A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Even 100 years into its existence, electronic music is usually interpreted as a commodity, judged by its ability to move dancefloors and impress tastemakers. This overlooks the fact that many electronic music lovers are hermetic, introverted creatures; spinning sci-fi tapestries of bleeps, bloops, ‘n beats, from concrete bunkers and damp basements.
This dichotomy can be seen in the digital dancefloor abstractions of New York’s Ed Purchla, who makes music under the name 1700 Monkey Ninjas. That’s not to say it’s not good dance music – it is. The beats bang and the synths sing. It’s just not hitched to any prevalent trend or social grouping. He’s not just trying to move people’s bodies, but also their mind and spirit.
This can be seen in the lead single, “Amarrikuh (flacid penises and assault rifles)”, a vicious satire of America’s gun culture, over a throbbing temple beat and squelching acid synth, overlaid with some ironic, sarcastic NRA samples, juxtaposed against the chilling sounds of spent shells and screaming women. It’s not exactly Saturday night big room fare, but it’s still good electronic music.
Ed Purchla’s music brings to mind two past electronic trends, which shed some light on the intentions, and intended function, of We Are The Storm. The first would be breakcore – as practiced by Bong-Ra, Venetian Snares, and Speedy J, and the music of Richard D. James, aka The Aphex Twin.
Breakcore is not entirely topping the charts at the moment, as we all grew immunized to the spastic, drilling cut ‘n glitch that is its trademark. This might prevent trendhoppers from really digging in, and seeing what this music is saying, as well as re-considering and recontextualizing the original movement. Breakcore is electronic music’s punk rock, and is even punker than punk, as electronic production lends itself to levels of abrasion, disorienting mash-ups as cultural commentary, and a deadly sense of humor, delivered at mind deleting speeds.
And while Breakcore may not be the most “in thing” right now (although derivatives like footwork and juke are still doing quite well), it could still stand as the most appropriated soundtrack for the hyper-accelerated age we are living in, devoid of boundaries, with surreal jump cuts and flights of archival fancy, as we fall down information rabbit holes.
I mention Aphex Twin only briefly, and in passing, mainly for Purchla’s penchant for unpronouncable track titles, like “Skavenjurr” and “egsawshton puhrayd”. Like 1700 Monkey Ninjas, Aphex Twin never claimed to make music for the dancefloors, defying the commodification of sounds produced from circuitry and motherboards. James has waged a decades long war against the trendy club kids, going so far as to drop a microphone inside a blender, which people enthusiastically danced to.
I didn’t totally get 1700 Monkey Ninjas, the first couple of times i listened, as i’ve not been listening to a lot of IDM/breakage lately. The pieces didn’t totally come together until i surveyed Purchla’s digital art
, and it all started to make sense.
Ed Purchla is a digital artist. He seems enamored of computer’s ability to re-configure and recontextualize, allowing the creator untold control, as well as unparalleled channels of dissemination.
And while some might say, “There’s already too much digital art/electronic music”, i disagree, and would argue the opposite. I’m all for every single person to find their own truth, their own voice, and record it and share it if they have a yen to do so. It is up to us, as readers and listeners, to decide what we like and what we don’t, regardless of trend or hype.
Ed Purchla is returning electronic music to its early avant-garde/volk roots, somewhere between Conlon Nancarrow and David Cain. He is searching for new forms, new configurations, to voice his vantage point, to share his unique perspective.
This is true music for outsiders, for people who like to dance, and think, and read – not just blow yr brains out with ecstacy on Saturday night, to better serve as a wage slave. This is true dissidence, truly unique, and deserves to be applauded.
For those that like to discover and support rising artists, here’s a great opportunity to do so: