A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Demdike Stare, the enigmatic sonic alchemists Sean Canty and Miles Whitaker exist as a genre unto themselves.
They occupy a grey zone of DJing, sampling and composing. You can picture them living in some moldering, musty temple, stacked to the rafters with old LPs. From this citadel, they are weaving worlds out of library music, obscure soundtracks, old jungle and breakbeat, new wave and field recordings. This temple would be like The Gyre in Clive Barker‘s Weaveworld in the subterranean tunnels of The Raw Shark Texts: A Novel.
Demdike Stare’s mixes are an event, like a solar eclipse or a nuclear winter. They drop unexpectedly, like an otherworldly monolith, with little fanfare and no information. These are not like other mixtapes, and they provide an essential insight into what the Stare are doing, and a portal into the world at large.
We are living at the end of time, the end of history. We are dancing amidst increasing heaps of rubble and debris, as 150 years of Capitalism piles up around our ears.
So… much… Product.
Hoarding is the sickness of our times.
And look at how vindicated we all feel when watching a hoarding program on the telly, when that poor squalid misor sees the error of their ways, and agrees to have a team clean out their cave. Normalcy has been regained, and all that stuff can go to the rubbish heap, where it belongs. We blame and victimize the hoarders, for daring to think that they could possibly use that trash for something, while not much is being said about the illness of those making the trash in the first place.
Examining Demdike Stare’s mixes, and their music in general, cuts right to the heart of several cultural issues, that are especially apparent in the realm of electronic music. The first i would call Futurism vs. Appropriation; the war of creation vs. sampling. Listen to Post Collapse, or any other of Demdike Stare’s murky soundworlds, and contrast against the chrome-polished machine funk of Daniel Avery‘s Drone Logic that i’ve been going on about lately. I like them both, but they’re going about completely different aims, that goes back to the very beginning of electronic music; the French musique concrete, and the German synthesis (that is a rough geographical simplification, only for illustration, please bear with me).
A quote, from the sainted Pierre Schaeffer:
For Musique Concrete, the essential character of music as a human activity is such that the listening experience and the ‘ear’ are crucial things. For Electronic Music, the priority is the idea, the system, the perfection of control, of precise rationalization… to become scientific.
One aspires to be more machinelike, more precise, with complete control over every component of sound. The other, the concrete angle, is more humanist. It is seeking soul, THROUGH the machines.
Let’s face it, folks. There’s no going back, no return to some idyllic Eden from which we never came. We can’t undo several thousand years of culture and ideas (unless they are all eradicated in a cataclysm, which could happen). It becomes our goal to figure out exactly what we want, what we’re trying to achieve.
Which brings us to our next point, the subtitle of this article: Bricolage vs. Pastiche. Pastiche is merely re-creating something which has already been made. I don’t mean for that merely to sound condescending or leading, as it has its own value and its own rewards, it just requires a different mindset and uses a different part of the brain. The pastiche comes with it a kind of cozy nostalgia, which i am also prey to and enjoy, but it is also deadly, and WILL ultimately push a culture into degeneracy. It’s the old argument of “a decade comes back every twenty years”. What will they be remaking in 20 years time?
Bricolage is defined as “combiningg sometimes anonymous things that have already been used, and also giving them new purposes and meanings. Bricolage is able to create new meaning from the old while pastiche is just referencing the old for what it means.” It’s a bolder, and weirder form of referencing, because it doesn’t come right out and tell you what it’s doing, what it’s trying to achieve. Bricolage are strange, cut-up surrealist worlds of conflicting and harmonious form, with their own dream logic and laws of physics.
Much like the mixes of Demdike Stare.
Canty & Whittaker’s art, for me, best illustrate the experience of being an artist and fanatic, living and working in 2013. We’ve got all these tools, all these ideas, all these resources, and the question remains, the question always remains: what, then, to do about them? You’ve got to get clear. You’ve got to have an idea. The way that Demdike Stare butt up private press new wave LPs against musty old academic synthesizers tracks, further smudging and disorienting them with waves of delay, distortion and reverb, or the way that anonymous film samples run into fluffy-smooth-and-sultry ’70s soul-jazz, are the closest approximation of the listening habits of every music fanatic that I know, at least. We’re all listening to everything, sampling everything. The world is breaking into a blacklight prism of increasing wyrdness, and Demdike Stare are ahead of their fold.
Post Collapse doesn’t come with a track listing, and i wasn’t able to identify a single one. It seems besides the point, really. Trying to figure out what the hell is going on seems to be the point, or just enjoying the ride. Wondering where their Library breakbeats come from, where they get their Tijuana brass, wondering if it’s even a whole track that i’m hearing or if it’s cobbled and assembled from bric-a-brac keeps me awake at night. It makes me foam at the mouth, makes me dive for hard-drives and records and tapes, wondering what i could do with them, what treasure they contain.
Demdike Stare make me want to listen to music.
There seems to be a few copies left, so grab ’em while you can from Boomkat.