BREAK WITH ME: COLUMN

a feed of the things going on around us, updated regularly. If you would like to submit a piece of writing, send us a message from the contact page or via our Instagram DMs @breakwith.me

Archive [2021]

Inklingroom @ the glove that fits - @idrk.aryan

BWM Recommends:

Proc Fiskal 

leo 

Kanye West 

Fat Is a Feminist Issue - Book Review - @mumzzztheword

BWM Recommends:

Elijah Minnelli 

Paraadiso 

Regal86 

Unknown T 

EQWhy 

BWM Recommends:

Don Zilla

Scratcha DVA

Foodman

Oyubi

Nammy Wams & M.I.C

Pressure Dome

Heaven or What - @hcurtoys

The [REAL] Terror - @frogmanfilth

All Truth Is Crooked, Time to Watch the Circle - @denglord

Inklingroom @ the glove that fits

Event Report by @idrk.aryan

 

I was still recovering from Skee Mask’s b3b with Stenny and Tasha. Echoes of bassy missiles, impeccable breaks and grimey vocals reverberated through my skull, rattling my brain. My body was shattered but I could not rest. I had only gotten back to London a few nights before; a city where I am never comfortable being asleep. As the glorious din in my head grew louder and louder, I decided to browse Resident Advisor (guiltily) so I could find something to replace it with.

Looking through the usual blend of house, techno, disco, and DnB that London always has to offer, I craved something new; I felt like I had seen it all before… clearly, I was feeling pretentious. My eyes glazed over as I continued to 

idly

,

mindlessly

,

scroll 

through

white

text, 

looking for a name to pop out.

 

Luckily the Gods of the Avant-Garde had looked favourably on me tonight. PAN.

My eyes lit up, this was exactly what I wanted to see.

Nyege Nyege.

What I needed to see.

Live Choreography

I’m there already.

I knew it would definitely be an experience, or at the very least, give me something to write about. I booked my tickets, then forgot about it completely.

 

Cue the night itself. I woke up at 6pm in the midst of a fevered dream. In this half-awake state, all I had was a dull memory of having somewhere to be. Over the next few minutes, this memory grew more lucid, whilst the dream shrivelled up and died. I was struck by sudden realisation:

                                                            The show had started.

and so the frenzy begun. Ipackedmybagtossedwaterontomyfacechuckedonyesterdaysclotheshadashotofwhis-keygrabbedmykeysleftthehousehadasmokeand got on the bus to Hackney. Again.

Having surrendered my control of time to London’s public transport system, I realised that I didn’t really know who I was going to see. I decided to do a bit of quick research whilst trapped in traffic.

Flora Yin-Wong was the first name on the list. The name seemed eerily familiar, as if I had heard her sound before. I later realised that she had been on the Mono No Aware compilation that popularised PAN and dropped an LP on Boomkat’s legendary Modern Love label. I was very excited to hear what sort of mix she would have in store for the night.

 

Lockhart was the second name on the list. I hadn’t heard of her before, but the phrase ‘dark, fast and furious energy of techno,’ told me all I needed to know. Hard dance and techno (when done right…) serve excellently to release excess energy, and so the chance to witness some no-holds-barred, throbbing percussion was enticing. Seeing that she was a regular at FOLD and the Cause bolstered this belief.


Ans M was the third name on the list. Her promise to weave between experimental and ambient in her set would definitely be interesting {though I wondered whether the distinction between experimental and ambient could be made?}


Vampi was the fourth name on the list. I was excited to see him play considering the recent Nyege Nyege signing. I checked out some of his stuff as part of Daisy Mortem and was confused; this definitely was avant-garde but I wasn’t sure if darkly-medieval-hyperpop was quite my thing. I decided to go check out segments of his sets and – turns out – they were very much my thing.


Marie Malarie was the fifth name on the list. A bonafide crate digger. I noticed that they regularly played at Dalston Superstore, which generally promises a good time. I was excited to see if they would play any rare wax.


Furious Styles was the sixth name on the list. The name was familiar to me, as was the HI-NRG Label he ran. I remember having heard him on Rinse FM, mixing a wide variety of tracks from all sorts of electronic genres, including a DJ Rashad tribute. Absolutely. Fucking. Brilliant.  

 

Emillski was the seventh name on the list. The co-founder of inklingroom, the promoters who were putting on the event. Seeing that he was based in London via Bristol brought me comfort considering they were the two cities I lived in.

I now looked up from my phone and realised I still hadn’t reached the place yet. I billed up to save some time and texted my friend to see if she’d arrived.

The stars aligned: as I applied the finishing touches to my creation, the bus pulled in at the stop, and my friend called to say she’d just gotten there.

I got to the venue and met up with her. Through the windows, it looked like an empty gentrified pub that resembled any other you would find in Hackney. I had to double check it was the right place. All I could hear was ambient London noise, not the music I was promised. We had a smoke in the parking space next door, right by a scrap pile. As the fumes filled my head with anticipation, I wondered who would be playing when I finally got inside to explore the place. We chucked the ends into the scrap pile and headed in, feeling a sense of nervous excitement. I was determined to take notes so I could have a better memory of what happened.

We got drinks, got stamped, got our coats off and wandered down the stairs into the basement. We began to hear the thudthudthud of cushioned bass, and with each step the sound grew more and more audible. I opened the door and descended into a thick fog of dry ice and trance. I could see my hands in front of me, my friend, and the deep red lighting but little else. The light, fresh smell of sweat mingled with CO2 that filled my nostrils. I couldn’t see how big the space was yet, and could barely see where the music was coming from. I moved closer and closer towards the sound, as the repetitive tinny synth morphed into banging 808 kicks. The voice of Azaelia Banks {at least I thought it was} began to take shape out of nowhere. I could make out the outline of a tall, slender figure, looming over the decks. I determined that this was Vampi based on my research. He was dressed impeccably, bringing to mind my first impression: seductive cyber-vampire. I dropped my bag off in the corner and began to sense out a rhythm to dance to, using my head, my arms, my legs, my waist and my chest. I would definitely not be taking any notes.

Vampi’s approach fascinated me. He would emphasise the dynamic qualities of the songs he mixed, bringing out loops that accelerated the techno+trap beats to their logical conclusion. As I heard Sarah Midori Perry’s deliberately innocent voice come through in a club setting, I realised I had never seen something like this happen before {and work so well at the same time.} Somehow, it managed to achieve the quality of absurdity whilst all making sense, making for an incredible environment to dance in.

 

I felt like I was able to dance

             as if I was completely alone,

                                       without a care in the world

for any of the stray judgements or the opinions of others.

I caught occasional glimpses of other people, all dancing in the same rapture, both free unto themselves and also united with myself and yourself and ourselves.
This vision was soundtracked to Kim Petras. The whole set went off heavy.

I was already feeling quite warm and a little bit sweaty, so I decided to grab some fresh air and have a cigarette while Ans M took over the decks. The fog had cleared somewhat so that I could now see the entire room. The basement wasn’t too big, but was perfect for the capacity and lent to the sense of intimacy. I wandered into the chillout room next door with my friend to have a quick seat and roll. A friendly figure, dressed in leather with a perfect moustache and bowl cut sat next to us and struck up a conversation about the event. We had an energetic conversation about Bristol, PAN, and Nyege Nyege. I found out that he was a close friend of Vampi’s and that he’d visited the Nyege Nyege recording studio in Kampala. A staff member came in and told me I couldn’t smoke in the room, so we went our separate ways. I felt some regret for not having got his name but knew I would see him again soon enough.


Whilst outside, I suddenly heard a ScratchaDVA song get mixed in, and regretted my decision to leave. I could still faintly hear most of Ans M’s set and it was going really well; there were lush textures, as well as some heavily danceable music. I got a beer and headed back inside to catch the rest of her set. She began to drop some blistering footwork.

The room was filling up. The BPM and the resultant pace of the dance quickened. The technicians deployed a tactical strobe as the transitions occurred. The flickering      

l  i  g  h  t  s    f l i c k e r e d  f a s t e r and fasterandfaster,

              until I could no longer see the decks.

The room had transitioned from red to violet. A ghostly, eerily beautiful sound began to ring out. I turned around and saw that a crowd had gathered behind me, staring the other way. My body slowed to a snails pace. I stared as fog filled the room once more. Two figures had emerged from nothing into existence, appearing from a corner of the room. One had begun to dance with the grace of a swan, twirling around like a spinning top. The combination of soundscape with spectacle, created a spellbinding sight I could not look away from {though my vision was somewhat obstructed by the crowd.}

 

As he danced alone slowly, his face remained barely visible. Thick, long hair guarded it from view, never retreating despite his energetically reserved movement.


The other figure now emerged, connecting herself to the other through their linked, extending arms. They spun together, as trap 808s arised, informing their manoeuvres. They lifted each other up and brought each other down, all appendages endeavouring to extend further than they could possibly reach. The soft, angelic melody of the song furthered the melancholy between them, barely able to stare at each other whilst remaining connected, as if their painful intimacy was too much to bare. I watched on, transfixed, waiting for their inevitable               separation.
One figure pulled away and disappeared into the corner.
      Darkly industrial ambience filled the newfound space.


The remaining figure lay sprawled across the floor. Downcast, her movement slowed, yet remained graceful. Her body contorted into forms I did not previously think possible. Eventually, she too departed. The strobe ceased its flickering. Its purpose had been served. The vision had been burned into my memory.

I had little time to reflect on this for now. Flora Yin-Wong had started playing, coming in with some hard electro-infused techno, destroying – with style – the previously established ambience.


Her set was full of impeccable mixing, as well as some abstract sounds to which I cannot quite give definition {or do justice}. My brain and my feet were at odds with one another, though both remained fully engaged in what I was witnessing. Alien soundscapes appeared that took me to another planet, though my feet sensed out the relentless rhythms and remained firmly connected to the earth itself.

The room had filled up somewhat and I was drenched in sweat from the dance. Towards the end of Flora’s set, I decided to go for another smoke with my friend, to grab some fresh air and another drink.


By the time I had returned to the dance floor, Lockhart was in the midst of her set. Unrelenting, Hard, Frenetic, Techno. Her darkened eyes and all black outfit fitted this perfectly, adding to the incredible energy that she had created on the dance floor. Everybody around the room was deep within themselves, swaying with destructive force. A man with his hair tied into a bun had taken off his shirt and was swaying to and fro, moving his arms with such energy that it had created space all around him, fully engaged with the music that was being presented. I too was inspired by his style and reminded of my own love of techno {the genre which had introduced me to electronic music in the first place.}

 

I began to dance with repeated motions, whilst constant kicks hypnotised me. I became so involved in dancing that I cannot really report back on what I witnessed, since it all became such a blur in my memory. All I can say is that this is proof of Lockhart’s excellent set.


Finally, Furious Styles came on, setting up his collection on the dual turntables. I was properly hyped by this point, ready for a proper dance. He went on to mix all sorts of classics, putting on some Bass, Garage, Funky, Grime and Dubstep.

I was amazed by how consistently great his selection was, covering them all with gusto. His old school grime collection must have cost him a pretty penny.
He closed it all with a track I don’t know the name of, but I can describe it pretty vividly. The National Anthem Riddim.

 

The whole floor went mad. I went mad. The track got rewound and spun again. It was the perfect way to close off the night in ironic fashion, converting Anti-Nationalist sympathies to pride for the UK’s brilliant music scene.

I tried to speak to Furious Styles after the event, but security were rushing everybody out of the venue. I struggled to find my bag and my coat, but soon I was out of the place with my friend. We billed up and realised we’d both lost our lighters. We went back to the outside of the club, where everybody was still talking to each other. I saw the moustached figure outside again, and got his Instagram details, realising that he was in fact Emilski, which made a lot of sense. I promised I would be there for the next InklingRoom event for sure.

Later on, Furious Styles contacted me out of nowhere, rating my energy. I expressed my gratitude for his amazing set and sent him the clips I’d gotten of him. He offered me the cheaplist for his set the week after. Sadly, I couldn’t attend as I had to go to Fabric.
I was incredibly grateful for the night, and believed it to be the most interesting electronic music event I had seen in a long time; my wishes had been fulfilled, my sensibilities had changed, and my head was once again, filled with new earworms of the night.

The Glove definitely fits.

