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Xenoangel simulate mythic archaeology on the back of a world beast in Supreme (Slow Thinking)

Multidisciplinary artists Marija Avramovic and Sam Twidale combine live simulation, hybrid poetry, 3D animation and reactive sound design to explore symbiosis and synchronicity in a world which is both ecosystem and organism.

Marija Avramovic and Sam Twidale describe themselves as “scavengers of virtual worlds.” Since 2017 they have been working collaboratively as Xenoangel, combining their multidisciplinary practises to create worlds animated with an intricate fantasy cosmology of interconnected systems, media, organisms and objects in order to further explore and develop a variety of research interests and influences. Whether taking on the existentialist thought of Jean-Paul Sartre in After Intelligence (2018), interpreting the magical realist cinema of Akira Kurosawa alongside animist and techno-animist beliefs with Sunshowers (2019), or coding political theorist Jane Bennet’s theory of ‘vibrant matter’ onto Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s 1971 science fiction touchstone Roadside Picnic in The Zone (2019), Xenoangel build virtual ecosystems that are complex and expansive enough to encapsulate the broad scope of their thought. “It’s about making worlds which are autonomous and independent of us,” explains Avramovic. “It’s really about watching a universe from the perspective of the observer.” In their latest work, Supreme (2021), the artists utilise the object oriented ontology of philosopher, ecologist and realist magician Timothy Morton to evolve their own theory of ‘slow thinking,’ at once an expressive mode and a philosophy of engagement. “In a very direct way, the basis of the idea is thinking at the speed of mineral exchange in a forest, or the movement of tectonic plates to make mountain ranges,” explains Twidale. “Something less human, less capitalist, less instant,” adds Avramovic. “In some way it’s banging up against this idea of accelerationism, trying to think of some sort of alternative where instead of pushing to extremes, maybe you need to slow down and be able to think in the same key as the world around you,” continues Twidale. “That could be the natural world, or the inorganic world, or it could just be your neighbors.”

In Supreme, Xenoangel collapse these definitions into a self-contained, symbiotic ecosystem, following the progress of a monolithic world beast and the organisms that have taken up residence on its gargantuan back. “There is this myth, which is present in many cultures, of a world existing on the back of a creature, so we created a completely imaginary beast,” says Avramovic. Created using a synthesis of 3D animation, A.I. systems adapted from video game code, collaboratively sourced text and a painterly approach to color and composition, the world beast is presented to us in a fluid succession of view points, ranging from the smallest, granular scale, where the observer glimpses the world from the perspective of its most minute texture, to a roving, planetary scale view, where we are able to observe the world beast in its enormous totality. Teeming with technicolor life, radioactive foliage and jutting rock formations house incomprehensible lifeforms, lumpen, tendrilled and curious. Throughout the course of the work these lifeforms explore and adapt to their surroundings, seeking to synchronize with the world beast by excavating artefacts from the world beast’s past, embedded within its huge form and in so doing harmonizing with the world beast’s song, finding a means of expressing their interdependency through resonance. “The name ‘Supreme’ comes from this supreme type of relation,” explains Avramovic, “where the inhabitants on the back of the beast are synchronized with the beast. The creatures of Supreme are trying to synchronize with the beast, with the world, and they do it through their singing. They’re listening to the sounds of the beast and they are making their sounds in harmony. The more synchronized they are, the more artifacts they will be able to find and rediscover messages from the previous world.”

Each of these artifacts is represented by a virtual object, objects which appeared in a previous Xenoangel work, The Zone, an act of artistic cannibalisation which in itself embodies interconnected and symbiotic aesthetic relations. Each artifact also corresponds to a different text, contributed by six collaborators tasked by Xenoangel to write a response to the work and the broader themes of symbiosis and interdependence. Manifesting different perspectives of the same ecosystem and organism, Serafín Álvarez (in collaboration with the neural net-enabled A.I. language model GPT-3), Paul Robertson, Roc Jiménez de Cisneros, Phoebe Wagner, Corinna Dean of The Archive for Rural Contemporary Architecture and the experimental performance collective VVAA all put forward variations on Timothy Morton’s conception of the symbiotic real, a term that implies non-hierarchical solidarity between human and non-human entities, describing the inseparability and inherent participation of organisms within a given ecosystem – a relationship manifested in the hybrid, symbiotic form of the world beast. In the online iteration presented above a poem written in response to these texts by Xenoangel serves as both lore and language for the world beast and its inhabitants, an adapted corpus of free association and expression that works to capture the atmosphere of the world beast, rather than attempt to explain its symbiotic existence. Thus the world beast’s inhabitants are recorded as: “A people. / There are characters. Many. / And they are nodes. They are synapses,” while “Logging trucks form psycho-commercial traffic jams,” evoke some distant memory of “Mechanical ant lines with their sylvan swag.” Just as the creatures of the world beast enact an evolving practice of virtual excavation, Xenoangel inscribe a figurative excavation of myth, simulating a linguistic mode of mythic archaeology that functions with and through Supreme’s live simulation of the world beast.

Photo by Virginia Bianchi Gallery, ArtVerona 2021.

“The critters are uncovering little snippets of a past world, or a world from a different timeline, understanding all these stories around their main story, like us discovering artifacts from the archaic people of our world,” explains Twidale. “There’s this really interesting idea from Federico Campagna, who talks about an end of a world, but not the end of all worlds. There is a world which follows and you need to imagine the entities which take it on. He says we can imagine them because the first people in the world are the archaic people of the world, so we imagined that these critters on the back of the beast are these archaic characters who arrive somehow and are trying to understand what their world is.” In this way, the role of Xenoangel’s discursive art practice is coded as the exploratory behaviour of the world beast’s inhabitants, a relationship delineated in the poem’s opening lines: “I’m thinking about something. / Slow Thinking is a myth.” By positing slow thinking as part of the fabric of the world beast’s mythos, the programmed excavation of the world beast’s history and the supreme, symbiotic relationship it has with its inhabitants doubles as the artists’ interrogation of their own thought. Their living, breathing world, “the shape shifting critter that took forever to shift shape,” becomes both vessel and avatar for this mode of thinking, one of Morton’s hyperobjects, objects so vast in temporal and spatial scope they become unplaceable, animated as both biome and beast. To look at it another way, slow thinking might be understood as one possible way of engaging with the enormity of Morton’s ecological thought, an engagement that serves as the lifeblood of both the world beast and of Supreme.

“Ecology has now become a very interesting topic for artists,” says Twidale. “Everything you’re trying to look at within ecology has parallels within society as well. Being able to think about the symbiotic real is to realize that you already live in this kind of interdependent, interconnected system, you can’t escape it. You have to learn how to maximize that and get the best out of it, you have to understand that you’re with this environment around you.” This grasp of their inherent interdependency is borne out not only in the duo’s artistic response, but also in Xenoangel’s approach to collaboration. “Our practice is becoming more and more collective in terms of involving more and more people,” continues Avramovic. “It’s such a nice ground to have a dialogue about these things. This sort of art is a good place to have paradoxical situations, because art allows that.” Ultimately, the paradoxical, impossible scope of slow thinking finds immediate expression in the languid progress of the world beast, its real time animation outlining Supreme as a marker by which to navigate Xenoangel’s broader philosophical investigations. By thinking slowly through the symbiotic real of this virtual ecology, the artists construct a contemporary myth as sense-making apparatus, an interdependent parable for navigating the present. “If you take the ecological viewpoint of those things, art has forever had a connection with nature,” concludes Twidale. “It’s not surprising that now people are interested in this approach, it’s just the way you look at nature and your position within it.”

For more information about Xenoangel and their work, you can visit their website and follow them on Instagram.

Watch next: Akiko Haruna embodies yearning and melancholy with Yakusoku

Intonal Festival 2022: WaqWaq Kingdom

Kiki Hitomi and Shigeru Ishihara present the world premiere of Glitches Jungle, a commission for the Malmö experimental music festival.

Malmö’s Intonal Festival has been one of the highlights of Sweden’s electronic music calendar since it was first held in 2015, inviting international artists to perform alongside the country’s own pool of innovative experimental artists. Run by the team behind the intimate Inkonst venue, Intonal’s programme sees a host of commissions, one-off performances and club nights take place across the city.

Intonal’s 2022 festival was its first full edition since 2019, with 2020 cancelled and 2021 taking place in a hybrid format due to the pandemic. “The whole point of a festival is to bring people together – a proclamation so self-evident that one would never reflect upon it under ordinary circumstances. But the last two years have given us cause to do just that,” the festival team says.

Fact is proud to present highlights from this year’s event, which took place from 20-24 April. The first performance is from WaqWaq Kingdom, the project of Japanese artists Kiki Hitomi, vocalist for King Midas Sound and Black Chow, and Shigeru Ishihara, aka breakcore producer DJ Scotch Egg. Their psychedelic electronics combine traditional Japanese min’yō with elements of dancehall, footwork and dub, drawing on ancient Shinto mythology and Japanese Matsuri festivals that honour local gods.

WaqWaq Kingdom’s Intonal performance, titled Glitches Jungle, was a world premiere developed from their recent residency at Inkonst. “Using the Erica modular synth to twist and distort natural forms, WaqWaq explore the algorithmic relationship between nature and technology. The result is Glitches Jungle, a futuristic landscape sculpted through a hybrid of ancient indigenous patterns,” the festival says. The performance also features audiovisual artist Kalma, whose real-time reactive and generative video projections provide an audiovisual backdrop for the duo.

For more information on Intonal, visit the festival website. Follow WaqWaq Kingdom on Instagram.

Watch next: KMRU & Aho Ssan erupt in post-apocalyptic extremity with ‘Resurgence’

Fact Mix 859: Changsie

UK funky meets electro on a mix from the NTS resident and DJ behind Tokyo’s Joyride party.

For those eager to hear underground dance sounds in Tokyo, Changsie’s Joyride party – held in a reggae bar in Shinjuku until late 2019 – was one of Japan’s most beloved club nights. The Chiba native’s love of UK garage, dubstep and electro was central to the night’s open-minded musical ethos, and led her to perform on bills in Tokyo alongside Will Bankhead, Errorsmith, Total Freedom and Theo Parrish.

In early 2020, Changsie made the decision to relocate to London to start a new chapter, where she began a monthly residency on NTS Radio. Although the pandemic briefly put gigs on hold, over the past year she quickly established herself as a fixture in the city, playing regularly at clubs like Phonox and Venue MOT while appearing at Manchester’s White Hotel and Sheffield’s Hope Works.

Changsie’s Fact Mix is a “short but condensed mix” that begins and ends with two of her favourite genres: UK funky and electro. “Those are my all-time favourite sounds that are both characterised by heavy bass, crisp snares and melancholic riffs,” Changsie says. It features tracks from some of UK funky’s key figures – D-Malice, Ill Blu, Cooly G, Scratcha DVA – woven around music from Skee Mask, Ploy, Fiedel, OMAAR and more.

“The experience of living in London has given me the opportunity to get to know more and dig deeper into the sound of UK funky, and I have included many tracks I have discovered here as well as those I consider to be in the same lineage of music. My general approach to DJing is to find common elements such as bass line, snare sound or melody between tracks from different genres, and I think this mix demonstrates well the fun I have doing that.”

Follow Changsie on Instagram and SoundCloud. Changsie will be appearing at Outlook Festival 2022, which this year takes place in the UK for the first time – for tickets and more information visit the festival website.

Tracklist:

Lukid – ‘Twisted Blood’
Apollo – ‘Gave Your Love’
DJ Xandy ft DJ Shyne – ‘Bengala’
D-Malice – ‘Indian Time’
Cooly G ft Karizma – ‘It’s Serious’
Ill Blu – ‘Dragon Pop’
Molinaro – ‘Ploy-3X’
Scratcha DVA – ‘Walk It Out’
Bakongo – ‘3 x 2’
OMAAR – ‘No,no,no!’
Big Boi – ‘Kryptonite’ (Nick León Baile mix)
Sherwood – ‘My Slave’
Fiedel – ‘Likedeeler’
Brassfoot – ‘We Made It out the Hood Ma’
The Deacon – ‘Funky Revolutions’
Skee Mask – ‘Wiz’
Zeki 808 – ‘Sketch’
Ploy – ‘Move Your Body’

Listen next: Fact Mix 858: Low End Activist

Akiko Haruna embodies yearning and melancholy with Yakusoku

A highlight from the producer, vocalist and movement artist’s 2021 project, Be Little Me.

Over the last few years Akiko Haruna has emerged as a unique talent, shaping a background in experimental choreography and audiovisual art into a holistic practice within which production, composition, vocal performance and movement run into and inform each other. On their breakout 2019 release for the reliably excellent Where To Now? Records, Delusions, the artist introduced us to a sound incorporating ominous low end, driving club percussion, dense electronics and vocal manipulation, sculpting an expansive sound stage populated with visceral physicality that felt inextricably body focused, a reconstructed dance music. A more angular, aggressive iteration of this sound can be heard on ‘Die and Retry,’ Haruna’s propulsive contribution to Timedance’s year-defining, 2020 compilation Sharpen, Moving, demonstrating an anthemic ear that finds its fullest expression on Be Little Me, the artist’s debut EP for Numbers. Skewing towards exploratory club pop, the project sees Haruna chasing the electronic eroticism suggested at in their previous projects, placing frenetic dance floor experiments side-by-side vocal tracks in the lineage of SOPHIE and PC Music. The most evocative – and most singular – of these is ‘Yakusoku,’ in which Haruna’s sensual vocals drift through the murky thrum and cold fizz of their production, lending a melancholy, erotic charge to an intricate volley of percussive throb and pulsing bass alchemy.

