The perpetual flows of group-narcissism produce slick, devastating armaments of language — the exchange of illusions, the boldest metaphors, the hunter-seeker drama of humans apprehending new tools to construct mobile armies of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms, with dynamic poetic results. These decorations litter the dust of this planet, and from this dust, language produces identities and figures that emerge beautiful and illusive, able to demonically transform the shards of capital production into absurd archetypes of armored identity. Gloriously and problematically, these identities subsume the minor processes that define the micro-scale interactions of human life — the drinking of branded water, the small failed conversations between bodies, the fleeting thoughts that provoke private catharsis and catastrophe. All are appropriated in the context of developing personal myth, in creating avatar, in “rising above” the dust dramatically, tragically, as an illusory celebration of the unreal, the fake, the wrong.
Enter Yen Tech, an artist described here as “playing with the almost imperceptible line between pop and art, reducing this gap until it is so thin that we can’t even really hear it any more.” Such descriptions have contextualized his work within a narrative of “conceptualizing pop so that it can also be art” — an art historical fallacy that errors Yen Tech’s work in critical microcosm by perhaps misrepresenting the natural flows of representation. The sheer capability of language can assemble into novel, absurd, and forceful productions that remain aloof to the ways history and context are inextricably and forcefully linked to it. As such, the very idea of art history, or “reducing a gap between pop and art,” or whatever force compels our critical minds to describe art as having any cultural significance, is similar to the production of identity and language itself: a practice tied to the constant fluttering of human beings around the flames of vanity, immersed in our constructed illusions and dream-images. These processes break down, a fact clearly and magnificently demonstrated throughout Yen Tech’s new opus Mobis. Here, we see his pop-narrative dissolved into an illusory celebration of fragmented culture, an embodied tracing of the pressurized lines that push against all sides of contemporary life.
Yen Tech is the vicious pop avatar of artist Nick Newlin and is a sublimation of multiple art processes that feed into a final-form representation of his ultimate virtual self. As a forceful impact with the processes of identity production, Mobis’s dream-like representation of a personality into a public horcrux of powerful symbology becomes a profound explication of public madness. Mobis is a brutalist assemblage of a Kabuki-style narcissist fantasy — the replication of the king, the god, the legendary figure that is venerated through the otherwise forgotten, drab processes of lived culture. The album follows an ascension of being into an interpellated god-status, one blind to any conceivable human torment through its strict construction of a virtual “armor prison.” This armored core absorbs the consumption of culture as a vital survival tactic to hybridize identity amongst the wild signs that usually damage and consume vulnerable humans. Similar to the creation of an exalted stonework figure embellished with opulent jewelry, crested swords, and carved hair flowing in divine wind, Yen Tech is the product of detailed and venerated madness.
Mobis’s immersive theater and next-generation aesthetics function as a final-identity-fantasy as well as a sick study on post-trap identity corruption. As if setting fire to the subversive yet totally replicant Yen Tech identity that was birthed from the REVENGEANCE mixtape, Mobis is thrilling precisely due to it celebrating the total meltdown of an already melted pop identity. As heinous as it is compelling, the record takes strands of Rae Sremmurd and Gatekeeper to produce affect-driven strands of performed hysteria. “Hunter - Seeker” rattles forth in a storm of shrill psytrance. Newlin’s voice swims throughout the arrangement with strange volume modulation; his voice creeps upward and beneath an overstuffed mix in a mutant-rap mania not far from the grotesque productions of Insane Clown Posse. The affect develops a suspended cultural state that feels like theater, that Kabuki-like moment when a character’s wild voice contorts and reshapes itself as some forlorn, plot-driven expression of delirium. “진짜 Jincha” adds to the gruesome scene, as his whispery delivery produces a villainous spectacle over trap-kicks. He coos berserk phrases and completely gone aphorisms: a remark about K2, or about “Coming through the bamboo,” or “flipping yr bitch x-games, ratata-ta, woo!, Jincha-yeah!
“Cloudchasers” celebrates a mutant-virus version of ATL-style trap-club; the vibe is pumped with a shot of blowfish-coke-poison-insanity that pushes hi-hats to skitter alongside lyrics referencing cursed phantoms, Team Rocket, Kawasaki, heatseeking missiles, and (F/V)inn Diesel swag. The surreality of the pastiche goes beyond ecstatic genre-bending; this is the derangement of a deeply complex human brain destroying and interfacing monstrously with cultural information. ADR’s crystalline and adventurous production tendencies can be heard smeared throughout the album, in gorgeously detailed productions that have violent textures and cinematic blasts interacting tensely with Koto strings, demented synth blips, and narrative skits. This all takes an immediate halt to the deeply disturbed slow jam bump of “Lotus,” a nod toward the overtly sexualized overtones that often motivate rampant culture-mania, like an otaku given sudden pop-star status in a Suda51 pervy-motorcycle-game, their unhinged sex drive hybridized with brash assemblages of experimental sound design. The “turn up” on Mobis is real, but perhaps only in clubs that descend into lunatic-nihilist fervor, a club scene out of the darker corners of post-humanist sci-fi. The album’s final two-track stretch — “Pathways” into “Zero Angel” — is flat-out moving, as forlorn, Sadboys-style pads run over Newlin remarking “I just hatched out the mother-fucking egg, straight up!” Machinic textures embellish a narrative scene where a character is resuscitated by an injection of Wagnerian orchestra. Suddenly, a computer voice states coldly, “Welcome back, your angel unit is ready.” The uplifting sentiment gives way to the brutal passage of piercing synths, an intensity that brings Mobis to an ecstatic, climatic finale — ecstatic as a hybrid force of omni-affectual, infra-cultural psychosis.
The armored core of Mobis’s ecstasy is Yen Tech’s desirous will to totally sublimate a delusional identity as an act of affirmation — to locate the identity of dreams and vision in a totally forfeited gesture of personal catastrophe. After all, to suffuse a partial-and-fluid identity into a symbolic destruction/construction of cultural interaction clearly helps display the lines of force that contain and constrain contemporary life. To witness such a fearless adornment of those forceful affects, against culture and into culture, is breathtaking. The album pays respect to the damaged and often grotesque dramas that our ever-complex tendencies and fragile identities perpetuate: from Hakuna Matata Bitch; to existential scenes of lonely souls in cold light, under skies still with pitiless clarity; to grin and begin “the scan”; to carry the prison so that the armor becomes a new self.