Here We Go Again

I spent today on the beach in Cornwall with a book of short stories by Daphne Du Maurier. The first one in the collection was a story about an island of peaceful inbreds off the Cornish coast who batten down the hatches to avoid a deadly easterly wind. When they wake the next day, they find the wind has blown a ship full of exotic men into their harbour and, with them, a thalassic libido that infects the island’s inhabitants — with horrific results.

It’s a story that feels almost proto-Landian. Desire, cigarettes and brandy blown in on horny noumena, interrupting an incestuous status quo.

The wind was blowing pretty strongly whilst I was reading this story and, later, as we tucked ourselves into our Cornish cabin with the fire on, out from the east, another familiar wind blew in…

Zack Beauchamp has written a long article for Vox about what Accelerationism is and how it’s fuelling violence across America. It’s been about six months since the last so we were due another one.

There’s nothing new here. It suffers from the same irony of all the other mainstream media guides to Accelerationism in 2019. It is the journalistic misreading of philosophical Accelerationism that people have been trying to correct for six years but which has perpetuate nonetheless in a journalistic echo chamber that has done far more to inspire the alt-right than Deleuze and Guattari. They’re certainly not getting these readings from us. A lot of these edgelords are looking for Cliff Notes and finding articles just like this one instead.

Credit where due, Vox has done something a little bit different here. They’ve interviewed Land himself to get some clarification… But then not understood what he’s said and joined up all the same dots as the tabloids:

The earliest version of “accelerationism” was, ironically enough, in some ways a celebration of the status quo.

The mainstream ethos of the 1990s was thoroughly capitalist, the collapse of the Soviet Union creating a sense that the spread of the American economic and political model was inevitable and irresistible. This coincided with a technological revolution — the rise of widespread internet access and the birth of mass internet culture, a sense of a world defined by and connected through technology in previously incomprehensible ways.

At the University of Warwick, a relatively new but well-regarded English university, a young philosophy professor named Nick Land argued that the triumph of capitalism and the rise of technoculture were inextricably intertwined. Drawing on the work of famously dense continental theorists like Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Jean-Francois Lyotard, Land argued that capitalist technological advancement was transforming not just our societies, but our very selves. The self, he believed, was being dissolved by the increasing speed and pace of modern life — the individual was becoming less important than the techno-capitalist system it found itself in.

“Modernity has Capitalism (the self-escalating techno-commercial complex) as its motor,” Land wrote in an email to Vox, in characteristically cryptic style. “Our question was what ‘the process’ wants (i.e. spontaneously promotes) and what resistances it provokes.”

There’s something weird going on here. This section is completely glossed over but all the answers are here?

This talk about a self that is “being dissolved by the increasing speed and pace of modern life” remains the central interest of Accelerationism. When U/ACC balks at the violence of these alt-right nut jobs, that’s why! How many times have others said that these individuals are precisely the subjects that Accelerationism hopes to critique? These violent acts are responses to the sensation Accelerationism predicted!

@qdnoktsqfr has this comment locked down once again:

To reiterate something I tweeted at the time of the NZ shootings—ultra-violent contemporary white supremacist ‘accelerationism’ is a macho-humanist *reaction* to what Ccru presciently referred to as accelerationism in the 1990s. [1]

Historically speaking, the first thing accelerationism critiques—in a hard way (i.e. procedurally not semiotically)—is this subject position. [2]

As Deleuze and Guattari say, we haven’t seen anything yet. [3]

She continues in a separate thread:

Accelerationism is a transcendental philosophy. Horrific monkey-plane reactions to the reality of a material process that determines the conditions of possibility for monkeys is not accelerationism. [1]

Apprehending the relationship of the monkey-plane to the material process is all accelerationism as a philosophy does. [2]

I don’t intend to just repeat myself here and get all blue in the face. Robin has articulated the general feeling well on Twitter:

‘And it’s important to realise that there are many accelerationisms’.

Really really hard I know. but try [1]

Have no interest in playing at moral exoneration, still less denying that words have their own destiny.. just, if you’re gonna insist on doing it, then make a minimal effort [2]

Robin is quoting himself here, from an old interview about acceleration he did back in 2014. He’s right now as he was then.

There are many Accelerationisms.

To say this new alt-right Accelerationism isn’t Accelerationism at all is wrong. It’s not ours, but that in itself isn’t an argument against theirs. It’s as “valid” an offshoot as any other that the philosophical accelerationists around these parts continue to perpetuate for themselves. It might be the dumbest of them all but that doesn’t invalidate its usage of the term. I’m not sure anything can do that at this point.