In the track’s visual accompaniment, Haruna picks out melodic lines from the track’s dense intensity with precise and fluid movement, a duality emphasised with camera work which swoops from slow and crisp to staggered and blurry. “As a director, I love working with movement and creative practitioners who want to extend their storytelling further via their own bodies,” says director Jade Ang Jackman, of art collective and publication Babes With Blades. “As a trained experimental dancer, producer and singer, Akiko becomes the embodiment of her unique sound and style. For us, at Babes with Blades, that is part of what our studio is about and it was brilliant to collaborate with an artist who takes ownership of various modes of her own expression and her British Asian heritage.” Adding yet more expressive texture to a track laden with emotional weight with their movements, Haruna’s physicality and climactic tears gesture towards the ‘promise’ of the track’s title. “I’m in this art form because I desperately want to connect with people,” the artist recently told DJ Mag and it’s this drive to connect that can be overwhelmingly felt as Haruna catches the eye of the camera between their movements, their glancing, black-toothed smile projecting outwards, their audience made complicit in the emotional surge of the music and the movement.

‘Yakusoku’ is taken from Be Little Me, out now on Numbers. You can find Akiko Haruna on Instagram and at their website.

Yakusoku Credits:

Director – Jade Ang Jackman
Studio – Babes with Blades
Director of Photography – Thomas English
Gaffer – Will Stuetz
Focus Puller – Sarah Tehranian
Lighting Assistant – Elise Dadourian
Producer – Emilie Bruyere
Production Assistant – Moyinoluwa Saka 
Production Studio – Eden Creative
Editor – Georgie Daley
Colourist – Thierry Phung
Additional Production – Drew O’Neill
Additional Director of Photography – Laura Seward
Runner – Mbalu Kamara
Styling & Creative Supervision – An Nguyen
Make-Up – David Gillers
Costume Design – Tara Hakin
Styling & Jewellery – Guia Bertorello
BTS Photography – KT Allen
Video Commissioned – Ashley Mak

Watch Next: Malthus draws strength from sickness in Won’t Go Easy

Fact Mix 858: Low End Activist

Low End Activist captures a sound that is not so much dark as it is low-lit, amplifying raw emotion over melancholy, ferocity over aggression.

Between heading up his own, self-titled imprint, running the vital “modernist hardcore” label Sneaker Social Club, bringing the moodiest sounds from UK rave to Lovefingers’ ESP Institute as Patrick Conway, collaborating with Appleblim as Trinity Carbon and consistently delivering some of the deepest, darkest basement club anthems around, Low End Activist continually proves himself to be an essential artist, archivist and architect, operating at the front lines of the contemporary face of the hardcore continuum. On his breakout 2019 release, Low End Activism, the producer drew enduring power and crackling electricity from a 1988 VHS recording of the Muzikon Sound System, captured on the Blackbird Leys housing estate in Oxford, where Low End Activist grew up. Citing a city divided between some of the UK’s most privileged and some of its most deprived, the powerful unity of the multi-ethnic, working class community of the Blackbird Leys estate and a uniquely intense sound that shirks darkness and despair for defiance and jubilation, it’s clear that this same energy influences everything Low End Activist turns his hand to, the rough ecstasy of Muzikon’s cacophonous rhythms and joyful MCs echoing in all of his productions. Most urgently, he reflects on his relationship to soundsystem culture on his new album, Hostile Utopia, which pairs blistering bass pressure with thrilling features from Mez, Emz, Killa P and Cadence Weapon, each running roughshod over the producer’s singular sound.

“The mix is a snapshot of a typical Low End Activist club set, 88 – 160 bpm,” the producer explains. “Shouts to Henzo, Cando, FFT and MINDER for the unreleased heat. I also included some soon to be released Sneaker Social Club bits from Alan Johnson and Trends, Boylan & Slimzee, as well as some recently bounced projects of my own. Shoehorned together at Pirate studios here in Berlin and some final tweaks in Ableton.” Setting the tone with the sparse percussive tick and resolutely fucked, 1000-tonne bass of an unreleased Henzo weapon, Low End Activist takes turns lolloping and barreling through a smoked-out, heads-down selection of some of the heaviest dancehall, dub, dubstep, grime, techno, UKG and hardcore, piling fresh heat from Zoë McPherson, Josi Devil, VTSS and Katatonic Silentio on top of modern classics from Kowton, Source Direct and Surgeon, moving deftly from the alien dub and paranoid pressure of Time Cow, Equiknoxx and Low Jack to ice cold grime from Trim and Flowdan. It’s the mix’s final sequence that best illustrates the weighty tension between intensity and ecstasy, defiance and celebration, that Low End Activist continually draws from, a sound that is not so much dark as it is low-lit, amplifying raw emotion over melancholy, ferocity over aggression. The transcendent breakbeats of The Brothers Grimm’s iconic hardcore anthem ‘Exodus’ triggers a sweat-drenched victory lap through the producer’s own mutant hardcore constructions, Boylan’s satanic take on Logos’ perennial ‘Glass,’ FFT on a deadly, vaporized grime deconstruction, before levelling out into the always unplaceable textures of Autechre’s ‘Stud,’ a track that, fittingly, contains some of the most emotional low end headfuckery ever recorded.

You can find Low End Activist on Instagram, Bandcamp and SoundCloud. His latest album, Hostile Utopia, is out on June 17 via Sneaker Social Club.

Tracklist:

Henzo – ‘Who Knows What’s On’
Zoë McPherson – ‘Alva’
Josi Devil – ‘The Devil’s Dance’
Time Cow – ‘Chipheads Dub’
Low Jack – ‘Lasers’
Cando – ‘Release The Bees’
VTSS – ‘Trust Me’
Blazer Sound System – ‘Heaven’s Gate’
Kowton – ‘Basic Music Knowledge’
Katatonic Silentio – ‘Pow Snake’
MINDER – ‘A.N.P.R’ [Feat. Korron & Harrison]
Henzo – ‘Is Find Never Mind’
Jo Rae – ‘EG20EG’
Alan Johnson – ‘Stillness’
Source Direct – ‘Black Rose (Blawan Remix)’
Commix – ‘Change (A Made Up Sound Remix)’
Trim – ‘Man Like Me’
SP:MC – ‘Inside Looking Out’
Surgeon – ‘Bad Hands Break’
Mosca – ‘From Ere Til Eternity’
Equiknoxx – ‘Congo Get Slap (Mark Ernestus Remix)’
Wen – ‘Swerv’
Aardvarck – ‘Monkey See…’
Kamran – ‘Zero G’
Kyle Hall – ‘Girl U So Strong’
Trends, Boylan & Slimzee – ‘NinetyNine’
Flowdan – ‘Plans In Motion (Marcus Visionary Remix)’
The Brothers Grimm – ‘Exodus’
Low End Activist – ‘Airdrop 3’
Low End Activist – ‘Airdrop 1’
Logos – ‘Glass (Boylan Devils Mix)’
FFT – ‘???’
Autechre – ‘Stud’

Listen next: Fact Mix 857 – Sarra Wild

KMRU & Aho Ssan erupt in post-apocalyptic extremity with ‘Resurgence’

An explosive edit from Limen, the first collaborative project from Kenyan sound artist Joseph Kamaru and French electronic composer and producer Niamké Désiré.

Peel and Jar, from Kenyan sound artist KMRU, and Simulacrum, from French electronic composer and producer Aho Ssan, were three of the most important electronic records from 2020, one of the more intense and challenging years in recent memory. KMRU’s tender field recordings and gauzy ambient compositions provided a much needed balm to quotidien anxiety, while Aho Ssan’s impossible jazz simulations and Max/MSP patchworks, released towards the beginning of the year, gathered urgent resonance as a prophetically incisive response to the mediated experience of living through a pandemic hunched over our smartphones and laptop screens. Though approaching sound from different directions, both artists emerged as vital new nodes within the tradition of Black radical music, combining virtuosic compositional talent with exploratory technological experimentation. Exploring each other’s practices over the course of years, in 2021 Berlin Atonal commissioned the pair to create a new composition for Metabolic Rift, which would allow them to develop the personal responses to a rapidly changing world initiated on their solo records in a new, collaborative direction. The result was ‘Resurgence,’ a searing rumination on the post-apocalypse, inspired by Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, that sees the collaborators pushing each of their sounds well into the red.

Appearing above as a cinematic edit, ‘Resurgence’ sounds constantly on the verge of collapse, excavating a soundscape that finds sharp definition in distortion and entropy, echoing the themes of cosmic creation through uncontrolled destruction that Akira revolves around. “I never made something so extreme,” says Aho Ssan. Opening with melancholy drone threaded through textural intricacy, the visceral glitch potential of the duo’s sound design suggests itself gently before erupting into metallic slabs of searing feedback synthesis melting into radioactive bass, cranked as though intended to wipe out the entire composition in its’ enormity. Receding momentarily, a coda kicks back in with scattered percussive blasts and errant trap hi-hats, threatening at the last minute to cohere into a foundation rattling rhythm. This progression is mirrored in the edit’s visual, edited by Aho Ssan himself, which manipulates a volcanic landscape being simultaneously shaped and destroyed by an eruption captured in stroboscopic slow-motion. At once reference to and a departure from the destructive potential addressed in Akira, KMRU & Aho Ssan superimpose the hubris of humankind with the overwhelming planetary power of tectonic activity, evoked in the cavernous bass tones that undergird ‘Resurgence’. Oscillating between conceptual and technical dichotomies, the duo conjure a duality of perspective and tone, tempering both of their singular sounds in the molten material of their collaboration, in which extremity is alloyed with intricacy.

This duality pervades the entirety of Limen, the first collaborative project from KMRU and Aho Ssan. On Rebirth, which opens as a transcendent reprieve from the scorched violence of Resurgence, builds in celestial ambiance and gossamer detail, before becoming overwhelmed shredded feedback and overdriven waves of bass. Ruined Abstractions, the record’s strongest statement, surges between cacophony and delicacy, digital density placed in counterpoint with soaring orchestral passages. In much the same way that Peel, Jar and Simulacrum felt like records perfectly of their time, Limen erupts as both a powerful alliance between two of the most important voices in contemporary experimental electronic music, as well as a prescient diagnosis of the precarious times we are living through, a soundtrack for navigating collapse.

‘Resurgence’ is taken from Limen, which is out now on Subtext Recordings. You can find Aho Ssan on Instagram and Bandcamp. You can find KMRU on Instagram and Bandcamp.

Watch next: Malthus draws strength from sickness in Won’t Go Easy

Malthus draws strength from sickness in Won’t Go Easy

Multidisciplinary artist Malthus explores childhood trauma, violence and frailty with his debut EP, COUNTRYCIDE, which features contributions from Blackhaine, Sid Quirk, Magnus Westwell and Rainy Miller.

Following a string of enigmatic singles, ‘Heroin’, ‘Run Red’ and ‘I Hope For No Cold Shoulder’, each a heady concoction of rusted industrial textures, sparse neoclassical arrangements and chilly electronic composition, multidisciplinary artist and musician Malthus takes stock of his unflinchingly intimate sound and practice with COUNTRYCIDE. Shot through with the artist’s singularly raw delivery, at once strained and grandiose, as though pushed out with violent force from deep behind his ribcage, the collection of songs are a reflection on his childhood growing up in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and his formative experiences of trauma, violence and substance abuse. “I wrote this whole thing about childhood and I guess it was my attempt to let go of a lot of the things that had been following me around for my adult life,” he explains. “I was pretty ill for over a year after I caught Covid so this was really my passion project to get me through a lot of the days I couldn’t leave the house – it’s been my tether and my rock and I’ve remade it countless times trying to get it right.” Won’t Go Easy was born out of his struggle with sickness, days of constriction and frustration wracking each swell of radioactive strings and deep bass throb. At once cathartic lament and euphoric rallying cry, Won’t Go Easy plumbs the depths of debilitating illness while amplifying the magnitude of the resolve and strength required to persevere, shedding new light on how the artist’s past has shaped his present. “Won’t Go Easy was written about the burden of trauma being so affected by your past that you kind of lose function,” he explains. “I’ve spent so much time alone just kind of soaking in my life that I needed to remind myself that it does get better at some point – creating this work from that feeling gives me that validation of improvement.”

“Writing and producing my first EP came alongside getting more into movement and filmmaking too, and making this film with Martha Treves was such a gorgeous process,” Malthus continues. “We really gelled creatively and it was enough to get the whole project over the line when I had kind of run out of steam after my year in hell.” Captured in the twisted woodlands and along the windswept coast of Dorset, Treves’ visual takes us from the candle-lit confines and stained glass of a tiny chapel to an expansive outside, placing the viscerality of Malthus’ contorted corporeal frame in counterpoint with a god’s-eye view of natural beauty, skin and bone in chorus with soil and limestone. “In many ways the film is led by journeying and movement,” explains Treves. “Malthus had told me about his year of illness and the frustrations that come with being physically unwell, so it seemed fitting to create something that experimented with restriction and disruptive movement. I had always admired and been intrigued by Malthus’ jagged and irregular movement style, and having the opportunity to collaborate with him on a film that uses this movement to explore his personal experiences was really exciting. We shot the film over two days in Dorset and in the midst of Storm Dennis. The epic weather, fluctuating between 60 mph winds, hail downpours and sudden bursts of sunlight, seemed to echo the mood of the track itself: it was unpredictable, fierce and otherworldly.” Draped with tattered wool and asymmetric cloth, Malthus’ twitching movements convey months of pent up tension, as though bound by his own body, held taught against the world. As Won’t Go Easy reaches its’ climax with ecstatic horns and soaring vocals, Malthus’ movements turn skyward, unfurling against the Dorset sky.

Won’t Go Easy is out now. COUNTRYCIDE arrives on May 25. For more information about Malthus and his music you can follow him on Instagram. You can find Martha Treves on Instagram.

Won’t Go Easy Credits:

Director – Martha Treves
Movement Direction – Malthus
Producer – Malthus and Martha Treves 
Fashion and Styling – Jon Morales 
Cinematography – Owain Morgan 
Production Assistants – Zoe Dimoldenberg, Celeste Chambers-Hill
Edit – Martha Treves, Clémentine Bartaud 
Colour – Daniela Rotaru 
Titles – Saskia Wood

Watch next: Laila Majid & Louis Blue Newby find queer utopian potential in the swamp with south florida sky

Fact Mix 857: Sarra Wild

A euphoric trip through jungle, R&B edits and Lebanese pop from one of Glasgow’s most vital DJs.