Break With Me Recommends

Issue 03: The Drilling of Efforts Dashed

Editor’s Note: One project apiece this month. First up is @denglord with his two cents on the latest release from Proc Fiskal - Siren Spine Sysex, taking up the great folk-isms debate begun by the Victory Siren in our last issue. Then @hcurtoys brings characteristic Northern charm to his review of leo’s a buried river, bogs, marshlands, et al. To round it off, myself @frogmanfilth waxing lyrical on the new Kanye album; you didn’t ask for it, you don’t want it, but it’s here, for your pleasure.  

 
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Proc Fiskal - Siren Spine Sysex

by @denglord

Buy / listen

Elijah Minnelli’s Slats prompted our Siren to question the notion of a good ‘folk’ music [see last month’s reccs], Proc Fiskal’s new album has prompted me to ask myself, isn’t folk music just anything people enjoy? 

[sophisticated winnie the pooh eyebrow raise] / [iq bell curve] / [iceberg pipeline folk] / [soyjaks pointing at the Oxford dictionary definition of ‘folk’]  / [note: make one of these memes before publishing review]

It’s quite easy to free-associate memetic buzzwords when talking about Proc’s music, since he’s clearly in algorithmic reach of the same urbanomic, incellectuals_x, scratchanese patchwork that’s fundamental to the breakwith.me canon. The fact of the matter is this: Proc’s new album is simply too emotionally resonant to resign to writing about it in reticent irony without exploring the utopian framework that makes it so compelling. 

It’s compelling because Proc knows exactly how to balance in-the-know niche internet politics with formal aberrations that imagine new worlds from the confines of styles born equally out of alienation (‘grime’) and collective jouissance (‘folk’). Wind back half a year to the release cycle of his (oofty) Lothian Buses EP: a prank on neeky local Reddit forums with this altered public transport manifesto can be a very subtle hint towards the kind of future Joe Powers envisions.

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To my ears at least, Siren Spine Sysex is crucially the first (or at least the first worth caring about) post-rona ‘club’ album that rewards ideas of collectivity beyond the physical primacy of the club space. In the halcyon days of the blogosphere, many writers discussed new UKG and 2-step from the comfort of their personal hi-fi, put off by the Americanisation of clubs that demanded they adorn dress shirts and flash trainers to enter. In recent interviews, PF has said he doesn’t like clubs anymore either, seemingly jaded by forced notions of a scene that runs not on interdependence but on a barter economy. What’s the point of going to a club to hear this kind of schizoposted grime if you’re spending the whole night trading insta handles whilst commercial landlords are getting the biggest payout in underground music? Bandcamp day doesn’t really solve the fact that there’s a mega-disembowelling of arts funding and an infrastructure that relies on precarity, to boot.

Of course, this isn’t to say that pessimism rules PF’s sonic palette. Proc looks for a way out of this hole thru synaesthetic reconstructions of hyper-personalized doomscrolling. His last album collaged minor personal memories rendered by the voice notes app /in and /out of its hauntological sinogrime exoskeleton; this one finds its textures in increasingly virtual memories salvaged from the space between targeted ads and the automated niche “personal brand” rewarded to the dedicated consumer. This too is reflected in the non-sampled instrumentation made up of shitty ebay FM synths seemingly bought on a boredom-induced whim.

Proc Fiskal has devoted himself to making an album completely inspired by the banality of the so-stimulating-it’s-not-stimulating psychosis of filter drip content we all experience, and the results are so insanely beautiful we’ve no choice but to believe that beyond our twisted-fucked up-jokerpilled existence, hyper-optimized on bland UX veneers that insist on the flatness of everything, is a world so new and unintelligible to us rn that caring about things will always be worth it. Siren Spine Sysex manages to be simultaneously anti-club and anti-folk whilst promoting the best qualities of both these things; breakwith.me recommends Siren Spine Sysex.

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leo - a buried river

by @hcurtoys

Buy / listen

One of the latest from Manchester’s YOUTH label, Leo’s a buried river is an intrepid journey into frenzied industrial sounds injected with hyperactive drill bass and club-ready textures. My only proper experiences of the North Westerly Merseyside and Liverpool area - where Leo and their Manteq collective hail from - are of the encompassing marsh and wetlands I used to visit as a youngen with my dad and his family. I have a memory of this area of the North as a flat expanse, muggy and claggy. This generated image is the one I see Leo’s sonic aesthetic best lending itself to: If the Northeast’s barren machinic glimmer of the industrial is heard most clearly in the music of Throbbing Gristle (and more contemporarily sown into AYA’s productions), then the equally desolate but waterlogged character of the North West resides in a buried river. 

 

This theme of the ‘wet’, ‘damp’, ‘flowing’ and ‘immutable’ streams through the record as if carried by the Mersey itself. There is an unrecognisable but omnipotent current throughout, allowing for the drilling of efforts dashed to easily follow the club-concrète death is quite clearly not what it used to be - equidistance from the boggy fields and the ‘intimate venues’ Manteq regularly pack out. Leo is constructing yet another image of what ‘folk’ could mean in contemporary electronic music; they do away with human tradition in favour of channelling the direct brutality of their home landscapes. a buried river is the product of an ear-to-the-ground investigation into how the North can hold its own against a London-centric dance music scene. latex skies is the standout track for me here; I’m listening to it whilst writing and have just been hit by the 4m15s bass thump; to quote the Highway Rat from their 1st breakwith.me reccs of Foodman’s Yasuragi Land: ‘…how we might approach turning the city into a zone where dancing makes more sense than walking…’, Leo approaches the task of turning the organic, the agricultural, and the non-urban into a sonic zone where the same logic applies. You can hear the harshness of a post-industrial northern landscape reflected somewhat in the bone-shaking bass and off kilter drum assault. latex skies makes sense as feverous club track, albeit reconstructed, ripped-up, and then sewn back together again; it’s an aggressive vulnerability stitched together by hand. 

 

Kodwo Eshun in More Brilliant than the Sun wrote about how Kraftwerk calling themselves ‘Powerplant’ turned on the industrial process: their ‘switching on the assembly line instead of resisting it in the name of the human’ plugged them into the network of the electricity<>human<>synthesizer. Though what I feel the ‘turning on of the industrial process’ does more prominently in the case of a buried river – if we think of the inhuman drum patterns of latex skies, efforts dashed, and water features – is drive home the distinction between the human and the machine. The distinction made puts emphasis on when and where the human is heard on the album, either through voice or live drum samples; instead of Leo becoming-machine like Kraftwerk, they’re definitively separated from it. The field recordings and organic textures are at odds with the subbass and software instruments; the Merseyside landscapes are at odds with Liverpudlian industrialization. The music is hi-tech but this doesn’t mean it loses the human subject; it reinforces it.


As AYA touches on in a recent interview on The Quietus, the mythologization of the North is both rejected and leant into by many of its contemporary electronic producers, wanting to be decisively not southern, but also not become this George Whitebread, Lowry, its-grim-up-north amalgamation; ‘the focus is on that which London necessarily obstructs’. It’s in this distinction where I see a buried river thriving, where its hand-stitched, romantic, gothic (?) narratives lend themselves both to headphones for private listening and for going full wuthering-heights on the dancefloor. As Sadie Plant said ‘ …the textures of woven cloth functioned as means of communication and information storage long before anything was written down…’. Maybe that’s what I am tapping into with a buried river: the histories of the fabric industry in the North intertwined and infected by something grimy from the south, cut-up and patchworked back together, a Frankenstein’s monster, a distinction between caricature and the Northern soul. Breakwith.me recommends a buried river.

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Kanye West - Donda

by @frogmanfilth

After months of social media teasing, an abundance of listening parties, and the emergence of one particular photo – that of Ye’s bedroom in the Mercedes-Benz stadium-cum-studio (which looked worringly like my own bedroom; the main difference being that I lack any of the genius credentials to justify such a retarded set-up) – Kanye’s 10th album Donda finally dropped… only a receive a slew of mediocre reviews. 


With the trademark strength of conviction that we’ve come to expect from neolib hordes of so-called critics, three-star reviews were the soup de joure. Hacks were quick to lambast the album as ‘unfinished’, ‘bloated’, ‘overstuffed’ and ‘uninspired’. Funnily enough, everyone’s favourite overstuffed and uninspired music publication – the NME – summed up public opinion nicely: ‘some gems among lots – and lots – of filler […] the rapper's 10th album follows an odyssey of delays and bizarre not-quite-release parties, the result merely punctuated with moments of brilliance.’ In summary, much of the lukewarm response to Donda was based on its extensive runtime; clocking-in at a little under two hours, it’s an undeniably sprawling work. This post stands in defence of Donda, in all its cavernous glory.

As I was counting down the hours to the start of my annual leave earlier this week, I stole back twenty blissful minutes of my artificially-scarce time by twisting my laptop away from the intrusive gaze of my colleagues and imbibing some donotresearch posts. In particular, I was taken by Devin Thomas O’Shea’s piece on /lit/, where he makes an oft-overlooked argument for long-form literature as an important but under-funded weapon in the good fight against Capitalist Realism. In his closing lines, he quotes one of /lit/’s patron saints – David Foster Wallace – who himself was a lauded frontrunner in the ongoing ‘dick-measuring contest’ that is the race to produce the best >2000pp novel: ‘Reading is very, very difficult. It requires sitting alone by yourself in a quiet room, and that’s very hard for some people’. O’Shea adds that ‘reading is not as passive as television; it feeds an active, empathetic part of us that is otherwise starved at every point in late capitalism. It’s good to train your brain to think about something for half an hour instead of thirty seconds’. 

In this sense, the scale of Donda demands praise simply because – speaking from personal experience – the album demands a minimum of two hours listening, and rewards you for investing a great deal more; it’s near enough the only thing I’ve listened to for the entire month of September and I can’t remember the last time an album elicited that kind of focus from me. This plays into the wider musical landscape: Donda’s size – as well as the scale of the hype-machine that preceded it – fundamentally disrupts the machinery of the music industry; it makes every move to frustrate Universal’s commodity-machine that’s precision engineered to turn-out PR-friendly, 40-minute, 10-track albums, sold not just to “us” but to the vast moneymaking apparatus of commercial radio-stations, distributors, &c. The >10min runtime of some tracks is particularly challenging for the algorithmically-driven world of streaming; auto-generated capital-generating playlists risk being ‘bloated’ by tunes this length, and are often forced to exclude them wholesale in favour of shorter tracks that don’t get boring, keep you tuned-in, and keep the ad-revenue flowing.

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But that’s a blunt-weapon kind of a take; if we look at Kanye’s own investment in said industry, as well as the immense personal wealth that he and his (now estranged?) family possess, it doesn’t stand up to much serious criticism. We already know that ‘capitalism is profoundly illiterate’, and we’re all destined for algorithmically-induced ADHD by 2030.  As such, the bigger point I’d like to make relates to Kanye’s position as a so-called Black artist, his relationship to music technologies, and how such technologies – alongside the expanded form of Donda – play into the broader political potential of this album. 

 

Enter stage left Alexander G. Weheliye. His landmark 2002 article Feenin’ takes aim at Catherine Hayles’ famous takes on ‘becoming-posthuman’ from the late-90s, using musical evidence to complicate (if not totally demolish) them through a racialised lens. To cut a long story scandalously short: Hayles creates a version of the posthuman that is ‘little more than the white liberal subject in techno-informational disguise’, reinscribing ‘white masculinity as the (human) point of origin from which to progress to a posthuman state’. In contrast, he suggests that Black artists ‘frequently defy these authenticating mechanisms by embracing new technologies, hybridities, self-consciousness’ and ‘make their own virtuality central to the musical texts’.

 

He coins the ‘vocoder-effect’, whereby the use of sonic technology to amplify ‘the human provenances of the voice, highlighting its virtual embodiment, because it conjures a previous, and allegedly more innocent, period in popular music, bolstering the “soulfulness” of the human voice’. Kanye’s been working in this space, revealing humanity’s ‘machinic affections’, since 808s and Heartbreaks. It feels even more pointed on Donda where the alleged innocence of Gospel from the good ol’ days (see: segregation, [late] slavery, lynching etc.) not only forms an integral part of Donda’s remarkably consistent sound but also works in parallel with Kanye’s self-anointed prophet status: the Ye of 2013 was a self-aggrandisement that, when heard in conjunction with Yeezus’ dark and dingy pallet amounted to a Nietzschean dance-toward-death, self-destruction-on-the-high-altar-of-art kind of energy; the parred down Ye of 2021 is a figure far more concerned with messianic world-building than his predecessor. 

