Regardless of where Xavier sits on this spectrum, the similarity between some of her releases and Burnett’s, despite their ideological gulf, reveals a broader potential for the political intentions of vaporwave producers to be misread. Take this review of James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual from late-2011, in which writer Brandon Soderberg looks at moments of hesitation in the album’s relentlessly peppy mood as evidence Ferraro is “subtly unveiling the horrors behind music”. Soderberg begins with Ferraro “star[ing] down at our contemporary world of the future … with an equal sense of dread and awe”, yet when Ferraro himself was asked by Harper a few months prior whether we should be afraid of the future, his response was more intrigued than fearful:

I’m at a coffee shop, co-oping in the shared pleasantness of other MacBook users via our united wi-fi provider. This safety zone is a glimpse into the future, a look into a small group of espresso drinkers who believe in a digital Utopia. We have crocs on, Alpha Generational babies in slick ethno slings. Human-like domesticated pets. Eco-friendly plastic cups. These people represent a determinism that is informed by commodities. But there is room to dream somehow. I definitely don’t fear them. I’m applauding them.

In his observation that the songs on Far Side Virtual sound “exactly the same as what they’re ostensibly parodying”, Soderberg inadvertently calls attention to the ease with which irony on the internet is either misidentified or just plain missed. Untethered to a physical scene and distributed in an environment saturated with (mis)information, it seems inevitable that whatever sarcastic political nuance there had been to certain early vaporwave releases was lost almost as soon as it crossed the digital plane. Its easily replicable and recognisable aesthetic meanwhile endures.

Does Harper agree with this theory? In part. “It wasn’t necessarily the internet that does this”, he tells me over Skype, “although I would say the internet increases the speed”.  Harper points to vaporwave’s “inherent anonymousness” as to why it was so vulnerable to becoming decontextualised. Released by artists with oblique pseudonyms, exclusively as digital media devoid of intelligible lyrics or liner notes, “these albums just float around the internet”. He likens them to “a ship in a bottle”, floating its way into a new pair of hands halfway across the world. He’s right of course; even in cases where a producer’s intentions were politically radical, the subtle messaging in the ironic use of corporate aesthetics ensured that whether vaporwave was seen as “a cool-retro style” or a “complex commentary” was dependent on the listener.

But while there always exists potential for irony to be misconstrued, the internet allows for such a total separation between art and its context that irony becomes almost impossible to identify.

Vaporwave continues to be such an intriguing blueprint for the reception of net-era genres, because the internet provided both a platform for its anonymity and the instant proliferation necessary to destabilise its identity. Vaporwave doesn’t fit into a typical model of a radical art movement repossessed by the corporate mainstream, because the emerging gap between critical and fan-led discourse brought about by the internet has forced us to reassess what it means for a subculture to be considered ‘dead’. Vaporwave’s misinterpretations and divergent ideologies are perhaps a portent of things to come. When we have provided ourselves with a space to construct digital personas independent of a single identity, why should we expect our digitally-constructed music genres to be any more cohesive?

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Texture Tape 036:

Georgie McVicar

Assembled by Georgie McVicar, Texture Tape 036 is a kaleidoscopic journey as refractive as their new album – the quietly stunning Tiny Grassland. The mix weaves a sea of samples and instrumentation into a blanket of many threads, a patchwork quilt of influences and musings. It’s a fitting accompaniment to the album and it’s adjacent book, both out now via Mutualism – get comfy and dig in.


Who is Georgie McVicar?

Musician, writer, customer service advisor, Boudica impersonator.  

Tell us about the inspirations and themes behind the mix – how does it relate to Tiny Grassland?

This was a tricky one to make because I was trying my best to include as much influence and inspiration for Tiny Grassland as I could. It features some film soundtracks, prayers, sound effects, organ drones, poems, and some repetitive electronic stuff. It’s a bit of a patchwork quilt but I hope you can trace the threads within it!

What were you listening to and reading whilst making the album?

The album took 3 years to make – so I’ve been through a lot in that time! Big shout outs to: John Coltrane, Anna Meredith, Iannis Xenakis, Klara Lewis, Actress, Laurel Halo, peb, Bach, Virginia Woolf, Gribs, object blue, John Milton, Laraaji, Ann Annie, Tara Rodgers, Beyonce, Günter Grass, AJA, Mozart, The Knife, Karin Bijsterveld, Tony Conrad, Cocteau Twins, James Joyce, Richard Dawson, Wolfgang Voigt, Machine Woman, Erik Satie, Stereolab, Alan Partridge, Joanna Brouk, AYA, Thomas Köner, Aircode, Virgil, Laurie Anderson, Ellen Arkbro, Penderecki, Okkyung Lee, Mark Fell, Anthony Braxton, Harold Budd, Thomas Mann, and Lotic.

