A selective chronologist, R.C. Clarke notices the passage of time through both an ethnomusicological lens as a co-editor at Dweller Electronics and oceanographically as a Ph.D student in Coastal Geological Sciences in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Co-Editor (2020 – ) @ Dweller Electronics
Earth and Environmental Sciences, PhD. (2019 – ) @ Tulane University
Geological Sciences, B.S (2012 – 2016) + M.S (2016 – 2018) @ Louisiana State University
“Reverse Hallucinations of the Lower Delta” (2020) @ Rhizome
“Running Out of Space: Drexicya, Boards of Canada, and the 9/11 Digital Psychedelia You Haven’t Processed Yet” (2021) @ Dweller Electronics
“Ghettoville (2014): An Ode to Forgotten Black Geometries” (2020) @ Dweller + printed in Cultural Bulletin Issue E, Jan 2021
Digital Techno History Library (2020) @ Dweller
“Space is Our Place: Notes on Southern Electronics” (2020) @ Dweller
“A Brief History of Techno-fascism, 1976-1996” (2020) @ Dweller
“Vertical Sediment Accretion in Jamaica Bay Wetlands, New York” (2018) @ Louisiana State University
“Black Care, Blue Notes” (2020) @ Dweller
“Fate with Love: Actress – ’88’ Review “ (2020) @ GreyOverBlue
“’We Don’t Come Past Here’: Impressions of ‘T’, a film by Keisha Rae Witherspoon (2020) @ GreyOverBlue
“A Lost Care Package” (2019) @ GreyOverBlue
“Suffocation of the Void: Hauntology, New Orleans, and Art Neville” (2019) @ GreyOverBlue
“Tired” Official Video (2018) by Suicideyear @ LuckyMe Records
Album artwork for “Hate Songs” (2018) by Suicideyear @ LuckyMe Records
“Care Forgot: A Southern Electronics Visual Mixtape” (2019) @ Rhizome
Ep. 11 of Silent Reading Hour w/ Sparkle Nation Book Club (2021) @ Montez Press Radio
“Lüisiana Fugiēns” (2020) @ YesWeCannibal
“UNITY MUSIC” (2020 – ) @ 91.5 WTUL New Orleans
Communication is really hard. Not just getting across your message across, but the tone, emotion, posture, context, meaning, etc also wants to be nestled in between each letter and space within and between those words. Even with these acts of good faith, words often if not always fail us. Being in agreement with such a statement with the main verb I do is “to write”, it’s an acute pain to realize your reality is that of an errand boy in a fool’s dream. But these failed words are in me to the point where I need to get them out unfortunately, usually in a hurried frenzy. Today’s hurried frenzy comes out due to Darren Cunningham, or Actress’, most recent release, 88. Released as one whole piece, Actress’ new work is a prelude to his upcoming sonic love letter, Karma and Desire.
The worst failings of communication come about when expressing the seemingly inexpressible, love. How can one show the intangible product of external joy from another now internalized within you? Or your own internal love cultivated into something larger? How can you get it out in a way that doesn’t feel inauthentic, like you’re not giving the emotion the medium it deserves? Many feel like art is the only way as we’d otherwise burst from emotional pent-upedness. For many, going abstract feels closer to reality than taking the literal route of word. Words are a rough and often harsh language, I’d consider (the good) writers and poets the true magicians of our time; able to translate the ethereal into something legible. In our daily lives, we feel our own limited capacity towards translation by including an “lol”, “LMAO”, or an emoji. In certain tough text conversations, the inclusion of a period or not tells the true emotion of the operator on the other line moreso than whatever paragraph came before it. In the world of the Message App, we may feel like this sort of thing a somewhat new phenomena but its goes back (probably farther) to the early 1800’s. Morse code telegraph operators used various number successions to communicate a sort of short hand to the operator on the other line. “73” stood for ‘best regards’, ’21’ meant ‘stop for meal’ (the ‘brb’ of the 19th century), and ’88’ for ‘Love and Kisses’. These numerical protocols emoji consolidated such a powerful feeling into muffled beeps and tones. This abstraction probably felt just as strong as we felt sending our first hearts to our gradeschool sweethearts across T9 keyboards back in the day.
