Tuesday, June 29, 2010

RIP Rammellzee, Inventor of Gothic Futurism

"Graffiti Is a Future-writing Machine

"After sur-realizing slanguage into the tWilight kingdom of double-dutch
remanipulation on the Beat Bop 12 , Rammellzee begins to analyse the
formal implications of HipHop, and immediately realizes that Graffiti
constitutes a future-writing machine: 'Graffiti is a word that society
placed on abstract technique, iconic statement. People did not
understand . '

"Fab 5 Freddy redefines Graffiti as Calligraffiti, just one name among
many: Iconografix, Aeroglyphics and Aerosoul Art all presume an
extensive training in exclusive symbol systems. Aeroglyphics is
maintained by an electribe of youths bonded together through skills,
cabalized by the technics of vision .

"Wildstyle teturns communication to priestly elites who transmit
baffling codes throughout the city. Fab 5 Freddy stresses that 'Wildstyle
is totally illegible unless you 're initiated. ' The city walls turn into secret
channels. The city trains become galleries Without walls for the
cyphertribes .

"The pictogram involves the senses in McLuhan 's 'ballet of postures of
the mind.' Wildstyle exercises the senses, puts the eyes and ears through
an Escherized assault course. For Bando, the letter opens up a new
possibility space: 'I make letters because 26 letters is enough to define
every single thing that exists in this world .'

"The Formal Operations of HipHop

"Wildstyle is just one element in a HipHop now understood as a series of
techniques , an ecology of media which together constitutes a
kinaesthetic WarMachine. HipHop has hitherto been understood naively
in terms of its content, of what software engineers call the front end of
message, lyrics, output. In the lkonoklast Panzerism Manifesto,
Rammellzee crosses a new threshold of machine evolution by elaborating
the formal logic of Hip Hop, its back end, its abstract operations: 'You
have the gladiators, the freestyle dancers, warring on the ground , you
have the graffiti writers warring in the air or in space. You have the
translators, the DJs, the MCs. The DJs make the sounds of the piston
inside the graffiti element or the tank.'

"For Rammellzee, graffiti is tomorrow's writing machine - 'the graffiti
element or the tank' - which can enter into the centuries-old war of
armoured sign-systems . The dj is the phonomotor: 'Their sound is the
perfect tuning of the engines, the engines in the tank that go
bambambam. That is beat culture.' The lkonoklast Panzerism Manifesto
opens up the conceptechnics of Hip Hop. To open up a conceptechnics is
to elaborate the conceptual technology of a new sound, the abstract
machine which drives a new Machine Music. Expertise is encoded on the
microchip. Virtuosity has migrated to the soundmachines which contain
all music as presets, soundcards and soundfiles . Black MUSic is in the
machines. Therefore an approach to the machine and to machinethought
obsolesces premachinic identity. Every sampler and every software
sequencing package is 'a constellation of systems and subsystems'
through which the producer navigates. A possibility space therefore
emerges from restriction, the mother of invention in Holger Czukay's
equation . Conceptechnics fluctuates between constraint as a function of
the in strument's potential and as a function of the producer's mind.


Militarizing Beat Culture

"Abstracting HipHop into a series of formal operations is the first stage in
Rammellzee's militarization of beat culture. His aim is to turn the
abstract machine into a conceptual WarMachine. This is why he
describes himself not as a producer or an MC but as 'a mathematician
and an engineer' who 'builds weapons for a living.'
Magico-mathematics and concept engineering converge in the
encryption system of Wildstyle. From this emerges Ikonoklast Panzerism,
the armoured typographical machine, the cryptogram matron used in the
communication wars of the future . Panzerism leaves the walls of the
world behind to become an encryptic technics in a universe of secret
myth-systems .

"Writing, alphabets, typographies are all ubiquitous elite technologies
that have lowered themselves into your consciousness where they adapt
you to their habit, their reflex, their perception . The alphabet is not just
a transparent communication but a ubiquitous technology, a system
adapted and encrypted by successive religious regimes for warfare: the
Roman, the Christian , the Medieval , the Gothic. Words, letters, signs,
symbols are all weapons, stolen , ornamented and wrongly titled to hide
and manipulate their meaning.

"The prize? Control of the means of perception : 'The Romans stole the
alphabeta system from the Greeks through war. Then in medieval times,
monks ornamented letters to hide their meaning from the people . Now,
the letter is armoured against further manipulation.'
Rammellzee 's war takes place on this front: the barely perceptible
level of habit and reflex. Each subsidence, each decompression into
ubiquity is a victory for one technology over another in a perpetual war
between adaptive technologies fought on your own sensorium .
Panzerism is a mystery weaponsystem in a secret war not against
future corporations but against shadowy Christian cabals: Ikonoklast
'means symbol destroyer, it's a very, very high word militarily, because
the two Ks are the only two letters that can assassinate the infinity sign,
remove the X.'