“I’m not good at recording mixes,” Sarra Wild says at the start of their Fact Mix. ”I prefer being in front of a crowd.” Although recording a mix at home may not be the Glasgow DJ’s preferred setting, this thrilling hour-long set nevertheless pulses with the energy and love of the rave that has turned Wild into one of Scotland’s most exciting DJs.

Since Wild began their music career as a club promoter, they have sought to champion marginalised communities through their bookings and DJ practice, an ethos that considers everything from the venues they perform in to the sounds they play and produce. Wild is also a co-founder of OH141, a music and arts platform that launched to prioritise the experience of womxn, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community in Glasgow.

Outside of DJing, Wild is a sound designer and producer who has been featured at galleries and festivals including the V&A Dundee and Flourish by artist Camara Taylor, presented at Glasgow International and The Gallow Gate. Wild has also acted as a mentor and curator through the Rising Residency programme initiated by OH141 and Jupiter Artland.

On their Fact Mix however, Wild channels 2am rave euphoria, starting on a blissful wave with Iceboy Violet’s ‘White in the Violet in the Hotel (RMR)’ and travelling through jungle, techno, R&B edits from Ploy and pop from Lebanese artist Nancy Ajram via tracks from Anunaku & DJ Plead, AceMo and S-Type. “I didn’t edit shit so what you’re hearing is basically me stepping up in front of the decks and doing what I need to do with a bottle of red wine,” Wild says.

You can follow Wild on Instagram and SoundCloud. Wild will also play the next TTT party at London’s Venue MOT alongside Will Bankhead, PLO Man, Covco and Ron Morelli – buy tickets here.

Tracklist:

Iceboy Violet – ‘White in the Violet in the Hotel (RMR)’
Special Request – ‘Pull Up’ (Tim Reaper Remix)
Proc Fiskal – Dvus – the last a – pope fish scale deja mix
Dillinja – ‘You’
OSSX – ‘Big Yawn’
3Phaz – ‘Exploit’ 
Blu Cantrell – ‘Breathe’ (Ploy Edit)
Anunaku & DJ Plead  – ‘Clap Clap’
J-Zbel – ‘Nem de Porc’ (Bee’s Edit)
Nancy Ajram – ‘Ya Tabtab Wa Dallaa’
Khia – ‘My Neck, My Back’ (Ploy Edit)
K Wata – ‘What Do You Want?’
AceMo – ‘Freak Out (Ignore All)’
S-Type – ‘Be Where You Are’

Listen next: Fact Mix 856: Klein

Fact launches new issue featuring Caterina Barbieri, Klein, Ivan Michael Blackstock and Malibu

Fact’s Spring/Summer ’22 issue features four covers and launches in tandem with our new exhibition, Future Shock.

Championing the new wave of electronic artists bridging the physical and virtual worlds, the new issue of Fact’s print edition is available now featuring four cover stars: Caterina Barbieri, Klein, Ivan Michael Blackstock and Malibu, with photography by Gabriel Moses, Jim C. Nedd, Furmaan Ahmed and Igor Pjörrt.

Fact’s third issue also features exclusive original contributions from artists including UVA, Weirdcore, Actual Objects and Tavares Strachan, as well as features exploring the work of Lyra Pramuk, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and visual collective Tundra.

The new issue is published in tandem with Future Shock, a new exhibition curated by Fact now open at London’s 180 Studios, 180 The Strand. The exhibition, which runs until 28 August 2022, features several artists featured in the new issue, with original commissions from Actual Objects, Caterina Barbieri and Weirdcore.

Future Shock, which features 14 leading international artists and collectives working at the cutting-edge of audio-visual technology, transforms 180 Studios’ subterranean spaces through mesmerising and pioneering digital technology – from generative and interactive algorithms, AI and 3-D digital mapping, to spellbinding laser work, holographic projections and ground-breaking electronic music.

Fact’s Spring/Summer ’22 issue is available now and will be distributed internationally by WhiteCirc. It can be bought direct from The Vinyl Factory’s online shop, from Boutique Mags or from selected stockists. It can also be purchased at Future Shock.

Tickets for Future Shock are available here.

Stockists:

180 The Strand, London
Artwords, Broadway, London 
Artwords, Riv St, London  
Barbican News, London   
Charlotte St News, London   
Good News, London  
Magazine Brighton, Brighton   
MagCulture, London   
Magma, Cov Garden, London   
Magnum News, London    
Phonica Records, London 
Rainbow News, London   
Rare Mags, Stockport   
Stack Mags, London  
Unearthed Sounds, Poole  
Unique Magazines, Newcastle  
Village, Leeds 
Actual Source, Provo   
Amen, Madrid  
Athenaeum, Amsterdam    
Basheer Graphic, Singapore  
Eslite, Taiwan    
Garage, Moscow
Podipisne, St Petersburg    
Gudberg Nerger,  Hamburg
LMDS, Shanghai   
More More Artbook, Shanghai   
Odd Kiosk, Barcelona  
Papercut, Stockholm  
Post Nothing, Bogota   
Print Matters, Zurich   
Readallion, Kyiv    
Reading Room, Milan  
Rosa Wolf, Berlin    
Sendpoints, China   
Skylight Books, LA    
Smoke Signals, San Francisco  
Top Hat & Tales, Faversham  
Tonic UK, London 
Journals, Sydney 
Mag Nation, Melbourne 
IMS Stadsfeestzaal, Antwerp 
IMS Kaasrui, Antwerp
IMS, Hasselt 
Megusta Utrecht, Netherlands
Magalleria, Bath                                       
Marsell Paradiso, Milan
Barnes Noble (Various) USA                   
Books a Million (Various) USA
Allscript, Singapore

Read next: Future Shock now open at 180 Studios with new immersive works by Caterina Barbieri, UVA, Weirdcore, Gaika, Romain Gavras, Ryoichi Kurokawa and more

Hélène Vogelsinger’s Patch Notes modular performance released on vinyl

A spiritual modular session, originally recorded for our Patch Notes series.

French composer and sound designer Hélène Vogelsinger’s Patch Notes performance, originally recorded for Fact back in 2020, is being released on limited 12″ via The Vinyl Factory in May.

The limited vinyl features two live tracks recorded by Vogelsinger for the series, which celebrates modular synthesizers and the art of making electronic music with hardware.

As part of the practice behind Hélène Vogelsinger’s modular synthesizer compositions, she explores abandoned places, connecting with their energies to create immersive moments. For this performance, she serendipitously stumbled across an abandoned castle in the French countryside.

“The installation and the recording session are always a process within the process, which takes a few hours. Technically it requires a good organisation: three modular cases and hundred of cables, a generator, a camera, lights and again so many cables,” explains Vogelsinger. 

“It is something really intense, especially in those types of abandoned places, where you have to avoid a lot of obstacles. I love the fact that they have layers of stories and histories, with different occupants, often crossing times, and always full of beautiful and melancholic poetry.”

Order Hélène Vogelsinger’s Patch Notes here in advance of its release on May 20.

Watch next: Patch Notes: Vicky Clarke

Laila Majid & Louis Blue Newby find queer utopian potential in the swamp with south florida sky

Enacting a queering of Swamp Thing as both science-fiction icon and adaptive model for exploring and challenging identity, artists Laila Majid and Louis Blue Newby look to the peripheries for slippery aesthetic and linguistic forms that defy categorisation.

In the latest work from artists Laila Majid and Louis Blue Newby, the swamp emerges as a particularly fertile space for exploring collaboration. south florida sky, a composite video work featuring hand-drawn animation from Alice Bloomfield, GAN animation made in collaboration with Elliot Elder and sound design from Jennifer Walton, was a central work in their most recent show, not yet, which took place at London’s San Mei Gallery earlier this year. Drawing influence from queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz’s essential book Cruising Utopia, in which he models queerness as an inherently future-facing, utopian mode, Majid and Newby find slimy potency in the swamp as a site of relational intensity and exchange, in which everything slithers in and through everything else. “The swamp can really question and challenge the essentialized and stable identity of the individual, which is valued and celebrated more than ever in 2022,” the artists assert. “The swamp as a facilitator of collaboration and the construction of polyphonic artistic voices feels more politically urgent than ever.” Existing, fittingly, in relation to and of the same matter as the curational group art project Most Dismal Swamp, the most recent iteration of which, MUSH, Majid contributed to, the swamp is rendered as both a space and entity, existing across different media, both virtual and devirtualized, into which context, form and discipline are submerged. Within this hybrid space Majid and Newby explore the peripheries of aesthetic and linguistic expression, probing the slippery limits of image, language and sound that is not yet, liminal forms bursting with transformative and transitional potential.

This potential is personified in Swamp Thing, around which south florida sky is situated. Taking the iconic DC comic hero’s legendary characterization by Alan Moore, an eco-superhero and centuries old sentient plant suffused with the consciousness, memories and emotions of a man, Majid and Newby code Swamp Thing as “a vessel for disidentification,” enacting “a queered process of recycling the encoded meaning of a cultural object, and making a new space for the queer or minoritarian subject, one usually peripheral to mainstream narratives.” To this end the entity is represented in counterpoint with itself, initially wrought in the intricate lines of Alice Bloomfield’s stunning animation, in which twists of tree branch and folds of damp rock are captured in sensual curves that threaten to engulf Swamp Thing’s hunched form. As burnt orange swamp flowers blossom from its’ veins, garbled voices sound in polyphony, the voice of Swamp Thing and the voices of the swamp projected as symbiotes of the same organism. This speech, inspired by the visceral subjectivity of New Narrative literature and adapted from found phrases by Majid and Newby, lends lyrical physicality and sensuousness to Bloomfield’s representation of the character, her illustration itself a reworking of a panel from the Swamp Thing comics, an artistic corruption in which the still image is injected with renewed expression, made animate in the primordial ooze of the swamp. From the painstaking lines of Bloomfield’s animation we are confronted with the synthetic blur of Elliot Elder’s GAN animation, the result of a neural network glutted with hundreds of images of various versions of Swamp Thing across different media, as well as swamps, slime molds and mycelium.

“One of the major challenges was really trying to push the work away from resting solely on the aesthetics of the GAN which have been used so thoroughly in contemporary practices,” Majid and Newby explain. For both sections of the video work, the original digital image is further mediated by being re-recorded on 16mm film, a gesture towards analogue tradition and digital technology that is in direct conversation with José Esteban Muñoz’s formulation of the queer, utopian mode as “a conjuring of both future and past to critique presentness,” as he asserts, “utopian performativity is often fuelled by the past. The past, or at least narratives of the past, enable utopian imaginings of another time and place that is not yet here but nonetheless functions as a doing for futurity.” This entangled relation between the analogue and the digital is played out in the work’s sound, with Jennifer Walton employing computational techniques alongside live instrumentation, layering cello recordings from Shovel Dance Collective’s Dan Evans into the eerie textures of her score. “We wanted to find a way for the sound to reflect the atmosphere of both the swamp and the GAN sequences,” explains Majid and Newby. “The sound slips in and out of abstraction- moving between the more musical sound of the cello, electronic noise, and digitally processed vocal samples taken from the accompanying script. It was also important for us that the texture of the video sequences be reflected in the sound– for example, the grain of 16mm footage or the slipperiness of the digitally produced GAN footage translated into specific sonic textures.” Translating the hum and buzz of the swamp into dissonant noise and claustrophobic throb, Walton’s composition builds to a climactic sequence of orchestral mutations, heralding the arrival of a character in a constant state of reforming and remaking.

Majid and Newby started collaborating back in 2018, when they both graduated from Chelsea College of Art. “Initially starting as an online exchange of images which we’d send to one another, this discursive process soon developed, whereby we were able to pool these common interests into making artwork together,” they recall. Since then they have worked on the collaborative shows hold my hand by the tail (2019) at Transition Two and healthy pink (2020) at springseason and their work has been featured in the group shows Sour Persimmons Chasm (2019) at Ex Baldessarre, curated by Andy Holden, and Hydrangea (2019) at Underground Flower, Nakhon Ratchasima. “At its core our practice stems from this act of collecting and storing images,” they explain. “We have a shared image archive that we are constantly updating, one that consists of scanned archival imagery, video and film stills, pornorgaphy, google image search results and memes. Each of these image types come with its own unique weight and texture, and consequently speak to varying ways in which visual culture can be transferred and consumed. The bringing together of a high-quality scanned halftone-printed image with lower quality image mined from Reddit, for instance, opens up a new visual language, one based on mediation itself.”

The memetic valence of their work, borne out in Majid’s role as one of the admins of the beloved and deranged meme account doyoueverjustfuckingascend, imbues the same density of expression observed in south florida sky in the print-based works of not yet. The artists obscure found images with layers of muted contrast and lysergic noise, as though dipped in the rich acidity of the swamp to which they constantly return. The result is a humid complexity that recontextualizes mediation into the condition of the swamp and the swamp-like, a mode of hybridity and interconnectedness that resonates with Muñoz’s transtemporal model for queerness as utopian performativity. It is also the condition of Swamp Thing, as well as the mode in which it is and does, captured poetically in the words of Alan Moore, in Swamp Thing Vol 2 #34, published in 1985 and included as an epigraph for not yet by the artists: “Through him, I sprawl with the swamp, sopping, steaming, dragonflies stitching neon threads through the damp air surrounding me… Beyond him, I wrestle the planet, sunk in loam to my elbows as it arches beneath me, tumbling endlessly through endless ink.”

For more information about Laila Majid and her work you can visit her website and follow her on Instagram. For more information about Louis Blue Newby and his work you can follow him on Instagram. They are currently working on a new collaborative show at Xxijra Hii gallery, which opens later this year.

Watch next: Holly Childs & Gediminas Žygus pen a love letter to Odesa amidst planetary emergency with ‘, Throw’

Fact Mix 856: Klein

London artist Klein features as one of four cover stars in the third edition of Fact’s print publication, captured in the singular vision of photographer Gabriel Moses and in conversation with her friend and collaborator Curtly Thomas. To mark the occasion, Klein excavates a fragmentary soundscape that finds deeply expressive and personal texture within dissonance and disruption.

