A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Paul D. Miller – aka DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid – pushes the sampler to its ultimate musique concrete potential on Viral Sonata, the first post-Human “hardcore hip-hop album with no beats and barely any recognizable human voices.”
Sound is all around us. So are signals, waves, and data. We swim through a vapour cloud of symbols, signals, sounds, and ideas on the daily. Some of these ideas are contagious. Some of these sounds are living things, taking on a strange, radioactive, evolving half-life in the petri dish of Paul D. Miller‘s Viral Sonata.
We swim through a vapour cloud of symbols, signals, sounds, and ideas on the daily. Some of these ideas are contagious. Some of these sounds are living things, taking on a strange, radioactive, evolving half-life in the petri dish of Paul D. Miller‘s Viral Sonata.
Viral Sonata: An Inventory of Effects is the second album Paul D. Miller released under his own name and not his shadowy DJ Spooky moniker. Coming just a scant two years after Spooky’s opus Songs For A Dead Dreamer, Viral Sonata evokes a similar dystopian future cityscape but stripped of its humanity – beatless, cloudy, and hidden as opposed to Dead Dreamer‘s downbeat militancy. Here, Paul D. Miller’s Emu sampler is pushed to its breaking point, returning electronic music to its radiophonic origins scoring alien invasion movies and visions of deep space. It’s more Xenakis than Terminator X, more Stockhausen the Stock, Hausen, and Walkmen. The sounds are unlike anything you’ve ever heard before, like anything heard on Earth.
Viral Sonata: An Inventory of Effects is very much a product of the late ’90s, from a Golden Age of sampling when anything seemed like fair game, when sounds from any era and any culture could fall under a producer/remixer’s blade. As is the case with a lot of Progressive Electronic Music from the ’90s, this does run the same risk that Jazz Fusion faces, that of “playing tennis without a net.” While many progressive electronic producers seemed like the were sonically appropriating in a bid to seem “far out,” the rave equivalent of an armchair exotica traveler, a stereophonic colonialist, Miller has a deeper and more engaged relationship with his mutant sonics.
Listening to Viral Sonata 22 years after the fact, it’s striking how prescient Paul D. Miller’s sound mangling and sci-fi philosophies were. Keep in mind, this came out in 1998, when cellphones weren’t even ubiquitous yet, let alone high speed internet, let alone mobile technology. The word viral had a much different connotation in 1998 than it would even 10 years later.
Many of the philosophies espoused in the liner notes of Viral Sonata sound almost trite or like common sense in 2020. This was cutting-edge futurism in 1998, however, before Philip K. Dick and Marshall McLuhan and Deleuze were household names. Even apart from the music, Viral Sonata is a masterclass of avant-garde 20th Century philosophy and art, a loving homage to those with eyes fixed firmly on the horizon, spying the coming Cloud, the on-rushing horde, the rising tide of misinformation and all of the confusion it sows.
Viral Sonata is a masterclass of avant-garde 20th Century philosophy and art, a loving homage to those with eyes fixed firmly on the horizon, spying the coming Cloud, the on-rushing horde, the rising tide of misinformation and all of the confusion it sows.
Viral Sonata reminds us that not only germs and micro-organisms are contagious. So are ideas and philosophies and viewpoints. It reminds us to keep our boundaries and borders porous, even while we’re all self-quarantining. It also offers an opportunity to re-appraise and re-appreciate sounds from all over, of revitalizing the magpie spirit inherent in sample-based electronic music, musique concrete, remixing, and sound collage. This is cultural appreciation, not cultural appropriation.
Listening to Viral Sonata during this global pandemic, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that ideas and attitudes are infectious. If at all possible, we encourage you to spread as much hope, positivity, creativity, health, and optimism into yr community in any way that you see fit. And since we’re all in lockdown anyway, we’d also like to take this opportunity to encourage you to hunker down in yr bunkers and make yr art. Fall in love with the world’s sounds and musick, all over again. Sample indiscriminately, and turn those surreal sonic sculptures into something personal and strange. As Paul D. Miller notes in the liner notes of Viral Sonata, “All sounds are copyright free. Please sample it and enjoy. No one will be sued. Spread the word.”
So perhaps start with sampling this record, to create yr own viral sonatas, yr own mimetic magick.
Stay healthy. Stay happy. Stay safe.
Looking for more viral entertainment during yr quarantine? It’s Plague Week here on Forestpunk! We’ll be bringing your virulent movies, music, books, and comics all week long! So stay tuned and check back often! And, of course, follow @for3stpunk on Twitter and Instagram for more aesthetics to entertain, distract, inspire, and inform during this outbreak.