"The MythScience of Beat Culture

"By elaborating the abstract machine of HipHop, Rammellzee opens up
the MythScience of beat culture, which becomes a mythengineering of
symbolic information.

"'87's awesomely crepuscular track The Lecture opens up the Military
Perceptual Complex of MythScience . Rammellzee is no longer a Master of
Ceremonies, an Me. Instead he's an MK3 , a Master of Kommand Kontrol
Kommunications , a despotic esoterrorist who lectures on 'Aerodynamics
and Quantum physics'. Instead of breaking down information to its
simplest atoms, the tunnel visionary systematically encrypts all
information : 'But we want you to understand that the integer is a nation
by itself. Its function [pauseJleads you into the future .'

"Mathemagical Weapon Systems

Panzerism is heavier than the Pentagon. InSide the Military Perceptual
Complex, the integer is the magico-mathematic weapon for use in
cyberneticist Norbert Wiener's scientific wars of the future . Drawing you
into an auditorium where echoes seat your hearing at the back,
Rammellzee's voice arrives from a distant lectern , inducing a powerful
sense of being drawn into overlapping systems of privy information: 'All
formation and military function that hold the code to any formation
procedure. With. Out it you have no control. You will have no control.
This information I cannot really give you. Because I am not the master of
its own technique.'

"Throughout, the tone of the lecture shifts treacherously from acerbic
to drawling to disquieting: 'As the [pauseJ interrogator of Ikonoklast
Panzerism I don't give nobody no business. I tell you what is full military
information and function for all integers, all four of them . There are no
pictograms here. What I draw is architecturally built and will fly .'
Information and function : as a cryptogrammatology, Ikonoklast
Panzerism encrypts all symbols , inducing an overpowering sense of
ominous information and conspiracy made audible in Lecture's keening,
multi tracked voices. Horns loom into tonal shadows, shattered by string
arrangements that reverse into Varesian shriekbacks which leave space
shuddering from the concerted attack impulse.

"The cryptogram matron cracks alphabets and breaks down equations.
It works as a code breaker and symbol destroyer in the ongoing
perceptual wa rs : 'In a war aga inst symbols which have been wrongly
titled , only the letter can fight . The infinity sign with the fusion symbol
[x] in its middle has been wrongly titled Christian [.] and thus it has to
be assassinated or the x has to be removed .'

"The letter is a signal system designed for armoured combat in the
sign wars. Across the unstable front of the typographic warzone,
Rammellzee assassinates the fusion symbol sign, and removes the x
using the integer and the letter. This is rapper jeru the Damajaa 's Wrath
of the Math, where symbols are mathemagic numbers imbued with lethal
capabilities. Rammellzee: 'The infinity sign is a mathematical, scientific,
military symbol. It is the highest symbol that we have and you know
there isn 't even a key on the typewriter for it. I'm going to finish the
war. I'm going to assassinate the infinity sign.'

"Equation = Annihilation

"In his drive to capture all levels of the analogical, Rammellzee crosses
into the covert ops of clandestine perception. Symbols are Commands
which encode power: 'The 4 integers, nocturnal myth, music notes,
meterological symbols of heterosizers and all integers that formate any
process of reading pictogram knowledge [pause] and of course my
invention of the atomic note [pause] for Panzerism. ' This abstraction of
HipHop's formal architecture and the convergence of its kinaesthetic
operations leads Rammellzee to invent a militarized mathematics. In the
war of symbolic systems, the equation is annihilation. Norbert Wiener
looks up from his flow charts to announce that 'The effective
mathematician is really as dangerous as a potential armourer of the new
scientific war of the future.' In mathemagics, equations are the operating
instructions for unknown authoring engines.

"On Don Brautigan's back sleeve for james Brown's '73 The Payback,
Mind Power is illustrated by a profile of a man recessed into grey,
pyramidal stone. His cortex is divided into sections, each inscribed with
archetypal equations: E = MCl. Mind glows with the light of mental
power, astralized by magi co-mathematics.

"Brown analogizes vinyl 's groove to funk's groove. By abstracting
material and Applied Rhythmic Technology at the same material plane,
he opens the conceptechnics of funk. The revolutions of Mind Power on
the decks flexes the muscles of the mind. Each revolution of funk's
groove rescores the mind until it becomes a superpower. The jB drills
the audience into its new nervous system, until you become the souljah
in an army imbued with Soul Power.

"Equations - postures of the mind - converge with post-john Lily
cybernetic bioprogramming on how to tap into the mind 's powers, how
to bodybuild the brain. Funk turns into a subjectivity engine, into what
Detroit's Techno dj-imagineer Electrifying Mojo will in '93 call the
'Mental Machine'.