Poet, critic and theorist Fred Moten describes Klein, inimitably, as “discomposer and multiple instrument,” situating the London based, British Nigerian artist within the Black radical music tradition among those who have redefined and continue to redefine what it is to speak, sing and play. Her virtuosic practice sees her adopting, rearranging and discarding the conventions of discipline, genre and form so rapidly that it can, at times, be tough to keep up. At once prolific and obfuscating, at any given moment she might be quietly uploading new music to her YouTube channel, currently the sole imprint of her internet presence, collaborating with some of the greatest artists and musicians of our time, including Mark Leckey and Mica Levi, or staging ambitious live performances in some of the most important venues in the world, such as London’s Barbican Centre, or Berlin’s Volksbühne. These shows, sprawling works incorporating improvised movement, stand up comedy, live MCs and spirallic performance, are central to grasping where Klein is at as a composer, director and artist, corralling a rich history of influences spanning viral videos, UK grime, cultural theory, mid-Noughties hip-hop and r&b and intimate details from her own life, entangled in everything, all at once, constantly rotating in flux, sensuous and spiritual in equal measure.

All of this in the wake of Harmattan, an eerie and beautiful collection of restless (dis)compositions for broken violin, Yamaha keyboard, trumpet, drum machine, guitar, harmonica and tuba, described by Moten as “a soundtrack of epic revolt against beginnings and ends, drill trapped and re-released into release from communication into lush, unbounded share.” Klein guides us through a sonic dust cloud, which is also a West African season, which is also a supernatural feeling of belonging, through Roc Nation and Ibadan, amidst postcode wars, hand in hand with Charlotte Church and Jawnino, disparate voices melted together in the “broke brocade and sand” of Harmattan. She pulls off a similar trick with her Fact mix, excavating a fragmentary soundscape that finds deeply expressive and personal texture within dissonance and disruption. Of the mix, Klein says: “this is for the topline swolla, shotters, ballers, opps, Ester Dean, Making The Band, Wasiu Ayinde, all the topline dons, without y’all I wouldn’t be here.” Charting her own Black radical music tradition, joining the dots between pop music’s industry insiders, song writers, her own musical idols and the drama of her own life, Klein swerves through foundational tracks, her own compositions and twisted samples, chopping and screwing jaggedly between musical moments in service of diaristic directness, or as Moten puts it in Black and Blur, “total construction as a means of achieving immediate utterance.”

Taking the jubilant bounce of fújì, a Yoruba genre named after Japan’s highest peak and developed out of wéré, improvisational music performed to wake Muslims before dawn during Ramadan, as a marker by which to navigate the music of her life, Klein teases out the connective tissue between avant-garde composition, spiritual songs, nu-metal and hip-hop. She suffuses the sounds of Igwe Remi Aluko, a contemporary star of the genre, with her own original score, adding harmonica and keys to Aluko’s spirit-steadying vocals. She slows the royalty-fee OST of YouTube channel Grace For Purpose’s video delineating the contemporary resonance of the biblical story of Samson and Delilah to a melancholy smudge, before smearing sampled voice and instrumental unrecognizable with the dense feedback and frazzled guitar of Korn’s ‘Here To Stay,’ perhaps a nod to Dizzee Rascal’s iconic sampling of the track in ‘Sirens,’ another gesture back towards Klein’s formative musical experiences. Snapping back to the present with TisaKorean’s slow-mo, sci-fi sex anthem, she wrings renewed expression from interrupting her own flow, clanging and clashing to create singular shifts in sound. It’s a technique born out formally when she infuses unknown dread and churning tension into a recording of a private birthday celebration of Wasiu Ayinde, otherwise known as fújì innovator K1 De Ultimate, with a frozen synth dirge, a disorientating instance of dissonance mirrored in the stark contrast between the doom-laden horns and ecstatic delivery of Shady and Katie Got Bandz joyously chanting “eat the team” in the classic Chicago drill album ‘Go In’.

Shady is overwhelmed by the impossible jazz simulations and Max/MSP patchwork of Aho Ssan; Klein’s own orchestral reprieve of ‘Michael’s Interlude’ running into the lo-fi hip-hop irruption of the recently released ‘XXL’ gives way to the exhumed dancehall of French beatmaker ma2t; Aye Jae Beats’ flex dance music is screwed to a slurred shuffle, as Klein wrongfoots the dance once again, shaking you off any beat you may have been riding, before winding back up into the fleet-footed skip of Wasiu Ayinde, who reappears rejuvenated, his classic 1990 Fuji Collections allowed to roll uninterrupted, space made for the king. Stepping into the spotlight, Klein blesses us with an unreleased cut, a lilting sound collage of overlapping chatter and piercing vocalisations, shot through with noisy loops reminiscent of Aaron Dilloway and pitch shifting turntablism in the style of Shiva Feshareki. Arranging, notably, the religious music and voices of Nigerian Islamic royalty Rukayat Gawat and Lady Evang, Bolatito Oke, a.k.a Malaika Jah in contrapuntal dichotomy, Klein closes with a single, ferocious spin back, instantaneously connecting spiritual musics of west Africa back through the jagged soundscape of her own musical traditions, as well as to the club and DJ culture of her home. It’s a jarring anticlimax that is, in spite of itself, the perfect final note, a closing and breaking of the loop.

Find Klein on YouTube. The third edition of Fact’s print publication launches later this week.

Tracklist:

Igwe Remi Aluko – ‘Oleku’ (Klein’s OST Edit)
‘Be Careful Of This Spirit | Men and Women’s Biggest Nightmare’ [YouTube Rip]
Korn – ‘Here to Stay’
TisaKorean – ‘Backseat’
Wasiu Ayinde’s Birthday [YouTube Rip] (Klein edit)
Shady – ‘Go in’
Aho Ssan – ‘Simulacrum III’
Klein – ‘Michael’s interlude’
Klein – ‘XXL’
ma2t – ‘bustagreed’
Aye Jae Beats – ‘Insiders (Outsiders Part 2)’ (Klein Choppin N Screwin Edit)
Wasiu Ayinde – ‘Fuji Collections’
Klein – ‘In From The Cold’ (Demo)
Charlotte x Joe Interlude (Klein’s Media Trained Edit)
Klein – ‘Comedy Style’ / ‘Skyfall’ [Feat. Charlotte Church] (Edit) [Feat. Rukayat Gawat]
Lady Evang, Bolatito Oke, a.k.a Malaika Jah – ‘Adorin Motito’

Listen next: Fact Mix 855 – Gramrcy

Holly Childs & Gediminas Žygus pen a love letter to Odesa amidst planetary emergency with ‘, Throw’

Developed from a poem written in heat of the summer by Childs on visiting Odesa, Ukraine back in 2018.

For the 2022 edition of Rewire Festival, writer and artist Holly Childs and composer and sound artist Gediminas Žygus commissioned a new video work from filmmakers Marijn Degenaar and Nicola Baratto, to accompany a new live performance that would debut at The Hague’s foremost experimental music and arts festival. The result was ‘, Throw,’ an audiovisual composition that started life towards the end of 2021, but that has gathered new, devastating resonance over the first few months of 2022. Developed from a poem that Childs wrote in the heat of the summer on visiting Odesa, Ukraine back in 2018, ‘, Throw’ is a reflection on fleeting moments of desire entangled inextricably with an intoxicating sense of place, as well as love letter to and from Odesa, an invocation of the city in both the interiority of the viewer and of a memory of its exterior physicality, caught out of time. “Odesa is a beautiful and often mythologized city in literature, and itself an influence on modern literature as it was a hub for a lot of writers and poets throughout the 19th and 20th century,” explain Childs and Žygus. “After we invited Nicola and Marijn, together we started adapting the poem to a musical composition in December 2021 with the idea that we would shoot the video in Athens (we decided to film there in order to get plenty of sunshine in early spring). It was just meant to be a spiritual homage to the magic of this Black Sea trading and tourist city. But the composition took on a completely different meaning as we worked on it, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalated in the last week of February.”

Centering around a yearning dialogue between two voices, one of them director and performer Marijn Degenaar ‘, Throw’ refracts sunlit vignettes of the city on the Black sea, focusing imagery through a lens clouded by heat haze and sea spray. In the context of the unremitting brutality of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the melancholy nostalgia that steeps each of the work’s voices speaks to unbelievable tragedy, the longing of its protagonists expanding into a eulogy for peace in a country shrouded by war and a sun-tinged prayer of hope for a return to the light. “We were devastated for our friends in Ukraine,” Childs and Žygus continues. “We had scheduled to shoot the video in early March in Athens; working on it became a way of dealing with anger, fear and grief. Remembering what Odesa is, was, and will be when invasion is over.” In this sense the esoteric directions given by the film’s protagonists work to locate Odesa both in memory and, more urgently, in the transformational phase the city has been thrust into. The search for the city is also a search for those who know the city as it has been, as well as how it can be. “The characters who voice the track triangulate physical materials in a quest to find *you*, the one who is missing, describing to you where they are, using what’s close at hand as echolocation, radar, a verbal map, bouncing locational information between available landmarks,” explains Childs. “And what are the most significant landmarks? The sun, the moon and the earth. This feeling of triangulation begins and ends with celestial elements.” Bloody toes and towels on the shore serve as talismans of a specific time, just as the pontoon, the bistro and the dolphinarium are elevated to totems of a specific space, markers by which to navigate the sun and the sea.

Artists and filmmakers Marijn Degenaar and Nicola Baratto manifest this urgent act of location in the passionate duet of the work’s protagonists, ossifying their love in a bisected and bisecting ornament. “When thinking about creating a video for “,Throw”, we felt that this duet song embodies a fervent sense of urgency and remote romance,” they describe. “The video narrative was written as a quest for a never setting, perpetual sunset, revolving around a central object of desire. This icy spherical vessel carried by the two characters is somewhat the matter of their conjunction. We were thinking of how the two characters’ separated journeys could still evoke a sense of liminal unity, as if they would be far apart on different continents but still experience a connection, a drive that motivates their complicated meeting at sunset.” Framing the lovers’ movements in gauzy light, water refractions and lysergic, spirallic camera work, Degenaar and Baratto capture moments of intimacy and natural beauty with the timeless blur of daydreamed memory. Sibilant speech and serotonin synth arpeggios imbue each glimpse of sun with heartache, distorted, hard dance bass hits and cinematic sound design dressing each scene with poignant theatricality. “The two figures are inspired by the mythical Persephone and Sisyphus, and their journeys between the realm of the living and the underworld,” continue the filmmakers. “Naya’s vessel carries sand and fire on her path in-and-out darkness while Marijn bears water and air on his journey towards the sea. While carrying their respective half vessels with Ocean and Earth towards the shore, they spiral into a dreamy quest of flashes, glimmers, shimmers, glitters.”

As Gediminas Žygus notes, their collaboration with Holly Childs has consistently “been defined by intimate and emotional experiences of working through and confronting various forms of planetary emergency.” Their first collaborative album, Hydrangea, explored the ways in which platform capitalism, conspiracy theories and online surveillance set the tone for political and private discourse throughout much of the 2010s, giving rise to the commodification of information as a pernicious new mutation of neoliberal expansion. In their follow up, Gnarled Roots, the pair followed these threads into even deeper and denser territory, taking the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11 and the 2008 financial crash as epochal turning points, the latter of which paving the way the chaos of speculative economies and cryptographic tribalism of our present day. More practically, the artists have found the scope of their collaboration moulded in part by the crises they have encountered over the past few years. “Pandemic travel restrictions meant we worked in different continents for two years,” Žygus continues. “We have been variously caught at the historic acqua alta extreme high-tide event in Venice in 2019; in the Australian bushfire crisis in 2019/20; we developed our second album Gnarled Roots in (and about) the forests in Druskininkai, Lithuania, adjacent to the Belarusian border which has since become the setting of a growing refugee crisis; as well as developing preliminary materials in Odesa for an album that we are working on for release in 2023.”

‘, Throw,’ joins those projects as an incisive and urgent response to the ever increasing complexity of the flattened expanse of the now, an intimate portrait of personal emotional response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine amidst a relentlessly bleak newscycle and a constant stream of open-source intelligence, a sun-drenched daydream of what was once and what will hopefully be again.

You can find Nicola BarattoHolly Childs, Marijn Degenaar and Gediminas Žygus on Instagram. For more information about Rewire Festival, follow them on Instagram and visit their website.

, Throw Credits:

Music and Text – Holly Childs & Gediminas Žygus
Video – Marijn Degenaar & Nicola Baratto
Voices – Danae Io, Marijn Degenaar   
Performance – Naya Ferentinou, Marijn Degenaar, Yannis Iasonidis
Costumes – Serapis Maritime
Jewellery – Sankto Leono
Production Coordination – Viktor Gogas 
Mixed and Mastered – James Ginzburg

Nicola and Marijn would like to thank Bend Studio, Despina Pavlaki, Yannis Iasonidis, Manolis Lemos, George Tigkas, Jola, Ilias Sanidas, Easton West, Yiannis Mouravas. Shout out to Poseidon too.

Commissioned for the 2022 edition of Rewire Festival.

© & ℗ Subtext / Multiverse LTD. 2021

, Throw Lyrics

Set stones become towers,
Losing half-steps stubbing pinky toes on the rocks by the sea.
Playing loops on our backs round the pebbles in the waves flow eternal,
Bloody toes against stones in the sand by our towels on the shore.

Our final steps reflect in pendant glow,
in the sun, and on our skin.
Wash it all away and we drink water,
Wash it down the sink and we want shades.

As the sun darts lights, our silver gowns are fountains reflected,
Hair up, funnelled down our backs, in the sun, off the sea.
And the sun dips, as the sun would dip,
and sea mist bubbles,
|In the waves of the water

On these seaside paths we have no drama,
In our separate tracks we all feel free,
To meet up at the fireworks:
Join us at the pier, on the way to the dolphinarium.

