I spent yesterday afternoon at Maker Faire volunteering at the Tesseract Design booth, where I was lucky enough to watch Crawford 3D scanning people and then printing out little plastic busts of them. Talk about a New Aesthetic experience. I also got to see a a real-life Flintstones car and a bunch of Tesla coils.
Spending today recovering from too much heat and not enough water, and catching up on some reading.
“The current struggle for Scottish independence has about as much to do with the events depicted in Braveheart as America’s ongoing racial struggles have to do with the events depicted in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” writes Amanda Taub for Vox. In fact, the movie is outrageously historically inaccurate even by Hollywood standards. Fortunately, Taub also wrote a nice ‘splainer on the whole situation. Meanwhile, Quinn Norton puts it in context with other contemporary independence movements.
Elsewhere in hypothetical geopolitics: if Reddit were a country it would be a failed state.
And for a taste of something completely different, how about the Islamic roots of science fiction?
After binging through the entire new season of Trailer Park Boys, we just started the latest season of Channel 4’s Utopia which as I’ve mentioned was one of my favorite shows of last year.
Continuing the fequent Mutation Vectors motif of me finding out that one of my favorite bands has a new album out months after the fact, this week I found out that Bruxa who I raved about before put out a new album in July on a pay watcha want basis.
This new Beats Antique video features costumes made by my wife and her business partner Brandy Grey. Jillian also makes a small cameo appearance in the video!
The Awl reports:
Whatever power of Spinks’ entrance had immediately evaporated when a deafening drone of noise started swirling in the air. As it crescendoed into a maddening roar, the crowd at the Atlantic City Convention Center arched to follow the procession of men, all cops and security guards, emerging out of Tyson’s locker. Tyson, bare-chested and already soaked in sweat, slowly materialized from the back and meandered to the ring, barely blinking. The broadcast announcer Bob Sheridan, struggling to define the scene, played it straight: “It’s interesting Mike Tyson selected as his pre-fight music just noise; every once in a while you hear the clanging of chains. I think that’s what he’s got in mind to do to Mike Spinks’ head, but we’ll wait and see. Everything that Tyson does is intimidating.”
The “noise” was in fact a song by the British band Coil.
Full Story: The Awl: A Man Walks into a Boxing Ring
Via Metafilter, which casts doubt that the song was in fact by Coil. I can’t really hear it very well in the video, so I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s the Sergio Cervetti song that one of the Awl commenters suggested either.
Short Vice documentary about the actively suppressed Muslim punk scene in Indonesia’s only Sharia province:
Update: I hadn’t noticed before but the damned embed autoplays the video. If you want to watch the video, just visit the site.
I’ve uploaded three new bonus tracks to the last Psychetect album Extremism:
“Recalculate”: A new recording using some of the same instruments and effects I used for “Solar Rattle.”
“Perverse Intimacy with the Sun”: A sequel to “Thirst for Annihilation” from Return to the Wasteland.
“Sleeping Demon”: A short remix of “Aqua Demonic Operating System.”
If you’ve already purchased the album you should be able to download the new tracks from Bandcamp. Let me know if you can’t.
Vice reports on algorave music — algorithmically generated electronic dance music:
“I’m a live coder, and over the last ten years I’ve been writing code to try to make people dance. That’s my aim,” Alex said. Writing code to make music has been a decade-long interest for Alex and Nick, but the epiphany to transport it into a club environment didn’t come along until a couple of years back. “Nick and I were driving up to Nottingham for an event, and we tuned into a pirate radio station called Rogue FM,” Alex said. “DJ Jigsaw was on, playing loads of happy hardcore, and that sort of influenced our set that night. At that point, it became algorave.”
By their own description, “Algoraves embrace the alien sounds of raves from the past, and introduce alien, futuristic rhythms and beats made through strange, algorithm-aided processes.” Alex attempted to breakdown the function of live coding in simplistic terms: “It’s a bit like making a knitting pattern or something; you come up with this usually quite simple way of describing patterns—this is my approach—and then use this as a sort of language for describing your music.”
I wonder what’s typically used for this — SuperCollider?