 

Drawing on every art-himbo’s favourite French duo - Deleuze and Guattari - Weheliye coins ‘the R&B desiring machine’. Citing Zapp’s Computer Love, the R&B desiring-machine ‘suggests desire for the machine itself by deferring a conclusive or coherent identification of [desire’s] target’; by ‘creating a three-way conversation, albeit an unequal one, between the male, female, and machinic utterances on the vocal track of the song’, the track shows that it is ‘the subject that is missing in desire, or that desire lacks a fixed subject’. Donda functions in this way on many levels. First, the album often feels like it’s featuring artists take centre stage over Ye himself – something that the Guardian (in their eternal wisdom) took great umbrage towards: ‘misfiring lyricism from a diminished figure – there is some sustained brilliance here, but unfortunately it comes from the guest stars’ – goes someway to decentring any singular ego from dominating the project. 

 

Simultaneously, the Yeezus persona becomes less about godliness as omniscient, omnipotent, big-dick Creator, but more about godliness as omnipresent but-not-overbearing Holy Ghost, the virtual facilitator of meaningful artistic/spiritual collaboration. That’s why Donda feels like an act of world-building; its scale is not down to overfunded-overindulgence, but rather to create a sprawling, rhizomatic space in which multiple POVs are assembled, amplified, deconstructed, and reconstructed. The reference to Godliness – both through the Yeezus persona and through ecclesiastic instrumentation – is not egotistical extravagance, but rather the formulation of a new Symbolic. You may not agree with Kanye’s religious values or his political ones, but in both his life and his work he seems committed to creating and defining new territories in which he as an artist, a Black man, and a human being can exist. The gangsta-hop of the 90s was cool but nihilistic; contrastingly, though Kanye might make some iffy choices at times (@marilynmanson), he definitely believes in something, and in making that something an artistic/cultural reality. 


In an interview during the lead-up to Yeezus, Kanye outed himself as a lifelong Corbusier stan. In the aftermath of this comment, ill-educated debate proliferated online about whether Kanye was a latter-day Modernist, an ill-informed Postmodernist, or – the lowkey-racist suggestion – just a rapper throwing around big words he didn’t really understand. Re Yeezus, I don’t know where I stand. Re Donda: the sonic pallet is minimal, stripped-back, Ezra-Pound vibes – aesthetically Modernist. Formally, its similar: Joycean in scope and scale; if Yeezus was Dubliners/Four Quartets, Donda feels like Ulysses/the Wasteland. Yet, in its ability to decentre the self and digitally-dissolve ego it’s textbook postmodernism. By creating generative space in which multiple parties are brought and bound together by the [un]holy ghost’s guiding light, the new-Symbolic, is Kanye entering new territory? Has he turned away from the postmodern’s emphasis on ontological collapse, and started to build a new, better world? Breakwith.me recommends Donda.

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Fat Is A Feminist Issue, Susie Orbach (1978)

- Book Review by governess // molly mead @mumzzztheword

 

Difficulties with body image and a troubled relationship with food are a great cause of pain and confusion for many women, but these issues are grudgingly accepted as normal and pervasive from cradle to grave. Even though these problems are so commonplace that they transcend age, geography and class, there is a profound lack of discourse to counter the imagery and expectations that permeate our lives; women are atomised by the threat of female competition or by the shame this plague engenders.  

 

Earlier this summer, I came across psychoanalyst and social critic Susie Orbach’s 1978 book Fat Is A Feminist Issue (FIFI) in Glasgow Women’s Library [uWu]. For the first time, compulsive eating – which Orbach defines as eating when you’re not hungry – was examined with compassion, honesty and, most importantly, >>>politics<<<. As I progressed, I came to realise that I did not have to tentatively analyse my food consumption as the result of *personalised* neuroses; as strictly private comms between me and the cream-smeared, empty box of profiteroles in the recycling. Instead, Orbach posits the idea that issues with food and body image are the rational and justified response to navigating the (already fugged up) world from the secondary social position of women.

 

Food

 

FIFI promotes a nourishing and enjoyable relationship with food, whatever that may mean to the individual. This is achieved by re-connecting women with their body and its hunger mechanism. Orbach illustrates how the hunger mechanism works by comparing it to other bodily functions – when you need to sneeze, you don’t stifle it or ignore it, you sneeze, the same with coughing or needing the toilet. (Especially if you’re dealing with the consequences of the profiteroles from the night before – amirite?)

 

She insists that hunger is not a complex or emotional issue; it’s necessary for your survival. Your body is self-regulating and will let you know when and how much you need to eat… and gurl, you better rustle up something peng. Orbach’s simple advice is to ‘eat when you are hungry, to eat what you really desire, to pay attention to how the food feels as you eat it, to stop when you are full, and assess how it feels after you’ve eaten it’. 

 

Part and parcel of this framework is the rejection of diets and conventional nutritional advice that has historically broken the trust and intimacy between women and their bodies. These methods of eating place power outside of women and impliy that a) you need to be controlled around food (FYI: no one is “out of control” around food; food does not/should not “control” you) and b) that someone else knows how to feed you better than you. 

 

Orbach refreshingly recognises that interacting with food has many facets, and that everyone will have their own way of doing things: what you like to eat, where, with who, how often and how much. Plus, your needs can change, maybe frequently, coz [post]humans do that. 

 

Orbach made an important update in her 2016 foreword: ‘to choose foods that start from natural ingredients rather than from a chemical base’. Many “foods” available deliberately and maliciously hold their [aptly named] consumers in a state of synthesised, paralysing bliss that disables them from consciously interacting with their food; suddenly the end of the packet dictates when you stop instead of you. 

 

Body Image 

 

As someone who’s been brainwashed into lionising the utterly banal goal of weight loss for most of their life – yet (and here’s the fun part) endlessly struggling to achieve it – I welcomed Orbach’s reassurance that permanent weight loss and stabilising at a size that feels ~~natural~~ to me is possible. However, what I found equally useful to hear was that weight loss – whether immediate and dramatic or not – is not the aim of the game.

 

A more valuable and durable outcome is learning to accept your body as it is now - whatever shape and size it may be - and knowing that it is worthy of respect and appreciation. One method Orbach suggests to repair or enhance your body image is to unify your body with your conception of self. For example, starting to view fat as a part of you, rather than something extra or in-addition to some imagined, Imaginary version of your so-called inner-self. Once you come to view your habits as understandable responses to your sociohistorical moment not as personal shortcomings, looking-at and being-in your body becomes a less emotionally loaded experience.   

 

Becoming more comfortable and confident in your body also helps women to establish where their body ends and where the external world begins. In turn, women can move away from their traditional role of prioritising others and learn to nourish themselves - with food, emotions or whatever else - in myriad ways. Orbach encourages women to learn to take responsibility for themselves and their actions despite the wider cultural discouragement from ever doing so.  

 

Where we at?

 

Unfortunately, Orbach argues the situation for women has only degenerated since the publication of her book, so much so that she would find it too depressing to work exclusively on body issues now. These issues have been amplified in the past year: COVID-19 massively curtailed the bodily and sociological agency of the individual for an extended and uncertain period of time. COVID messaging in the UK was so unclear and individualising that it was gagging for people to turn in on themselves; psycho-atomisation en mass. As a result, many people may have taken the path of body transformation – in healthy ways or not – to assert some form of control. 

 

I’d argue that Orbach’s book still has a lot to offer in this moment: The lucidity with which Orbach approached these issues over 40 years ago illuminates the fundamental deficit of feminist discourse in this moment. Many of the questions she asked still remain unanswered: Women come in a range of shape and sizes; why aren’t all of them valued? Why are women sent contradictory messages; to stand out, to blend in, to be sexy, but not too sexy? 

 

Ultimately, what I found so energising about this book was the knowledge that my relationship with food and my body can become positive, permanently; these issues can be solved and don’t have to haunt my psyche ad eternum. As soon as I could view my habits as part of a wider social problem, I could engage constructively, and begin to transform the way I interact with food and my body in a way that truly fulfilled me. What is eternal, however, is my love for profiteroles. 

 

BREAK WITH ME RECOMMENDS -  AUGUST 2021

Issue 02: Cumshot or Gunshot

Editor’s Note: This month’s recommends begin with a long(er) read from @hcurtoys, whose dubwise rant takes aim at the idyllic pastoral in the digital age, lampooning backwards beatification of bucolic beauty. After that come interspersed hot takes from @denglord and @frogmanfilth: new drops from TSVI and Unknown T are given characteristic treatment from your favourite research-based weightlifter; ravings on Mexican-motifs and the joy of juke from London’s longest man; dolphins and guac thrown in for good measure… for your pleasure.

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Elijah Minnelli - Slats

by @hcurtoys

Buy / listen

Coming back to London after a couple days of camping in the fog-laden valleys of the Yorkshire Dales, I found myself clinging slightly harder than usual onto the land of mud, grass, Timothy Taylors and my personal countryside affectations. Our excursion in the wilderness was sound tracked by a combination of Folk-ish guitar-y Trinklieder (stuff like Forest’s Graveyard and – the epitome of drinking songs – So Long Marrianne by Cohen), as well as our usual trips into Niche bassline and northern remixes of garage tracks (think R.I.P.’s mix of Free). 

Going home to the rural expanse of N.yorks – the trainlines cutting through farmer’s fields, £1.20 eggs at the end of driveways, and the constant breeze – sparked a homely familiarity with the ideals displayed in the questionable aesthetics of ‘cottagecore’ and all those other peasant-desire insta hashtags, and how the potential for good and bad folk aesthetics could appear. Obviously, this is all imo; I am not trying to moralise teenagers curating their Instagram pages (I too had a tumblr account) but I do feel a slight agitation towards the romanticisation of countryside living as the perfect escape from late-capitalist dread. I don’t want to appear as an angry old man, shaking his fist at the youth of the day, and I don’t think this trend is wholly damaging to radical politics, but I do think it follows a similar pipeline to John Major’s speeches on England as ‘a land of shadows lengthening on village greens’ and the truly conservative idea of ‘Englishism’ or the nation as ‘Pastoral Utopia’. 

Maybe I’m just pissed that the way I’ve grown up is becoming a trendy aesthetic, even though I know that’s hardly a leg to stand on compared to the commodification of indigenous lifestyles or the marketization of ‘World Music’ as the simultaneous escape from capital and return to your true self. My agitation was most notably sparked by Robert McLiam Wilson’s essay in the photography book Wilder Mann by Charles Fréger, in which Wilson diagnoses contemporary culture with being ‘neurotically Wi-Fied and 3Ged’ (as if that’s a bad thing 🤓) and goes on to say: ‘We languish for the non-mechanical and the pre- or post-industrial. We are pilgrims seeking the past, the genuine, the individual.’ I know his essay isn’t really aimed at us – it’s a circlejerk for late 40yr olds who hate their iPhones and the fact that there’s an app for everything – but I can’t escape the fact he believes the search for the individual isn’t already omnipotent in contemporary society and is something reserved for a revivalist or ‘wild’ approach to life. As Fisher argues in Terminator vs Avatar; ‘Hands up… those who really believe that these desires for a restored organic wholeness are extrinsic to late capitalist culture, rather than fully incorporated components of the capitalist libidinal infrastructure.’  Hands up if you really think your desire for the ‘genuine’ is unattainable in the world-building, creativity, and collectivity available to us through the online or digital.*
Going back to this idea of good or bad folkisms, I want to assure you this is a music review; I stumbled on Elijah Minneli and their associated label Breadminster County Council. 

 

As a native resident of Breadminster, [Elijah Minnelli’s] new single’s foundation naturally stems from the theological roots of the area itself. It’s often said colloquially “Dig in the ground and you’ll find crumbs”. This local idiom has its foundation in reality - historically mill workers of medieval Breadminster (Panemisteron) would bury a portion of freshly milled wheat into the earth as an offering to the gods. This Hellenic-esque ritual proved fruitful as the amylase enzyme within the wheat enriched the soil of the land and led to Breadminster’s great “Larder era”. SLATS is an instrumental ode to the mill workers of old who ushered in this great epoch of plenty.