Throw it all away into the water,
Forever dragging sand into the sea.
2 dark moles bilaterally below your shoulder blades
and a lighter one reflected just beneath,
, throw

So once it’s gone, skipping over turtles by the docks,
that when the sun dips — Like they always said it would dip,
you can Wash it all away on wanting water,
Throw it all away on needing shade.
And When you get out of the pool,
Call me.

Sand and sea slide,
Skimming salty sequins graze your angles,
The forever sunset sinking the horizon
, sweat

Join us at the cafe off the path to the pontoon by the breaker,
We can pitch it off the pier to make-believe.
, throw

Watch next: Safa explores percussive musical traditions and potential georealities with Ouda And The Strikers At Najd

Caterina Barbieri shares transcendent visual for ‘Broken Melody’

A co-commission from 180 Studios and Fact.

Caterina Barbieri has shared the second single from her forthcoming album, Spirit Exit. ‘Broken Melody’ arrives accompanied with a gorgeous visual from director Iacopo Carapelli and artist Ruben Spini, which sets stunning, slow-motion footage of levitating bodies against Barbieri’s equally transcendent synths and haunting vocals. Picking up thread of ‘Knot Of Spirit’, a collaboration with “futurist folk” musician Lyra Pramuk and the first release on Barbieri’s recently launched label platform, light-years, ‘Broken Melody’ showcases the composer’s custom modular synth rig, which she developed over the course of the making of Spirit Exit in her home studio in Milan.

Spirit Exit marks the first album Barbieri has written entirely in this studio and was recorded during Milan’s two-month pandemic lockdown in 2020. The follow-up to 2019’s Ecstatic Computation and 2017’s Patterns Of Consciousness sees Barbieri exploring internal worlds, drawing influence from St. Teresa D’Avila’s foundational 16th century mystical text The Interior Castle, philosopher Rosi Braidotti’s posthuman theories and the metaphysical poetry of Emily Dickinson.

Elements of the footage taken for the ‘Broken Melody’ visual will feature as part of ‘Vigil’, a multimedia installation from Caterina Barbieri and frequent collaborator Ruben Spini, newly commissioned by 180 Studios, which will feature as part of Future Shock, a major new exhibition of 14 leading international artists and collectives working at the cutting-edge of audiovisual technology.

Future Shock, which opens at London’s 180 The Strand on 28 April and runs to 28 August 2022, transforms 180 Studios’ subterranean spaces through mesmerising and pioneering digital technology – from generative and interactive algorithms, AI and 3-D digital mapping, to spellbinding laser work, holographic projections and ground-breaking electronic music. Tickets are on sale now via the 180 The Strand website.

‘Broken Melody’ is out now and is taken from Caterina Barbieri’s forthcoming album Spirit Exit, which arrives on July 8 and is available to pre-order now. You can find Caterina Barbieri on Instagram.

‘Broken Melody’ Credits:

Artist – Caterina Barbieri
Label – light-years
Concept & Art Direction – Caterina Barbieri & Ruben Spini
Director – Iacopo Carapelli
DoP – Giuseppe Favale
Editor – Iacopo Carapelli & Elena Petitti di Roreto 
Colorist – Orash Rahnema
Post production – DEEPICE, Mauro Moretti, Roberto D’Ippolito
Titles – Nicola Tirabasso
Produced by C41
Executive Producer – Barbara Guieu
Production Manager – Maria Borgognoni
Assistant Producer – Lorenzo Poloni
Co-Produced – Blackball 
Co-commissioned by 180 Studios and Fact Magazine
Scenography – Fabrizio D’arpino
Assistant Scenography – Elena Strafella
Prop Master – Gianfranco Parmigiani 
Movement Director – Elisa Zuppini
MUA – Greta Giannone
Characters: Inga Lavarini, Federica Nicastro, Omar Jaimes, Costanza Candeloro, Filippo Beccati, Joselin Solange Morales, Giulia Fossati, Gabriele Gangi, Elisa Zuppini
Phantom Operator – Claudio Fusini
1st AC – Paolo Gobbi
2nd AC – Davide Bongiorni
Stage AC – Riccardo Lorenzi
Gaffer – Francesco Galli
Elettricista – Fabio Proserpio, Marco Marangoni n
Key Grip – Riccardo Villella
Grip – Alessio Zecchinello, Fabio Macchi
Rigger – Luca Fachini, Enrico Comeo 
Drone – Turbostudio 
Drone Operator – Rocco Diddio

Watch next: Lyra Pramuk live at Volksbühne ft. Kianí del Valle and Nana

Safa explores percussive musical traditions and potential georealities with Ouda And The Strikers At Najd

Animator Sabine Saba pairs textural graphics with the dizzying metres of ‘Ouda And The Strikers At Najd’, a highlight from Ibtihalat, the debut album from musician, architect and researcher Mhamad Safa.

On Ibtihalat, Safa explores the percussive musical traditions from across north Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, wrestling with geopolitical complexity and musical migrations while at the same time gesturing towards possible future iterations of these sounds. From North Africa, Safa lifts elements from gnawa, West African, Islamic music with ritual significance that spread across the breadth of the continent via musicians forces to relocate to the Moroccan coast, amazigh, polyrhythmic music indigenous to the Berbers of north Africa, and raï, Algerian folk music notable for its anti-colonial lyrical content and it’s adaptation by women vocalists and performers (cheikas) as emblematic of sexual liberation and hedonism. From the Arabian Peninsula, Safa references Sea Music, more commonly known as Music of the Pearl Divers, work songs devised by the ship builders, seamen and pearl divers of the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf, laywa, ceremonial music from Bahrain, UAE, Oman and Basra, Iraq brought over during slave trades from Kenya, South Somalia and Tanzania, and samiri, music related to Zar rituals of exorcism and spirit expulsion. Drawing from a sprawling, yet intrinsically linked, patchwork of cultural exchange and musical tradition, Safa threads richly textured percussive compositions, headfuck assemblages of sound design, micro-sampling, algorithmic sound technology, psychoacoustics, field recordings, and their graphic interpretations. “The album crafts a multi-patterned sonorous speculation, reflective of percussive musical traditions whose histories and presents shapeshifted with spatial and logistical yet celestial imaginaries,” he explains.

For the dizzying visual accompaniment to the evocatively titled ‘Ouda And The Strikers At Najd,’ which plays on the complex metres of gnawa, animator Sabine Saba layers graphical texture, manipulating imagery of rock formations, classical architecture and bisected fibre optic cables. “This exercise unsettles the proposal-driven use of computer graphics by examining existing georealities initially modeled into being,” explains Saba. “It peeks through their shifts and rifts to look for possible future encounters between humans and land.” Like Safa’s production, Saba unpicks historical forms in order to speculate on future potentialities, blurring and blending environmental and technological progress over rapidly expanding and contracting timelines in the rapid evolution of his animations. As ‘Ouda And The Strikers At Najd’ pinballs between low-slung lollop and high tension spring, drilling guttural vocal chops into many-metred percussion, robotic arms and precious metals are folded into an jittering landscape of ancient caves and rotating coliseums, shining chrome and sand-coloured stone.

‘Ouda And The Strikers At Najd’ is taken from Ibtihalat, which arrives on April 29 via Lee Gamble’s UIQ. For more information about Sabine Saba and her work you can follow her on Instagram. You can find Mhamad Safa on Instagram.

Watch next: Most Dismal Swamp slides into a mixed reality k-hole with MUSH

Fact Mix 855: Gramrcy

An ode to blog house from one of Berlin’s most unpredictable DJs and producers.

Since his debut in 2015 on Ancient Monarchy with a pair of chunky club tracks drawing on the sounds of ’90s rave and dub techno, Gramrcy has pushed his style forward with a steady stream of innovative twists on classic dance music templates. From the heads-down dubstep-inspired sound of 2018’s ‘Settlement’ to collaborating with De Grandi in 2021 on the hi-fidelity club banger ‘Sea in Air’, Gramrcy’s musical twists and turns have been thrillingly unpredictable.

Gramrcy is also one half of the Peach Discs label alongside his longtime friend Shanti Celeste, who he shared a studio with in Bristol until moving to Berlin in 2016. Together with Alex Golesworthy and Daisy Moon, they continue to run the roving Housework party, which splits its time between Bristol and Berlin. Gramrcy is also part of the team behind Berlin’s excellent Refuge Worldwide radio station, where he holds down a monthly residency.

Gramrcy’s latest EP arrived this month on Hot Concept, with two tracks that reflect the fluid approach to genre that has become his hallmark, whether he’s producing music or playing it in the club. His Fact Mix is proof of his fearless nature as a selector, as he takes inspiration from what is (for some) one of dance music’s most unfashionable eras.

“Recorded live in the Refuge Worldwide studio, this one’s a bit of an ode to blog house – my first dance music love,” Gramrcy says. “The mix is built from some of my favourite tracks from that chaotic era that still hold up today (because honestly a lot of it doesn’t), alongside new and unreleased productions I feel share that same wild and loose energy I’ve always loved. Fun at all costs!”

Follow Gramrcy on Instagram and SoundCloud.

Tracklist:

Blawan – Gosk
Galtier – XX-101 (Process)
Kamohelo – SO
JCow – Groove Ryder
dj_2button – War Ain’t Over
Anatolian Weapons – Chant Three
Gunilla – Fu Bu
Ozel AB – Series Parallel
Metronomy – Radio Ladio (Radioclit Swedish Remix)
M.I.A – Bucky Done Gun (Instrumental – SH Edit)
Round Table Knights – Belly Dance (Mowgli Remix)
EDM – OXO Acid
Piezo – Unto
Upsammy – Vacate Or Annihilate
Brodinski – Bad Runner [Mental Groove]
???
Dan HaberNam – High Pass Rambo
Jan Driver – Rat Alert
Martyn – Bauplan
Sunareht – Hyul

Listen next: Fact Mix 854: Authentically Plastic

Lyra Pramuk live at Volksbühne ft. Kianí del Valle and Nana

A special performance of Pramuk’s debut album Fountain, with insights from the trio on how they transformed it through dance and movement.

Lyra Pramuk’s debut Fountain was one of 2020’s standout albums. Using her own voice as raw material to be transformed and played as an instrument, Pramuk explored ideas of post-humanism, gender and identity through what she called “futurist folk music”. Released just as the Covid pandemic began, the album become a healing vessel for listeners across the world, though Pramuk was unable to fully tour its tracks for over a year.

In September 2021, Pramuk premiered a special Fountain live show at Berlin’s Volksbühne, developed in collaboration with two members of the Berlin-based interdisciplinary dance company, KDV DANCE ENSEMBLE. On stage, Pramuk was accompanied by founding choreographer and director Kianí del Valle, as well as choreographer and performer Nana, who brought a new dimension to the music of Fountain through dance and movement.

“Every time I perform this music I learn something new about myself in the process,” Pramuk tells Fact. “It’s something that keeps giving back to me in a way that is dealing with healing and dealing with anxiety, fear, I deal with that every time I perform this music.”

As Kianí del Valle explains, setting Fountain to movement felt like a natural way to evolve the album. “There’s something about her vocal work not having specific words and going off a visceral impulse or emotion that I think it is really normal that dancers will connect to it,” del Valle says. “There’s something really powerful, like an immediate umbilical cord between the way that she’s using voice and the movement practice of any artist.”

In this original film from Fact, Pramuk, del Valle and Nana talk about their own personal relationships with Fountain, the inspirations behind their work and the live show, and how the ideas and themes behind Fountain closely align with the movement of the body. “Any type of movement releases endorphins that heal you, and it goes back to the album because [Lyra] chose to go to the body to figure out something [she was working with to heal herself], because the voice is connected to the body,” Nana says.

Delta, an album that features reworks of Fountain tracks by Colin Self, Caterina Barbieri, Eris Drew and more is available now on Bedroom Community. For more information on Lyra Pramuk and KDV Dance Ensemble visit their websites.

Credits:

Directed and produced by Pedro S. Küster

Camera Operation
Sven Gutjahr
Nicola Cavalazzi

Extra Production
Ludovica Ludinatrice
Marlene Engel Bürgerkurator
Alessia Avallone

Special Thank You
Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz
Studio Chérie

Watch next: Fact Residency: Theo Triantafyllidis

Most Dismal Swamp slides into a mixed reality k-hole with MUSH

An extended and addled meditation on ‘gangcrafting,’ community-driven building projects within multiplayer online games, MUSH is equal parts film essay, cursed ASMR and weird fiction.

Most Dismal Swamp is both a place and a practice. Emerging out of the curatorial experiments of Dane Sutherland, who’s focus had previously centered around gallery exhibitions, distributive sonic fiction, club nights and other live events, Most Dismal Swamp is described by its creator as “an art project, a curatorial MMORPG, a fiction, a party, and a mixed-reality biome.” Launching the project back in 2019 with Swamp Protocol at arebyte gallery and Whale Fall at Gossamer Fog, two of London’s leading audiovisual art spaces, Most Dismal Swamp gestures towards a new kind of group show, one that exists contiguously between physical space and localised virtual worlds built with the express purpose of exploring the connections between interdependent mixed-media art practices. “Most Dismal Swamp invokes the swamp as a conceptual model for understanding and navigating our present mixed reality paradigm,” explains Sutherland. “Simultaneously solid land and fluid water, yet also neither, swamps embody a topology of muddy indistinction, and the horizonless territory of context collapse. They engender a taxonomic heresy that disallows easy separation and parsing of solid forms. This is significant for understanding a contemporary condition that has supplanted the teleology of modernity and the fragmentation of postmodernity with the entangled simultaneity of multiple, nested logics.” Presenting experimental choreography, digital artwork, physical sculpture and esoteric craft as symbiotic features of the all-consuming swamp, Sutherland has settled on a model that easily allows for the permeation of the borders between discipline and medium, redefining the exhibition as an organism that curates as it is curated, spewing forth fresh significance from its fecund ooze.

