In a 2015 lecture to the European Graduate School’s Media and Communication Studies department, Benjamin Bratton, an American theorist, sociologist and professor of visual arts, presented thoughts dubiously compiled under the frame of “The Post-Anthropocene.” His talk began with a description of the now non-existent “Sanzhi UFO Pod City,” a seemingly futuristic city built in 1978 near New Taipei City in Taiwan for vacationing US soldiers. The city was abandoned in 1980 due to a series of suicides and bad omens believed to be the result of evil spirits enraged by the destruction of an ancient dragon statue.
As ruins tend to, the grounds became a home for a range of non-human beings. 10 million orchid mantises from five different species developed an intricate civilization enmeshed within the human-made structures, co-composing a living architecture with several species and sub-species of orchids. The ruins, insects, and plants together formed an inter-special super-identity, reminding us, according to Bratton — that “The Future city is not for humans.” He furthers that “The Anthropocene, the reframing of the Earth in the image of industrial modernity, will be short lived. It will be less of a geologic era than a geopolitical instant. Humans are vanishing. Our cities are not our own. We are building the habitats for life forms other than our own. We are their tools, we are the robots for future insects…”
Within this frame, the machinic music being developed by and supposedly for humans by human digital composers — the signifying sonics of spliced vocal components, spectral AI effects, high-impact digital ephemera, agile rhythms — all can be seen as wholly impermanent extensions of personal will haphazardly located in abstract communicative environments. The recordings placed here are willed into being. They flash, and then disappear; they become archived to hard drives as impermanent as sand huts in the desert, quick to be blown away back into a shapeless form — sound into sonority, back into an insectoid buzz.
As mentioned in a review of M.E.S.H.’s Piteous Gate, there is an expansive, loose association of international producers who know full well the allure of Machinic Eros, as Felix Guattari calls it, “the desire to be in the thick of things,” be it culture, technology, symbols — the whole range of messy systems humans attempt to wrangle. These artists often use a cinematic symbology and all of its tropic tendencies to arrive at a statement of personal vision, interpolating trending audio into prodigious wills to power, wills to become, or, in the case of South African producer Dasychira, the will to un-become in an audible act that reflexively acknowledges a fragile humanity at the center of this discourse’s high-fidelity. Bratton would refer to this pantheon of sound loosely as a “disintegrated communicative array, an atmospheric metropolis built of digit-strings, where the addressability of physical objects (withdrawn into their specific enumeration) is itself overmatched by the addressability of abstract relations between objects, placing them toward substantialized abstractions, towards an absolute communication and absolute in-communication simultaneously.” Whew.
Immolated, Dasychira’s debut release on Blueberry Records, follows releases by label head FaltyDL and the massive debut of Elysia Crampton’s acclaimed American Drift. The EP shines as a statement in the overflowing field of abstracted “club-ish” music; it doesn’t seem interested in a will to power, escapism, or even the apparent Kafka-narrative of the culinary human materializing as insect. Rather, he demonstrates a cannibalized un-becoming, an immolation of the human into sound-structures like the insectoid co-composititon of Bratton’s human-mantis-orchid-ruin superstructure. Dasychira’s overwrought, emotionally detailed, yet somehow still near-empty productions contain the full ornamentation of high-fidelity club music with a deconstructive agenda. The EP’s tracks are armed with sounds and tactics normalized within the field. They brim with affective potential — “heart” music appealing to the whole scope of human desire. Yet, still, these tracks acknowledge this human desire fading away — arriving as fleeting apparitions, club songs for no one — soundtracking movement between spaces, interstitial states, species changes.
“Reliquary” and “Amitie” underscore the EP with a semi-melodic, infrastructural ambience obscured by hostile, chattering interruptions. These pieces veer into sweet affective nothings, Zazen poems delivered off the cuff of a prayer hand. They lament for human impermanence, displaying a nostalgic pathos toward a momentary cinematic understanding lost forever. Nodding at Arca in general timbre, Immolated’s substance is more deeply defined by a pining tone that comes to full fruition on the closing track’s outro, where percussion and melody are both tuned into a wriggling, sharpened moan. These somber moments shift into concise focus on “Caduceus,” an obvious single that easily outruns similarly-minded 2017 club attempts. The track is fueled by a molten emotional core that, again, balances a powerful initial presence with melancholy, as the piece moves into a wistful dissection of the track’s infrastructural characteristics.
It cannot be overstated how ubiquitous attempts at manipulating and stabilizing human affect have become in 2017 electronica. Relentlessly, productions veer into massified attempts at cinematically swallowing whole experiences of apocalypse, dysmorphia, and alienation into highly coded extensions of personal will. Dasychira’s music skirts through this milieu with a truly thoughtful impermanence. Human artifices are rusted, damaged, torn, and co-composed into a sonorous, non-existent “Sanzhi UFO Pod City,” an architecture quite different from the futuristic designs of IDM and deconstructed club music that the EP floats through. Kyselina, the machinist 3D artist responsible for the EP’s cover art, has designed one of his most compelling works for this release, a spectacular example of a human hand composing the utter living character of a mantis larvae incubating under laboratory conditions. As the complete visual frames the record, the sheer detail here matches and then surpasses the music’s sonorous detail. It’s a vivid acknowledgement of our transience seeing the virtuality of this living creation become real again, brought forth by a human will from the void through digital ephemera — extending into sound — highly complex and ornate sound that touches all of our excitations and hysteria, then descending back into either a cosmic silence or the deafening buzzing of insects, droning without form forever.