Mark Fisher—the noted blogger known as K-Punk and the author of Capitalist Realism: Is There No Choice? —considers two new, different but both particularly English takes on voice and sound.
There are still all kinds of opportunities for combining voice and audio in new ways. Rap was your last major form to popularize a use of the voice that was not really singing, but the field is wide open, as these two new albums from eMMplekz and Dolly Dolly demonstrate.
The first temptation using these records is to hear them since ‘spoken word’—with the musicality subordinated to a voice that is literary, conversational, comedic. However , what makes these two albums so unique is the way that will musicality here infests and inflects the voice, the way that the audio refuses to stay (in the) background. Both albums take much of their particular inspiration from the very English custom of Nonsense, which includes Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Monty Python, and much more recently, Chris Morris. It was due to Carroll that André Breton reputedly said that the English had no need of surrealism. Here, eMMplekz and Dolly Dolly proffer different versions of twenty-first century English sonic surrealism.
With eMMplekz, a collaboration between Ekoplekz and Mordant Music’s Baron Mordant, the precursors that first come to mind are usually certain moments in post-punk—Cabaret Voltaire’s “Photophobia”, Throbbing Gristle, The Fall—yet eMMplekz don’t sound quite like some of these. From its title on in, Your Crate Has Changed , the Baron’s punconscious wordplay includes a very contemporary focus.
If Drake and Kanye Western expose the sadness and craziness deep within the cyber-pleasuredome—the sound of depressed superstars as hypercommodities—then eMMplekz observe the malaises and pathologies of capitalist cyberspace from outside the digital matrix. Instead of the seamless-slick, depthless pixellation to which always-on digitality has habituated us, Ekoplekz’s analog electronics seethe and hiss, gathering and dispersing like a steam and mist. These synthesizer sketches function like impressionist sound paintings of what Tobey maguire Hollings has called the “digital regime”, and it’s as if, like users coming down from a psychotropic, we are lastly seeing it for what it is.
“I’ve got to take this…” Baron Mordant has a schizoanalytic ear for how the digital regime uncovers itself through the phrases it induces to casually utter. Doesn’t this particular phrase—so often repeated, so little thought about—capture all too accurately our fatalism in respect of communicative capitalism? “I’ve got to take this”—I’ve got to let it, acknowledge it, I can’t escape, there are nothing I can do… There’s no chance out, there’s no release in the frenzied inertia of all those cyberspatial urgencies, these alerts. “Tethered to my hotspot, tethered to a hotspot…” Constant stress about staying connected, constant be worried about holding onto the equipment that allows us to remain connected. “Can a person watch my laptop? ” We’re all sick of this now… we’re all sick because of this now… “Sorry for your Lossy…” What is all this digital compression costing us, and when do we ever get to count the cost? (The first thing we do in the morning is grope for our smartphones—straight from sleep into the somnambulance of capitalist cyberspace. “Unsubscribe from Soviet time” —maybe we did that too soon, and now it is business o’clock, forever…)
Your Crate Has Changed is like an English take on Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s Precarious Rhapsody: Semiocapitalism and the Pathologies of Post-Alpha Generation . Berardi persuasively argues that the interlock between precarious work and capitalist telecommunications has produced a population whose nervous systems are overloaded along with stimuli. Mordant gives voice in order to weary old digital migrants whose middle-aged flesh is too saggy and grey to be made-over—people deprived of security, forced to keep on hustling despite the fact that they are too old for the sport, bone-weary. No rest for the dangerous, no chance to tune into something except the imperatives of business. “Invoices in my head… invoices in my head …”
Invoices in my mind, and too much spam and unique cyber-noise to hear anything else. But Dont really think there’s been anyone given that Mark E. Smith at his telepathic peak in the late seventies / early eighties who has was able to tune into the rogue frequencies of England’s schizo-babble as effectively because the Baron does here. Mordant finds all the clandestine signals hidden in jingles and classified ads. He or she channels the voices of the lonesome, the desperate, all the weirdos as well as the saddoes; ourselves, perhaps, but the key selves we keep stuffed at the rear of our Facebook walls. Yet you may still find avenues of escape—on a couple of paths, an infant’s babbling offers an alternative Nonsense to capital’s infantilized huckster-speak.
A surface joviality—a different kind of humor, much less mordant —separates Junk Dolly from eMMplekz. Yet it is the slippages of tone and genre, from light pastiche in order to intimations of mortality, the slipping of persona from gone-to-seed raconteur to charity shop mystic, from brief story-teller to preening bard, which make Antimacasser such an odd jewel of a report, and Dolly so singular the performer.
The starting track, “Wattle and Daub”—a cooperation with Position Normal—is more than worth the admission price alone. Over a lysergically-smeary detuned piano (or probably guitar), Dolly Dolly dolefully declaims a Nonsense-Shakespearean state of the nation address. “England our England… the cold mist of your fibrous trolleys stifles the sun… half-strangled uncles stuffed with crisps… your sky full of plump chintz cushions…” It’s like Tony Hancock’s melancholia has been dream-conflated with his mockery of thespian and playwright pretensions. Yet the Nonsense is disarming: “Wattle and Daub” gives all of us nothing less than a psychedelic-surrealist portrait of the country deprived of psychedelia and surrealism. A world without surprise, a completely domesticated universe, banality as cosmology: “Let’s colonize another planets, fill them with bitter and dry roasted peanuts, pigeons and oven chips. ” The dead world of middle-aged Britain’s living rooms; the cheery veneer of advertising’s ever-smiling, glowing-faced households turned inside out. “I’m sick of being a man, ” moans the character who narrates the closing track. Aren’t we all? But Antimacasser finds all sort of disused or temporarily abandoned doorways straight into other worlds, all kinds of rabbit openings in which we can escape from as being a sad human animal. Old Brand new English Library paperbacks become occult manuals, full of esoteric philosophy. It’s still possible to transform yourself, to transport ourselves, and Dolly Junk shows us how. ~
eMMplekz’s Your Crate Has Changed is out now via Mordant Music. Dolly Dolly’s Antimacasser is out on Monday via Exotic Pylon.