This counterintuitive idea of how the abstract can get us closer to our feelings rather than spelling it out is the prevailing theme of 88. The record seems to be split up in three or four parts, giving homage to Darren’s past output that those who took the time to crack the code needed to access the file for 88 are surely well versed in. The first large suite feels like a fugue state coda for his last release, 2017’s AZD. Sounds straight from that album’s prime jewel, “Dancing in the Smoke”, are on full display as well as some snippets from his Rinse FM show back in 2017 (still yearning for that first tune, geez). Here, these sounds feel like an old friend who came home for Christmas to see his family, but found time to grab a drink for a bit before they gotta rush home. The second chunk of the record reverbs the mood of a dance floor much moreso than what came before with the mere input of a 4/4 from Actress immediately begins a remembrance of 2010’s Splazsh. As the four on the floor gives way to swelling violins and generous arpeggios, the concept album loosely based on John Milton’s Paradise Lost, 2012’s R.I.P, comes to mind.
You get five seconds of a groove here, a quick melody with a counterpoint there; the experience of this album begins to feel like piecing together a morse coded message and as you piece together your dots and tones together, you start to crack a smile. The signal may not strengthen but your love grows with each subsequent transmission. Many speak to Actress’ more later works post-Splazsh as sketches, but if 88 is galvanizing anything for me is that the message isn’t to be found in the fog and haze, it is the message. The in-between we decide ourselves is whats worth fighting for, not whatever structure we we’re told is necessary to best get your feelings across. What we feel in the in-between is our native tongue. The ’88’ at the end telegraph received in 1871 most likely is what let the heart swell to lovers apart. Morse code and radio signal in general can reach further at night as the signals can bounce off of Earth’s Ionosphere allowing much farther transmissions to reach. In 6th grade, we did this sort of thing for our HAM radio operator club (on brand, I know) where in the afternoon our puny device could reach China with my teacher speaking Mandarin to students on the other side of the world. Not much could be heard so shorthand like ’88’ was used and was responded by excited yells from children on different continents. What was said is not what matters, but what was felt.
I must say, even piecing this writing began to feel like a code, hearing bits of side projects like Levantis and smaller releases like the Xoul EP in small songs where I had to write down timestamps as track titles we’re given but in a tweet with no numbers, its hard to feel solid on when a song begins and ends. The nostalgist in me related it to IDM Newsletter contributor Greg Eden piecing together names for Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume 2, with the track titles merely being pictures with name. Like Richard, this connect through the abstract felt different, like having a conversation with someone through design instead of dictating feeling and meaning on the back of a jewel CD case.
The last suite reflects a monster work and namesake of this blog, Ghettoville. The beeps from AZD are ever present as they then form into a haze of desolation until ending on a murky but hopeful melody. Something that I’ve always felt about Actress’ mainline releases is that I feel like he’s carries the desire to end his work on a hopeful note. IWAAD, Visa, and Rule are the examples where each monochromatic tone poems surrounding Hell, cybernetic otherness, and poverty oft speaks towards a brighter future and 88 does something but a bit different, it speaks. The last few moments of the record before being driven back into the digital haze are words. Hard to decipher, yes, but you hear a voice. It feels like we can see the lighthouse just barely on the horizon after being out in the cold for so long. Maybe we’ve finally begun to get through and can understand what he’s been trying to say to us this whole time but we hadn’t the language to hear it really. Karma and Desire’s tracklist (once given in a ig story but is now switched from letters to triangles/the real ones know what’s up) suggests the jump from non-word into something spoken is on the way. Excited to hear what Darren has to say in his newfound tongue.
This will be a general rambling in a way to produce something that merely isn’t falling into the void of “no one is bored, everything is boring” loop of social media. It carries such a numbing effect in a plethora of ways that within the absence of never being bored, we’ve “decided” to substitute that with anxiety for a future with no horizon. All of this is in tandem with the writings of Mark Fisher and his ideas of the slow cancellation of the future. Although he predominately used music and its surrounding culture as his example of how cyber-capitalism has squeezed the idea of a singular moment to align with cultural production, I think the present moment of George Floyd’s murder and its subsequent result on our timeline can be another mark on this idea of a watching any semblance of a future merely become an dated aesthetic, like 80’s day for spirit week. The “future” in so many way is behind us. We’ve been delegated to a hamster wheel of the same hot takes, death videos, responses, appeals to humanity towards a system explicitly designed to strip any idea of exactly that, calling congress people who could care less about us, urges to call police station to fire their own fellow blue bloods. I’m exhausted, enraged, and numbed out simultaneously.