Tiny Grassland explores the voices and internal dialogues that reading produces, nestled amongst intricately assembled soundscapes. How might the messages and ideas of the book and music develop in separation from each other?

Yeah it’s an interesting one. The album was about 80% done when I started writing the book, but I got a bit carried away and began retrospectively adjusting things in the album to align more closely to the accompanying literature. I would even go so far to say that this process of triangulation compromised the music in some ways, but I really wanted the two things to tell the same story through different modalities, if that makes sense? I like the line in Emile’s introduction about allowing the two to feed off one another, that’s a good way to approach it I think. 

Have you found that the music aligns with other pieces of text or indeed that the book works in concert with other pieces of music?

Interesting thought! There are a lot of literary allusions in the music, and a lot of musical allusions in the text. In the book, there’s even an ekphrastic poem written by Laurel Uziell about one of the tracks. I do like the idea that the book lends itself to further listening beyond the album, to the many other musicians mentioned in the text. If you’re anything like me when you read, those reference points will encourage pauses in reading to make room for YouTube rabbit-holes. In a way, a lot of the music was also written with certain texts in mind: litanies, catechisms, prose poems, plays and so on, but I don’t know if the music has the same cross-pollination into literature. 

How does physical media intersect with your experience of music, both in composition and consumption?

This album was a bit unusual for me in that it’s based on some recordings I made at Stockholm’s EMS studios, and particularly on their massive Buchla synthesiser. I recorded probably about 80 hours of music there but most of it was just bleepy bloopy nonsense. Tiny Grassland is the cherry picked bounty of what I recorded there. Beyond that, physicality in music doesn’t play a big part of music for me. I have lots of physical relics from music, like old equipment, instruments, controllers, turntables, cassette players, and other stuff. But I’m quite a lazy person and I usually can’t be bothered to set it up in order to start writing or listening. Most of the ‘physical technology’ on the album is not musical, but there are a lot of household appliances which operate as set design for the ‘rooms’ featured along the album’s narrative. I’m particularly fond of the kettle recording I made for the end of the first track. That’s one of the my favourite bits on the whole album. 

Do you find it easier to convey ideas through words or sounds?

I’m a lot more experienced in using sound as a medium and writing is a little newer for me (especially in the creative sense). So I do feel more confident in using sounds to express ideas. There’s tonnes of enigmas and puzzles in the music which are usually the reserve of literature. I had great fun trying to incorporate scenes, characters, symbolism, jokes, metaphors, cliffhangers and stuff within the music. For me it’s just a way of trying to capture more within the medium, and using novel techniques to create new sounds. Tom Nolan once said that Brian Wilson shifted his focus to film in the 60s because, “if you couldn’t get a sound from a carrot, you could show a carrot. But he would really liked to have made music that was a carrot.” I fully endorse this approach.

Listening to the music and reading to the book simultaneously really reminded me of the near-overload of the video piece “Felt Tip” by Elizabeth Price. It feels natural but equally, as expressed in your writings, synthesised. A balm for endless recordings of water trickling and birds whistling that clog our digital arteries. I’m wondering if the process of creating the album and book changed your perception or attitudes towards the division between the natural and the constructed.

In a way yeah, if only in that it made the line between natural and constructed even fuzzier than before! For a while, I got super interested in the prevalence of artificial nature soundscapes online. The kind of audio that is made for relaxing and falling asleep etc. I think people today are really stressed about their disorderly lives, and about the impending environmental catastrophe. They feel in need of a kind of deep calm and tranquility, and the audio of waterfalls or sand-raking are a kind of short-term solution to that. So the promise these constructed sounds offer of a luscious natural world (albeit an artificial one) is as a kind of antidote to these anxieties. I hope this album can also offer some help or refuge from those anxieties (or even better, a motivation to overcome them!)

Your influences bubble through to the surface at times but it can be hard to separate the myth from the fiction from the reality – if they are even intended to be separated! I’m curious how you feel releasing music and conducting interviews across digital spaces and how you feel that influences or frames the work that you create.

I’m always quite hesitant about interview answers because there’s no fun in being told how to understand something. To be honest, all of the resonant interpretations of the album/book so far have come from other people, who are much smarter than me. The process of writing is so often a messy and incoherent process. I usually find that the themes and concepts only begin to crystallise as the process of writing is nearing its end. So please don’t take my explications too seriously – take what you will from it, your thoughts are probably more coherent.