MUSH is the latest iteration of this process, an immersive world build adapted from a site-specific installation at the 2021 edition of Mira Festival in Barcelona, that blurs the lines between film essay, cursed ASMR and weird fiction. At once a an extended and addled meditation on ‘gangcrafting,’ community-driven building projects within multiplayer online games, and a statement of intent from Most Dismal Swamp more generally, MUSH, which stands for Multi-User Shared Hallucination, probes at the stress-points of virtual worlds built both for online communities and by online communities. “I wanted to invite people deeper into the dank k-hole of dissociative reality-modeling and world-building of our present platform-mediated sociality, intentionally opaque and with the feeling of traversing an abysmal swamp,” says Sutherland. “I started the project from a position of reflecting on the potential future of post-pandemic social balkanization: the term MUSH is derived from the field of online text-based role-playing games. It refers to the communal investment in and social codification of a shared gamespace: the rules, tacit protocols, ethos, and other invented elements which allow it to be an effectively immersive space distinct from an ‘outside’ world.” The work constantly toys with this distinction, as exquisitely rendered detritus houses crooked sculptures that phase shift between the virtual and the physical, cold wastelands of discarded monitors and slick mud present stylised footage of human performers misshapen with silicon garments, meme sweatshirts, silver jewelry and algorithmically-induced glitch, as hollowed-out avatars, far-future shells of the community shown crafting, and crafted by, the world of MUSH, drift by oblivious.

“MUSH is interested in the arcane, encrypted cultures flourishing among the recesses of an online megalopolis and reinforced by offline organisation and social balkanization,” continues Sutherland. “Maintaining fragile communities in platform-mediated circumstances means navigating fluidly draconian terms and conditions, gamified feedcrafting algorithms, algorithmic populism, misinformation, reality entrepreneurs, meme inception and punitive control such as shadow-banning. While offline, the closure of many struggling urban venues as apparatuses of diverse community-building and public discourse, as well as the emergence of phenomena such as ‘astroturfing’, means that many communities seek and embrace alternative, private, or ‘off-grid’ spaces. From trust-based cryptoraves to sub rosa chat servers. The combined hardwiring of possessive individualism and tacit online communication protocols has mutated popular discourse: militantly aggressive filter bubbles vying to signal-boost their home baked ‘truths’ and jury-rigged reality-models. The result is a swamp-like, inextricably entangled, adversarial Mixed Reality system: a bazaar of amateur heresies, microworld-building protocols, and dog-whistle memetics. Systemic ideological segregation and quarantine thus ferments a long-tail of forking realities.” Real-world dramaturgy sparks up against digital sigils and mutant glyphs that gesture towards the new kinds of consciousness born in the mixed-media sludge, as the disembodied narrators declaim, “a deep fried conlang of survival and of cheat-code elementalism.” Tattooed flesh dissolves in crude acrylic and harsh light, each a new texture within the same ecosystem.

What emerges from the swamp are world-specific exchanges, gestures developing into rituals developing into group practices, the back-and-forth of the group chat manifested in mixed reality, slurred together in the dissociative logic of a k-hole. Within their shared hallucination, the borders between environment and organism, between intimate gesture and implicit protocol, dissolve within shared space, self-contained artworks are opened out into the malleable, fertile density of the world, which in turn is defined by the oscillation between presence and withdrawal of these artworks experienced as a result of Sutherland’s direction and curation. The film’s climactic image embodies both the distance and the resonances his practice has from and with the history of curation: a GAN-altered, post-apocalyptic Ophelia, laid out in sludge and draped in sheet plastic, heaving shallow breaths, Sir John Everett Millais reimagined as a cyber goth. It’s in this way that the graphics of Stephen McLaughlin, the digital installations and world design of Joey Holder and Samuel Capps, the collages of Lou Shafer, the Blender animations and design of Aquabubz and Tissue Hunter, the graphics and typography of Post Cyberparamo, the 3D character design of Oliva Svetlanova, the silicon garments of vvxxii and Johanna Invrea, the apparel of Iain Ball and Timothy Gasparro, the sculpture of Hannah Rose Stewart, Agnieszka Szostek, Yiming Yang, Sian Fan and Laura Costas, the illustration of Matt Cangiano, the choreography of Laila Majid, the performance of V Shetsova, Luke Magill, Furi, Lora Angelova and Susanna Husebø, the camera of Julia Brown, the writing of Dane Sutherland and the music of FRKTL fills out and terraforms the world as one entity, a shared hallucination, a most dismal swamp.

For more information about Most Dismal Swamp you can follow the project on Instagram and visit the Most Dismal Swamp website.

MUSH Credits:

Curated and Directed – Most Dismal Swamp
Edit and FX – Most Dismal Swamp, Stephen McLaughlin
‘Semelparous’ Installation – Joey Holder
Unreal Engine 5 World and ‘Exudater’ Installation – Samuel Capps
MUSH Collages – Lou Shafer
Blender Animations – Aquabubz
Blender Wall Decal – Tissue Hunter
Additional 2D Graphics and Animated Typography – Post Cyberparamo
3D Animated Figures – Olia Svetlanova
Silicone Garments – vvxxii, Johanna Invrea
DOOBIE WEB 2009 Sweatshirts – Iain Ball
Jewellery – Timothy Gasbarro
Sculptures – Hannah Rose Stewart, Agnieszka Szostek, Yiming Yang, Sian Fan, Laura Costas
‘Spirit’s Gravity’ Illustration – Matt Cangiano
Choreography – Most Dismal Swamp, Laila Majid
Performers – V Shetsova, Luke Magill, Furi, Lora Angelova, Susanna Husebø
Camera – Julia Brown
Words – Most Dismal Swamp
Music – FRKTL

Watch next: Theo Triantafyllidis & Slugabed Present – Still Life With Platypus

Fact Mix 854: Authentically Plastic

Authentically Plastic glides through disparate sounds with grace and purpose, exorcising restlessness in service of “free form femme fuckery”.

Authentically Plastic describes their sound best themself: “free form femme fuckery.” As a selector, producer, visual artist, performer, organiser and a “quasi-Marxist drag queen,” they have fast become an essential figure within the underground dance music scene in Kampala, Uganda, arguably the most important node in electronic music within the last half decade. Their legendary ANTI-MASS parties, which they host alongside comrades Nsasi and Turkana, the latter of which delivered an absolutely killer Fact mix earlier this year, have fast become essential spaces for total freedom and queer expression, embodying a philosophy of variety in both sound and community, bringing together a diverse gathering of people of wildly different genders, sexual orientations and backgrounds to move and sweat together – all within a city infamous for its conservatism and increasingly draconian legislation. Expanding into a queer collective, ANTI-MASS applies the same approach to the sound it explores as it does the parties it throws, moving freely between classic dance music, the contemporary club zeitgeist and more regional forms, such as singeli, acholi, and kadodi. “It has nothing to do with merging, or combining, but gliding,” writes Authentically Plastic for Borshch Magazine, “drawing a line between the two that is an expression in its own right.”

In their Fact mix, Authentically Plastic glides breathlessly with restless energy. Vocal chops are deftly threaded through hiccuping percussion, vampy synth lines charged with sexual tension rise above hard and fast polyrhythms, enveloping genres effortlessly within constant forward momentum. “It’s recorded in my usual eclectic style of mixing, featuring polyrhythmic and hypnotic strains of techno and hard dance, chopped up and sped up genge-tone vocals, my new obsession since my residency at Santuri in Nairobi in February and March, gqom kicks and vocals superimposed on techno, like I’ve always done. For me the goal has always been to make these disparate connections between sounds, but to still do it with a kind of thematic and technical coherence.” To glide is to exorcise restlessness, to move through music at pace while simultaneously amplifying the cultural and political motivations for such speed. As Authentically Plastic has explained it: “it comes from an unrest of how things are. Taking these sounds that are traditional and accelerating them an manipulating them is political in itself. There is a dissatisfaction with how things are and what is on offer.”

You can hear this tension in the accelerated Jersey club bed spring squeaks in Wilhelmina’s ‘Respirator,’ or in the sliced and sped ballroom ‘Ha’ crashes of T5UMUT5UMU’s ‘What’s Outside The Simulation?,’ classic motifs from the queer history of dance music recontextualised for faster, tougher times. Likewise it’s impossible to hear the dread-drenched, stomach churn of Ole Mic Odd’s ‘Blood Is A Buisness’ and ‘Get The Fffuck Out’ in this context without feeling the lethal resonance of their doom-laden vocal samples. This is all part of the texture of Authentically Plastic’s sonic weaponry, a conflict-ready context that is entirely intentional. “If you’re sensing darkness there, then it’s probably coming from this angst I feel towards the state, towards all these familial modes of social control, towards Western capital.” Far from allowing this angst to overwhelm and consume, Authentically Plastic channels this tension into a potently disruptive and emancipatory sound, surging forward through difficulty, in service of both restlessness and clarity of expression.

You can find Authentically Plastic on Instagram, SoundCloud and at the ANTI-MASS Bandcamp, where you can also find the collective’s essential debut compilation, DOXA. Authentically Plastic also appears on one of the best releases of the year so far with the track ‘Strakka’, which appears on Youth’s Y16th alongside Emma DJ and Toma Kami’s ‘Julia Bashmore’.

Tracklist:

Wheez-ie – ‘OG Deth’
Lord Tusk – ‘Simon Says…’
robogeisha – ‘Asitilsalisilik asit’
DJ HEADWOUND – ‘GATEKEEPERS REMORSE’ 
DMORE X KAPPY XSESKA X PARROTY – ‘NYONYA’  
Bézier – ‘Laboratory’
Wilhelmina – ‘Respirator’
Lostsoundbytes – ‘Rusty Tractor’
Animistic Beliefs – ‘Margiela Face Mask’
Ole Mic Odd – ‘Blood Is A Business’
ETHIC – ‘FYEKA’ 
GG Lobster – ‘Stars of Turmoil’
TonePadron – ‘Fired’
Bézier – ‘Telomeres’
Color Plus – ‘Da Back’
Cuban Chamber Of Commerce – ‘Goofing Off’
James Bangura – ‘Bad Mon Narrative’
Ole Mic Odd – ‘Get The Fffuck Out’
T5UMUT5UMU – ‘What’s Outside The Simulation?’
102 INTERN — ‘BLEND’
Phelimuncasi – ‘Ungabom Themba Umunutu’ [Prod. DJ Scoturn]
Wheez-ie – ‘Bak It In’
Seven Orbits – ‘Mantis’ (Zaliva-D Remix)
DJ Loser Xiao Quan – ‘Kawasaki Outrun’
NKISI – ‘VI’

Listen next: Fact Mix 853 – Jamz Supernova

Fact Residency: Theo Triantafyllidis

In his exploration of social technologies and the communities they enable us to create, Theo Triantafyllidis rarely seeks to provide any answers. Instead, his work allows him to constantly consider exactly what questions he can ask.

Despite it not existing yet, Theo Triantafyllidis has been working in the metaverse for years. However, far from considering himself a pioneer, the artist is the first to point out that there are many, many others, across a multitude of online communities, that have been exploring the possibilities of three-dimensional, virtual spaces for close to two decades. “I’ve been looking at the example of VR Chat, how this exists in the legacy of Second Life, as well as more generally all these precursors to whatever insane vision of the metaverse Mark Zuckerberg has,” he explains. “These are things that have been developing for such a long time. There are communities that have been so deeply invested in these worlds for decades now and have been discovering all these things from inside.” For Triantafyllidis, these are the true pioneers of the metaverse and it is the novel forms of interaction and connectivity enabled by socially-focused game worlds, which range from the joyful and the horrendous all the way through to the chilling and the deranged, that inform and drive his work. “VR Chat was quite interesting because it gave almost total freedom for people to modify it,” he continues. “The actual game was completely open to people messing with its code. It had a tool for people to create their own character, not just a 3D model, but including all the interactions and things that the character can do, and upload it as an avatar. People started hacking that and piling up scripts and interactions and entire scenes within their character avatars as a way of Trojan horsing larger things into the world.”

“This was unfortunately hijacked by people who wanted to troll everything and they just started making horrible pop-up videos and harassing the community. It became a very toxic, strange space for a long time, which was quite an unexpected turn of events. For me, it’s interesting to see how, when given maximum freedom, the online tendency is to go for maximum trolling.” Clearly this kind of subversion, by which the very notion of representation and communications is hacked apart and retooled into something unpredictable and potentially dangerous, was not demonstrated during Zuckerberg’s Meta keynote, but this kind of mentality will become a fundamental quality to consider as the politics of the metaverse are developed over the coming years. It’s a preoccupation of Triantafyllidis’s, too, who in an upcoming project will seek to address the ways in which VR Chat’s premise was inherently corruptible, as well as ways it might be possible to incentivize kindness, as opposed to trolling. It’s also demonstrative of the interrogative mode of much of the artist’s work, “in my work I very rarely try to give any answers,” he admits. “It’s more about opening up new questions.”

This can be attributed, in part, to how important teaching has become to his art practice, something that’s clear from the layout of his website, which offers a wellspring of syllabi, lecture notes and resources to anyone that wants them. “It gives me an incentive to keep digging around and starting new lines of personal research,” he says. “A lot of these classes are things that I personally pitched and constructed the syllabus from scratch, mostly in UCLA. I was very lucky that UCLA was open to me coming up with new classes and that they have the infrastructure for these special seminars that are different every quarter.” Faced with the “never-ending orgy” of the increasingly online can be an overwhelming experience at the best of times, so for Triantafyllidis, the necessity to parse through the disparate cloud of references he draws from has helped him figure out what questions he wants to ask. “Having to do all the primary research and present that to a student group, opening this up to all the wealth of information and feedback that the students have and seeing where they take these ideas, is a very interesting conversation,” he says. “I am not trying to give any sense of authority or direct knowledge, but just trying to push them in directions that they might find interesting. It’s also helped me structure what I’m trying to say with my work by having to communicate these things more clearly.”