I honestly got up and decided to type this after watching the same James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Malcolm X instagram excerpts that almost begin to feel like a sociopolitical Punxsutawney Phil that communicates a summer of Black Death two weeks early ahead of time. This combined with how there’s truly nothing new or at least cogent ahead of us is most seen in these clips. Imagine those in 1968 purely referencing those that came before them 50 years ago for a moment that is intimately happening to them. I believe in ancestors like the rest of us but when I look around to a movement, or a moment or a group that we can singularly define us I find myself at a standstill, at a loss. Who will our children look to as a guidepost when their world is burning (and it will be burning, make no mistake)? This is not to place blame or the onus on us singularly as the compression, horizontalization, and blurring of any actual time markers (this becoming even more clear in the lockdown) produces such a structure where we as a people have no means to rise up. There is no culture to place in context of this pain so the only thing that makes sense to people to revert to a time of coherence. We have no choice !
How do you speak about the credit sequence of a movie? The era we find ourselves is the empty wake of when things actually happened and carried weight. America has begun to treat black people like marvel movie characters. Completely flat, static characters we either emulate or plea to exterminate. “Black girl magic” and “black boy joy” place us on pedestals where we have been yaas’d and king’d into unhumanity. Racial politics in America is so warped where those who outright call for our executioners because they don’t want to leash their pets are granted a light, euphemistic nickname. We historically police our own blackness in so many ways that we strip our own people from finding some sense of happiness in this hellscape through revoking black cards for one reason or another (this is a whole conversation that I am only willing to have over drinks). White people that have no black friends are obsessed with a people they know nothing about. Kids in the suburbs fantasizing about living in Staten Island with the Wu Tang Clan. This isn’t our fault but due to the structure of capitalism, we end up commodifying ourselves into a flattened object. One to be passed around and spread across the world through memetic virality. Nothing new of course, but we’ve reached critical mass where instead of the new hot Jazz tune, our views of our own deaths are now hitting billboard-like numbers.
The compression of blackness on the world’s stage will almost always lead to the result we’ve see before. This is something we too are complicit in but only because we’ve been stripped of the agency to do otherwise. Late capitalism has rendered us without the toolset to produce anything accelerated as we cannot formulate our own awareness in our bouts of constant collective trauma. We have nothing but the past as there’s nothing in front of us. America in so many ways is on the locked groove of time that keeps looping. Unfortunately that needle keeps eroding this record with each revolution; each cycle eating into the material we’re tuning into. Interested when we’ll finally break the record and put something new on. Please ACT in the ways that institute REAL CHANGE in your surroundings, as small as that can look like. It’s only way we can break this incessant loop and listen to something truly new.
“When you do things with your hands it heals you in places lower than where you cry from”
T is a short film from Keisha Rae Witherspoon, a filmmaker and creative director of the Third Horizon Caribbean filmmaking group based in Miami, Florida. T centers around the artists that are getting ready for what is known as the T-ball, a gala of sorts where people in the community who have passed away are commemorated through artwork on T-shirts and other artistic works. The T-ball is a celebration of people who have passed on to new life outside of this one and the film itself is one that grapples with how we all navigate the world after loved ones have passed. The ball is an extremely colorful night that carries themes of acceptance of new lifetimes. More than anything, what oozes out of every second while watching this piece is this confidence that past gives light towards futures unforeseen.
Across the film’s runtime, we are allowed us to walk with three people: Dimples, Tahir, and a man whose name is never given. Dimples is a seamstress whose home is both an alter and workshop in remembrance of her son, Jasper. Jasper was a painter and these works strewn across the walls create a prismatic overstimulation inside her four walls. We meet her preparing a dress made completely out of potato chip bags, a common snack for Jasper back in the day. Through our time with her she smiles fondly on memory of her son with such a warm that without a second thought you feel a sense of place and home around her. Tahir and the man create a similar atmosphere; giving such an interiority to the complex textures of their everyday that you feel a sense of closeness to each of these people over only a runtime of about 14 minutes.
But it’s the blowback you receive so often in this film that transcends T by forcing a third thought that you actually don’t know these people and whatever sense of binary joy you initially received is so much more complex. Throughout the film, the connections we genuinely make with these people are complicated with actions that morph us as viewer into fifth wall observers. We realize that we aren’t following these people around and that there’s camera operators between us and the subjects. We are flown back into our own bodies and have to reckon with the accountability of ourselves that we so often give to documentary subjects in creating a false sense of kinship beside people we’ve only placed our eyes on for 4 minutes at this point. This is most seen with Dimples and the man whose name is never given.
