A Darker Figure #71: Art and Perception (Cynicism), Art Sex Music, and upcoming events
Welcome to A Darker Figure #71!
I have been thinking a lot about originality and making something unique, which is something that I think has become pretty difficult lately. I am a little worried that we have been sucked into an age of immediate gratification to the point that we are missing what is honest and sometimes failing to appreciate the work that goes into an art form. Here is a good example of something that I am bad at:
This week DKA Records (home to a lot of great EBM/throwback bands) put up the second album from Sally Dige for pre-order. In the album description it points out that “Stunningly, Sally used only her voice and a single synth to create this album. Even with so little gear, the songs are anything but minimal. Each song has a minimum of 100 tracks and, for some songs, 100 tracks for just the drum section alone. Every audible sound has 20 other sounds swimming beneath it.” Which I immediately when Noooopppeeeee, because if there were 100 tracks of drums it would get to the point where the frequencies would be full enough to cancel out the other drum sounds - meaning that you can layer as many kick drums as you want, but eventually it will become muddled and you’ll have to turn some of them down to the point where you cannot hear them at all, or even feel their impact. The idea that “every audible sound has 20 other sounds swimming beneath it” is a really strange thing to claim, especially when you listen to the track because it is pretty standard for not only the label, but for the current trend of mixed genre post-punk/throwback synth. Going in, having read the description first, I was expecting something a lot more experimental and noise-driven.
But! That is not the point and clearly a sign that I have lost my faith in artists and the cynicism has taken over. My immediate rejection of something that I am skeptical about is a problem - even if a lot of people who make music that I have talked to about it share a similar view - because that kind of misses the purpose of the art form. As an artist, Sally Dige has made a decision that she wants to explore the concept of making music with just one synth and her voice through a method that is highly unorthodox, and for that I should be very excited. The idea that people are still pushing the boundaries of music creation and exploring whatever crazy idea they might have about production - breaking the mold, bucking the system, etc - should be extremely exciting. But for me it wasn’t. For me, it was a rejection and an immediate skepticism, which I think has a lot to do my perception of the genre and the presentation of the album and not to do with the ideas behind the project.
For example - and this makes me uncomfortable a little bit because I am aligning a set of male artists over a solo female artist but when I tried to compare two female artists I also felt weird about it, so I’ll give both! - If Chrysalide (who are one of my favorite bands) put this in the album description I would be stoked as hell, spending hours trying to find the subtle shifts and differences in the sounds. Or if Pharmakon had the same description for the latest album, Contact, I wouldn’t even think twice about it because my perception of the music is that it is experimental and very oddly exploring emotion and comfort through sound. But my perception of the music, which I find to be only-okay, has tainted the statement and I find it harder and harder to believe the more I think about it, when I should instead think of it like absurdist art practices - doing something to just see how it works and finding a style that is honest and worthwhile to the artist, even/especially if it is unorthodox.
I recently finished Cosey Fanni Tutti’s book Art Sex Music, which is entirely about creating art and trying to live in the world as a unique and strange person. Cosey spent most of her life trying to do something that was counter to what people thought was generally accepted as art, and a lot of times didn’t get a lot of recognition for it from the art world until 30 years after it was premiered. Which is crazy. It would be crazy and difficult to do something - like a release a new album that you are very proud of - and then have a pretty good, but overall not very impactful reaction from a larger audience, and then 30 years later the largest gallery in the country is asking for an exclusive show of archived materials based around that album. The Throbbing Gristle parts of the book weren’t the most interesting parts of her career, when I read it, and I find that super fascinating. Especially because she was kind of screwed over constantly with Throbbing Gristle.
What I found more interesting is that she went out and did the art that she had to do, because it was where her heart was, and even if it was not what people wanted, it was honest and original. This book is an inspiring and honest/brutal look at what it took to become an artist. Even with success. If you are any type of artist or musician I would highly recommend checking this book out. It was full of great experience and knowledge, but mostly it was filled to the brim with a genuine look at struggle that I really appreciated. It definitely made me look at the art that I do and wish that I was doing something more, which is always a good reminder.
Currently Reading: Sin City volume 1 by Frank Miller (because Wes lent it to me legitimately 2 years ago and I am terrible.)
Currently Listening To On Audiobook: Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith
Up on the list to read (haven’t decided which to dive into yet, but Sophie is putting the pressure on for her book):
The Infatuation by Javier Marías (Sophie just finished it and loved it.)
Things coming up that I am involved in:
07/07/17 - Seattle - The Blood of Others opening for Jihad at The Highline Bar
07/18/17 - Portland - I am helping to promoter the Portland premier of the film Phantasmagoria by Cosmotropia de Xam at The Lovecraft for the Mood Ring 2 Year Anniversary Party.
07/28/17 - Calgary, AB - The Blood of Others opens up Terminus Festival
08/12/17 - Portland - The Blood of Others plays P.I.G. Fest 2 at the Paris Theater