Nodalities: Gaika, ‘Basic Volume’

Gaika’s first LP proper Basic Volume (Warp Records) enters the continuum of the ghostly matter that we call musical (sub)culture at the cusp between aesthetics and politics. There’s a feeling of Gaika as a nodal point triangulating a problem of the contemporary. This LP is part of that emerging aesthetic project the groundwork of which has been in motion for some time now.

 

This idea of time is central, with futurist dystopia inscribed into London territory as if the antagonism of urban life produces this out-of-jointness in temporality itself. A gothic time. Gaika’s resonance, and ability to tune into and amplify this warped sensibility is exemplified in his cross-referential musicality, playing through British-Caribbean soundsystem culture and industrial electronics. There’s a crispness in production, with the likes of SOPHIE and Jam City contributing, which is part of a configuration of contemporaneity that is embedded across the tracklist bringing a particular intensity and density. This intensity, in typical gothic fashion, forms an affective atmosphere of impending violence. A colonial trauma bringing forward the proximity of a third world landscape, reinscribing a race-class analysis that connects the global south with antagonisms in Britain. This seems to be working against current ideas of race and identity which are increasingly defined by ones proximity to Britishness and normative conceptions of identity.

 

The aesthetic work put-in runs along the icy lines of embodiment and disembodiment. A bounded embodiment is shown throughout his live performance, visual focus on the body/face and interest in fashion, something he’s followed through with his fashion label Armour in Heaven. This textilic and tactile materiality is set against a disembodiment engendered through the overproduction of voice in his music. This voice triggers a sense of history, historicity even, like channeling a ghostly transmission of The Spaceape’s poetics of force. There is religiosity at play. The dedication to the memory of Gaika’s father furthers this idea of history and dis/embodiment. His announcement note reading: ‘We live in turbulent times. I hope this work inspires those in search of a better world. This is dedicated to my Father. Dad, I put the reggae song on’.

 

 

 

The force of history Gaika is channeling a reinscription produced through the aesthetic labour that undergirds and maps the Gaika project. The question in contention would remain in how this aesthetic critique can reproduce and manifest a socio-political prospering within – or after – the degeneration of an urban masculinity endemic in ‘immigrant sons’. Or put another way is there a critical transformation of social form at play here amidst the aesthetics of desolation. 

 

 

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Sublime Fragments of Gothic Futures II: Confessions of an Aesthete

 

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Originally published on Southern Discomfort Zine (19/12/2014)

nike goth

The modernist monochrome street goth sport goth health goth aesthetic lies in the crypts of tumblr networks splintering into accelerated hyper-defined image culture bursting out into a fragmented post-Fordist-crash historical moment for the digitalised immaterial generation in which the present has to be reimagined and reinvented as we understand the future envisioned by the current ancien regime is already sold-off in a macabre maelstrom of financial algorithms. Yes that’s right the over/de/sensitised youth trudging on the treadmill of institutionalist futures are actually capable of cultural intervention as carnivalesque dissent rooted in historical consciousness; it isn’t the exclusionary privilege of twentieth century dislocated cultural exiles, though that might upset a grumpy old man or two.  The fragments of the goth aesthetic reconstituted for our secular crisis represents one of the more historically conscious aesthetics that shows potentialities of dissent through culture and association.

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normcore foucault

 

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With that said, late capitalist cultural logic has had no problem in appropriation with the likes of ubiquitous conglomerate retailer H&M managing our metropolitan streets with images of Alexander Wang’s latest haute goth collection. And well the absurdity of the k hole #normcore trend is high tragic farce at its finest in which contentless ideology is packaged and sold to a gentrified culture of creative industries attempting to live out orientalist fantasies of the ‘poor but sexy’, to quote Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit. The gentrifying accumulation of cultural capital; a governing pathology of social cleansing of subaltern subjectivities attempting to manage avant-garde forms of social reproduction into capital’s flows of ideology.