The man opens his scene jovially announcing to the camera “Welcome to African America!” alongside a dance and a smile that could warm a cold winter’s night. This warmth is immediately chopped down with a blank stare, making you unsure if this a game he’s playing to get us to laugh or if he’s really not that jazzed about seeing us in his space. As his scene carries, on we peer into vignettes of him alongside his children and friends showing a box full of T’s; T-shirts acting as ephemeral tombstones for the passed away with printed faces, carefully crafted text and dates of a homecoming and home going. During this moment we think we’re sharing with the man and his friend the man asks us, “what y’all really here for anyway?… what y’all really wanna see?”. While his friend continues to show us even more T’s he asks his friend why he’s giving so much to these people and realizes he’s changed his mind about this whole thing. We don’t see the man again.
Near the end of the film, Dimples takes us down a hallway to a back room; a sacred place where she begins a ceremony in reverence to her passed child. As the camera follows closely behind her and by the time we reach the doors entrance, Dimples tersely says “We don’t come past here”. Dimples herself begins her journey in her own temple while we wait on the sidelines realizing that this moment is not for us.
These moments (and more throughout the film) implicate the viewer to understand that we are but an intrusion; onlookers in a space that is not ours to call our own as much as we subconsciously believe it to be through the power of cinema. Quite often we have a voyeuristic renarrativization of lives not ours. Does this film center around Black Death or Black Life? What are we really here for anyway? What do we really want to see?
T is currently playing at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and the Third Horizon Film Festival begins on February 6, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Here are but a few of pieces that moved me this year. Thanks for reading and please send me some recommendations !
Solange When I Get Home
Sound as contemporary architecture; album as physically regenerative material. Coming back to this album countless times only exacerbates just how odd this record is. Barely a “single” on here; fractured and non-Eurocentric ideas in terms of song structure, this record gets a lot said about it but little about how it bucks traditional mainstream album with its form alone. Solange really did so much here and much of happens subtly and namelessly all under the guise of neo-soul. This album says so much with its eyes, not the mouth. Once your make contact with it, you’re complicit in agreeing or exiling it. Polarity matters more to me than “goodness” and no one can be walk away from this record with a sense of apathy. It demands a response and if that isn’t the mark of art worthy of discussing then I don’t know what is. Thanks Solange.
Weyes Blood Titanic Rising
A haunting subtextual meditation on global environmental collapse that relates it something almost cosmic in its fathom of the horror. As someone who intimately researches global climate change through the lens of how humans have forever altered the history of this planet, listening to this record sometimes sounds like how it feels to observe the disintegration of ourselves by ourselves. This is not only in song content but in form. As the tape wobbles, the synths glisten into silence, and its Carpenter-esque vocals force you into feeling the rift between the past and the present, everything in the record is sitting you down to tell you, “yes this is Over and yes it is Our Fault”.
The Caretaker Everywhere at the end of time (Stage 6)
The almost decade long series comes to and “end” in a stunning fashion that almost feels like I’d be spoiling a movie if I go any further. Leyland Kirby’s observations on memory and memory loss receives all 10’s on the dismount. The complete 6 hour project is a fading masterpiece that cares just much about the rusting bronze frame turning to dust before our eyes than the image itself. Take a night for yourself and take it all in.
Earl Sweatshirt Some Rap Songs
Some Rap Songs may have come out in 2018, but it was late December so that narrative for best albums (for me) that year was already encased. Nevertheless, this album has walked with me through this year and so it deserves a space. Recollection and the solemn sadness that follows us as our foundations of reality become stories to tell those who they themselves mythologize our own lives seems to be a bit of a motif for all of these works but SRS puts that notion to the forefront. A eulogy of what was/could’ve been/never can be is the thread through each of these tight, less-than-three-minutes-a-piece group of songs. Ranging from the raw admissions of guilt pertaining to a broken connection with the father to a textural collage of spoken word where Earl’s parents speak their truths that inform his own language is a deft piece of storytelling that doesn’t overstate its welcome with a running time of 25 minutes. The killer is the closer “Riot!”, sampling his uncle and South African Jazz legend, Hugh Masekela. This instrumental piece encapsulates the theme of the record of unfinished stories, regret, second guesses, and momento mori all in a 1:08 jazz tune ! More than the sonics of actual piece, with the sounds arising from the brass being Earl’s own uncle solidifies the quiet sadness you’re left with as the records reaches its end. This life is a family affair whether you want it to be or not and as we look back to watch those we formally believed to immortal fade into memory of record, photography, or writing all we can do is connect the dots to inform where we’re headed for better or for worse. Again, all of this is at play in a short 1:08 jazz piece. I can’t stop thinking about “Riot!” , this record, and where we all fit in it. How someone can arguably have their magnum opus at 24 makes my heart rate jump.