The main thing I’m left thinking tonight is that Accelerationism is taking a similar (albeit suitably digital and accelerated) route into the ideological swamp as communism.

Who today can call themselves a communist without having to answer the “What about the murderous totalitarianism of Stalin?” question at some point? I know I’ve done it.

(Try wearing an Acid Communism badge in a city like London and explain what it’s all about after a few beers to someone from a post-Soviet country at a house party. It’s hard to do without looking like an edgelord cunt but I’d still say I’m a communist.)

The trouble is that you can’t deny that Stalinism is a kind of Communism. People can go on about “Actually Existing Communism” but at the end of the day it also comes down to a shitty instantiation of some nice ideas. And that’s a hard thing to argue unless you know about the consistency and virulence of those ideas for yourself.

You can try but drawing on footnotes to Capital isn’t all that convincing. The best argument you can make is that communism lost its way when it progressed as an ideology that decided to cling onto that which it was originally designed to critique — the (capitalist) state.

Accelerationism is the same. It has lost its way by clinging onto that which it was initially meant to critique — the subject — but, unfortunately, that doesn’t make the alt-right’s upset not Accelerationism.

It does, however, still make shitty journalists shitty journalists. Maybe one day these sorts of articles will be as ridiculous as the current equations being made between Jeremy Corbyn and Stalin in the press. That acknowledgement won’t make them go away though. Best to get used to it and carry on anyway.

The main thing to remember is this: no matter what Accelerationism gets called or denounced as, the sensation it describes will still haunt modernity.

Back Soon

Off to Cornwall for a week, staying in some hut without Wi-Fi or an indoor toilet. The weather is meant to be shit all week but, to be honest, I think Cornwall is even more beautiful when it’s grim. (Photo above from last year of Robin in the rain walking towards Lanyon Quoit.) Back to our usual programming soon.

The Diagrammatic — The Witch’s Flight

It’s not like me to use this space to repost other content wholesale but I’ve been thinking about this post I found on an old Warwick University blog all week.

“To think is always to follow the witch’s flight” is one of Deleuze and Guattari’s most evocative phrases, nestled within a chapter of What is Philosophy?, but it is a line that so many people have come back to again and again.

As with most things — sorry Guattari — there is a line here — itself a witch’s flight — that can be traced back through Deleuze’s philosophy. It’s something he writes about at length in his book on the painter Francis Bacon, The Logic of Sensation, but here he refers to it — via Wilhelm Worringer — as the “Gothic line”. (A line Mark Fisher would later take up and modify to become his “Gothic flatline”.)

It’s a meandering line within Deleuze’s own thought but is, more often than not, demonstrated rather than unpacked with any rigour but this old blog post from 2006 does a great job of tying it to Deleuze’s sense of the “diagrammatic”. It’s a really nice essay and short too, so here it is in its entirety:

In chapter 3 of What is Philosophy? Deleuze & Guattari talk of the three necessary elements of philosophy, a kind of trinity consisting of:

‘…the prephilosophical plane it must lay out (immanence), the persona or personae it must invent and bring to life (insistence), and the philosophical concepts it must create (consistency). Laying out, inventing, and creating constitute the philosophical trinity – diagrammatic, personalistic,and intensive features.’ (What is Philosophy?, pp. 76–7)

The initial ‘diagrammatic’ function within philosophy (the elaboration of a prephilosophical plane of immanence) necessary for the subsequent creation of concepts has clear resonance with Deleuze’s understanding of Francis Bacon’s creative practice in The Logic of Sensation, and offers a clear example of the type of creative pedagogy provided by art to our understanding of the practice of philosophy. Both involve taking what Deleuze & Guatarri term ‘a witches’ flight’. Deleuze asks in what does the initial pre-figurative act of painting consist for Bacon? For Bacon the initial act of painting is defined by the making of random marks; cleaning, sweeping, brushing or wiping the canvas which serve to clear out locales or zones on the canvas; and the throwing of paint from various angles and at various speeds. Such acts presuppose the existence of figurative givens on the canvas (clichés), and it is precisely such givens that are to be removed, by being cleaned, brushed, swept or wiped, or else covered over, by the act of painting. In the interviews with David Sylvester this is what Bacon called a ‘graph’ or a ‘diagram’. The ‘diagram’ is to be understood as the pre-figural preparation of the canvas (the initial acts of painting) – the series of shades, colours, scratches and layers of material set down prior to the actual delineation of the Figure. In Bacon this process consists of a series of haphazard lines, coloured spots and pitched paint. Such a physical rather than a visual act of painting lays out a ground that is in contradiction with the pre-planned figure. This is an automatic or random ground that threatens to engulf the act of figuration it prepares for. Deleuze claims that the ‘diagram’ is a kind of physical catastrophe that underlies the subsequent production of figuration in painting:

‘It is as if, in the midst of the figurative and probabilistic givens, a catastrophe overcame the canvas.’ (Deleuze, The Logic of Sensation, p. 80)

According to Deleuze the ‘diagram’ in painting allows the emergence of another possible world. The marks associated with the ‘diagram’ are irrational, involuntary, accidental, free, random. They are non-representative, non-illustrative, non-narrative. They are no longer either significant or signifiers, they are, Deleuze claims, ‘a-signifying traits’. Such (almost blind) manual marks attest to the intrusion of another world into the visual world of figuration. To a degree, they remove the painting from the optical organisation that reigns over it, rendering it always already figurative. The painter’s hand intervenes in order to disrupt its own dependence and deconstruct the sovereign optical organisation. Here one can no longer see anything, as if one was in a catastrophe or chaos. The ‘diagram’ serves to disrupt a certain pre-existing ‘sense’ and allow for the emergence of an entirely new ‘sense’. The operation or function of the ‘diagram’ is, according to Bacon, to be ‘suggestive’ of a new ‘sense’. Because such marks are destined to provide the Figure it is essential that they break with the conventional codes of figuration as such. Thus, such marks are not sufficient in themselves to break with figuration, but must provide a function of utility. They mark out certain ‘possibilities of fact’, but do not of themselves yet constitute a ‘fact’ (the pictorial ‘fact’). In order to be configured into a ‘fact’, i.e. in order to evolve into a Figure, they must be re-injected into the visual whole, but it is precisely through the action of these marks that the visual whole ceases to be a purely optical organisation:

‘It will give the eye another power, as well as an object that will no longer be figurative.’ (Deleuze, The Logic of Sensation, p. 81)

The ‘diagram’ evinced within Bacon’s work is indeed a type of chaos, a catastrophe, but it is also a germ of order of rhythm. It is thus a violent chaos in relation to the figurative givens, but it is also germ of rhythm in relation to the new order of the painting, a new and emergent sense. As Bacon says, it ‘unlocks areas of sensation’. Deleuze argues that the entire significance of Bacon’s ‘diagrammatic path’ is the recognition that the ‘diagram’ must not eat away at the entire painting, it must remain limited in space and time, it must remain operative, functional and controlled. The violent methods associated with the ‘diagrammatic’ must not be given free reign, and the necessary catastrophe must not submerge the whole. The ‘diagram’ is a possibility of ‘fact’ – it is not the ‘Fact’ itself. Thus not all the figurative givens have to disappear; a new figuration, that of the Figure, should emerge from the ‘diagram’ and render the bloc of sensation clear and precise. The ‘diagrammatic’ thus begins the act of painting, it lays out the prepictorial plane of immanence, and it is precisely this creative practice bound up with diagrammatic elaboration which is to be understood to form one of the three fundamental elements of philosophy, albeit a non-philosophical one:

‘Precisely because the plane of immanence is prephilosophical and does not immediately take effect with concepts, it implies a sort of groping experimentation and its layout resorts to measures that are not very respectable , rational, or reasonable. These measures belong to the order of dreams, of pathological processes , esosteric experiences, drunkenness, and excess…To think is always to follow the witch’s flight.’ (What is Philosophy?, p. 41)

The Corbyn Continuum

I’ve been holding my breath since the UK general election was announced, waiting for the next trickle of “Acid Corbynism” op-eds, calling for a supposedly Fisherian radical politics for the left, and I realised recently what it was for me that stunk about Acid Corbynism’s initial emergence.

My main issue with “the left-wing ideology you can rave to” was that it seemed to think itself backwards. (Or it has so far presented itself backwards, anyway, perhaps inadvertently, in a succession of inconsistent articles.) It has so far come across as a burgeoning left-wing sub-ideology that chooses to incorporate the politics of rave, rather than be a politics of rave that extends itself into a contemporary desire for a new democratic socialism.

It has, unfortunately, in the hands of Jeremy Gilbert, all felt a bit “boomerish”, betraying a woeful disconnection to the social spaces he was trying to champion. Well-meaning, no doubt, but counter-productive in being so out of touch. In all the initial essays about it, it was too much middle class yoga morning, with next to nothing said about the cultural developments of the present moment beyond “Corbyn and yoga are good for you”.