I’m really interested in your relationship to technology, and utilisation of synthesis to try and probe or provoke more critical approaches to its utilisation in music. What sort of future does Tiny Grassland envisage, and what role might technology play in the sonic spaces of the future?

I guess more than any other genre, it seems as though electronic music has been consistently spawned out of new technological innovations. There are whole genres that have come out of the drum machine, amplification methods, DAWs, sequencers and so on. So if you track the history of electronic music, it seems like the significant cultural changes seem to occur at points where significant developments in technology also occur. I think this close relationship to technology can sometimes lead to quite an uncritical admiration of tech, and its relationship to work, politics, society, and the environment. I get pretty irritated by the lack of political commitments made by contemporary electronic musicians who obsess over technology. It seems like so much electronic music these days wants to present our current situation in an exaggerated worst-case techno-dystopian scenario. But is that the extent of the comment? ‘What if the world was the same, but worse?’ I really believe technology and capital will continue to infiltrate our lives in ways that are far from positive, and I don’t think uncritically submerging them into our music is a good idea. Call me old fashioned but I want something more. I want a way out.

On a similar note, your discussions of the music as mutable, unfinished really reminded me of some reading I’d done for an essay about afrofuturism and the need for a human component of a listener or dancer as part of the core of electronic music. It’s an attitude Kodwo Eshun communicates really well. Does Tiny Grassland need an audible footprint, or a listener, in physical space? Also, does it ever move you? How?

Interesting! I do have a habit of overthinking music and other stuff that I make, so in a way I will always consider things I do as unfinished. I think at a certain stage in the process you have to accept it for what it is, warts and all. I’m definitely very against the hyper-competency of a lot of computer music and much prefer sound that is fallible and broken in some way. Some of my favourite albums, films, and books are complete sprawling shambles and I love them for that. There’s so much in Tiny Grassland I would change if I had the chance, but maybe those errors can act as their own portals of discovery.

The book moves between the minutely personal and the densely abstract. Are myths more alive than ever before? How do we recognise them?

Well, as peb writes in the book, “self-mythologising is fun”. I think so long as you’re doing it with fun in mind, and not in some grandiose in-the-stars kind of way, then I’m all for more mythology. Mythologies that take themselves seriously have no resonance with me – but I don’t mind a bit of good old-fashioned world-building. I just hope the book, and the mythology within it, helps to provide some more shape and colour to the music. I wrote it for fun, not as a textbook.

What is your favourite noise?

Never underestimate the smack of a perfectly executed high five.

Is there a show you would love to go back in time and experience again?

I once saw Animal Collective play an acoustic set of the entirety of ‘Sung Tongs’, including bits from the Vashti Bunyan EP! But I found I didn’t get a job I wanted that day, so I wouldn’t mind watching that again in a better mood.

A track you’ve always wanted to play out or perform but never had the chance?

I’ve been trying for years to learn the Frog Galliard. One day.

A track that never fails to make you dance?

I’m dancing to Oli XL’s ‘Ribbon Bone [Silk Chaser]’ as I write this.

Your favourite club or venue?

I’ve had some really nice pints in the Pride of Spitalfields.

The soundtrack to your funeral?

Vindaloo.

And on a lighter note, the tune you’ll still be listening to in 50 years?

Happy Birthday.

Lastly, any upcoming projects or gigs we can look out for?

I have 3 records coming out of some super repetitive electronic stuff, which I’m mega excited about!! The first should be out before the end of the year.

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Texture Tape 035:

Mistareez

Texture Tape 035 has been brought to life by ANE label head Mistareez. A distinguished producer in his own right, the mix covers the spectrum of contemporary ambient sounds, from dusty to dubby, spliced vocals to supple warmth. Drawing on a trove of mystery trax and personal influences, this one comes straight from the source. It’s the sound of a cozy day in or a hazy morning after. You decide.


Tell us about ANE! What is the philosophy behind the label/show?

So ANE started as a residency on the Bristol radio station Noods and was a vehicle to showcase the less functional music I was exploring whilst part of a couple of club collectives. After a while I wanted to be able to use it as a platform for artists to be able to explore experimental and beatless work.

Has your approach to the music you listen and play changed with the pandemic?

​It’s become even slower I suppose but the lack of clubs has had me turning my living room into a nightclub for one on occasion. I’m desperate to dance with my friends again soon.

And similarly, have you noticed any particular changes in the way you produce and record music?

I think having less distractions from outside sources has exposed me to new levels of existentialism at times. I’m starting way more than I finish but every day is a chance to experiment and I’m learning more and more rn.

ANE’s latest release was accompanied by a limited edition floppy disc run (adore this). What role does physical media play in your relationship to music?