I, admittedly, thought Klein was doing nothing special with her Hyperdub debut back in 2015. Almost with a jealously that “anyone could do what she’s doing here”, which I misinterpreted as something flippant. This notion really should be applied to someone doing something genius under certain light and “Lifetime” shines with this idea. Interiority is the only word I can use that makes sense in describing this record. Conversations with elders and sisters run throughout the record often making it feel like your butting in on a family conversation that shouldn’t be public. Abstract collages that allude to finding one’s self or voice give this work a feeling of standing between two mirrors. Hard to figure where you begin or end and its up to your to step out of the loop and forge your own path. All this using some pretty deft tonalities of voice and texture makes ‘Lifetime’ one of those pieces where its almost like staring at the sun; this powerful ever-present object that will hurt you if engage with it for just a bit long but so awe-inspiring that its just hard not to.
Boards of Canada Societas X Tape
Not an actual album, but I pay for this website so I can write whatever I want to on here. This 2 hour mix for the 30-year anniversary celebration of Warp Records on NTS radio holds such a large place in my heart already, I’m almost afraid of how much it will actually mean to me as I continue on in this life. Boards of Canada is such a reclusive duo that in my +10 years of listening to them, I’ve never even thought of them as existing outside of their Scottish countryside vacuum with respect to influence. This mix kicks all of that aside with a flurry of psychedelia, funk, noise, punk, and classical tracks from the 1960’s to present day showing just how much music I need to know. Mixes like these feel like navigational signposts for another 10 years, turning me on to so much music that will walk with me for a very long time. Grateful for the Sandison’s for their music, but deeply humbled for allowing me to look at their homework a bit to see how much more studying I have to do myself.
Kelela & Asmara – Aquaphoria
Aquaphoria deserves a place on here for quite frankly being a work that, if I wanted to hear anything else like it, I just wouldn’t be able to. Black chords and ambients over a plethora of legendary Warp/Warp Records adjacent tracks is a treat and a three course meal I didn’t even think I wanted but now beg for ! Kelela has been slowly showing her hand that the ultimate goal for her is more a pop affair than an underground electronic legend, but on rise to stardom (wish her the best ofc) if she can throw some gems like this every now and them I have no complaints. Did anyone this 2019 would have Kelela vocalize over a Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2, Oneohtrix Point Never and an Autechre track??? Me neither, but thank god.
Mac DeMarco Here Comes The Cowboy
I am so confused about my connection with Mac DeMarco. Something about him both confuses me and endlessly attracts me. His use of bossanova, subtle Japanese new age studio tricks, analog recordings, and now this stillness in his new works is so enthralling to me I can’t get enough. More than anything, it’s pure comfort music. This might be functionally my #1 album this year out of sheer plays (so says Apple Music). I was in Florida this summer quite alone for the most part working in a lab where I knew no one, barely knew what I was doing a spent of lot of time in the afternoon biking miles just to arrive at an empty apartment. So much of those weeks were spent silent and my only friend was this album. It felt like sitting with a pal that was just as comfortable sitting in silence or goofing around as you were. The aura of being in a room with someone was good enough for the both of us and I kept sitting with Mac wistfully strumming at a full breathed bpm over and over. I was really lonely for a bit and I thank this album for being a friend in a friendless space.
“Are Drexciyans water-breathing, aquatically mutated descendants of those unfortunate victims of human greed? Have they been spared by God to teach us or terrorize us? Did they migrate from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mississippi River basin and on to the Great Lakes of Michigan? Do they walk among us? Are they more advanced than us and why do they make their strange music? What is their quest? These are many of the questions that you don’t know and never will.” -The Quest, 2001
A year or so I was at Mood Ring, a New York bar to see a couple of friends, some of whom who were dj’ing that night and absolutely killing it. I don’t have much to remember that night in terms of Instagram stories or pictures outside of me crying to an Aphex Twin track. Someone born and raised in Louisiana for 25 years, you unfortunately rarely get a chance to listen to ’90 Cornish techno not in your own headphones, but it was happening. Later on in the night, thanks to my girlfriend, something transcendent happened. She requested to our friend Chris to play the swiftly now-culturally minted track “Gimme my Gots” by Shardaysha. A song we’d play on the car ride home to no avail now found its frequencies rolling through Brooklyn speakers and it was quite the sight. The song begins with the root tongue of many bounce songs, an extremely harsh rolling of the R for longer than two moments. As celebratory as we got by bringing a little warmth of home on vacation, I became to get really observant. Many of the bar patrons really didn’t know how to act. Some flailed, other recalled loose interpretations of Big Freedia music video choreography and I think someone in the corner ended up screaming for 10 seconds until the beat dropped. Needless to say, New Orleans Bounce really makes a dance floor that almost blurs the line of what’s considered dance.