"The MythScience of the Scratch

"The Lecture probes into the unexplored possibility space of skratchadelia.
The perceptual pressure of the new artform forces Rammellzee forward
into a MythScience of the scratch, the Darkside of the decks, the
hermeticism of the headphones, the trigonometry of the transformer
switch: 'You must talk to the dj. You must. Talk. To . The dj . The scratch is
not for you. The scratch [pause] is not for me. But you must listen to it
anyway. Education is only subliminal. Redefine. Redefine.'

"Breaking the beat doesn't always reduce it to the atoms of
Ultramagnetic MCs' machine mythology. For Rammellzee the beat is
already an encoded rhythm , and to break it down only encrypts it
further. The scratch is vinyl made recognizable yet unlocatable. Only by
comparison can you approach the scratch. Its new tone leads you on an
analogical f1ightpath. just because it 's pop doesn't make it easy.
On the contrary, the science of the scratch is massively difficult,
demanding intense rehearsal. Far from being something anyone can do,
scratching is intimidatingly elitist, an artform heard by all but only
understood by the obliterati. As it currently exists, 20th C art can barely
grasp the tonal history of turntabilization.

"In exploring the formal implications of the scratch, Rammellzee in '87
can therefore presuppose a global audience of 100 at the most. Strings
are arranged into shrieking attacks that halt abruptly, leaving space
trembling with shock impact like an EEG pulse gone critical: 'Only he has
the number written down in the scratch . Intellectualize. Redefine.
Because it 's only in the dj 's manuscript. And it's no spoken word. It's
called a scratch. With all the millions and millions of megabeats that
have been programmed in our minds, we know it all equals down to zero
zero zero active negatives.'

"A female chorus keens mournfully. A ship horn blasts as it
approaches harbour: 'You hold the scratch being a broken record . This
wine turns to twine. Entwines like a rope in your mind/ Like DNA code.'

"The MythScience of the scratch is just one element of the would have stopped. But I think yours [speeded-up vocoderl just got
started. I held all this information back from you just because you
haven't signed your name to your death certificate.' Shards of funereal
ghost choir break in, the jagged edges of broken harmony.

"Gothic Futurism fastforwards the ancient Gothic <> Germanic script suppressed by Roman typography. Rammellzee becomes the
Historetician, the historical theoretician who terrifies through his
esoterical terrorism. Factory rhythms engulf the lecture. A bottle
smashes, becomes the beat, pistons punch out time, hammers jack and
judder, steam shoots needles of hissing air. Strings swarm in an
impending unease, a state of unlocatable threat. Forlorn voices wail in a
threnody for deleted massacres.

"Lecture is structured as a series of inscrutable commands from a
Destructiv Knowledge Engine: 'We want you to proceed with your books
on Gothic texts. We want you to open up the pages 449 45 Roman Law.
Turn to card number 1997. And for this we want you to know that you
have already failed your course with a B. You haven't even gotten to
what it is. The inflammation of all information.'"

--Kodwo Eshun, More Brilliant Than the Sun, 1998, Quartet Books, p. 29-36

Ornament and Crime

A review of the new To Rococo Rot album is up at Popmatters. Read it here.

The review also contains a brief overview of post-rock and references to articles on the genre.

-Scope Simon Reynold's piece for The Wire in May 94 here.

Nitsuh Abebe's "The Lost Generation" seems to have disappeared from P4K's archives, but has been archived here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Autonomic for the People

Written well before Fabric wound up being on the auction block, here's a piece at PopMatters on d-Bridge and Instra:Mental's swell little Fabriclive mix.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Minimal Waves

As a companion to my last Difference Engine column, here's a review on The Minimal Wave Tapes Volume One. It addresses a few of the things the column left out and a few others that were pointed out to me in response to the column.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Done Trying Too Hard To Be Yourself

The review of Ariel Pink's latest and greatest is now up. Man, it really is true how the more something affects you, the easier it is to write about it. I think this one's quite good if you're down for it.

As a bonus, here's an oldie and somewhat ignored article about music degradation/texturalism that applies somewhat to any discussion of Ariel Pink.

Hip-Hop is Afraid of Its Shadow

A dialogue on Thavius Beck's new album

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beyond the Panacea

Quite like this quote from Carl at The Impostume that seems to illustrate overwhelmingly how the BP situation has thus far been such a perfect demonstration of capitalist realism:

"The B.P. situation is another assault upon optimism, but of a somewhat more intransigent kind. There is a nightmare whisking away of the mind’s well-thumbed comfort blanket, a little inkling of what it must be like to find you have an incurable disease. The necessary state of mind that somehow it will all be all right, all get sorted out somehow founders. There is something about the leak that’s properly traumatic, violating the cosy belief that nothing will ever get too bad, that technology will save us. The leak is a kind of nightmarish, insistent surplus of the real decimating the fantasy that someone, somewhere will always be able to take charge of the situation and resolve it."