A politics of rave that extends itself into a contemporary desire for a new democratic socialism was surely Mark Fisher’s original intention with acid communism — or at least one shade of his intent. As his essay “Baroque Sunbursts” makes clear, he saw the “acidic” side of his burgeoning politics emerging from a long history of lumpenproletariat outsideness, doing its own thing against the grain, through fetes and carnivals and raves, and he saw this as emblematic of an all too often ignored undercurrent of contemporary desires for movement building and collective subjectivity, routinely suppressed by the state for centuries. His was a call to pay closer attention to those movements and activities that have long disrupted and called into question the cloistered establishment, but also those suppressed sentiments that nonetheless continue to influence the establishment left from below.

Contrary to this, Acid Corbynism’s off vibe has been — despite what it says about itself — to influence culture from the top down, “discussing ways in which a Corbyn project can engender new forms of collective consciousness informed by countercultural projects of the past”, as it was initially described in The Independent, falling into that classic hippie trap of patronising middle class cultural constructivism by going back to the ’60s and ’70s and largely ignoring everything that has happened since.

More specifically, it seems to ignore the countercultural projects of the present where such potentials as those they’re pointing to are already being enacted. This is to say that Corbyn isn’t simply an opportunity for reflection. He’s a symptom of something new in his own right. Acid Corbynism has so far been a bit of a weak diagnosis of what that is. Instead, we are presented with an apparently representative image of a sort of cringe mod revival micro Butlins corporate Dad weekender…

As a result of all this, in most appraisals I’ve seen that come from outside the camp putting out infrequent Acid Corbynite content, Acid Corbynism comes off as a product of London lefty cringe. It’s hard to disagree with that when you look over the majority of the content put out under its name. However, with the election on the horizon, and with my own retweet habits becoming increasingly Corbynistic as the weeks roll on, I’m left wanting to offer up a more generous reading; an avenue that might inject this provocatively empty ideological vessel with some substance. I’d like to call it the Corbyn Continuum.

One of Jeremy Corbyn’s most attractive qualities amongst his supporters is his political consistency. Any aspersions cast upon his character by detractors are often batted away with documentation of his political activism and voting record, finding him to be on the “right side of history” for decades. He’s not some post-Soviet tyrannical Marxist hangover, as Boris Johnson and Donald Trump want the country to think, but a principled man who has consistently stood against the policies of a deepening culture of neoliberalism since 1983. Whether protesting Apartheid, the War in Iraq or contemporary austerity, he has always been a supporter of the downtrodden, the powerless and the under-represented.

What he represents today, then, for so many, is a leftist continuum that has been smothered by neoliberalism for decades. He’s proof that the left weren’t all collectively insane and melancholic post-Thatcher. They simply didn’t have a democratic representative. Years were lost to Blairite centrism as a radical left went underground, and this dip below the political waterline notably occurred in tandem with rave’s own sociopolitical smothering. But, just as hardcore never died, neither have the principled politics of Jeremy Corbyn.

This is to say that Corbyn gives this intergenerational confluence of lost leftists a voice. He represents an always present but consistently undermined current of political energy that has never before had a democratic outlet. (Whether or not it has been looking for one is a separate issue.)

In this sense, Corbyn starts to resemble something of a post-rave candidate for Britain’s political left, and if there is any desirable instantiation of an Acid Corbynism, I think it has to be one that recognises the resonance between the Corbyn Continuum and the Hardcore Continuum.

Here we might turn to Simon Reynolds’ 1990s series of essays on ‘Ardkore for The Wire in which he defines the hardcore continuum as rave’s persistent channelling of a working class political disenfranchisement and a politically smothered collective subject:

Ardkore is really just the latest twist on the traditional contours of working class leisure, the latest variant on the sulphate-fuelled 60 Hour Weekend of mod and Northern Soul lore. With Ardkore, the proletarian culture of consolation has become a culture of concussion: hence amnesiac/anaesthetic slang terms for a desirable state of oblivion such as “sledged” (as in “sledge hammered”), “mashed up”, “cabbaged”, “monged”, and song titles like “Blackout” and “Hypnoblast”.

There’s a sampled slice of rap at large in Ardkore that goes: “Can’t beat the system/Go with the flow”. On one level, it’s just a boast about how much damage the sound system can inflict. But perhaps there’s a submerged political resonance in there too: amidst the socio-economic deterioration of a Britain well into its second decade of one party rule, where alternatives seem unimaginable, horizons grow ever narrower, and there’s no constructive outlet for anger, what else is there left but to zone out, go with the flow, disappear?