The Breadminster County Council's Music Initiative, and Breadminster itself, does not exist. The label is constructing a county, an area, or maybe just a contingent fiction of a village community that sometimes hosts after hours Hip-Hop sets in the county park (hot-button-topic-live-in-breadminster-county-park) and churns out 7 inches of weird dub-ish experiments. 
Elijah Minneli is the initiative’s only artist, and their discography charts a journey through the most melodic and jaunty variants of contemporary dub music. They play an augmented harmonica/melodica or synthesized accordion over the top of bone-shaking subs and borrowed instrumentation from traditional Columbian Folk. It’s almost a lullaby or a sonic ritual, the anthem of the annual Breadminster Soundclash or the soundtrack to the county’s nightlife. You’re hypnotised on the dancefloor, or rather hypnotised on the village green. In SLATS, Minnelli’s Cumbia roots are shown the most clearly in the skipping shakes of a maraca and the clacks of Castanets that seem to quietly cheer the track on. In the distance vocalists can be heard in some ritual murmuration as something of a melody rises into the suddenly haunting Melodica sequence. Listen also to the older release I Hope The Goats Come Back (ze​-​hood de​-​sham lichdal); if that jaunty, sea-sick, wind-swept, brooding melody captures you as hard as it did for me, this is even better. 
Minnelli’s musical ability is what keeps catching you off-guard in these tracks; their ability to make you question what you’re listening to as if you weren’t supposed to come across it. It’s unnerving, almost scary. They channel the strangeness of Youtube.mp3 uploads of a long lost shamanic ritual cassette pack in the most perfectly dubwise, sub-heavy way. Minnelli’s music and Breadminster’s mission is suggestive of a version of the Global-Ghettotech, but for the hybrids of the traditional and indigenous music cultures with machinic bass culture. The Folk music they channel is global, and the web they have woven allows for Columbian musical tradition to finds a way towards a bass culture previously untouched. 

Perhaps this is nothing radically new, but I’ve found the pervasiveness of Soundsystem and bass culture’s seemingly endless network of influence over music to be something that can positively bring together Folk-isms from various communities. And going back to Wilson’s claim that: ‘We languish for the non-mechanical’ he is even more out of touch and out of place than ever before. The relationship between Folk and ‘mechanical’ musical process has a firm leg to stand on and, tbh, I really have time for bass heavy music that can be shared with people who aren’t club goers. Wilson’s ‘pilgrim seeking the past’ is replaced by the neo-Wildermenn of Nyege Nyege fest, and the figures that crave the communal, the melodic, and the new futures they produce. The potential for this good Folkish sonic aesthetic opens the idea of the Folk or ‘Cottagecore’ as something that doesn’t just align itself with white-only images of Pastoral Utopias and escape from society vibes, but as something that explores the overlap of indigenous musical cultures or at least what it means to not necessarily identify with the urban expanses described in Burial’s soundscapes and instead seek the weird wilderness of Elijah Minneli and Breadminster. Break With Me recommends SLATS.
*For more on the ‘Folk’ and its implications’, listen to ACFM Trip 15 on Novara Media.

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Paraadiso - Unison

Review by @denglord

Buy / listen

Last month, I wrote about how – apart from dolphins – humans are the only creatures that organise collectively around a pulse. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure where I got that from but there’s definitely some sort of synaptic transmission happening. Maybe I’d presumed Kodwo Eshun had used that fact to talk about the use of dolphin noises in jungle music or something along those lines. 

Unison is a beautiful demarcation of the outer reaches of this kind of collective possibility - the sounds of ancient ritual gatherings meshed with calloused drones and caffeinated arpeggios reimagine the autocratic walls of the contemporary club space as a time-warping portal somewhere outside of prospective real estate ventures, natural energy drink brand deals, and the A/V industrial complex.  

If Paraadiso’s world starts at the album cover, what do we see from this sovereign gaze? Bursting pods that could be molecular or galactic in scale, erupting into a data-mosh of overwhelming light in decentralised streams. These streams become diffuse and jagged, organising themselves into functional territories you can choose to submerge yourself in, or, if you like, just stare at the surfaces and feel them change too. It becomes increasingly obvious as you go through Unison that you’re not supposed to be here alone and, if you entered that way, you'll probably have found yourself a crowd by now. 

Perhaps this type of sound and vision combination is in touch with Leibniz’s idea of monadology: amidst the torrents of cascading textures, communities, and climates we get to be stimulated alongside one another. It’s only once we submit to these skittering patterns that we can formulate a group consciousness, floating through the astral projections, aerial domes, and blue marbles until we reach the paradiso terrestre. This is the place where composite substances are generated in continual flashes of divinity. 

 

Still - Unison is not holding a cross up to a rave altar. Instead, it harmoniously brings all these different substances together; enunciating a pre-established balance in the world. It’s no surprise that it’s supposed to be performed live by the two musicians alongside a video element to the show. How could you form this planetary affect within the feedback loop of a DJ set?

 

I am not very familiar with the Italian folk music, antiquated choral compositions, or noise music that is said to have inspired the record - but this is not a record that requires a load of premeditated self-referencing and ironic self-awareness to offer itself as a valid ‘experimental’ artwork. To its credit, Unison is genuinely affecting and invites every kind of listener to hold hands in its most leftfield corner of the dancefloor, instead of closing-off entry to those who have already been to the ‘leftfield corner of the dancefloor’ before. The pandemic has been seized upon by those agents most active in deflating the communicative possibilities of nightclubs, but TSVI & Seven Orbits are unwilling to fulfil a telos that asks them to submit and simply fill the gaps between workdays and weekends. We live in the best of all possible worlds, it just hasn’t arrived yet. Break With Me recommends Unison.

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Regal86 - Purple Show

Review by @frogman

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There’s a lot to like about Mexico-based Regal86. First and foremost in that long list is how his sound, aesthetic, and entire project collapse the othering and (more importantly) boring cliches to which Mexico and Central America are regularly subjected by pale, stale, sweaty Soyboys. Maybe I’ve just got my heckles up about this because I’ve been on a week-long, utterly uncharacteristic Breaking Bad binge, but you quickly notice the same Trejo-tropes being hammered over your pretty little head ad nauseam. Top of the list goes to the so-called Mexico filter (see attached image), closely followed by cloying, clagging, culo-cucking Day of the Dead fetishism, and then (most pointedly) that little bit of your brain that can’t think of the words ‘Mexico’ and ‘music’ in the same sentence without the image of a maroon-clad mariachi band or the sound of Cumbia maracas bubbling across your brain [not that there’s anything inherently wrong with Cumbia tunes; more from Siren on that elsewhere]. It’s this kind of bullshit that begins the swill-sodden pipeline that empties out with cunts in Dalston wanking themselves off over extortionate shots of organic tequila and good-fat guac. 


The second thing to like is the way that Regal86 seems to totally detach himself from national identity(s) not just through his sound (more on that shortly, shawty), but through the Ballardian embodiment of the machine which mirrors the materiality that produces that sound: Regal’s tag refers to the 1986 Buick Royal, a vehicle that’s iconic in Lowrider culture around which the sounds from which he most commonly draws (Memphis rap, horrorcore, southern hip hop etc) have gathered in the so-called physical world. Moreover, his socials are adorned with hub caps, chrome details, and some of the most perfectly polished paintwork you’ve ever seen.

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I’ll spare you the full rant about Ballard, Cars, and Crash, but the short version is summed up by JG’s enigmatic protagonist from the Atrocity Exhibition: car ‘crashes play very different roles to the ones we assign them’, ‘the car crash may be perceived unconsciously as a fertilizing rather than a destructive event – a liberation of sexual energy’ (AE, p. 26). In this sense, the automobile represents a generative power derived from machinic collision; by extension, I’m saying that the genric, cultural, sonic collisions through which Regal86 collapses “the Mexican” is a result of the digital internet machine through which the sounds arrive in his PC, collide, collapse, and are re-constructed. 

To my London-licked ear, the crossover that got me hooked was the Memphis rap beats that Regal86 overlays with irresistibly aggressive (early) jungle breaks, combining groove and sheer momentum in a way that neither genre, nor many in-between, is able to catch on its own. However, it would be reductive (bordering on the obscene) to suggest that these are the only influences from which he draws; its ‘ghetto’ in the broadest possible sense of the word, bringing together dark and dingy sounds from backrooms and bedrooms across the globe, forcing them through a punishing lo-fi extruder, and seeing what comes out the other side. The opening track ‘Skylark’ is perhaps the simplest – Memphis in the front, jungle in the back, and belting all the way. Daytona adds an addictive little piano hook and washed-out jungle vox to the heady combination, creating five and half minutes that are noisy, catchy, and blistering in equal measure. For me, the real wild card was the third and final track of the EP – BugRace. That’s because Regal brings electro into the mix; I’ve always had a complicated and prickly relationship with electro, and with all things Berlin if I’m honest – ze supercool leather-clad scene of times gone by gets on my tits no end, even when it’s worked in by some of my top-tier footwork and juke pals. However, Mr 86 pulls a blinder – by layering it with noise, ghetto house drums, and lo-fi vibes, I feel my own regional prejudices melt into air. Muchachos, Breakwith.me recommends Purple Show. 

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In Adolescence, this dimension leaks out in an unusual way. If the sampled voices in jungle were used as a sort of cybernetic tool to illustrate an identification with the ‘inorganic circuitry beneath the Terminator’s mask’ (top 5 Mark-Fisherism yktfv), and Auto-Tune co-opted this in the first few years of the millennium, then Unknown T’s approach to drill applies his raw baritone voice as the machine gun of choice; no longer is there a need for mere identification with the inhuman avarice of capital, it has become a full embodiment. Take a track like Goodums, a drill ballad in which T spits atop moody Rhodes chords alternating between bars in which he imagines seducing his lover and killing an undercover cop simultaneously. The chorus hook is an onomatopoeic threat -

I would’ve put it all in her back like “bodouff, woudoff” – gunshot or cumshot, it’s hardly radio friendly material. 

The problem is that he’s not allowed to exist as an artist exuding pure evil; a performance of Goodums on the COLORSxSTUDIOS platform sees T clad in black - trench, sunglasses et al - in front of a pastel-pink studio with live pianist, perfect for Insta clipping. This dissonance between the wicked music and this even wickeder backdrop encapsulates an establishment aesthetic of gunpoint hegemony that drills a reminder: artists trying to capture the most extreme realities of a metropolitan condition are subject to the same idealistic standards as those who operate from much more comfortable corners of the world. This pressure leads to things like the dreary and unconvincing prequel to Goodums, Sweet Lies, in which T works through his own toxicity as a boyfriend. An analogue I would like to nod towards is Nick Cave. Unknown T represents the same gothic animality as Cave circa Birthday Party / From Her to Eternity but there’s somehow an industry exec pressure trying to sugar the drillpill with the cloying humanism of Cave’s later career. It’s hard to justify holding drill artists to the Instagram code of conduct* when there’s such an expansive history of “evil” music that we have historically valorised so highly, especially when this time around it comes out against a top-down institutional pressure to be good. Maybe T says it best himself - ‘time is a opp’. Break With Me recommends Adolescence.

*Side note: drillers have pretty boring Instagram accounts in general, whilst pop (white) artists like Justin Bieber or Post Malone can get away with posting more debauched stories. Weirdly, if you make music about evil you have to appear prim and proper online, but if you make music with good end-of-history values you’re entitled to cokepost your affairs and maintain major label funding.
 

Unknown T - Adolescence

Review by @denglord

Listen   Drill's stream-centric culture will be explored in a BwM video essay coming soon...

Adolescence is by no means the perfect mixtape. On the surface it doesn’t really expand much on the topics T explored in his first tape, Rise Above Hate; in that sense, drill generally doesn’t stray far from the alienation of the inner-city war machine through a hypermasculine lens. That’s really the main difference between drill’s dogmatic sensibilities versus grime’s flamboyant shapeshifting. Of course, grime stopped being an experimental rupture the first time round – when it became dogmatic and contained in the early 2010s by desperately trying to appeal to the charts – whilst drill remains so compelling because of its ability to achieve mainstream success with such a narrow (but unique) aesthetic. At the same time, it faces perhaps even more resistance than grime did with most legacy media coverage, insisting all the artists are murderers. In that way, so much of it is lumped into a throwaway pile of violent dross that none of the exciting artists get the critical coverage they deserve in the mainstream press.