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In “enigmatic” artist Dean Blunt’s work we find a sharp critique and simultaneous counter-construction of the death of the black aesthetic. His most recent album Black Metal (a nod to the Norwegian realms of dysphoric icy metal articulation of a much grimmer counter-point to everyone’s favourite 90s disaffected youth Kurt Cobain) problematising black commercialism’s fetishisation of white pasts and simultaneous subsumption of contemporary avant-garde while he himself crosses textured lo-fi with Stravinsky’s sublime. Case in point, Kanye West’s newest album Yeezus with tracks such as ‘Black Skinheads’ and ‘We are the New Slaves’ epitomises a spectacle’s dearth of #pureideology, much in the same way as black capital’s first lady Beyonce’s ‘Feminism’ or Rihanna’s #seapunk style does the rounds on saturated tumblr image culture.beyonce feminist  Interestingly Kanye West called on a bunch of slightly more experimental producers for his latest LP, including Caracas’s Arca – by way of New York and London of course – whose latest album Xen is thematically centred around a non-gendered/genderqueer avatar named Xen. This arguably reflects the increasing metropolitan hybrid queer nature of a western avant-garde, although we may also want to raise questions of the historical context of such cultural production, namely the contradictions of the ‘global city’ with its flows of racialised capital and state violence, alongside avant-garde forms of social reproduction that can all too easily be subsumed into ideologies of manageability and institutionalism.

 

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Trust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18+ are an American duo playing away in the underbelly of internet, releasing mixtapes for free on their tumblr and screening their videos at the likes of the Venice Biennale with their music consisting of seedy haunting pop sounds evoking the ‘deep web’ while in line with the trend of vaporwave; a kind of embrace and deconstruction of an accelerated hyper-circulative culture while in the process constructing something quite extraordinary across a number of mediums. Until recently they referred to themselves as boy/sis but have since ‘come out’ with their first material release (LP Trust) revealing their IRL personas. Living in hegemonic times of totalised narratives and coercive reductive ‘identities’ integral to our socially reproduction/to live/ carving out a space from fragments to construct something hinting at the ethereal, even sublime, that falls beyond existing taxonomies of articulation offers a potential for unmanageability; unmanageability as dissent against banality. It all lies in the temporal fragments; in the breaks; the avant-garde as gothic; gothic as the distorted mirror-image of banal governing hegemonies.

 

 

 

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Classical post-industrial post-colonial kid playing around with electronic sounds, messing with clothes design and of course the more than occasional fashion-shoot,tweeting, naturally / problematising the spectacle of manageable yuppified ‘creative industry’ media forms while satiating an age-old desire for some decent audio-visual culture, as misplaced as that might sometimes seem. Sometimes gratuitous cultural consumption is all you can do to get through the grimy neurosis of post-Fordist traumas and there ain’t nothing wrong with that; it offers other spaces //other narratives//other aesthetics//other[ed] others breaking up psycho-geographical temporalities.

 

 

 

kitsch

And in amongst containerised creative industries there’s the ever-looming spectre of the kitsch; the epitome of reproduced tat for a people yearning for cultural capital, for taste and status, but falling into a pit of soft nationalist delusions of grandeur. But what if the kitsch is prefigured, even distorted, and weaponised into – yes our good friend – the art pc musicof the sublime. With their fluffy cute post-internet/post-digital/post-new post/post-aesthetic London-based PC Music are one of those sublime collectives weaponising pop kitschness in dissent to contemporary laddish bass club culture which unsurprisingly comes across as rather queer. One of the proponents – SOPHIE – presents an ambiguous avatar with hi-tempo hi-energy hi-definition pop via soundcloud, reflective of an accelerated hyper-circulative late capitalist ideology intensified by post-crash no futurism no doubt. In end times of postmodern simulacrum and capitalist realism perhaps all that is left are constructions from distorted mirror-images of temporally fragmented faculties/excavating cultural production/pure gothic/ pure qt.

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Postblack postqueer posthuman posttemporal #amirite?

But meh maybe its all privileged posing nonsense, maybe time will tell; though dislocated migrant persons are always dissonant, always queer(y)ing  the institutionalised logics of  taxonomies; trying to [w]rite//to excavate the displaced multi-temporalities of modernity’s metanarratives, not that its easy//

tl;dr? time’s a right fucker