Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Collapse magazine: Black Noise by Mark Fisher

In the mid-1990s there seemed to be a cottage industry at Warwick University churning out techno-theory and Deleuzian drum & bass thoughtism. One product of this was '***Collapse' magazine, edited I believe by Robin Mackay and Robert O'Toole. I must admit that I was always slightly ambivalent about this - was it raiding academia for some tools to understand the exciting times we were dancing through, or was it domesticating that explosion of sonic/somatic/social experimentation by making it into a respectable focus of academic scrutiny?. I've always been up for some critical thinking and reflection, but sometimes it felt like it was slipping so far away from the lived experience of raving as to amount to a kind of theoretical colonisation.

Anyway here's a piece on jungle by Mark Fisher (K-Punk) - or more precisely a cut-up by him with quotes from the writers listed at the end - first published in ***Collapse, number 2, Spring 1995:

Black Noise

BLACKOUT - Jungle is creeping necrosis eating away at melanin-deficient flesh. Genetic piracy hacking into white DNA and recombining it. A 'bacterium mutated into a more lethal form ... some malignant sci-fi creation ... out of control', a 'microbe... infected with a virus which 'switched on' lethal genes ...'
WHITEOUT - At the same time (and many "times" run simultaneously here) Jungle is whiteout, a hyperversion of whiter than white pop. Hear it as the latest product of the black fascination with white futurism that began with Afrika Bambataa's hijacking of Kraftwerk. 'What Afrika Bambataa and hip hoppers like him saw in Kraftwerk's use of the robot was an understanding of themselves as already having been robots,' .. Jungle's SF diss topias recall the posthuman teknoscapes imagined in the barely remembered, 'embarrassing' musics of Gary Numan, John Foxx, the Normal, Japan. But this time it's beyond the 'song', beyond any human speculation; now it's all a matter of interlocking circuits, 'the continual whirr of machines' .... ,The human persists only as ghostly traces, ambient decoration, sound effects: 'the residual subject off to the side, alongside the machine, around the entire periphery, a parasite of machines, an accessory of vertebro­machinate desire'.
D-FACED - So, of course, it's faceless, (dis)located at the point 'beyond the face' where 'cutting edges of deterritorialization become operative and lines of deterritorialization positive and absolute, forming strange new becomings, new polyvocalities'
"NEW ZONES of post-essentialist blackness.' Whatever top-down reterritorializations are imposed, blackness is a matter of deleting identities rather than defining them. 'Identity' in black culture is always a matter of becoming. There is no truth but the vehrshon. Anything that's not all-white Immediately becomes-black. Jungle is hip hop with the last vestiges of 'natural' funk removed + house shorn of all humanist glitz/gospel evangelism + digitized reggae +
BABYLON TIMEWARP - Nothing here is in real time. Everything you hear is timestretched, virtualized on the plane of consistency as digital information then actualized again as metallic voodoo simulacra. Slower or faster than the original. 'Accelerated trills up and down the piano, abrupt switches in tempo, moments of dread slowness punctuated by the highest squeals ...' Everything plays at (at least) two speeds. 'You're talking about things I haven't done yet...'
SPLICING - The sampler is just like the telepods in The Fly, taking human and non human, fusing them at the molecular level and moving them somewhere else.
GIBSON was already part way there in Neuromancer, 'It was called dub, a sensuous mosaic cooked from vast libraries of digitalized pop; it was worship, Molly said, and a sense of community.' Dub was always virtually present in hip hop, funk and house but it's been re-actualized in Jungle (and in every 90s music that matters) as low-frequency languor, half-speed bass. ('Its the ganja,' Molly said.,.') Anyway dub is not a form of music so much as a mode of parasitism, a viral contagion using host bodies to replicate itself: a version is what is left which the song has been hollowed out, involuted.
AFROFUTURISM . Jungle is unimaginable from where the White Man Is. From there, "Black' = prehistoric origins, the dark hole we came from. The future = history, i.e. more of the same. Jungle is the impossible combination of blackness and the future, the dark continent we're heading towards.