At the time of writing this, I’m only just starting Kit Mackintosh’s new book Neon Screams, but I really love this sentiment central to its introduction - “we’re done with the old, codified modes of sonic imagination” (p.9). It seems like the overriding take of the book is that once we throw out the idea that music has to be innovative through technological interventions (breakbeat time-stretching, 303 acid squelches), we might understand that the innovations of the past few years have been through digital-processing of the artist’s voice. Mackintosh thinks that it’s not Auto-Tune as a technology that’s innovative, but the way drill, trap, and bashment artists have singularly warped their voices to formulate new styles of pop music, a sentiment echoed by Kieran Press-Reynolds

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EQ Why - Juke Pack Vol. 4 

Review by frogman

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A few years ago, maybe 2015/6, there seemed to be a proliferation of jungle and juke/footwork crossover tracks flooding bandcamp and the dancefloor alike, as if Chicago had only just [re]discovered the warpspeed breakbeat, as if Steve Goodman was singlehandedly feeding Spinn carefully curated sample packs perfectly picked from his own record collection. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware there’s a whole world of tracks out there that fall somewhere between the Midwest and West-End sounds, and that – thinking longer-term macro-scale – the subtler blending or breaking of those boundaries is a more interesting and meaningful enterprise. BUT, there’s something irresistible about the thumpers you’ll find just by laying an OldSkool break over compulsively danceable Juke tunes. Why exactly this is, I don’t know, but I’ve decided to take a stab: 


Having to google ‘what’s the difference between footwork and juke’ before writing this up felt, at the time, like something shameful; a failure of the Fisherian impulse to give music and all its terminology the cheeseburger treatment. However, after a rocky start, it turned out to be an immensely fruitful endeavour. Cue Redditbros: ‘Explaining the difference between juke and footwork is kind of like explaining the difference between jungle and drum and bass…’ – heckles up, palms sweating, vomit-in-the-mouth kind of opener, but we’ll save the rebuttal for another post. Better things soon arrived: ‘…It's practically impossible, and even the people who make [Footwork and Juke] have a hard time doing so. Juke is all about dancing with somebody, and footwork is all about dancing against somebody.’ 

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Before I go on: what I’m about to say is not an indictment of footwork, nor the battling from which it was born; footwork’s origins in competitive dance not only make it great but are not mutually exclusive with that which makes it great on dancefloors too. This is NOT about to become some pseudo-anticap diatribe on the perils of “competition” in the abstract. However, the collective and communal potentialities of the dancefloor have always been at the heart of the breakwith.me project, so the carefully balanced counterpoint drawn above caught my amphibious eye. Footwork, at its very best, is more experimental, cut-up, and complex than juke, and – in one of Mark’s greatest insights on the genre – notes its unique capability to ‘surge’, ‘stab’, and ‘jab’, ‘heightening and lowering tension without every releasing it’; perhaps counterintuitively, footwork is – by design – difficult to dance to. 


It strikes me that on Juke Pack Vol. 4, EQ Why gets the very best of both worlds. Taking the simple(r) yet stunningly effective juke structure, combining it with phat, Trappy, low-ends that nestle nicely at the halfway point between on the Goldie-Rashad sine spectrum, and then running jingling breaks over the top, Lotta Money hits the jackpot; it’s experimental and genre-jumbling whilst still letting the component parts of all its influences shine through. It’s the demanding danceability of juke run-through with the communal psychedelia of jungle and, in short, its one of those tracks that you just know would go off on any dancefloor, for any audience, no matter how much of a ‘head’ they might claim to be in any of the pre-established sounds. Maybe its trite to say: “I rate this track because it’s a banger” but, at the end of the day, its an exercise in bringing people together, and tracks as simply//brilliant as this one can do just that. And the best part? This EP is comprised of one track in four different flavours: Juke Clean, Juke Dirty, Jungle Clean, and Jungle Dirty – this is fun for the whole family. Bring the kids along, and be sure to tell them: breakwith.me recommends Juke Pack Vol. 4.   

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BREAK WITH ME RECOMMENDS - JULY 2021

This month we’ve decided to start writing about new releases that have caught our attention. By no means an exhaustive list of good recent & upcoming releases, this is just a selection of good recent releases. Please consider buying these projects this Bandcamp day. Love, Break With Me. 06/08/2021

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Don Zilla - Ekizikiza Mubwengula

Review by frogman

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I first came across Don Zilla when Ben UFO dropped the title track of his last EP – ‘From the Cave to the World’ – during the festival season of 2019. The EP had dropped on Hakuna Kulala, one of the many Nyege-Nyege affiliated labels coming out of East Africa. Nyege Nyege have been spurring Africa’s dance music scene since 2013, giving nebulous, local, underground scenes a tent under which they can gather, and has been crucial in bringing these sounds to an audience beyond the bounds of the continent. Hakuna Kulala – so far as I can tell – plays home to the darker, grimier cuts coming out of the region, adorning them with some wicked cover art along the way. 

As I write that I feel a twinge of embarrassment – the last thing I want to be is yet another soyboy joining the long tradition of circlejerking the supposed darkness lurking deep within the African continent – but Don Zilla’s tunes are, undeniably, as dark as they come. ‘From the Cave’ was drum and bass put through the industrial-noise meat grinder, while its B-side ‘Inside Me’ was a sprawling, thirteen-minute soundscape drawn from the eeriest pallet going. His new album – Ekizikiza Mubwengula – sees these two sides of his work come together in blissful dissonance.

Having said that, it would be reductive to assume that this album is just spooky DnB™. What I mean is that the danceable and the spectral seem deeply intertwined throughout, even though the album takes its cues from a far more diverse array of genres, sounds, and scenes than its predecessor. My favourite track – ‘Automated’ – is the closest this album gets to a ravey dancefloor filler, but the murky bassline that’s ever present but never overpowering, the skittering echoes of breakbeats, and a deeply distorted melody drag you by the scruff of the neck a long way away from the piano-laden euphoria of hardcore. Nor is this jungle: It may have all the hallmarks (adorned with whistles, alarms, and wailing sirens on top of the flittering break), but it feels different; the deep-in-your-belly dread one feels the first time you hear jungle fades quickly with exposure, but this track brings it bursting back. Throw in some grinding synths, traditional drum patterns, and eponymous machinery that brings the track lurching into life, and soon you realise we’re in uncharted territory.

My other favourite track is ‘Buziba’. Sitting somewhere in the 140bpm range, it feels like a Sd Laika cut (somehow) made more evil. Held together by a gurgling, distorted synth line that sounds like the machine made animate (and all the cultural nightmares that scenario inspires), it is a relentless track. Like many of Zilla’s tunes it never ‘drops’ per se, but instead seems to heave from one nightmarish movement into the next. Between these blood-curdling bangers are moodier, less rhythmic tracks that hold the horror of this whole thing together.

Another writer has compared Zilla’s sound to Samuel R. Delaney’s poetic dystopias. I haven’t read Delaney, and a ‘Heart of Darkness’ reference would be the last nail in my pale, speccy, Orientalizing coffin, so my literary comparisons won’t be quite as sharp. What I can say with certainty is this: there is something intensely and unapologetically gothic that Zilla’s new album brings to the dancefloor, drenched as it is in automata, violence, and the eerie… and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Break With Me recommends Ekizikiza Mubwengula.

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Scratcha DVA - Afrotek EP 

(P)/review by hcurtoys

Pre-order / listen

The newest EP to come from the future-rhythm-generator himself, sees Scratcha rushing full tilt into his infectious mutations of the Durban Gqom sound with his ties to London’s smoggy warped basslines. His releases from the last year; Promise U / Smoke Signals, SFTGQM / Kong [Earthsurfaceopening Bootleg Mix], and & Baga Man have all provided us with an insight into the further potential of this emergent sound. I say emergent, but realistically Gqom has been thumping round Durban clubs for about 5 years, and since DJ Lag’s Ice Drop penetrated London clubs pre-Covid, we’ve all been getting ssweaaty at our @home parties to those icy, hollow drums ever since.

The title track (and the only track released atm) is fucking hard. It comes in at around 128bpm but, like most dance music coming out of the contemporary afro-diaspora, the rhythm is going 100mph and the lack of pounding 4x4s is a joyous testament to this sound’s un-Europeanness. Afrotek’s intensity is not found necessarily in the pummelling of off-kilter kickdrum thwacks, but more in how the grime-laden bass hits you at the end of each bar. That twist, shimmer, pulsation of pure nrg is channelled straight from the Devil Mixes of early Kahn & Neek* and greets u with a slap in the face as you attempt to dance to these stumbling beats. The foreboding, breathy, vocal ‘Os’ in Afrotek offer us a moody n gritty alternative to some of the more sun soaked Amapiano coming out of the Durban/London exchange, and whilst I do enjoy dipping my toes in the lush worlds of Nia Pearl and Kabza De Small, I am a sucker through and through for the ruff and tuff bassy dun…dun…dun…dun…dun…dun… of Afrotek.

Scratcha is showing us how the collaboration between various bass cultures is capable of producing sounds that are unlike music we’ve heard in a long time. DVA’s work ethic and ability to somehow churn out boundary-pushing music on the fly seems to be the spark at the base of a well-formed campfire keeping the newest international sounds warm until they’re infected with a UK ‘ardcore virus. This ‘global ghettotech’ as ethnomusicologist Wayne Marshall puts it, provides a network between international bass cultures and allows for the ‘genres identified with the ghettos of the former colonies as well as with the ghettos of today’s post-colonial metropoles…’ to spread regardless of global record labels in favour of specific artists and platforms.

I actually can’t wait for this. Break With Me recommends Afrotek EP by Scratcha DVA.

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Foodman - Yasuragi Land 

Review by Denglord

Buy / listen

Takahide Higuchi lives in Nagoya, the fourth largest city in Japan. It has long been ridiculed across the country, ever since the beloved comedian Tamori started roasting the city’s in-between status and uncertain cultural identity in the 1980s. But Foodman believes in Nagoya - ‘Yasuragi’ is a term for serenity or peace - except we won’t be finding peace in the symbolic escapism of the perfectly symmetrical spa, or the bastardized new age philosophy so commonly associated with Japanese culture in the west. No, as the album cover lets us know, Yasuragi Land is reached somewhere between the cookie-cutter bento boxes of train station food courts, the air-conditioning units in the alleys between financial skyscrapers, and the distant lackadaisical strumming of a young busker all jumbled amongst the rhythmic patter of city life.

The lure of this most ordinary setting sonically invests itself somewhere between Chicago footwork and Japan’s art-pop scene. In Dhanveer Singh Brar’s new book on the sonic ecologies of 21st century black musics, he makes the case for the genealogy of footwork being in its relation between the music and its dancers. He says, ‘it is the design of the battle circle which tells us that dance crews and producers are not distinct entities, but nodes within a system of distributed intelligence.’ (DSB - Teklife, Ghettoville, Eski p.75) So, if footwork is about sonically and kinetically generating new architekture within the urban ghetto, Foodman’s music reminds us that boredom can be an equally powerful tool in the creative engineering of utopian town planning. The main tactic in communicating this is of course omitting the sub bass that defines much contemporary dance music like footwork. What if we only had sporadic percussion and impulsive textures to guide us? If humans are the only species that can collectively organise to a pulse, why does our understanding of this organisation have to be limited to designated dancing zones and frequency ranges? The result is a kind of surrealism that’s animated not by its own aesthetic style but instead by its inability to produce something systematic, despite being grounded in the supposed tyranny of mundane life. For the philosopher Henri Lefebvre, the question then becomes ‘does musical time coincide with lived time? Or with imaginary time?’ (HL - Rhythmanalysis p.61)

The lure of this most ordinary setting sonically invests itself somewhere between Chicago footwork and Japan’s art-pop scene. In Dhanveer Singh Brar’s new book on the sonic ecologies of 21st century black musics, he makes the case for the genealogy of footwork being in its relation between the music and its dancers. He says, ‘it is the design of the battle circle which tells us that dance crews and producers are not distinct entities, but nodes within a system of distributed intelligence.’ (DSB - Teklife, Ghettoville, Eski p.75) So, if footwork is about sonically and kinetically generating new architekture within the urban ghetto, Foodman’s music reminds us that boredom can be an equally powerful tool in the creative engineering of utopian town planning. The main tactic in communicating this is of course omitting the sub bass that defines much contemporary dance music like footwork. What if we only had sporadic percussion and impulsive textures to guide us? If humans are the only species that can collectively organise to a pulse, why does our understanding of this organisation have to be limited to designated dancing zones and frequency ranges? The result is a kind of surrealism that’s animated not by its own aesthetic style but instead by its inability to produce something systematic, despite being grounded in the supposed tyranny of mundane life. For the philosopher Henri Lefebvre, the question then becomes ‘does musical time coincide with lived time? Or with imaginary time?’ (HL - Rhythmanalysis p.61)

 

介在する記憶と幻覚は同列だ 

再度未来に映る 灯は本物だから 落ち着いて

 

The intervening memories and hallucinations are all aligned.