My personal music consumption is almost entirely digital. It’s likely that one day I’ll be building a personal physical collection but at present it suits me to be able to plunder the depths of the online and fit it all my 320s on hard drives and my phone. The floppy project was Crosspolar’s baby but I jumped at the chance to help make it happen. My thoughts were that through the use of recycled disks we were playing about with the tropes and pitfalls in the industry surrounding environmentally unfriendly distro methods, obsolete formats and snobbery. Solidifying a release in a physical format is always a special thing.

And what’s it like releasing on an old-fashioned medium when so much of our listening is digitised and streamlined?

People were crazy enough to buy them all so we must’ve done something right! The files are crushed to shit to get them on such old formats so I really hope some kid out there has had the facilities to give them a listen. Perhaps I’m doubting what old gear people have on them though. I suppose old fashioned mediums still represent an attachment to a type of authenticity in a lot of music circles and some people will have more of a sense of humour than others. We just wanted a chance to experiment and play around though which harks back to why I wanted to do ANE as a platform in the first place. More physicals soon too…

As a producer how do you approach creating a distinct sound within a genre that often tries to be so nondescript?

I have a few methods and techniques that I stick to when working on my beatless tracks but in hindsight I don’t think I’ve really displayed them in my music that is currently available to buy. This ambient new wave is really exciting to me though as there’s a relative anything goes ethos combined with an obfuscation of identity online that drew me away from the egos I’d encounter in club music spaces.

I’m currently going through a phase of applying flangers to everything in efforts to make everything airy af! My production approach is through sound collage mostly. I don’t have the patience for too much synthesis and much prefer processing artefacts until they sound like they’ve had acid poured on them. I guess conceptually my main focus is on trying to create intimate otherworldliness. I’m sitting on a load of slippery music that I’m excited to share in the future.

Onto the mix! It’s luscious, soft, textural, and although I’m hesitant to label anything ‘ambient’ it certainly can be a useful descriptor. What role has ambient music played for you in the past few months?

It’s a ballast for me tbh, I find it super grounding but also like a dissociative. It can be heavier than a lot of dance music at times so can still give me weird screwface moments lol but I think a lot of the calming moments have aided me throughout the last year or so especially. Woozy and disorientating stuff is a good reflection of my general state of mind too.

What were your ideas or plans approaching the mix?

I wanted to give the best example of what ambient is to me at the moment. I always like to keep it as textural (buzzy but thicc) as possible so the listener can decide for themselves how much they’d like to dive in or use it to compliment surroundings. There’s some unreleased bits from myself and friends in there alongside some of my biggest inspirations in the online ambi scene.

What have been your favourite releases and events?

The recent Exael on Soda Gong has been on repeat recently and TIBSLC is doing a lot for me atm too. The events I miss the most are probably the b2b2b2b2bs I used to be part of in smaller venues in Bristol. There’s so much foundational stuff going on in the city that it’d be hard to pinpoint which events I attended as a punter had the most impact on me. The grassroots scene here is really something special and I just hope our spaces can remain relatively untouched by the developers who have already taken numerous scalps in capital’s war on nightlife

Is there a show/event you’d love to go back in time and experience (again)?

Literally any club night at this point.

How do you organise your music?

I think if someone looked at how I “arrange” my files they would enact some kind of intervention. I tend to have an act now, think later approach when I’m trying to reach a flow state and I’ve lost a fair few tracks to the curse of indecipherable project names.

What’s a track you’ve always wanted to play out but never had the chance?

Peverelist – Roll with the Punches

Your dancefloor saver?

Le Dom – Le Tom

The soundtrack to your funeral?

Hard trance chopped and screwed.

And on a lighter note, the tune you’ll still be listening to in 50 years?

Gang Of Four – Damaged Goods

Finally! What’s next for ANE/Mistareez? Any exciting projects we should keep an eye out for?

TT’s Crosstalk EP is out at the end of the month on digi & limited cassette!

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Texture Tape 034:

FYI Chris

Our next instalment of the Texture Tapes series comes courtesy of South London-based duo FYI Chris, whose eagerly anticipated debut album Earth Scum arrives on 5th March via Black Acre Records. They’ve already shared a handful of head-turning teasers from the album, including ‘Scum of the Earth’, a belter of a track which layers Thick Richard’s gnarly poetry over bruising broken beats.

The pair’s tape is an assortment of swirling jams, each track a trip down a new twisting corridor towards something weird and wonderful at the other end. Perfect listening material for floating round on a hazy Sunday afternoon.


You’ve said that ‘Scum of the Earth’ was a way of “tying in two real inspirations of ours in one song”. Tell us a bit more about those inspirations and how they’ve made their way into the track.