DREADNAUTS - Cybernauts. Afronauts. "Black people live the estrangement that science fiction writers imagine.'
JAMAICA - Nomadology: "The maroons were the first black rebels on the islands. The word refers to runaway slaves who formed their own outlaw communities in the mountainous interiors of islands like St. Kitts and Barbados. But the Jamaican maroons were the ones most feared by the British authorities'. Don’ t look for roots in JA, although in a certain sense it all begins there. "A rave, be it programming Jungle, Techno or House, is just a big dance with a massive sound system on which Djs present special mixes. In Jamaica they’ve been doing that for more than 40 years’

SHATTERED WINDSCREEN - "Hardcore is to pop culture as ramraiding is to Rumbelows - a slam bang concussion ..... Think of a Hi-Ace van as a sample, the ride as the rhythm, the crash as the beats and the adrenalin of getting away as the Interface between your body and the beats ... ‘Durban Poison' by Babylon Timewarp suddenly bursts into a moment of Oriental horns as if the inner city estate has cracked up to reveal a seething colonial unconscious underneath. Youth aren't revolting, this music says, they are reverting’.
WHITE TRASH – Yet Jungle could only happen here. It’s a peculiarly British assemblage; what happens when ‘the chickens come home to roost. The British Empire has folded in on itself. And as the pressure in the cities has mounted , the old national culture has started cracking at the seams’. Black and white fusing on the estates, in the dancehalls and on the plane of consistency.

BLACK ECONOMY – ‘ You can locate hardcore as the black economy of British culture. It’s effects extend way beyond music’.

CRACK UP – Breakdown. Shock out. ‘They don’t make much of a difference between states, you know? Aerol tells you what happened, well it happened to him. It’s not bullshit, more like poetry. Get it?’

ALCHEMY – Reggae has always been produced in conditions closer to a factory than a theatre. Hardheaded economic pragmatism drives the producers as they transmute MOR chart hits into bass heavy libidinal flow. Derritorialization as alchemy. ‘Zion smelled of cooked vegetables, humanity and ganja.

ILLEGAL SUBS – Rave was E-state music. DarkSide was Crack House.

ESCAPE VELOCITY - "An escape for language, for music, for writing. What we call pop - POP music, pop philosophy, pop writing ... To make use of the polylinguism of one's own language (to make a minor or intensive use of it, to oppose the oppressed quality of this language to its oppressive quality, to find points of nonculture or underdevelopment, linguistic third world zones by which a language can escape, an animal enters into things, an assemblage comes into play.'
PRESENT TENSE - "There is only a NOW that is either blissed-out or dread-ful (dread is a kind of jouissance in negative, a slow subsidence into uncontrol and panic.'
MULTIPLICITY - 'Ragga' and 'Jungle' designate multiplicities not unities: get up close to either and they fractalize into micro-multiplicities rather than fragment into component parts. Ragga was already a becoming reggae of hip hop, hip hop was already a becoming electro or soul and funk. The becoming jungle of ragga and the becoming ragga of jungle is only one zone of intensity, only one intersection, to be tracked in this music. Rewind to the becoming jungle of rave, the becoming jungle of hip hop, listen again to the becoming dub of jungle: then fast-forward into becomings and couplings not yet synthesized. The temporality isn’t white culture linearity (one form superseding another) but rhizomatic involution (the past as template not monument). Think recycling not revival.

'There was a kind of ghostly DNA at work in the Sprawl. something that carried the coded precepts of various short-lived subcults and replicated them at odd intervals’
CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED - 'We know that 13-17 year olds are nothing more than demon seed, the damned children of England (an estate block in drawn out and terminal decline)'
'Fads swept the youth of the Sprawl at the speed of light. Entire subcultures could rise overnight, thrive for a dozen weeks then vanish utterly’
GREY ZONES - What happens when white and black are (re)mixed. Temporary Autonomous Zones. Unpoliced, unlit, unseen. Suddenly. anything can happen. Hello darkness.
Deleuze/Guattari - Anti-Oedipus/Thousand Plateaus/Kafka; ­Simon Reynolds - Blissed Out; Dick Hebdige Cut'n'Mix; Liz Hunt - What's Bugging Us; Kodwo Eshun -Reviews; Mark Dery - Black to the Future; William Gibson Neuromancer ; Steve Barrow - The Dawn of Dub .

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