Heatsick Intersex

[PAN; 2011]

Styles: casiotone, electronic, ‘gay music’
Others: Birds of Delay, Warner Jepson, Ron Hardy

I’ve known about the existence of Heatsick, a.k.a. Steven Warwick, for some time. As a fellow expat hailing from adjacent parts of the UK, I have occasionally been asked if we are acquainted, but until very recently I had not been properly introduced to him, nor his music. Indeed I did, at long last, manage to catch a Heatsick show in a cozy art space located on the outskirts of Amsterdam, where I was mesmerized by the breadth of creativity that Warwick was able to exercise, merely with a single Casio keyboard and less than a handful of sparingly employed pedals.

Intersex comes via PAN, who are no doubt one of the most exciting goings-on in the current milieu of countless limited-release labels. Until now, they have gifted us a reissue of Ghédalia Tazartès’ masterpiece Repas Froid, the TMT favorite and Eureka’d R/S record USA, and soon-to-be-Eureka’d John Wiese’s Seven of Wands, to name a few. Alternatively, Warwick, who is now based in Berlin, is previously known for being one half of the drone/noise duo Birds of Delay. Their sometimes-confusing traverse of styles has honorably earned them a tour with Emeralds, as well as a slot opening for Sonic Youth. Heatsick, in Warwick’s own words, is less abrasive than Birds of Delay, and I’d suggest that listeners inclined to more grinding aural presentations are likely to be let down by Intersex. “Tertiary” and “Ice Cream on Concrete” are extended Casio jams, lingering on passages that almost outstay their welcome. Fresh elements are sporadically added to the mix, often momentarily, and the fleeting embellishments are just enough to preserve interest. “Vom Anderen Ufer” has a more otherworldly character and is without the rhythmical latch of its two antecedents.

As TMT’s Kmmy Gbblr recently acknowledged, Intersex was apparently motivated by the work of Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), a representative of the German sexual emancipation movement and commonly regarded as “the Einstein of sex.” Warwick’s interest in Hirschfeld may well stem from the following conversation, which he once had with a doorman outside a nightclub in Leeds, England (disclosed by residentadvisor.net):

Warwick: “What night is tonight?”
Doorman: “Oh, it’s Gay Night.”
Warwick: “Well, what’s that?”
Doorman: “It’s music for gays, you know, gay music.”
Warwick: “Gay music? What on earth is that?”

Warwick states that, since this encounter, he has been “really interested in the socio-cultural aspects of [homosexuality],” hence the relevance of Hirschfeld and the sexual emancipation movement. Notably, Hirschfeld proposed that “all human beings are intersexual variants,” and that homosexuality — or what he preferred to call “third sex” — is a construct that adheres to an “extremely superficial scheme of classification into man or woman.” I’m reminded here of other music concerned with the theme of sexual intermediacy and androgyny, such as that conceived by Prince during the era of Sign o’ the Times and Lovesexy. In “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” for example, Prince assumes the female character of Camille, processing his voice to a significantly higher pitch than usual in order to hide his ever-so-deep masculine tone. Yet the song is still sung from the perspective of a male contemplating the benefits of a more platonic relationship with his female partner. “If I was your girlfriend would you remember to tell me all the things you forgot when I was your man?” he sings. In the process, Prince juggles gender and sexuality, overlapping them to the extent that any binary scheme begins to break down.

Intersex, however, deals with the theme in a completely different manner, actually lacking any standard sexual suggestion whatsoever — that is, at least, in the fashion of Prince, or Kmmy Gbblr’s preferred Ginuwine alternative. Disregarding the album’s closure, which consists of fragmented vocal utterances of “gay music,” I struggle to pinpoint the influence of (a) Hirschfeld, (b) a prohibitive socio-cultural bearing on sexuality, or (c) sex in general, aside from the fact that the music is arousing, and there is an incremental development to some of it. Then again, Intersex’s repetitious design does echo techniques used by certain architects of funk, whereby grooves are prolonged, unchanged until the latest possible moment as a means of inducing transcendental phenomena. After all, funk music is unquestionably sexy, isn’t it?

Links: Heatsick - PAN

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