If you know me, you most likely understand that I’m a sucker for semantics. In my world, definitions deeply matter so a conversation rarely can progress with me without subjective or personal connotative understanding leading the way; I like being on the same page. During the research of this writing I stumbling on a frustration definition of Bounce music and that it’s considered (at least by Wikipedia) not to be a dance genre, but a sub-genre of southern hip-hop. In a more general sense, classification via an open source information website may not matter all that much and probably doesn’t but it did get me thinking: why don’t we attribute New Orleans Bounce music to the lineage of American dance music? Regionally, many dance parties that start with the 90’s hits flow into house and afrobeat but any DJ worth their weight in the Crescent City will most definitely end the night on a bounce shakedown; Bunny Hop afterparty if you’re lucky. Unfortunately New Orleans Bounce on the flow charted path solidified on dance floors around the world begins to fade out the farther you steer from the birdsfoot to the point of inexistence. This silent shadowbanning of bounce from the continuum of black dance music is upsettingly deafening.
As nothing new is under the rising sun, New Orleans has been around this block before. New Orleans often finds itself in the ambiguity of the black continuum and this is no different from Jazz expansion throughout America. As suffocating racism through de-facto and de-jure politics force much of black life in the Mississippi delta to Detroit, Chicago, New York and California, new definition and perspective form for the genre and the culture as a whole. Since the great migration, Jazz music has found its worldwide appeal in the Miles Davis, Dizzie Gillespie, and John Coltrane progressing Jazz away from its Big Band/Brass beginnings into modal, transcendent, or free archetypes that bare little to no distinction to Jazz’s beginnings in Congo Square. Bounce music seems to find itself in another pseudo middle-child syndrome within progressive black music circles. That cursory search on Wikipedia delineates bounce music under the genre southern hip-hop but if you head to any bar on a night here in New Orleans, you’ll quickly find bounce can be more akin to footwork than a 75 bpm riding track. That isn’t to say that it cannot be, similar to electro, bounce is infinitely amorphous; able to slow down to play at a daiquiri lounge over Sade acapellas to speaker bleeding Limewire quality Sissy Nobby track that sounds like someone recorded the last millisecond of an 808 short circuiting, tossed in the river and looped it endlessly.
This sort of black avant-garde obfuscation is seen in Rashad’s magnum opus Double Cup (2016) where he effortlessly applies half time to the usually much “faster-than-you-can-dance-to” bpm of footwork. This celebration of auditory otherness is also seen in techno with the works of James Stintson, Heinrich Muller, and “The Wizard” Jeff Mills. Techno, House, Garage, Electro, Juke, Footwork, even breakbeat has found themselves within the continuum of black dance music that has be seen through the positive purviews of academia and cultural significance. Head to an electronic night at many venues around the world and very rarely will Bounce be played. Definitely checking the index for New Orleans dance music rears little results in a books discussing the matter. Cultural weightless often translates easily to cultural silencing where voices need to finally be heard and this is no different.
A sort of reverse hallucination that has undergone within New Orleans and its history has been going on long before Bounce music was ever conceived. As New Orleans culture is being forgotten, so goes our tangible products. The Myth of the lost cause, renaming wards and district, repopulating areas where black families have lived for centuries, the amnesia of place brought about through transplants “discovering” “unknown” areas of the city to colonize toward their own sterile vision of New Orleans. The Drexciyan myth has had it 2nd coming in 2005.