Calm down, the lights reflecting in the future are real.

 

あなたらしく生きる

この道でまた会おう

 

Live your life as who you are

Let’s meet again on this path.


 

 

 

 

 

These lyrics are from ‘michi-no-eki’, an ode to roadside service stations featuring vocals from Taigan Kawabe of Bo Ningen fame. The video sees Kawabe running out of one of these stations until he eventually dives into the beach whilst confetti rains down from the sky. Take a look at Higuchi’s paintings too, and you’ll see this same spirit of situationist re-constructability combined with footwork’s geometric chaos. Perhaps this devotion to little instances, moments, ruptures of sounds can be considered a kind of rhythmanalysis. According to Lefebvre, ‘the rhythmanalyst might return to and intervene in the everyday. Without claiming to change life, but by fully reinstating the sensible in consciousness and in thought, he would accomplish a tiny part of the revolutionary transformation of this world and this society in decline’ (HL, P.26). Let’s turn now to Guy Debord:

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‘The extreme poverty of conscious organization and creativity in everyday life expresses the fundamental necessity for unconsciousness and mystification in an exploiting society, in a society of alienation.’

(GD - Perspectives for Conscious Alterations in Everyday Life)

Ultimately this is Foodman’s mantra - don’t make dance music that can be described, make music that can be utilised as a blueprint towards how we might approach turning the city into a zone where dancing makes more sense than walking. Break With Me recommends Yasuragi Land.

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Oyubi - Mel  / Futaeno

Review by Frogman

Buy / listen

There’s only one thing worse than soyfacing over Africa’s otherness, and that’s soyfacing over Japan’s otherness (@denglord); the misled Japan-obsessive stares (hilariously) agape at a society that is almost identical to his own. [See meme below.]

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However, the nation’s ever-expanding status as a global centre of capital has actually accelerated its musical output in an experimental and productive direction (fellow commies don’t @ me – every cloud…; even a broken clock…; etc).Until fifteen years ago, ‘only 120 to 130 BPM house and techno, along with 170 to 175 BPM drum & bass music, existed in clubs’ says de facto founder of the scene DJ Fulltono. But in 2008 everything changed (didn’t it just!). Two things happen: the first generation of internet-literate Japanese youngsters reach club-going age, and footwork explodes out of the American Midwest. Fulltono finds himself at that intersection, and by the end of 2008 has founded the now legendary Booty Tune. In its wake, other labels and events start to follow, and the music starts to radically change.

Oyubi stands at the forefront of the latest wave of producers who are pushing the scene into uncharted waters. ‘“UK bass music'' is an almost wilfully bland term’ said Mark Fisher (now we really are soyfacing) ‘but it does point to the element which gave every genre from jungle to UK garage and dubstep their consistency: a viscous, glistening bass sound. This is conspicuously absent from Rashad’s sound’. Conversely, the first thing that strikes you about ‘Mel’ is its throbbing bassline that could be straight from one of Deep Medi’s rougher cuts. Combine this with a tripped-out vocal sample that’s got 100 Gecs written all over it, and some double bass plucks that nod towards Art Blakely, and you begin to see how far footwork’s pallet has been shaken up from the OG days of disco and Yeezy samples.

But these tracks are more than just their influences. The beefy basslines exist in stark but beautiful contrast to the ethereal, almost magical synths that glitter over the top – euphoria and dread once again find themselves in amorous deadlock. In ‘Mel’, a chanting hip-hop vocal is reduced to a barely audible, paranoid whisper as the track rolls on; in ‘Futaeno’, it’s the break and the hats that are given this treatment – they flicker across the track, in one moment rousing you from the paralysing effects of the bottom end, in the next moment willing you into its soporific effect. Dubbed out echoes create depth and space in the track, widening the chasm between the hefty low ends and the sparkling highs.

 

Where OG footwork was – for (very) good and bad – beautifully simple and analytic in construction, Oyubi’s newest tunes add a layer of sonic precarity that perfectly reflect its impact on the form at large. Don’t get me wrong, these tracks have all the hallmarks of good, honest, footwork – classic claps, cubist corners, and (first and foremost) an irresistible groove – this is still footwork, but not as you know it. Break With Me recommends you listen to Oyubi.

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M.I.C & Nammy Wams - You Can Achieve Anything

Review by Denglord

Buy / listen

‘I don’t need to rap about guns, I don’t need to talk about funds, I got no flavours in my lungs, I don’t need to impress Headie One’ says the Master of Inane Conversation (M.I.C). He’s not impressed with the current landscape in Grime, Grime 2, experimental grime, whatever. M.I.C has been busy in the underground scene for the past few years, but this EP produced entirely by Croydon producer & DJ Nammy Wams (whose recent album Paradise South is also fantastic btw) feels like the beginning of something bigger for the two artists, the scene, and the city - the beginning of an interdependence between North and South London!?

Dan Hancox’s ethnography of the genre, Inner City Pressure, explored how the violent territoriality that compelled Grime to incubate such far out sonic experiments lost its bite once it got absorbed into the culture industry’s relentless chokehold. By now we all know that Matt Hancock claimed to be a Skepta fan, Dizzee performed at London 2012 whilst the regeneration of the ‘heart of Bow’ estate he grew up on and where Rinse FM first aired out of was ‘washed, rinsed, and looking good’ to investors etc etc. After the fact, Danveer Singh Brar asks us to consider ‘If the blackness compressed into Grime allowed it to induce and encircle the seemingly totalized strategy of policing, then what could this black musical project have been capable of in the absence of any warfare from the state?’ (DSB = Teklife, Ghettoville, Eski p.138)

M.I.C’s answer is to reimagine the first years of our millennium so that it’s anime music videos getting talked about in schools instead of UK drill snapchat gossip, A.R. Kane and Nintendo Switches are all the rage, and Haringey’s borders bear the cinematic mythology of Hugh Grant’s Kensington & Chelsea. He sticks to the AAAAAAAAnythingGoes rhyme scheme that fired up his genre’s early pioneers, but mutates what should be an aggressive cadence into something much more intuitive and feminine. Make no mistake about it - M.I.C knows how to roast - Fan Service is a ruthless diatribe against the hands-in-pockets hipsters that go to secret shows secretly - that guy looks like Thom Yorke, but he thinks he’s a crook - but I think M.I.C is at his best justifying his punky discontent against the backdrop of the joy that his home and community brings him: North London is the only perfect place on Earth. After Brar asks us what Grime’s capabilities could’ve been without the policing against its emancipatory potential, he wonders if it ‘contains the phono-material codes to turn London into a bass colony?’

For M.I.C, the bass colony has always been there, it’s just hidden in a secret back room behind Roti Joupa that only he’s discovered so far. This is a rapper that’s self-aware enough to know his approach is more likely to win fans amongst those in-the-know keep hush types than the type that shuffle an algorithm-made Spotify grime playlist in the gym (not that you can’t be both), and as a result this particular collaboration with one of London’s most exciting producers is a no holds barred approach that lingers not on the sound of festering machismo that defines so much contemporary grime but instead weaves its way back to the leftfield beauty of a style that once invented the future by breaking the rules. In an interview in Dummy Mag, Nammy Wams said ‘the 17-year-olds who were listening to grime in 2003, the same kind of person who’s 17 years old now is listening to drill. I don’t think drill is as experimental as grime was in its early days, but there’s so much being made if you do look out you’ll find it.’ It should be obvious, so much more is yet to come. Break With Me recommends You Can Achieve Anything.

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Pressure Dome - INTL.PDCOMP001

Review by Hcurtoys

Buy / listen

 

Next up from me is a compilation coming from Bristol label Pressure Dome. The comp. features 10 trax from artists based in Ireland, France, Kampala, New York, Copenhagen. The trax are exploring every inch of what I describe as some kind of Techno-Dancehall, which is a term I knicked from Mr Mitch’s Rinse show of the same name, but I feel that best describes the variety of sound and highlights the essence of the label’s bastardized bass laden sounds.

The opening track Overtime by Sputnik One offers up a slow-but-fast clatter of hats n snares filled to the brim with a subby (🥺) foghorn. The vocals are chopped up finely and scattered throughout the warping echo space as the prowess of the Dublin based producer is shown off, the breakdown around the 2 min mark is such a luscious, squelchy, cesspit I wanna b there bad. Next up is Drain by Christian Coiffure, a bubbling heavyweight dancehall winner. Again this one is properly live, it's full of little squelching organisms bubbling and spitting at you from the cauldron as the bass drum lumbers forward. This is soundsystem music made by aliens, and at around 2:30 we’re greeted by the extra-terrestrial acid virus driving the whole thing as the track erupts into a reinvigorated electro sprint.

Plonker by pq is up next. It starts with some delicate keys lulling you into a false sense of security, some scary synths glisten in the background accompanied by a clink n some other bits that remind me a bit of some DMZ dubsteppy stuff; then boom, big single bassy kick to the face. It’s a somewhat sinister track tbh, it really rises in intensity throughout and towards the middle some muffled vocal is creeping up behind you with an arpeggio n then… alarms are blaring in the spaceship, spooky staccato strings (reminding me a bit of Horror Gqom by T5UMUT5UMU), and a proper dancehall stomping beat pattern to get u stepping. Up next is a speedier track coming from US producer Ronan and the song is called Ololiuqui which is apparently the name of some Mexican plant in the ‘Morning Glory’ species(??) Anyway Ololiuqui opens with a rigorously chopped breakbeat, intermingled with a few chimes and clangs, and some proper dubby keys echoing into the middle distance. The track opens up into a kind of Jungle, but never quite actualising- defo leaning much more toward the ‘Intelligent’ Braindancey side. A very pretty track but shadowed by the rest I’d say. Tinkah’s track Closing Chapters follows the braindance party, but with much more emphasis on the dance. Injections of amens and subs spliced up beyond recognition, mechanical vocals snuck in after each bar (Proc Fiskal style), and an almost Grime-y flow to it. Tinkah fills their music to the brim with textures and makes it alive.

The ghost town start of Thodén’s New Confines sets the scene perfectly for the rest of this track, it is the energy that fuels running for the last bus; that which makes u want to be outside in the city after dark. The electronic bleeps n blips zip past you in hyper-speed, and then swelling up is the raucous beat loop accompanied by some deep deep subs. It's got a melancholy and foreboding urban-ness, but will electrocute u in an instant...send spasms down ur spine. Not one to be messed with. Vecta by LOIF is up next, and it's another track infected by whatever acidic, electro virus is going through this comp. You’d hear this track in a DJ Stingray set. Its gurgling, slightly old skool bassline is paired with a bouncing bass beat; it's nippy and infinitely danceable. Following this is Null Azimuth by Ma Sha Ru. It opens with some skittish snares let loose over some rumbling bass-creature, and then a robotic voice chatting in an unidentified language. This is the one I want to hear in Corsica, the warping bass and skipping drums demanding you to lurch and twitch into an unhuman frenzy. Following the frenzy is my favourite track Sound of Your Shadow by Talik. It opens with some echoed bass drum hits immediately giving way to a jaunty rhythm in true Techno-Dancehall stylee, thump thump thump, this track stomps like Elephant Dub. Then as it fades away onto some blissful pads, it evolves into a proto-gqom machine. Muffled sci-fi samples carried by its pounding subs and the occasional rave stab. This track properly grows and by 4 mins 30, you’re rounding another peak and the track is stripped back, dubbed out, and the bass takes centre stage; warm and bubbling down in the woofers. This track ought to b shaking walls, its strange cyber infliction has got me hooked. Finally we arrive at the close, DJ Durbin’s Drems. Snippets of breakneck amen breaks are loaded with glassy melody, zipping off into outta space it explodes up and spreads out. Like the rest of the release the track is full of depth, u can hear the textures deep in the foundation of drums. At the pinnacle of this track there is a huge sonic expanse between the sub bass and the melody, tying it to the polyrhythms of Jungle and the like but also acting as a reminder that this track like the rest of the music on this release is dedicated to exploring sonic space; send him outer space, spacebars, breaks/pauses/ and acidic fluctuations.