But retreatism is just one side of the rave scene. There’s an inchoate fury in the music that comes out in an urge for total release from constraints, a lust for explosive exhilaration — captured in titles like “Hypergasm”. The Ragga chant of Xenophobia’s “Rush In The House” kicks off “E come alive! E come alive! E come alive!” Ardkore frenzy is where the somnambulist youth of Britain snap out of the living death of the 90s, and grasp a few moments of fugitive bliss. Ardkore seethes with a RAGE TO LIVE, to cram all the intensity absent from a week of drudgery into a few hours of fervour. It’s a quest to reach escape velocity. Speed-freak youth are literally running away from their problems, and who can blame them?

This might not sound like it has much in common with Corbyn the manhole-cover-loving constant gardner and parliamentary left-wing figurehead and nor is it supposed to. Corbyn isn’t some perfect embodiment of a proletarian death drive suddenly inserted into our parliamentary democracy, but he is nonetheless a vector allowing long-derided subcultural currents to rise higher within the national unconscious than they have been able to since he first entered the House of Commons.

Because, despite rave’s apparent retreatism, hardcore has never died. It has had its peaks and troughs but it has been largely consistent as a path travelled by so many over the course of dance music culture’s development, fragmenting off into new subcultures that nonetheless retain a shared sensibility of collective action and jouissance. Sinking below the production line of commodified genres has led to its continuation becoming less easy to reify and capture but, chances are, if anything has recently been described as “deconstructed club” it can be fastened onto an almost 40-year lineage of musical experimentation and collective politics. In this sense, deconstructed club is the music press’s attempt to categorise a party that kept on going, stubbornly, on rave’s own terminal beach, amongst the washed-up detritus of past political and musical failures, mudlarking for new sonic futures found amongst contorted old objects.

This new generation has seen and heard the musics of rave, perhaps appropriated and repackaged after the fact, and wonders how we ended up where we did. Compared to now, the alternatives of the rave era seemed numerous if still impotently subcultural. Corbyn, surreally, represents their future prospects within parliament but to say he is representative of these sentiments overall is a patronising misstep.

This is to say that this hauntological beach rave has not been so woefully nihilistic that it needs someone like Corbyn to galvinise it into action. Its persistence has successively held rave’s offspring back from the brink of death and it has given buoyancy to their collective politics at the same time. It is up to Corbyn to encourage their proliferation, not for these scenes to embody Corbyn-supplied political strategies. It is, after all, the parliamentary instantiation of the politics of neoliberalism that are to blame for its near-death in the first place. It is up to Corbyn to dismantle those damaging infrastructures so that these precarious embers might blossom into a new way of life.

Grime’s international popularity and alignment with Corbyn’s politics is the perfect example of how this might be done. Whilst their cross-cultural love-in might have been a tandem surprise to many, it emerged out of this kind of sociopolitical undercurrent, emboldened by a generation that is unwilling to extend the nihilism of past generations any further.

This is to say that to call Grime an Acid Corbynist UK rap scene would be deeply embarrassing for so many reasons. It is Corbyn, instead, who was, for a moment, a exo-Grime political opportunity — offering up an allegiance to be encouraged where other politicians would have shit themselves before an audience with the country’s creative youth. Corbyn, instead, recognised their frustration and offered them his support. They, in turn, offer him theirs. This wasn’t a party political strategy on their part. It was simply the Corbyn continuum in action, with the man listening to their sociopolitical frustrations and vowing to alleviate them.

There is space for Acid Corbynism to grow as an idea along these lines — and it should — but to do so it must pay better attention to its own source material in a way that allows it to overcome itself rather than becoming reified into a control value for Labour party conference tension.

Thankfully, Matt Phull and Will Stronge have already done a semi-decent job of describing Acid Corbynism’s “next steps” — which feels more like a correction of Jeremy Gilbert’s various foundational missteps in being far more explicitly aligned with Mark’s writings over his. They put aside the hippiedom that Mark was always suspicious of, instead drawing on his wider concepts of “popular modernism” and his love of Jam City. (Shout out also to Laura Grace Ford.) They write, summarising their exploration of present (rather than past) potentials:

In short, Acid Corbynist dance infrastructure is intended to be a hadron collider where ‘the new’ might flourish and where people can party. It can provide firm, practical ground upon which we can try to move on from the capitalist realist cultural impasse.