Theo Triantafyllidis Presents: Radicalization Pipeline

Using surreal humour and an absurdist aesthetic sensibility inspired by high fantasy, classic science fiction, MMORPGs and niche online communities, Theo Triantafyllidis carries out a sustained critique of the tech industry and the wrestling of new technologies away from the benefit of the user and user-generated communities in the interests of corporate expansion, financial growth and the commodification of information. The way he achieves this can be understood in the interplay between two central aspects of his art practice, computational humour and AI improvisation. “I like computational humor as a concept because it is a very niche research objective within computer science that’s analyzing how the human brain responds to humor,” he says, “trying to create a mathematical formula for what is funny. In my work I generally like to have a humorous aspect because I think it’s something that has the capacity to break the audience’s defenses and be a first line of approachability in the work.” This comedic drive can be traced all the way back to one of his earliest simulation works, How To Everything, in which the artist attempted to create an algorithm that could, in theory, generate an infinite number of visually funny scenarios. In a gesture that bears contemporary resonance with the conspicuous barbecue sauce bottle placed in the background of Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta keynote, these scenarios throw together precarious physics and random objects within different environments with what the artist describes as “empathy, effort and failure.”

Triantafyllidis’s work with live simulations comes to its most complete expression with Radicalization Pipeline, a RPG-inspired battle royale which renders online social platforms as literal zones of conflict whilst demonstrating the artist’s improvisational approach to A.I. “I feel the most interesting aspect of these live simulation works is the connection to theater and live performance, how you have these very simplistic AIs, that are usually used in games for enemies or player interactions, that can be directed in the same way a theater director would direct actors,” he explains. “By giving them simple instructions you can create a performance score that is producing an infinite variation of some specific situations and you are able to produce humorous results out of that.” Across a flat expanse of concrete, Triantafyllidis whips between different perspectives, flitting between a top down, god’s eye view reminiscent of table top strategy games and the shaky, NPC-locked perspective of a first-person action game. Under a sky burning orange, MAGA cap wearers brandishing claw hammers fight alongside hulking orks dragging battle clubs and flails. Special Ops teams in riot gear wield sci-fi swords and shields, sprinting into the fray while dodging Antifa super soldiers and independent militia members holding fascist presenting flags high above their heads. Furries batter Proud Boys, cyberpunk elves band together with crypto anarchists, each with their own intricately rendered weapons and armour.

Theo Triantafyllidis Presents: Ork Haus

“Imagine if you could be at the office without the commute,” enthused Mark Zuckerberg in the 2021 keynote announcing his company’s leap into the metaverse. “You would still have that sense of presence, shared physical space, those chance interactions that make your day, all accessible from anywhere.” In this vision of the future, virtual reality has been transformed into a fresh vector for data commodification and online shopping, a means of transcending the pesky limitations of physical objects and our corporeal forms from Meta’s infinite expansion into every facet of our lives. “The metaverse will remove many of the physical constraints we see on commerce today and make entirely new businesses possible,” he promises. Ork Haus is artist Theo Triantafyllidis‘s response to this promise, a nightmarish vision of the metaverse in which the truly monstrous aspects of working from home and the technology that continues to enable us to do so are the subject of a work that is part live simulation, part experimental theatre, drawing as much from The Sims as it does Lars Von Trier’s Dogville. “Whether we like it or not, being in the new media art scene you are very, very close to Silicon Valley culture,” asserts Triantafyllidis. “In some ways we are doomed as artists to be running behind whatever new platform Facebook decides to roll out. I’m trying to be critical of these technologies and expose both the nonsensicality and complete impracticality of some of these ideas. Being familiar with this technology for a few years now it was very transparent to me that a lot of the things that Mark Zuckerberg was presenting in the Meta presentation were very, very far from being realized, even with their resources.”

In Ork Haus, the titular ork family struggle through a Web3-enabled purgatory of their own making, driving each other mad in an eternal work-from-home nightmare that evokes all the pandemic neuroses and anxieties of the last two years. “The whole simulation is based on the logic of a Sims game,” explains Triantafyllidis. “Each of the characters has their own needs, like hunger, fun and bladder, that they have to respond to over time, but depending on which of the characters are next to them when they are doing these actions, the actions will be affected and they have to interact with the other characters. At the same time, conceptually this whole thing is a very horrifying version of the metaverse, where this entire family is working from home, in a forever locked-down situation. The dad is dabbling in some crypto investments and trying to run a small crypto rig in their bedroom, that’s also used for heating. They’re caught up in this hustler, entrepreneur, Web3 family life.” Randomly generated vignettes convey the comic tragedy of the ork family’s precarious situation, resulting in chance encounters from which it is possible to piece together a rough narrative. The Y-front sporting patriarch delivers brutal corporal punishment to an orkling as we see familiar weapons from Radicalization Pipeline hanging on a wall of the family home, a sly nod to the multi-platform gaming applications many cite as the primary use case for NFTs. The ork father warms himself by the flames of his overheating crypto rig as one of his orklings teaches themselves to code; the ork matriarch desperately attempts to meditate as her husband snores beside her; daddy ork gets lost in his VR headset as another orkling tries on a dress in the bathroom where, moments later, daddy ork sits weeping as the tap drips next to him.

Theo Triantafyllidis Presents: Anti-Gone

A playful strain of theatricality runs through all of Theo Triantafyllidis‘s work. Even his earliest works have the quality of carefully directed vignettes or sketches, turns of phrase, jokes and metaphors manifested visually within the design aesthetic of his complex interplay of objects and systems. As part of his 2018 series Role Play, he assumed the virtual costume of a gender bending, blue haired ork avatar to highlight the inherent performativity of his work both in and for digital spaces. In Radicalization Pipeline and Ork Haus, Triantafyllidis casts himself as both actor and dramaturge, using machine learning to enable an improvisational approach to live simulation while at the same time painstakingly designing and implementing intricate virtual stages upon which his simulations can run. Anti-Gone is the result of the artist bringing together all these aspects of his art practice on a physical, IRL stage. “I was already thinking a lot about performativity in VR and the relationship to avatars in my ork avatar series,” he explains. “All of that project was based on recording, rather than real time performance. I was starting to understand that there is so much potential in doing this in real time and having a game engine that allows for a world that is performing in real time and having performers that are interacting with it.” Based on Connor Willumsen’s graphic novel of the same name, Anti-Gone is a hybrid theatrical performance in which one actor wearing a motion capture suit faces out into the physical world, while the other stays in VR for the entire duration. A technicolor, post climate collapse, video game engine-generated world is projected on the stage behind and beneath them, a living, breathing ecosystem, brimming with apathetic people and toxic, tropical plant life which reacts and changes in response to Triantafyllidis’s prompts.

“I’m fascinated with theatre as a medium and the theatrical language,” says the artist. “In theatre there is this magical thing where a performer can say, ‘here’s a pen,’ and you don’t need to see the pen, you just know it’s there. It’s all based on make believe, theoretically you can create entire worlds with an empty stage and a few performers, asking the audience to imagine everything. There’s a big paradox in this entire project, whereby working with the game engine is this tedious process of planting every single tree and every single object in a very precise place in space, constructing this illusion in the exact opposite way, being very literal and very precise and having to construct everything from scratch.” Working live alongside a musician, a third performer, who performs and controls a host of secondary characters, both physically and with a controller and microphone, Triantafyllidis has complete control of the environment of the play using a game engine, with the ability to change the weather, the time of day, the traffic of the boats that navigate the flooded city where the play takes place, as well as behaviour of the NPCs that populate the world. “All together we are performing the world in real time,” he describes poetically. “I was very optimistic at the beginning of the project,” he continues. “The comic book has two characters and a few scenes so it seemed pretty manageable to make this game engine with the tools I had at the time, but this slowly snowballed into an entire long term theatrical production with a full video game production team working alongside and trying to have the two constantly in dialogue, making huge changes in one another. I felt like we were trying to discover a new language for performing and a new way of building a game world that is able to accommodate this type of situation.”

Theo Triantafyllidis Presents: Still Life With Platypus

Though Still Life With Platypus marks the first time artist Theo Triantafyllidis and Slugabed have collaborated, the London-based producer’s singular sound has influenced Triantafyllidis’s work from the beginning. “I love Slugabed’s music,” says Triantafyllidis, “it’s been a major influence for me that has in some ways made it into some of my works, even though we hadn’t collaborated before.” The multi-faceted work is the latest iteration of the artist’s ongoing experiments with real-time reactive visuals, as part of which he has collaborated with Sun Araw on Velocity Holomatrix Warp 7, a fully playable, interactive experience, as well as with Giant Claw, on the video for ‘Until Mirror’. “I had been developing this system for live audiovisual performances where I could have these scenes built in a game engine, as well as a MIDI input and an audio input that gets plugged into the engine, that can then control all these graphics,” he explains. “Together with some real time triggers and keys, I could be performing the graphics together with a musician. There is something interesting about making both these audiovisual performances and also stand alone videos where I don’t have complete control of how things are going, but it’s more like a collaboration with a system where we are both performing and the end result is more of a performance than it is a pre-recorded, very carefully timelined thing.” This newly commissioned version of Still Life With Platypus sees Triantafyllidis and Slugabed navigating a series of increasingly complex and surreal vanitases, ultra high detail assemblages of crab legs, apricot halves, intricate knight’s helmets, glowing mesh nets, ghostly arthropods, as well as the titular Platypus, revolving and reacting to Slugabed’s atmospheric score.

Triantafyllidis’s preoccupation with the vanitas can be traced back to a much earlier work, How To Everything, with which Still Life With Platypus shares some playful DNA. In that work the artist attempted to create an algorithm that could generate a theoretically infinite sequence of visually amusing arrangements, a technological inversion of an artistic form historically associated with more existential themes. “Traditionally used to refer to a type of still life painting popular in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century, the term ‘vanitas’ now describes art that meditates on the ephemeral character of earthly pleasures and worldly accomplishments, and highlights the fragility of our desires in the face of the inevitability of death,” writes Triantafyllidis in a text accompanying How To Everything. Rather than a sombre monument to the transience of life, How To Everything and Still Life With Platypus both represent the artist’s darkly funny vision of the flattened, technologically mediated, eternal expanse of the now, what he describes as “devices, animals and plants all connected. Always on, always augmented.” A constantly evolving contradiction made manifest, Still Life With Platypus subverts the traditional function of the vanitas and still life painting, eschewing the loaded symbolism of everyday objects contrasted with skulls and gold coins and instead demonstrating that, thought possibilities of computational art might be infinite, the freedom to create everything doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything. “Fragments of today’s internet culture are treated as archeological finds that are repurposed to fit the needs of artificial life,” writes Triantafyllidis. “YouTube ‘How To’ videos, trompe-l’œil, video game artifacts and computer graphic demos inform this new language of painting, hopping around the uncanny valley. The result is a never-ending orgy. Just like in real life.”

For more information about Theo Triantafyllidis and his work you can follow him on Instagram and visit his website.

Watch next: Theo Triantafyllidis Presents – Still Life With Platypus

Theo Triantafyllidis & Slugabed Present: Still Life With Platypus

Still Life With Platypus, a Fact original commission, sees Theo Triantafyllidis and producer and sound artist Slugabed navigating a series of increasingly complex and surreal vanitases.

Though Still Life With Platypus marks the first time artist Theo Triantafyllidis and Slugabed have collaborated, the London-based producer’s singular sound has influenced Triantafyllidis’s work from the beginning. “I love Slugabed’s music,” says Triantafyllidis, “it’s been a major influence for me that has in some ways made it into some of my works, even though we hadn’t collaborated before.” The multi-faceted work is the latest iteration of the artist’s ongoing experiments with real-time reactive visuals, as part of which he has collaborated with Sun Araw on Velocity Holomatrix Warp 7, a fully playable, interactive experience, as well as with Giant Claw, on the video for ‘Until Mirror’. “I had been developing this system for live audiovisual performances where I could have these scenes built in a game engine, as well as a MIDI input and an audio input that gets plugged into the engine, that can then control all these graphics,” he explains. “Together with some real time triggers and keys, I could be performing the graphics together with a musician. There is something interesting about making both these audiovisual performances and also stand alone videos where I don’t have complete control of how things are going, but it’s more like a collaboration with a system where we are both performing and the end result is more of a performance than it is a pre-recorded, very carefully timelined thing.” This newly commissioned version of Still Life With Platypus sees Triantafyllidis and Slugabed navigating a series of increasingly complex and surreal vanitases, ultra high detail assemblages of crab legs, apricot halves, esoteric knight’s helmets, glowing mesh nets, lit cigarettes and tree trunks, as well as the titular Platypus, revolving and reacting to Slugabed’s atmospheric score.

Triantafyllidis’s preoccupation with the vanitas can be traced back to a much earlier work, How To Everything, with which Still Life With Platypus, which was originally commissioned by Amsterdam’s NXT Museum, shares some playful DNA. In that work the artist attempted to create an algorithm that could generate a theoretically infinite sequence of visually amusing arrangements, a technological inversion of an artistic form historically associated with more existential themes. “Traditionally used to refer to a type of still life painting popular in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century, the term ‘vanitas’ now describes art that meditates on the ephemeral character of earthly pleasures and worldly accomplishments, and highlights the fragility of our desires in the face of the inevitability of death,” writes Triantafyllidis in a text accompanying How To Everything. Rather than a sombre monument to the transience of life, How To Everything and Still Life With Platypus both represent the artist’s darkly funny vision of the flattened, technologically mediated, eternal expanse of the now, what he describes as “devices, animals and plants all connected. Always on, always augmented.” A constantly evolving contradiction made manifest, Still Life With Platypus subverts the traditional function of the vanitas and still life painting, eschewing the loaded symbolism of everyday objects contrasted with skulls and gold coins and instead demonstrating that, thought possibilities of computational art might be infinite, the freedom to create everything doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything. “Fragments of today’s internet culture are treated as archeological finds that are repurposed to fit the needs of artificial life,” writes Triantafyllidis. “YouTube ‘How To’ videos, trompe-l’œil, video game artifacts and computer graphic demos inform this new language of painting, hopping around the uncanny valley. The result is a never-ending orgy. Just like in real life.”