See also: Songs in the Key of F12
The Quietus just published a long piece by Peter Bebergal on Coil, John Coltrane, LSD and consciousness. Peter takes a contrarian point of view on LSD and consciousness. He doesn’t condemn drug users, and acknowledges its role in art, but is skeptical about its role in understanding consciousness:
[Hoffman] immediately recognised the possibilities for psychology, medicine, and maybe even religion. What he could never have known was that he changed the world. The amount that has been written on Hofmann, on LSD, and on the nature of the LSD experience, could seemingly fill the universe that one often imagines is in their fingernail when tripping on the very same drug. Certainly important work has been done, and the recent collapse of fearful prohibitions on research of psychedelic drugs could prove beneficial in exactly the ways Dr. Hofmann had hoped. But psychedelic drugs, despite their contribution to the spiritual revolution of the 1960s – a revolution that essentially changed the course of American culture and beyond – have become something of a drag on any attempt to understand altered consciousness.
It started with Aldous Huxley, who had once understood mystical-oriented experiences as being rare, requiring spiritual exercises, philosophical introspection, and maybe even a little bit of luck. In his writing on the mescaline experience in his now infamous but slight manifesto The Doors Of Perception, he became a kind of mystic turncoat, arguing that the experience was available to anyone. More damning, however, was his view on the primacy art once held to be the key to transformative experiences. After his own night sitting comfortably in his drawing room grooving on the patterns in the curtains, Huxley came to see art as a pretender to the throne of direct experience, calling it the method for “beginners”.
This reminds me of a piece by Erik Davis from a year ago. He who wrote:
And now there is a new competing narrative. Studies recently carried out at Yale, and published last month in the journal Science, have confirmed earlier reports that ketamine offers remarkable, nearly instantaneous relief for people who suffer from forms of major depression impervious to other treatment methods. Interpreting depression as a hardware problem largely caused by the loss of synaptic connections, the researchers argue that ketamine works by encouraging sprightly neural growth in brain regions correlated with memory and mood. Journalistic reports also linked this research with the development of a new vein of antidepressants, including Naurex’s GLYX-13, that have the neurone-fertilising power of ketamine without, as one report describes them, the ‘schizophrenia-like effects’.
Rarely has the new neuro-reductionism been so naked in its repackaging of human experience. Nowhere in the research or the journalism does anyone suggest that heavily depressed people feel better because ketamine sends them on a first-person voyage through profound, sometimes ecstatic, and certainly mind-bending modes of transpersonal consciousness whose subjective power might itself boot the mind out of its most mirthless ruts.
But I think the opposite is true as well: the psychedelic community needs to prepare for the possibility that hallucinogens are just drugs. That any therapeutic role they play can be replicated through less mind-warping means. Or, put another way: what if the “neuro-reductionists,” as Davis calls them, are right? What if they can succeed in creating an effective anti-depression drug without the disassociative properties of ketamine?
Part of the problem with banning hallucinogenic research for so long is that it’s allowed a community of pseudo-scientists to dominate the conversation about what the meaning these drugs are, raising expectations and creating dogmas about their effectiveness.
For example, you’ll run into people in the counter culture (such that it is) that believe ibogaine a 100% effective wonder drug for treating all types of addiction. But many ibogaine patients do relapse — which, to their credit, people who are actually involved in the ibogaine therapy community do openly admit. The truth there’s a dearth of scientific research on the substance and its efficacy. MAPS is trying to solve that problem. It might turn out that it doesn’t actually work. It could also turn out that it’s only effective for opiate withdrawal because it acts on opiate receptors, reducing withdrawal symptoms, and that the psychological effects of the 48 hour trip are not actually all that important. Or it could turn out that it works wonders for exactly the reason that psychonauts expect.
The point is, we don’t know, and that once rigorous, peer reviewed science gets back to work in the field, the come down may be harsh.
Torben Sangild writes:
Apollo represents appearance, form, individuality, beauty and dream; the Apollonian aesthetics is an embellishment of suffering, a self-conscious lie, a veiling of cruelty by use of form and elegance, a semblance of beauty. Dionysus, on the other hand, represents ecstasy, being, will, intoxication and unity; the Dionysian aesthetics is a direct confrontation with the terrible foundation of being, an absurd will driving us all in our meaningless lives. In the Dionysian ecstasy individuality is transgressed6 in favor of identification with the universal will – a frightening yet blissful experience. Frightening, that is, because it is a death-like giving up of the Ego, if only for a few seconds; blissful in letting go of the responsibilities of being a subject. The Dionysian experience is a “metaphysical comfort”, knowing that suffering is a necessary part of the effects of the eternal will – the destruction of things in order to create anew. In the Dionysian ecstasy one is no longer concerned with one’s individual suffering, seeing instead things from the universal point of view.