Accelerationism , Black Accelerationism, or specifically “Blaccelerationism” as coined by Aria Dean, touts that black people have been living in a “post” environment since the Middle Passage in the 1600’s. Fractured and spread around the world having to build cultures anew from trash and leftovers and over less than 2000 years that formerly label, ghetto is now the Babylon of the world with Hip-Hop and Black people being the culture d’jour for society writ large. I believe that New Orleans accelerated even faster than many other cities not only throughout America but around the world due to Geologic (subsidence), historically (Treme) and politically (Chocolate City). We don’t have the time. We’ve lost our land. Bedrock doesn’t exist. New Orleans lives paradoxically in the ending and subsequently end of days. The end of our world was early in the morning between 7:21 – 8:29 at August 25, 2005. Along the 4 canal breaches through the Lower Ninth Ward and Lakeview and began to fill homes past attics and roofs, many clocks stopped as they were inundated by the storm surge of Katrina. These clocks formed of symphony of timelessness for the gulf coast as we knew it. A moment of silence for a city once afforded love, care, and resource. The next two months after the waters breach is well documented to be nothing short of a complete catastrophe. FEMA blocked delivery of emergency supplies to Methodist Hospital, turned away Chalmette Medical doctors at the emergency staging area at Louis Armstrong Airport due to their names in a government database, actively blocked flights carrying private medical air transport, refused Amtrak’s many offers to evacuate victims, didn’t return calls from the American Bus Association or the Motorcoach Association, turned away trucks from Walmart, prevented the Coast Guard to deliver diesel fuel, and delayed all emergency supplies, vehicles, and equipment from other nations for months. The complete lack of non-federal aid exacerbated problems greatly as the Superdome had reached past capacity at over 20,000 and were all moved to the Convention Center within one day. For both evacuee areas, there was no air conditioning or proper sanitation.
The accelerations towards the collapse of the American empire is something we’ve all felt and read in the past three years or so since the 45th president’s arrival into our subconscious and twitter-feed, but these anxieties have been torturing the south’s brains for decades and came to a head in more than 10 years ago. Environmental anxiety, climate change, political corruption, etc. are the ABC’s of Louisianan culture. Everyone knows the concept of a post-environment without understanding it at an intellectual level but it’s a whole nother story when its right before your eyes. Taking the I-10 over the Ponchartrain leads you directly through the remains of what once was. First you see forgotten planks of an old path farmers would take their cattle over to reach the metropolis. Then has you reach the banks of the lake you transition into patches of lost earth; once a vibrant marsh wetland is now whittling away back into the muddy waters of the Bay where it rose from over 200 years ago. This habitat is necessity for the large diversity of wetland species in our area, now migrating away to lands more stable or merely going existent. This of course isn’t due to the natural course the earth and its process often take. What we see in front of us is the swollen corpse of what oil and gas corporations have killed and placed at our feet. Passing the sprinkles of mudflat where fertile land use to inhabit lies the culprits. The many smokestacks and refineries at Exxon and Chevron off in the distance. Wailing their fire indefinitely and proudly before New Orleans and surrounding communities.
Drexicya, and the Drexicyan myth is from is a techno group of the same name from Detroit Michigan formed by Heinrich Mueller and James Stinston. Not much else outside of possible occupations as truck drivers, little is known about these legendary black men. What is known is the legacy and Mythology they thankfully unearthed and provided to black people often felt left out in myth creation. Mythology is a preemptively healing mechanism. It allows for a context to take place around moments of deep turmoil and change. The Drexicya story is no different. Told across master cuttings in the rings of vinyl wax, track titles, and sleeve illustrations, the Drexicya myth begins with the story of the Atlantic trade. In the middle passage as Africans were being forced into the Western Hemisphere on colonizer boats many pregnant women decided they refused to allow their offspring this life of absolute horror and jumped off the side of these boats. As the women drowned, their unborn offspring adapted their lungs into gills and became Drexicyians, the children of middle passage. They soon navigated their way to their new home Drexicya using their intelligence and ingenuity they developed their own technology such as Wavejumpers. Drexicya (the duo) created cultures, enemies, and an entire livelihood out of immensely painful beginnings. By crafting Accelerationism (unbeknownst to them assumedly) into their own stories, this idea for a narrative to latch onto in times of great upheaval as Detroit in the 1980’s was a little rough historically for black people, can be so necessary when moving through a world that has planted you in an area of permanent between-ness. Instead of finding your people, you create your own.