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The Highway Rat - We Stay Here With You

4 songs of joy, another world is possible

Do not listen to or buy this one under any circumstances ...unless...

If you would like to write about your favourite new releases coming

 

out next month please send us a message via the contact page

 

on our website, or through our Insta DMs @breakwith.me

Love, Break With Me

HEAVEN OR WHAT.

Harry Curtoys presents new work 'Heaven Or What.' We recommend playing the audio piece embedded as you scroll through the text.

 

This piece charts the journey of an unnamed character through their musical exploration of heartbreak, longing, and loved up euphoria. Bass overwhelms soul vocals, House tracks are slowed to the speed of Lovers Rock, the sound of mates singing along is heard in the distance, and mechanic glimmers of birdsong cut through the fog.
The hum of a distant voice is heard, rumbling as if it were coming from another room. The door is opened and the last sentiments are heard: “the collective capacity to produce, to care, and to enjoy.”

24/07/21

We start inside an overwhelming wave, a chorus of vast vivid pads raining out. Chords dripping, heavy with echo, the remanence of the vocal origin heard only as the note loops. A prolonged and solemn waterfall of a synthesized choir. A mournful software instrument trying to empathize.

 

The hum of a distant voice is heard, rumbling as if it were coming from another room. The door is opened and the last sentiments are heard: “the collective capacity to produce, to care, and to enjoy.”

And we’re back, back in the immediate. We hear a shimmer, a machinic glimmer or twinkle, an artificial birdsong. It initiates the flipping of the cassette, a reminder to change the song, to not let it run out. Open, turn over, insert, play. A slow cymbal crash ripples out into the reverberated expanse,

“I know you don’t love me” she sings  “and there may be someone else”, pause “but as I sit alone here at home, knowing what I should do, I find I can't stay away from you.”

 The metre seems ever so slightly off kilter, it lulls from side to side, chimes ringing out on each beat. A lethargic rhythm offset with a beautiful voice. Thick with desire and the insurmountable power of soul.

“I can't stay away from you”, “no I can't stay away from you.” She stretches each word out, looses herself in each note as the drum beat trudges on. An immaculate voice emanating from the cassette player, an otherworldly shout that ruthlessly draws tears. “And I’d leave if I could.”

The singer longs for the outside, that which is just out of reach. But she can’t leave, she turns back. There’s a rumble radiating from the subwoofers, it bubbles and spits, the pressure begins to become unbearable.

Her voice slips slowly under the cloud as it passes overhead. A thick, viscous thunder rolling over and over. The glimmer from the outside, the birdsong heard through the open window, cutting through the fog. A shrill siren; the dawn chorus.

The clouds begin to part and the rumble retreats. The cassette stops and is immediately flipped, the lingering birdsong replaced with a chorus of horns and that steadily jaunty rhythm.

The indecipherable voice of the MC of whatever soundclash this track was heard in shouts out over a squelchy, bouncing siren, signalling the attention of all listeners. A distant and subdued voice sings out:

“Kiss me once, girl”, “Kiss me twice, girl”. The rhythm now taking an almost total hold over the body. “And everything nice girl”.

An unavoidable bounce, bob, sway. The voice begins the chorus, rising higher, wringing out each syllable. “Love me forever and I-…” 

Clunk. It stops. No more. Too much; you heard enough. Those notes and chords are potent.

The murmur returns. This time as the liquid purl of the beck, babbling over stones worth skimming. “YOU DREAM OF HEAVEN”, the voice quickly shouts out into the expanse. The reverb exploded up and up stripping itself down to a single, warm note.

I want to stay suspended in that hum at 4:47.

It lingers for a moment before giving way to the energetic drum loop now quickly barging in; “Now badboy”. The fuse is lit, its live, the pulsating energy loop of that other-worldly bassline and the sharp drums step, or rather sprint forward.

Laser beams zip past, ricocheting off the walls, a faraway vocalist is stuck repeating the same chopped snippet of the original track, separated from its source,

 

 

                                                              “I wanted you, I wanted you, I wanted you”.

The speeding vocalist’s coiled desire is finally released as we mount the peak, the precipice of the chorus, the warped vocals rising up…

and then falling just out of earshot; we hear the voice but the bassline seems to block us from hearing her words. Then a sudden stab of static.

The vocals disappear and the drums roll on, pouncing on each beat. The momentum of the loop propelling itself forward until the bassline then falls away and we’re left with just the now melting drums. The beat quickly evaporates into a thick gas, leaving droplets of molten glass and treacle, and twinkling risers pinging away behind the fog.

“The only way to protect joy, is by practicing it…”,

the same voice from the room with the door ajar crawls out from behind the haze. It is lined with a dense, gliding bassline which flits about, stooping high and low above the beck. Not too far away you can hear Astrid singing her song. And then those fizzing droplets of molten glass conjure up a new voice, one of Scratcha’s concoctions.

“baby I can see you watching me… tell me can you handle my love, my love, my love”, and baby do you feel me?”

As quickly as it arrives, the hypnotic vocal sample fizzles out into a grainy, glitching pulse. The sounds from the garden float in through the open window, the outside sounds lush.

A cassette is inserted. The reverberating drums roll out a lulling rhythm, cascading into the vast echo-space with a dreamlike wistful melody. Heaven or what.

The booming bassline suddenly drops out and the smooth lyrics emerge,

“3 o’clock in the morning, Im wondering where you are, I can’t close my eyes, I hope you’re not far, now I’ve been struggling since the time you left, and I know that I can’t forget, how you used to hold me tight, now you’ve gone, I’m all alone, now you’ve gone, I’m all alone, without you…”

The wee hours marred by the seduction of melody; a ‘sensuous mosaic’. 

 The steady sway of this solemn tune dissolves into a cyber-spatial buzz, mutating into an effervescing siren which marks the end of the track. Flip the cassette and the gristle returns. A rumble in every sense of the word greets us, a thunder, a low-end haar, a rolling sea fret.

Shaking subwoofers, the steps of a giant rocking side to side make their way out of the fog; house music slowed to the pace of rocksteady, the euphoria stretched and warped into a shelter for the lovers to dwell. Thick with reverb, one or several voices can be heard pouring out the chorus,

“when I fall in love, it will be completely, or I'll never, never give my heart, when I fall in love, it will be forever, or I’ll never, never fall in love…”

We’re struck, stunned, the sway of the music, my own personal hypnosis. This is pure, we hear a string of words, we understand; we meet someone, they understand, never giving your heart, never allowing that to happen, is what we share. The track begins its descent, voices can still be heard over the pulse, a muffled laugh and the distant vocals now providing the only light in the tunnel, the walls are shaking. This rumble is all we want, it’s so immensely shared, feel my bass, it’s yours, I want you to feel it too. 

A digitalized warmth radiates off the incoming chords. From somewhere else another lovers track starts as the chords are twisted into an echoing loop, the sharp vocals of Joya Landis grasping you tightly as I whistle the melody.

“That’s sweet mate” the YouTube comments say,

“Proper grown folk business”.

The track is muffled and distant but the lyrics flood the digital vastness

“I would die for you, and that's why, you're my lover, yes, you are my lover, moonlight lover, you are my lover”.

You can hear that warmthless still buzzing around in the background with the occasional click, clap, and whistle. “Moonlight lover” I hum out of my window with a renewed and drunken liveliness, the last lines of the track suddenly give way to a swelling bright and vivid glimmer.

The pad roars out of the soundsystem, blaring its cloying song through all six speakers. The room trembles again. This is overpowering, a wave of glorious bright light, pure affection out of the blue.

The last fragments of Joya Landis are still pulsating in the echo-space. Our tremendous wave breaks, and the birdsong returns with the glimmer of the early morning.

The vocals begin to mutate once more.

“DO YA, DO YA, DO YA, FEEL ME…WARP WARP WARP…”

I walk past the warped bassline emanating from some rig, lazily wired cables hang from the machine constructing a dense network of wire above our heads.

I walk off now to catch the bus, someone jogs past me, their feet slapping the wet tarmac, they barely notice as I look towards them.

A car is blaring some weird dub at a red light, filled with sirens and helium vocals. I pass a venue surprisingly open this late, playing some 80s tracks, “we’ll always be together, together in electric dreams”. 

I return home to find us all listening to some loved up hardcore track, its you, me, and him.

The twinkle returns over the rumbling bassline as I pass through the house, shaking the walls again. Glistening in the high morning light it lingers longer than before.

Beautiful says the machine.

 

The melody takes over, the hyper-rhythm centralises around your body, takes hold. The jaunty digital accordion bellowing out its song, a jig, a shuffle, a dance.

 

And as swiftly as it takes hold, it leaves us alone, it takes flight as if scared off by our presence.

 

We’re left on the riverbank, heartbroken. 

THE [REAL] TERROR

What if a big, ugly, ethereal polar bear is actually the harbinger of imperial expansion's rupture and collapse? 

Today Frogman wants to talk about Lacan and AMC's The Terror @frogmanfilth

02/05/21

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England is like some stricken beast too stupid to know it is dead. Ingloriously foundering in its own waste products, the backlash and bad karma of empire.

> William Burroughs, The Western Lands
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AMC’s 2018 series The Terror begins in 1845; the middle of the decade in which Great Britain (rEmeMbeER whEN iT wAs GrEaT?!) establishes itself as global hegemon, world policeman, and seaman maximus. You’ll be as unsurprised as I was to learn that it’s the very same decade the nation “officially” adopted a policy of global free trade – when we really started going after the money. In fact, that’s precisely the purpose of the ill-fated expedition on which the series – 10 episodes, 8.5 hours long, and yet still incredulously referred to by our transatlantic cousins, the newly-woke-global-hegemon, as a “mini-series” – centres: a quest to discover the Northwest Passage, an ambition drenched in all the paper-thin finery of Rule Britannia Enlightenment knowledge-hunting that is, in reality, nothing more than a mad dash for the new trade superhighway to China. An obvious but important signpost: capitalism and imperialism are, and always have been, two sides of the same bloodstained coin. 

 

The expedition begins all pomp and glory: officers draped in finery consuming three course meals with wine and whisky, the lower ranks munching their way through lead-poisoned cans of veal cutlets and tomato sauce – the result of a slapdash, chumocracy-style contract that breeds shoddy craftsmanship and proves fatal for “the masses”– nothing changes. But soon things go all tits up: HMS Terror and HMS Erebus may be the most technologically advanced warships of their day – newly updated with a steam-powered single-screw propeller capable of catapulting them along at up to 4.5km/h (!!) – but sadly for all the healthy white seamen, there’s a hard winter coming, and pack ice doesn’t give a shit how neatly your beard is trimmed or how cutting-edge your sloop is; despite good advice from Captain Crosier (skipper of the Erebus but second in command to Sir John Franklin, leader of the eponymous Terror and the expedition writ large) the ships push on, and soon become lodged in the ice, never to be freed. 

 

After some half-arsed efforts to dig their way out, the difficulty of the situation becomes clear, and search parties are sent out from the boats to search for leads. During the outing, one of the parties manages to “accidentally” kill a native Inuit man. After failing to properly bury him (they force the poor sod down a fishing hole in the ice), soon ensues a plot device that comes to dominate many of the following episodes: a monstrous Inuit spirit called the Tuunbaq is unleashed upon the entire crew (more fool them; I’ve warned against the dangers of botched-burials in previous posts on frogmanfilth.org). The Tuunbaq – which can only be described as a polar bear with Klippel-Feil syndrome and pumped full of steroids, rendered in slightly budget CGI – pursues the men relentlessly, tearing them to shreds as it goes. To be frank, as satisfying as it is to see the prim and proper sailorboys torn to ribbons by their orientalised hosts, it’s ultimately a cheap thrill. What’s much more interesting is not what happens when the British empire comes up against Inuit mythology (which, it’s worth adding, the author of the original novel and co-writer of the series, Dan Simmons, rewrites and brutalises in order to create the silly creature – an unintended but telling act of aesthetic colonialism in of itself), but when the British Empire comes up against nothing at all. 