The next step is to turn the concept into a strategy; to achieve something like what we have here proposed, a politicised dance culture movement will need the collaboration of journalists, DJs, promoters, club-goers and club-owners working together to imagine better organisations of space, policy, experimentation and, of course, a good night out.

And yet here, again, the representation is still backwards. There is a sense, in all of these articles, that the intended audience is a disenfranchised “common” left, but it ends up sounding like a cultural reappraisal offered up from within the Labour party itself that seems to ignore the scenes already going from strength to strength within UK club culture more broadly.

Instead, contrary to all intention, the concept of Acid Corbynism starts to resembles a tone-deaf electioneering campaign, excavating previous strategies that have been restricted and penalised by the state infrastructure the Labour party still — regardless of who is leading it — represents.

Frankly, it ends up sounding patronising.

We should note here that Mark Fisher, the supposed inspiration for Acid Corbynism, was heavily influenced by Reynolds and he would later respond to his ‘Ardkore essays in 2009 for FactMag, describing a musical trajectory that continues to resonate, analogously, with Corbyn’s own broad appeal. He would describe the hardcore continuum as “a cybernetically self-correcting system”, pivoting between rave euphoria and its darkside. What was most notable about this for Mark was that these “recalibrations and adjustments would happen without the continuum repeating itself.”

Previous moments were neither forgotten nor reiterated, but subsumed and synthesised into new hybrids; and, rather than individual artist-geniuses, it was the collective ‘scenius’, the interaction between DJs, producers and dancers, that brought about these shifts.

There is a scenic left in the UK but to define it by Corbyn’s own personality rather than his function as a political lightning rod is to undo this sense of a collective scenius in the present, setting up boundaries for what should instead be allowed to freely overflow.

Intriguingly, Mark points to this frustration on the horizon that Acid Corbynism plays chicken with, still commenting on hardcore’s continuation into the present of 2009 in response to Reynolds’ essays on ‘ardkore. He writes:

… a generation younger than Reynolds is frustrated that it has yet to produce a music which can’t be comfortably fitted inside a theoretical framework generated nearly two decades ago. It’s a measure of the robustness of the hardcore continuum (and its theorization) that it should still be holding on after twenty years. Yet it’s also a sign of the slowing of the rate of innovation in popular music, with British dance music, once so furiously inventive, now falling prey to the conditions of entropy which have long prevailed elsewhere. If only there could be a shattering break that would definitively relegate the hardcore continuum to the past.

Today’s younger generation may not have a new “rave” but they have Corbyn, as a political figurehead from that time that looms large over the present, who hasn’t been coopted and undermined and who hasn’t become corporate fodder for lobbyists. He is uncomfortable, just as rave was and still is, and that is his power. The prospect of him being elected prime minister heralds the ultimate success of the Corbyn continuum and its ending. By exploding through its former glass ceiling, Corbyn — and, potentially, rave and the politics its represents — could overcome themselves and their position within culture and society, opening out a space for the radically new.

It is this sort of collaboration that should be encouraged, but ravers have done enough to keep their way of life hanging on by the skin of their teeth. An Acid Corbynism requires a Corbyn government prepared to listen to the communities and collectives where these politics already exist in the here and now.

This is essential because, regardless of whatever it is Acid Corbynism hopes to bring to the table, the musical and political frustrations previously described by Mark have been waning recently — not through a big subcultural-but-commercial genre moment or rave explosion but through an on- and offline scene-building.

Because things have changed since Mark wrote of his concerns for dance music in 2009. Music journalists and musicians are more politicised now than ever before and yet they are still penalised from the top-down. In many respects, Acid Corbynism seems to be preaching didactically to the converted. It is the Labour Party’s own organisers who should be taking a closer look at what is already going on around them in the scenes they are attempting to appropriate the politics of.

The worst way to respond to this would be to point to the ’60s and ’70s. To look upon that era for strategies will lead to nothing but frustration for a new generation that couldn’t give a shit about old psychedelic aesthetics and simply wants to imagine the world anew for itself. Therefore, Acid Corbynism, like the hardcore continuum it professes to celebrate, runs the risk of being a multifunctional canary in the coal mine: for both the demands of the new and the lack of innovation among the old.

An Acid Corbynism that does itself justice would bring these subcultural insights from below to the top, strategising to make rave desires into policies rather than making policies into rave desires, reversing the smothering legislation currently killing the nation’s nightlife and doing more to support cultural endeavors that many passionately seek to keep alive despite the system trying to squash them at every turn.