This between-ness is nothing new for New Orleans. In the Treme, many people came from descents that were hardly binary. Creoles, Cajuns, Quadroons, Passé Blanc, etc. In the genes of many people here lies an inherent float where you must attach to some formed by you otherwise you’ll pulled in so many directions and have your feet in so many homes, but can’t lay your head anywhere. This blur of life is the defining characteristic of New Orleans. And it’s music. Is Jazz classical black music? Is it folk? Is it noise (I mean that in a beautiful way !)? As a culture, bounce obfuscates what is generally understood as human or human. Is that roll of the tongue the artist on the song? Is it an 808 snare? Maybe it’s a sample from some Carl Thomas deep cut or a voicemail passage back when Cingular was thing. Hard to know. With most bounce tracks refusing to condone to the modern day music practices of sample clearance and the like, it’s tough to get these songs to any sort of legitimate syncopation and while I wished that the producers and artists we’re compensated in a way that respect how amazing these tunes are, it’s tough not to feel pride in the resilience of refusal to bend to the will of the RIAA.
The resilient stubbornness to stay firmly within the between is something that is deep in bounce music and its culture. The party bus where the party is always on the move, the samples and bpm speeding up or dropping off where you can have two slow jams and a breakdown in the same song at the same time, and an amalgamation of identity that many peoples are still coming to terms with but has been a norm here in the Crescent City. One of our biggest cultural exports (sorry to conflate real value with capitalism) is a trans musician. Sissy Nobby is a legend through the city and gets played at cookout no matter who is throwing it. Before terminology of certain folk were communicated to the world as a whole, the dynamic of “cissy” and other forms of queerness were flowing through the Magnolia projects uptown with no fanfare. The bending of masculinity with black men whom usually find themselves shackled to the wall performing a hardened silent strong type in any other setting can enjoy a loose footwork in a second line and a shake if you catch yourself caught in the middle of a cameraman following Messy Mya vlog.
Unfortunately, in most electronic circles, New Orleans Bounce is but a footnote in the long history many have started to cherish in certain circles. The Drexicyian myth has become a welcome foundation for how people view modern black mythology through the lens of music and other art forms. Electro finds itself in the tendrils of black dance music easily as do the old tales of the Warehouse and Paradise garage in Chicago/New York dance scene respectively; but where is New Orleans in all of this? Does the south have something to say?
Historically, the form of southern black erasure is can be found in a similar narrative right up Rampart St with what has been known to be called Jazz. Due to the mass killings and awful segregationist policies of the south, many music migrated to California or Chicago in what has been come to be called the Great Migration. Unfortunately this started a domino effect with how people perceived the history of Jazz itself. Although people give New Orleans the torch with it beginnings, much of the conversation soon deviates to Cool Jazz in California, or the Coltranes and Sun Ra’s of the time. With all due respect to these people, those that write about the great works in their wake rarely carry the conversation back to the roots. A sort of reverse hallucenation is had where the history begins is what where choose to see the joy, not where the pain is had. This sense of black trauma erasure is an oft-forgotten pattern with most of New Orleans. Between Jazz and Bounce, these genres providing the same historical lineage of many cultures first created in the delta, Black Atlantic Music. As the Drexicyas pass the mouth of the Mississippi River onward the clock is reset once in Motor City.
As a culture, bounce already obfuscates what is generally understood as human or otherwise. Transness, queer identity, masculinity, it’s all up in the area. There are no boundaries between thematic, the performer, and the identity that lies in between. Already too fast for radio. Accelerationism is inherit to bounce music as technology and humanity is in lockstep as a means to the end of dismantling what we have prior perceived to be dance/southern rap or any kind of music at all. Bounce has been deconstructing club music before the website as the likes of Resident Advisor or Pitchfork began to herald the onset of what is to be considered deconstructed club music. This human-machine-ambiguity-boundary is laid bare in Bounce with the fog itself being one of the most radical notions I’ve seen in my time as lover of music (see: birth). The Roland 808 drum machine is the match to the powder keg of modern black Atlantic music. For bounce, electro, footwork, and techno, this machine is the canvas for which black expressive was spread and queered across dance floors around the world. For New Orleans, the Roland 808 and the artists that used it solidified how femininity was viewed as the dominant culture in the city. Something the Underground Resistance thankfully didn’t find themselves speaking to as it was a group of CIS black men. Not to say they had to, but even during their Salad Days, there was a diversity of voice are speaking to black rebellion from even further marginalized environments and backgrounds; to know that there are elders for those who may feel like they are walking alone can be one of the best feelings in the world and thankfully, the people are out there and so is the work they’ve done. We just need to remember that we forgot.
Sorry this took so long. If I kept it in my brain any longer I would’ve needed to make it a second job. This is not at all exhaustive of my thoughts, but I hope it’ll suffice (for now)
-Ryan Clarke 🙂