Friday, 20 February 2009

Wonky 3: Abstract decay processes.

Simon Reyonlds responds to the HCC imbroglio. I would assert very definitely that my claim towards the materiality of culture (which is never precisely merely a physicalism of course) is not at all metaphorical. Whilst the issue is clearly less simple than petroleum resources, the diagram of both situations: (essentially certain energies are accumulated over very long timeframes, then via integrated globalised capitalism rapidly exploited) bares certain isomorphy. To put it another way the “shock of the new”, the impact of a new cultural idea (in this case some kind of sonic gesture) once absorbed into a different musical tradition, is initially great, then tapers off as the possible forms this encounter is able to generate become rapidly exhausted.

As regards Wonky, Simon’s first claim, that “it does all seem a bit like a poncy way of saying ‘eclectronica’” is clearly inaccurate. Wonky is not a genre, hence its “eclecticism” is not a matter of mashing together disparate sonic fragments into uneasy PoMo assemblages- functionally it seems to operate in a more disparate fashion, transversal to other pre-existing genres. Wonky is a process, not a static endpoint (at least not yet…) and indeed within each artists’ oeuvre there is a consistency which remains firmly anti-eclectic. Simon’s other point, that it seems close in some respects to post-IDM artists in the late ‘90s taking on dance music genres (Squarepusher with jungle being the most infamous example) is a bit closer to what is going on here—and which touches upon some of Mark K-Punk’s musings on “rude energy”. In one sense the IDM-ification of club-based dance music might be seen as a gentrification, in another as a kind of reductio ad absurdum, a parodic (though sometimes loving) acceleration of certain ticks and features to the point where all dance-functionality breaks down (i.e.- the extreme end of breakcore/drill’n’bass). Things are slightly more complicated with Wonky, since its detournement of pre-existing genre templates does not act to necessarily destroy their club potential, it is not so much a bearded sonic terrorism/tiresome juvenile technology abuse/avant-garde translation of the hip new thing, as the finding of a new groove altogether. It is clearly not an accelerationist aesthetic by any means, rather as I have sketched before it is based upon decay (though without any of the gothic/romantic/Black Metal associations the term usually carries- decay as entirely abstract process). Moreover, sociologically many of the players in this umbrella formation, this non-scene, are clearly not outsiders or disinterested observers to the genres which they act upon, Joker, for example, seemingly beginning as any teenage Grime producer might.

Wonky applies, in its woozy textures, liquefying day-glow synthetics and dilating anti-quantised beats something surprisingly akin to the process My Bloody Valentine exercised upon indie rock guitar music- from within the tradition itself (not from the cynical perspective of the outsider) a method by which surplus aesthetic value can be extracted from deadened forms, by applying abtract-decay processes of liquefaction, breaking down the rigid sonic matter (be it the hard bone matter of drum patterns or the softer flesh of synth textures or the fibrous masses of bass pressure). In this sense perhaps it intimates a kind of sonic anti-affirmatory dark vitalism, at the level of process, since perversely its immediate affect is bright, crisp, colourful, rather than the dank encrustations we would traditionally associate with decay. This is unlike certain Hauntological artists (The Caretaker, Burial, William Basinski), who foreground the materiality of decaying sound recording media through crackle, in order to intimate and explore the processes of human memory and history, (and hence are spectral in nature, haunted). Hence it is not so much as K-Punk asserts that whereas Hauntology interrogates "the failure of the future; Wonky exemplifies it..." rather that both serve (in very different ways) as non-conventional trans-generic strategies for the extraction of dormant energies within inert sonic forms, though admitedly one is very much more candid in foregrounding its activities than the other. For with Wonky abstract-decay gives rise to new and perverse vitality, a vivid hyper-“now” sound...


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