As such, any “Acid Corbynism” that wants to get itself off the ground must not be reduced to a rave didacticism. It should strive to be a political offshoot surfing the sine waves of the hardcore continuum that lies adjacent to it.

Update #1: This post might already be redundant with the Labour Party doing too little too late. Apparently, Grime4Corbyn will not be making a return for the 2019 general election campaign:

“The general consensus [amongst grime artists] is that they were used,” said one grime manager, who asked not to be named. “They didn’t follow up. They weren’t expecting a general election so soon, and it’s a bit late to go to the grime community now after ignoring us.”

Pink Light

I wanted to hold off listening to Phil Elverum’s new album as Mount Eerie, released as his second collaboration with Julie Doiron. The track names alone made it clear that these were new songs — songs I’d heard performed live earlier this summer.

That performance had been so raw and so special, to hear the songs in a somewhat transitory form — undoubtedly different to what they would eventually become on a presently unannounced new album called Pink Light, listed tentatively on Elverum’s website — felt wrong somehow.

Nevertheless, it is hard to resist another collaboration with Doiron. Their first album together, Lost Wisdom, felt like a really big deal. Preceding the release of Dawn, a collection of solo-sung songs written by Elverum on his Scandinavian mountain retreat, the collaboration felt like an exercise in building these solitary songs outwards, beyond themselves, introducing another voice and allowing the songs to grow alongside it.

That album’s cover — a large folder poster — was the centrepiece of my university dorm room in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Like No Flashlight before it, it was an album you could live in. It’s oversized record cover emphasised that fact, perhaps inadvertently.

Now, the sensation has been inverted. These songs are striking in documenting Elverum’s self-described fall back into banality following the death of his wife. They are of another world. Whereas his previous two albums documented a tragically small world opened outwards, here it feels like we are bearing witness to some sort of retreat; some sort of return to a previous way of living — an impossible exercise, perhaps, and one to be undertaken with great care. It somehow feels even more intrusive than his initial collection of “death songs”. With Doiron’s voice appearing alongside Elverum’s again, it is hard even for the listener to adjust back to a time before — a time before Elverum’s unprecedented sonic isolation.

But Doiron doesn’t crowd these songs. She appears as a friend, taking them somewhere new, even prior to their release in their final form. This is not an extension but a transition and a strange one to bear witness to. But that lingering phrase — pink light — echoes not only to a beyond but a lost continuum.

On their first album together, Lost Wisdom, they would sing on the track “Grave Robbers”:

And our ghosts stay forever confined
In wherever we haunt
And hopelessly want to
But can not get away
And our bones do blow away
In pink light

Prior even to this, on Mount Eerie Pts. 6 & 7 — a 12″ included with a book of Elverum’s photographs — one of my most prized possessions — he sings:

In and out of the fog, I forget what I know through rock revolves
And there’s my sight
The sun sets in the south, where it rose
The song dissolves, bones blow in the pink light
Mount Erie revealed in the breaking the clouds
And then gone again

Earlier still, on the Microphones’ song “You’ll Be In The Air”, he sings:

You’d feel the hot blowing rock-filled winds
And the clouds of ash would fill your skies
And you’d smoothly glide
over the cold river basin where we spend the night
And again your gaping gap is pink in foggy light.

This pink light has followed Elverum for some time. Perhaps for all time. It was present even through his grief for his wife, which he sings about on the song “Ravens“, having glanced “up at the half moon pink chill refinery cloud light”. At that time, and previously also ,he bathed in it alone and then with singers and then with Doiron and then with his wife and then with his daughter. And then again alone. And now again together.

These transitory songs are a humbling document of a strangely circular process and one which seems endlessly healing. I look forward to hearing them in their next form — forms that will no doubt be inspired by these ones.

A Diabetic Review

On my old RateYourMusic account I used to have a customised zero to five-star rating system.

The site would let you assign words and phrases to your ratings and, because it included half-stars, there were ten options to fill in.

Across the site people got quite creative and meta with these. Some were deadly serious. Others would knowingly poke fun at numbered rating systems all together. (Pitchfork still haven’t got that memo.)

Someone might order the films of Steven Spielberg, for instance, from golden to trash, and use them as markers for the albums they would rate on the platform, adding an extra layer of fun to think about why someone has given Can’s Tago Mago a rating of E.T. The Extraterrestrial or Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation a Jaws out of five.