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All societies are built on Symbolic Orders; all Symbolic Orders are built on language. In so-called Great Empires, this is only compounded. Their expansion, exploitation, and hegemony rely upon rigid hierarchies, the ruthless control of desiring flows, and the foreclosing on socio-political alternatives. You need only look to the ridiculous names and ranks that are thrown around in the navy, or in any Repressive State Apparatus of your choosing – submission to the other, interpellation through language, and subjectification through naming are necessary and essential in the formation of, and entry to, society. Similarly, they don’t call it a grandnarrative for nothing: the meta-justifications for empire are the end-result (or end-purpose) of the name game; create enough words and soon you’ll have a sentence, then a paragraph, then a book, and then enough made-up phrases that you can funnel the desire of every man, woman, and child towards one hideous end – the ruthless expansion of your “collective” world view over all others. Under capitalist realism, remember that this is the profit-motive’s most powerful weapon.

One of The Terror’s greatest strengths is its cinematography; the Arctic feels as expansive, barren, and punishing as I can only imagine it really is. As such, the two little boats filled to the brim with God-Save-the-Queen hoo-rah find themselves in an exceptionally chilly version of the desert of the Real. The Real – all which lies beyond the bounds of the Symbolic, that which the Symbolic is designed to endlessly colonise, control, and supress – is a void, it is an absence, and that is precisely what these ships find themselves subsumed by. Where their route was once a part of a much larger narrative, given meaning through word only, once progress halts they realise that they lie beyond the Empire’s bounds, its words, and subsequently all the hope and meaning it provides; where their geographical coordinates are lost, their phantasmatic coordinates soon follow. In this sense, rather than imagining Tuunbaq as a quasi-spiritual whitewashed polar bear of subaltern vengeance, it makes a great deal more sense to understand it as an embodiment of the raging, screaming, deathdrive of the Real, bursting through their ruptured Symbolic order; the Id let loose as the ego – both individual, but also collective, national, imperial – loses its hold. This is perhaps why, in a particularly (small ‘s’) symbolic moment, the mutinous Sergeant Hickey cuts out his tongue, and as such any ability to consensually partake in the imperial-Symbolic, and feeds it (as well as himself) to the ever-raging Tuunbaq.

Which brings me to my next point via Lacan via Bhaktin via Moudileno: Another of The Terror’s greatest assets is its unflinching approach to the body; this is not gore for the sake of gore, “horror” for the sake of horror, but the grotesque body firing on all cylinders. From amputations to cannibalism, sodomising trysts to scalping and demi-decapitation, The Terror is littered with bodily functions and bodies at point of rupture. Bhaktin defines the grotesque body as a “body in the act of becoming, it is never finished, never completed”, focusing on “those parts of the grotesque body in which it outgrows its own self, transgressing its own body”. Therefore, though we can just take the blood and guts at face value, as the (small r) real representation of this Lord of the Flies on ice, we can happily take it one step further: bodies at the point of breakage, of transgressing their perceived limits, are reflective of hierarchies, discourses, and grandnarratives doing exactly the same thing. The language of the Symbolic defines the parameters of the singular body just as much as it does the collective will; when the bounds of those bodies are ruptured and collapsed it is because the relationship between those bodies and the hegemonic discourses that once defined them has been disturbed. The Terror reflects collapse of the Imperial narrative at a wonderfully visceral level.

And all of this leads us neatly to the series’ conclusion. The Tuunbaq is defeated by an aptly but unsubtly named Surgeon Goodsir who – knowing his own murder is imminent – douses himself in vinegary poison and slashes his wrists in another beautifully corporeal moment of Christ-like martyrdom; Hickey’s crew eat Goodsir, Tuunbaq eats Hickey’s crew, and you can guess the rest. This – along with the lead poisoning, starvation, and over three years of Arctic exposure in impossibly thin and well-kept coats – leaves all the men but Captain Crozier dead. Alive and well but for a missing hand (lost to the Tuunbaq) the Captain is rescued by an Inuit woman called Silna and taken to her tribe. After a few months of much needed R&R here, the British search party (finally) comes knocking, looking for the lost ships and their crew. “What do you want me to do?” asks the leader of the Inuit tribe; the scene cuts to the leader pointing at a photograph of Crozier brought by the search party and telling them that he is “dead and gone”. Unbeknownst to the Brits, Crozier stands outside that very tent, wrapped in his own set of tailor-made Inuit furs. The point here is this: Crozier’s body may – more or less – be in one piece, but he has chosen to sacrifice every dripping of the Imperial-Symbolic he possibly could. Not just his clothes and his rank, but (most importantly) his language too, having become fluent in the Inuit dialect; though the body lives on, the man that was Captain Crozier, the man that the British Empire had subjectivised as “Captain Crozier”, is both dead and gone. 

 

The final shot is fitting: ex-Crozier walks away from the tent, and the scene cuts to him crouched by a hole in the ice, presumably hunting for seal, surrounded by an endless expanse of ice that bleeds seamlessly in the always-white Arctic sky and ghostly summer sun; subsumed not just by the desert of the Real, but its unbearable silence too. Imperialism – just like capitalism – relies on endless expansion, on endless ground to colonise and commodify. For this very reason, Empire’s greatest enemy is not the revenge-set subaltern it oppresses, but its own self-defeating logic: nothing can expand forever, one day there will be nothing left to colonise, and one day the hegemon will have to confront all that lies beyond its bounds – the empty, silent, raging void – and what then? 

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ALL TRUTH IS CROOKED, TIME TO WATCH THE CIRCLE 

At the turn of the millennium Big Brother began to ask the audience which contestant they liked

the most, this year’s season of The Circle tells us that it doesn’t matter who we like anymore. @denglord

26/4/21

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>Karl Marx, Grundrisse

 

10pm on a weeknight – a lockdown psyop commonly experienced as sofa-bound hex between dinner and bed. The person next to you vaguely suggests exchanging covering letters for a job at the intersection of art and technology that neither of you will get, so you reach through the house-share blend cbd fug to notch up the TV remote, feign interest in what’s glowing behind. Reality studio Channel 4 has been on in the background as long as you can remember so you’re not fazed upon realising commitment to its newest season of The Circle. The Circle, sort of based on a sci-fi novel that no one cares about, is sort of like Big Brother, which is sort of based on a sci-fi novel that far too many people care about. The Circle’s been going on for a few seasons now and has become a real hit – it’s a dystopian twist on real life in which contestants spend all day in their isolated apartments desperately marketing themselves as the most likable person in the ouroboros in order to win some prize money. In previous years of the show, as in Big Brother, the winner was picked by the audience. But due to the pandemic, this year’s show was pre-recorded and thus all voting conducted by the contestants themselves…

 

You find yourself inserted into the cereal guy meme template:

“they will never make a hit reality game show without audience interaction!”

 

 

 

 


 

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Yesterday’s heretics diagnosed the rise of reality game shows’ ubiquity as a result not of their cultural prowess but of parasitic cross-platform engagement. Of course these shows are successful - they’re franchise-first feedback loops designed to maximise engagement and minimise abstract thought…The heretics held a torch up to the underlying ideology of these shows which is that they claim to have emancipated us from the perilous mythological worlds promised by art and politics…you know the best things in life are cheap and easy. Even though French guy Jean Baudrillard said that this might happen, he neglected to tell you how you might go about making people believe in more imaginative broadcasting. After all, brave defenders of the reality studio will turn and say what’s so bad about people enjoying things?

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>Jean Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of Communication

>Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride

German guys are particularly good at explaining why we shouldn’t enjoy things, in particular: Friedrich Nietzsche. A guy that all sorts of sick fucks are obsessed with but you’re most drawn to the ones that tell you Friedrich thought that we put too much emphasis on the truth. Not the truth, which is cool, but a kind of truth that’s actually sort of a lie, you get me? He might’ve watched The Circle and told you that the tragedy is not that this type of show exists. The tragedy is that the contestants believe their best strategy in winning the game involves weaponizing their ‘authenticity’. Isn’t it strange that given a virtual presence with only text-based communication, the players instinctively validate themselves by revealing their failures rather than their successes? You can’t help being cynical now of the real-world stories of bullying, sickness, and alienation your favourite players spoke of. In this race to the bottom, you remember that the players who could not survive were those that were not able to concoct a special trauma to define themselves by – without a claim to suffering, they became untrustworthy. Meanwhile, as the players learned more about each other, bias and prejudice increased alongside information overload.

 

Consider Manrika, undoubtedly edited into the show to appear as the contestant most likely to win up until the last hurdle: her competition arc revolved around needing the prize money, unlike the rest of the contestants (including winner Natalya) who purported throughout to have joined the show as a ‘social experiment’. By revealing early on in the game that her family was torn apart by issues of addiction and financial precarity, she won the other players’ trust and maintained it even after betraying her closest allies one by one. But Manrika’s strategy failed – whilst she may have convinced the other finalists that she was most worthy of the prize money, that didn’t mean to them that she’s most worthy of winning the competition. After all, the a priori of going on any of these reality game shows is never really the prize but the virtual social capital that comes along with being on TV every night for three weeks...would you risk it all to potentially be allowed into the world of navigating a maze of shell companies to get sent free cosmetics? If we look at all the finalists on The Circle (excluding Joey and Pippa who were so obviously last minute props to extend the Manrika-Andy-Syed dynamic for an extra week of ads) we can see that nearly all the players recruited are already well versed in the mandatory entrepreneurialism of social media, be it as trend forecasting fast fashion influencer, self-help business guru, or clickbait YouTube prankster. Only winner Felix aka Natalya the armed police officer had the cold rationalist distance from real virtual social dynamics informing the other player’s decisions to make the other players believe she was worthy of the prize money. A quick glance at her Instagram profile makes it obvious she has little interest in being popular online beyond the immediate gratification of a few more likes. Her username could be the access code to a school computer, she is not verified, and she talks about banal shit like diy hair curling and contemporary fantasy lit. This is the perfect candidate to win a show which is all about self-policing your behaviour to match that of the corporate environment you find yourself in.

 

What if this is not a trait unique to the contestants on a reality show, but instead an obligatory social endeavour within a wider ecology of consensual brainrot? Just as the players in the game are shown unique versions of what’s going on in ‘the circle’ social media, real life social media likewise takes an algo-torial approach that means everyone’s feeds will always be unique. So whilst on the one hand things move so fast in virtual spaces that it’s impossible to forge a consensus reality on what’s going on and just happened, on the other you have a legacy media telling you that the pinnacle of prime-time entertainment is nothing more than a slowed down version of real life. You’ve started to put on your joker makeup by now.

 

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>Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

But why did you not miss a single episode of The Circle, and why did you give your ever-diminishing-attention to it in the first place? The truth is that in an age where you are happier to keep a Netflix subscription or sit mindlessly through hours of sponsored YouTube content than pay your TV licence fee, terrestrial broadcasting seems like a wasteland of lost public space in which you can’t help but wish to salvage something joyous from the wreckage. The kind of consensual hallucination that allows The Circle to be a success makes you feel that the type of content programmed by legacy media is so far behind the cultural ‘avant-garde’ appearing in online spaces.

 

You could easily drone on about its 80s synthpop soundtrack that yearns for lost futures.....…, the fact it’s set in ‘luxury’ accommodation that’s so astutely bland as foreboding realisation that you’ll never own a house or something, how dictating their texts through producers-as-moderators delibidinizes the cyb-erotic affect of the finger-iphone-lover assemblage. Something about trolling and anonymity, authenticity and imposter syndrome, consciousness deflation yadda yadda yadda. But you also realise that teenagers don’t care about any of this, they don’t watch tv and a lot of them don’t spend years building personal brands on Instagram and Tiktok; they switch identity faster than you can refresh your feed. And they aren’t afraid to be anonymous. They don’t care about George Orwell and they don’t know who Dave Eggers is, but they could learn why they’re irrelevant faster than anybody green-lighting Channel 4 shows could convince them otherwise. Maybe then, The Circle’s newest iteration is not a signal towards an inability to imagine new forms of TV, but rather a desperate attempt by the evangelists of outdated programming protocols insisting stagnation in the face of new media beasts that are too wired to concentrate on how they’ll take over. Somewhere in the data mosh is a network of abstract engineers figuring out how to turn a circle into a geodesic dome with no tools beyond boredom and fantasy.

YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF THE BREAK WITH ME COLUMN