In music, the ecstasy of noise is undoubtedly a Dionysian effect, as opposed to the Apollonian melody and form.7 As mentioned above, the German words Rausch (ecstasy) and Geräusch (noise) are related, pointing towards this fact. The Dionysian is that which is not totally controlled or formed, e.g. screams and noises. The Apollonian elements are seductive, inciting the listener to enter the ecstatic bliss of the Dionysian, enabling the listener to dare the confrontation with the dreadfulness of existence. Therefore, Nietzsche says, the Dionysian needs the Apollonian.
Merzbow is so demanding exactly because he refuses this; he does not soften the harshness of noise with any Apollonian elements. Listening to Merzbow is thus a very different experience from the Sonic Youth maelstrom.
One of the reasons for the ecstatic effect of noise is its sublime character. The sublime is that which exceeds the limits of the senses, perceived as chaos or vastness. Despite our ability to put these words to it, the sublime goes beyond making sense – we never really understand it. The complexity of noise (in the acoustic sense) overloads the ears and the nervous system and is perceived as an amorphous mass, incomprehensible yet stirring. The delight of the sublime is the satisfaction of confronting the unfathomable.
Full Story: Ubu Web: The Aesthetics of Noise
(Thanks Adam and Ryan!)
I wrote for Intonarumoron:
The first two Ministry albums I heard were With Sympathy and Filth Pig. I can’t remember which one I got first, but they sounded completely different not just from each other, but from what I expected Ministry to sound like — something like Skinny Puppy or Nine Inch Nails.
How did Ministry begin with such pop roots and emerge as a heavy metal band? Jourgensen has claimed he was forced by the record company and his producers to create a pop album. Others have speculated that he discovered hardcore punk later in life and was converted.
“The singer has been accused of punk posturing on the video for ‘Stigmata,’ which has him decked out in skinhead garb and wallowing in a pile of trash,” the Phoenix Times wrote in 1988, following the release of The Land of Rape and Honey.
Neither version of the story is true. And while skipping straight from “Revenge” to “No W” would be quite a shock, there’s actually a steady progression in the sound over the years. This evolution has been a fascination of mine for a long time, and may be the thing I like most about his work.
On their own, most of Ministry’s albums aren’t great. There’s a forgettable synthpop album, a poppy EBM album that’s OK if you like that sort of thing, two rather confused industrial rock albums with a few good tracks, one excellent alternative metal album, a below average sludge metal album and a bunch of above average speed metal albums.
But considered as a whole — as a single continuum instead of several discrete works — Jourgensen’s albums are much more interesting.
His authorized biography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen by Jon Wiederhorn, provides some insight into how all of this came to be, but it’s often at odds with contemporaneous interviews he gave. I’m not interested in proving whether Jourgensen is being entirely truthful in his account of what transpired at Arista records, but in gaining more understanding in how and why Jourgensen’s music changed over the years.
Warning, this is long (4,500 words) and self-indulgent.
Michael Connor writes:
seemingly impossible music can be found today in a group of musicians who use MIDI files (which store musical notes and timings, not unlike player piano rolls) to create compositions that feature staggering numbers of notes. They’re calling this kind of music “black MIDI,” which basically means that when you look at the music in the form of standard notation, it looks like almost solid black:
Blackers take these MIDI files and run them through software such as Synesthesia, which is kind of an educational version of Guitar Hero for the piano, and bills itself as “piano for everyone.” It’s kind of brilliant to imagine a novice piano player looking for some online tutorials and stumbling across, say, this video of the song Bad Apple, which reportedly includes 8.49 million separate notes.
Full Story: Rhizome: The Impossible Music of Black MIDI
More info: Impossible Music: Blacked musical notation
This reminds me, for some reason, of the old Amiga demo scene.