I had an idea for one that I thought was pretty inspired: medical conditions. I thought why not assign every rating between zero and five stars with a different disease or syndrome and use that as my marker for whether an album is good or not. I thought it was funny, if a little darkly so, and the spectrum was certainly one of extremes.

Five stars was, obviously, synaesthesia. If there’s any medical condition you’d want to have, surely that’s the no-brainer choice?

Four point five stars, the next step down, was Jumping Frenchmen of Maine. Weird, a little esoteric maybe, but a mental image that brings joy. I thought that made sense at the time.

Zero stars was the Ebola virus.

The middle ratings were kind of hard to make a decision on. Something not life-threatening but maybe just a bit irritating or inconveniencing or temporarily mildly debilitating.

I remember that three stars was the common cold. Everyone gets it, there’s a season when it’s all the rage, but it’s hard to enjoy and probably only lasts a couple of days. The dead centre, however — two point five stars — I’d decided would be diabetes.

I didn’t really put that much thought into it the other ratings. It was a gag. Maybe in poor taste but thankfully there are very few albums that I’ve heard in my life that I thought were as bad as the Ebola virus or cancer. However, there have been plenty of middling uninteresting releases out there, and one day my indifference to one release would get me into a bit of trouble.

In 2014 there was this guy, who should probably remain nameless, who released his first EP. It was talked about by everyone all over the music press and was totally caught up in the “deconstructed club” hype machine. I remember Boomkat had it as their recommendation for the week. FactMag too maybe. It was everywhere and had this mad cover art that someone threw a big-name graphic designer at and they were being heralded as the next big-deal underground producer.

I didn’t get the hype, personally. The EP in question was of the sort that you hear ten a penny of these days. Half-ironic trance-inspired post-dubstep whatever, and it’s meant to be for the club maybe, but whoever deconstructed it just took all the soul out and then just said it was post-industrial to justify the monotony.

I didn’t say any of this online at the time, of course. I just logged it in my RYM catalogue with a two point five “meh” and left it at that. Diabetes.

A couple of days later I got an email in my inbox.

It was the guy who has put out the EP and he wanted to know why I said his EP was “diabetes”.

I was mortified. I tried to explain it was just a joke and how the customisable rating systems on the site worked and why I’d chosen mine. We had this awkward back and forth where I tried to play it down and I’m nobody anyway so don’t worry about it, mate. I didn’t mean anything by it. I didn’t like the EP, sorry, but the “diabetes” thing is just an arbitrary thing. Honest. No offence intended.

The more I tried to explain it the less funny it got and the more awkward. He wasn’t satisfied with any of my (admittedly poor) reasonings.

“Yeah but why diabetes though?”

I didn’t know what else to say. I had no reason to justify saying this guy’s first EP was like a lifelong condition of glucose imbalance. It just seemed like the most “meh” of medical conditions to me at the time — a bit shit but you can live with it. Imagine putting up with the monotony of daily injections and having to tell yourself no, you can’t have an extra biscuit.

But he kept persisting and, as our emails went back and forth, me feeling like I had a pile of embarrassment bricks in my stomach, I kept trying to explain my lack of thinking and it was just an irreverent thing. (“Shitposting” wasn’t a thing back then.)

In the end all I was doing was adding salt to a wound and I was running out of ways to politely reiterated the fact I thought the EP was dull and even started to eat my words, saying things like, “anyway maybe I just need to listen to it a few more times. No hard feelings, dude.”

But still he was persistent and he was starting to come across as a little unhinged. But then that became more and more clear as I thought about the situation. My mortification was wearing off and I started to wonder why he’d contacted me in the first place — and how!? I was some nobody workaday very online guy living in Cardiff with no social life or media platform. Just a random RYM user. Why was he emailing me? Surely his skin wasn’t this thin? Was I the only person not to like it? All the other reviews had been pretty glowing…

Then I remembered that my email wasn’t even attached to my RYM profile. He’ sought me out and must have done a fair bit of digging to get to this point. And then he said:

“Yeah but why diabetes though? I’m diabetic and no-one outside my closest mates knows that and I’m touchy about it so how is it that you know I’m diabetic when I don’t know you?”

It was hard to know what to say to that. I don’t think I said anything at all. I did the internet equivalent of backing away slowly but still probably tweeted about it. He might have threatened me with violence at some point, I’m not sure. But in the end, the whole thing blew over and so did he. I don’t think he’s put anything out since. Maybe a disappointing follow-up but then they fell off the map completely.

Hope you’re well, mate. Wherever you are…