Watson: Matt (Thick Richard) is an uncle of mine, so he’s been showing me music and films since I was twelve or something, he originally did Scum of the earth beaned up in Corsica studio years ago, and Corsica is an inspirational/foundational place for both of us too (Coupe used to work at Corsica) so that tune is tied to people and places that have shaped us musically in some ways.

​The video for ‘Scum of the Earth’ is nuts. What’s the story behind it/the story in the video itself?

It was footage of Matt in Manchester that was filmed by Danny and Jacob, which we got our good pal Dil Patel to do his thing to. After his trilogy of datamoshed videos for us on Rhythm Section, we had to get him back for one on the album. We’ve always buzzed off what he comes back with, this one is probably our favourite of the lot too.

What can we expect from the mood of the upcoming album?

Moodwise I think it’s a mixture of mild paranoia and optimistic hedonism.

How has the process of making Earth Scum compared to your approach to some of your other releases?

Largely similar really, a continuation of what we’ve always done – just over a longer time period. We’ve always really just got to four tunes and thought ok, let’s do something with those. Being asked to do an album was maybe the only way we were gonna do it. After that it was just like always, jamming with mates, and going back and forth between tunes and ideas. We did a lot more stuff with vocals than usual and got to visit a few more studios which is always nice.

You’ve mentioned how Earth Scum is an album that’s tightly connected to the people and experiences you associate with South London and the North. How have you found the process of drawing together these memories and influences from two different places?

It’s more just through the people who helped work on the album that gives it that vibe more than anything, we weren’t trying to say much – geographically speaking. Some of the tunes definitely speak on stuff that applies pretty universally.

What were your ideas or plans going into the mix?

It was recorded as two parts separately due to lockdown. We both treated it like a bit of a chance to have a tea and go through some of our listening records. Bits we wouldn’t pack with us for a gig usually. It’s a bit melancholy at points but these are things we like to put on when we are chilling or cooking.

What have been your favourite recent releases?​

Everything Silvestre has been releasing has been golden recently. Likewise, with the Local Action crew and sub labels. Al Wootton has been relentless. Naïve records also amazing.

Keep listening to Stockport artist K.S. Eden – Passed Beyond (on Belgian label Stroom), proper magical stuff.

Have your listening habits changed since the pandemic started and clubs and venues have closed? Are there any styles you’ve been listening to more or less?

Coupe: I have been listening to a lot more albums and radio than I think I would have before. A recent fave is going through archive shows of Gary the Tall’s “The Reign Set” on NTS Radio.

What’s the music scene like where you’re from?

W: Between Manchester and Stoke pretty much everyone has a mum dad, uncle or whatever who went to all-nighters, northern soul onward basically, so there were always people willing to let us put speakers in a pub, or bar and put gigs on, bands and djs a lot of the time. Some real messy ones. Good early practice.

C: Growing up around Whitby it was mostly folk and pub stuff I was exposed to live. I still listen to some of the local bands from Aldershot area when I lived near there. Bands like Shield Your Eyes and Sly and the Family Drone. Well worth checking out! There was a great venue called the West End Centre.

Your dancefloor saver?

W: Marlon D – Jesus Creates the Sound 

C: Jammin’ Gerald – Pass It To The Homie

Is there a show you would love to go back in time and experience again?

Sabbath in Hyde Park maybe. We got tickets for a fiver! Couldn’t fuckin believe it.

How do you organise your music?

W: Pretty chaotically.

C: Yea there isn’t really a system atm. I moved about 6 months ago and my records are a jumble. I found a few old favourites for this mix while having a look through forgotten piles of records last week.

A track you’ve always wanted to play out but never had the chance?

W: Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak (I probably have tbh)

C: RSD – Pretty Bright Lights

Your favourite club?

W: Sankeys, before they re-did room one, there or rye wax

C: I will forever have a very soft spot for Corsica Studios.

What’s the song you’re most looking forward to playing when clubs reopen?

W: Probably X by Scratchclart. 

C: Davina – Don’t You Want It. I’ve thought about which tune I would love to hear in the club when we next get the chance. I think If I heard this on a system/dancefloor I might cry.

The soundtrack to your funeral?

C: Awesome 3 – Don’t Go

W: The Gonk

And on a lighter note, the tune you’ll still be listening to in 50 years?

Loefah – Horror Show

Calibre.

Lastly, any upcoming projects we should keen an eye out for?

We’re always working on new music. No plans but maybe soon. Radio on balamii is second Wednesday of the month 7-9GMT say hi in the chat room if u want! Thanks a lot x


Earth Scum is out 5th March via Black Acre Records and can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp.

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