As with Triantafyllidis’s explorations with computational humour in his live simulation and performance works, Still Life With Platypus serves as sustained reflection on the complex nature of comedy and the difficulties computers have with analysing and generating things that are genuinely funny. “I’ve been spending a lot of time reading all these research papers about computer scientists trying to make a machine that tells a joke,” he says. “I’m trying to think about how they are trying to completely deconstruct humour. Humour is this bizarre thing that when you deconstruct it immediately stops being funny and stops being effective. This is an interesting paradox.” Rather than attempt to take it apart, Triantafyllidis stays tapped in to the never-ending orgy of life online, carefully arranging absurd assemblages highlighting the inherent, cosmic humour of internet aesthetics. Though a computer might not be able to make you laugh on purpose, watching it try is often even funnier. As Slugabed’s wonky synths lurch into motion and a ghostly arthropod glides overhead, Triantafyllidis’s techno-vanitases refuse to stay still. As snatches of modulated voices, detuned piano and squalls of noise announce themselves, a virtual garden of delicate flowers blooms amongst a suspension of purple gloop. The titular platypus springs forth, its slightly upturned beak flashing an approximation of a smile, a knowing, anthropomorphic grin directed at whoever might be trying to make any sense of its impossible surroundings. Better to relax into the somnambulant sounds of Slugabed, float free like the platypus you want to see in the (physical) world.

For more information about Theo Triantafyllidis and his work you can follow him on Instagram and visit his website. You can find Slugabed on Bandcamp and on Instagram.

Watch next: Theo Triantafyllidis Presents – Anti-Gone

Theo Triantafyllidis Presents: Anti-Gone

Theo Triantafyllidis adapts Connor Willumsen‘s graphic novel Anti-Gone into an experimental work of hybrid theatre, performed with one foot in the physical world and the other in the virtual.

A playful strain of theatricality runs through all of Theo Triantafyllidis‘s work. Even his earliest works have the quality of carefully directed vignettes or sketches, turns of phrase, jokes and metaphors manifested visually within the design aesthetic of his complex interplay of objects and systems. As part of his 2018 series Role Play, he assumed the virtual costume of a non-binary, blue haired ork avatar to highlight the inherent performativity of his work both in and for digital spaces. In Radicalization Pipeline and Ork Haus, Triantafyllidis casts himself as both actor and dramaturge, using machine learning to enable an improvisational approach to live simulation while at the same time painstakingly designing and implementing intricate virtual stages upon which his simulations can run. Anti-Gone is the result of the artist bringing together all these aspects of his art practice on a physical, IRL stage. “I was already thinking a lot about performativity in VR and the relationship to avatars in my ork avatar series,” he explains. “All of that project was based on recording, rather than real time performance. I was starting to understand that there is so much potential in doing this in real time and having a game engine that allows for a world that is performing in real time and having performers that are interacting with it.” Based on Connor Willumsen’s graphic novel of the same name, Anti-Gone is a hybrid theatrical performance in which one actor wearing a motion capture suit faces out into the physical world, while the other stays in VR for the entire duration. A technicolour, post climate collapse, video game engine-generated world is projected on the stage behind and beneath them, a living, breathing ecosystem, brimming with apathetic people and toxic, tropical plant life which reacts and changes in response to Triantafyllidis’s prompts.

“I’m fascinated with theatre as a medium and the theatrical language,” says the artist. “In theatre there is this magical thing where a performer can say, ‘here’s a pen,’ and you don’t need to see the pen, you just know it’s there. It’s all based on make believe, theoretically you can create entire worlds with an empty stage and a few performers, asking the audience to imagine everything. There’s a big paradox in this entire project, whereby working with the game engine is this tedious process of planting every single tree and every single object in a very precise place in space, constructing this illusion in the exact opposite way, being very literal and very precise and having to construct everything from scratch.” Working live alongside a musician, a third performer, who performs and controls a host of secondary characters, both physically and with a controller and microphone, Triantafyllidis has complete control of the environment of the play using a game engine, with the ability to change the weather, the time of day, the traffic of the boats that navigate the flooded city where the play takes place, as well as behaviour of the NPCs that populate the world. “All together we are performing the world in real time,” he describes poetically. “I was very optimistic at the beginning of the project,” he continues. “The comic book has two characters and a few scenes so it seemed pretty manageable to make this game engine with the tools I had at the time, but this slowly snowballed into an entire long term theatrical production with a full video game production team working alongside and trying to have the two constantly in dialogue, making huge changes in one another. I felt like we were trying to discover a new language for performing and a new way of building a game world that is able to accommodate this type of situation.”

Anti-Gone follows a dysfunctional sci-fi hipster couple, Spyda and Lynxa, as they persistently ignore the catastrophe that surrounds them to play out the mundane conflict of their failing relationship. Disconnected from themselves, each other and the world around them, they argue, fuck, score drugs and go to the cinema, completely immersed in a miraculously persistent swell of consumerism and neoliberal, anhedonic pleasure seeking. Read as contemporary homage to the dissociation felt by many in the face of the breadth of adversity experienced the world over during the pandemic, the story of Anti-Gone, which was published in 2017, has renewed resonance. Though it is clear the world around them is broken, Spyda and Lynxa’s capacity for emotional response to the situation has atrophied, shrunk in the salt water of rising sea levels. Rather than concern themselves with looking outward, they find solace in a reality of their own making, in the altered states achievable through the drugs they self medicate with and in the turbulent currents of their own domesticity. This turbulence is reflected in the infrastructure of the play itself. “The female protagonist and performer is much more grounded in the base reality and the stage she has, she can directly interact with the audience and break the fourth wall,” explains Triantafyllidis. “The guy is just completely immersed in the virtual environment, he cannot see the audience and can barely see where the other performer is. There is this kind of disconnect between the two, through this extremely complicated set up they have to interact with each other.” By synthesising the emotional disconnection of the play’s narrative and the physical disconnection of the play’s form, Triantafyllidis achieves a fully realised vision of technologically augmented improvisation.

“The whole performance is based on the two lead performers acting more as players within this game, with us on the other side putting up challenges for them to overcome,” he explains. “A big part of this is improvised, they have to quickly respond to what is happening while following the core storyline of the script.” By replacing the bots of Radicalization Pipeline and Ork Haus with living, breathing participants, the artist emphasises the potential for unique forms of communications and interactivity achievable through hybrid applications of AR and XR technology. For Triantafyllidis, the metaverse isn’t the means to remove the physical restraints on commerce, but a collection of tools by which it might be possible to create entirely new forms of art. In the case of Anti-Gone, this might be an entirely new form of public theatre. The initial run of performances of the play took place before the pandemic, an early, proof-of-concept at Human Resources in Los Angeles, followed by a fully fledged premiere at Sundance in 2020. Covid-19 forced the production team to adapt the show for an online audience, which was shown as a livestream performance at a few online festivals during the darkest days of the pandemic. “We made this decision to cut the stage and put it completely behind the scenes and only livestream the game engine side of the project,” the artist explains. “It became this very bizarre puppet theater animated film with the livestream chat happening on the side and the performers being able to see that chat and interface with it. There was this very uncanny and unsettling sensation where you felt like you were watching a 3D animated film that was responding to what you were saying, but the whole machine of how this was working was not transparent.” The experience opened the Triantafydillis’s eyes to the collaborative, crowd-sourced potential of these experimental livestream performances, which allow for the possibility of real time, communal improvisation.

“Because it was being performed in real time and because it was so responsive, it gave the audience a feeling of togetherness,” he explains. “The sense that this was a unique moment in time, that we’re all going through together, a performance that is happening for us right now and that we have the privilege of seeing it as it’s happening.” It can at times be hard to see the good in the slow but sure osmosis of public space by corporate expansion, something that challenges the role of the artist and gives rise to the obsessive refinement of artworks into capital we have seen proliferate across the NFT space over the last few years. But in Triantafyllidis’s exploration of possible bridges between the virtual and the physical he finds optimism in online art spaces. Anti-Gone, in its physical and online iterations, points towards the kind of things we might be able to say to each other and the kind of interactions we might be able to have when we are able to integrate this technology into an intrinsically communal, collaborative art practice.

For more information about Theo Triantafyllidis and his work you can follow him on Instagram and visit his website.

Anti-Gone Credits:

A Performance in Mixed Reality by Theo Triantafyllidis
Commissioned and Produced by Onassis Culture

Writer (Original Comic Book) – Connor Willumsen
Key Collaborator – Matthew Doyle
Production Manager, Set and Costume Design – Polina Miliou
Curator – Mari Spirito
Cast – Lindsey Normington, Zana Gankhuyag, Matthew Doyle
Composer and Live Music Performance – Cameron Stallones
Lighting Engineer – Connor Childs
Motion Capture and Movement Coach – Rachel Ho
Lead Programmer – Stalgia Grigg
Lead 3D Character Designer – Joseph Melhuish
3D Artists – Sara Drake, Ryan Decker, Siyao Zheng
Documentation Video – Nina Sarnelle, Brian Echon
Motion Capture technology provided by Noitom MoCap

Watch next: Theo Triantafyllidis Presents – Ork Haus

Theo Triantafyllidis Presents: Ork Haus

Theo Triantafyllidis presents a nightmarish vision of the metaverse that is part live simulation, part experimental theatre, drawing as much from The Sims as it does Lars Von Trier’s Dogville.

“Imagine if you could be at the office without the commute,” enthused Mark Zuckerberg in the 2021 keynote announcing his company’s leap into the metaverse. “You would still have that sense of presence, shared physical space, those chance interactions that make your day, all accessible from anywhere.” In this vision of the future, virtual reality has been transformed into a fresh vector for data commodification and online shopping, a means of transcending the pesky limitations of physical objects and our corporeal forms from Meta’s infinite expansion into every facet of our lives. “The metaverse will remove many of the physical constraints we see on commerce today and make entirely new businesses possible,” he promises. Ork Haus is artist Theo Triantafyllidis‘s response to this promise, a nightmarish vision of the metaverse in which the truly monstrous aspects of working from home and the technology that continues to enable us to do so are the subject of a work that is part live simulation, part experimental theatre, drawing as much from The Sims as it does Lars Von Trier’s Dogville. “Whether we like it or not, being in the new media art scene you are very, very close to Silicon Valley culture,” asserts Triantafyllidis. “In some ways we are doomed as artists to be running behind whatever new platform Facebook decides to roll out. I’m trying to be critical of these technologies and expose both the nonsensicality and complete impracticality of some of these ideas. Being familiar with this technology for a few years now it was very transparent to me that a lot of the things that Mark Zuckerberg was presenting in the Meta presentation were very, very far from being realized, even with their resources.”

In Ork Haus, the titular ork family struggle through a Web3-enabled purgatory of their own making, driving each other mad in an eternal work-from-home nightmare that evokes all the pandemic neuroses and anxieties of the last two years. “The whole simulation is based on the logic of a Sims game,” explains Triantafyllidis. “Each of the characters has their own needs, like hunger, fun and bladder, that they have to respond to over time, but depending on which of the characters are next to them when they are doing these actions, the actions will be affected and they have to interact with the other characters. At the same time, conceptually this whole thing is a very horrifying version of the metaverse, where this entire family is working from home, in a forever locked-down situation. The dad is dabbling in some crypto investments and trying to run a small crypto rig in their bedroom, that’s also used for heating. They’re caught up in this hustler, entrepreneur, Web3 family life.” Randomly generated vignettes convey the comic tragedy of the ork family’s precarious situation, resulting in chance encounters from which it is possible to piece together a rough narrative. The Y-front sporting patriarch delivers brutal corporal punishment to an orkling as we see familiar weapons from Radicalization Pipeline hanging on a wall of the family home, a sly nod to the multi-platform gaming applications many cite as the primary use case for NFTs. The ork father warms himself by the flames of his overheating crypto rig as one of his orklings teaches themselves to code; the ork matriarch desperately attempts to meditate as her husband snores beside her; daddy ork gets lost in his VR headset as another orkling tries on a dress in the bathroom where, moments later, daddy ork sits weeping as the tap drips next to him.

These moments of technologically mediated ork domesticity, though in many ways mundane, are elevated in their monstrousness to symbols of the contemporary human condition, experiences that are just as sisyphean as the eternal war of Radicalization Pipeline, but brought much closer to home via shared metaversal truth. Though voiced with crude grunts and snarls, each of the orks is capable of subtitled human speech via banks of quotes compiled by the artist and distributed between the family as part of a rudimentary dialogue system. Partially written by Triantafyllidis himself, partially cribbed, fittingly, from Zuckerberg’s Meta keynote and partially generated using the GPT-3 neural net language model, which was fed a selection of academic white papers and sitcom scripts, the dialogue of Ork Haus phases in and out of intelligibility, occasionally cohereing into an exchange resembling an irate family dispute, before falling back into nonsense, the parroted maxims of tech press releases and cryptocurrency forum dwellers. “Monster Theory is an interesting way of trying to understand the human condition and psyche through exaggeration, seeing how you can use physical appearance as a way to communicate interior feelings, finding these vectors and extrapolating them to the extreme,” says Triantafyllidis. “For me, it’s a more scientific method of examining things, where by extrapolating and exaggerating you can get deeper into understanding some things.” In Ork Haus, the monstrous is the mundane, the intensely dysfunctional family dynamics and their torturous living situation transcending their ork flesh into something profoundly relatable. “I guess it’s similar to the Simpsons in some way,” suggests Triantafyllidis. “You make a cartoonized, exaggerated character and then it somehow becomes more relatable than making a specific decision about body type or race, making the situation more universal, oddly enough.” 

However it is the emotional and, in some instances, racial stereotypes that orks have represented historically that drew Triantafyllidis to the characters in the first place. “Orks have specifically been very fascinating for me,” he explains. “They were definitely popularized by the fantasy genre and it’s interesting that they have been used as this default enemy, cannon fodder thing in Lord Of The Rings, but in World Of Warcraft and Warhammer there are a huge amount of players that actually prefer being orks. There’s this interesting shift in the perception of them, so it’s interesting to try to play with this misconception. Lord Of The Rings presents them as the enemy in a very racist way and their aesthetic treatment in Warhammer is still pretty racist, but in Warcraft and in later games the popular understanding of them is starting to shift and we’re starting to see them having a more developed culture of their own.” This development can be observed in relation to Radicalization Pipeline. While Ork Haus features familiar weapons and some shared combat animations, rather than pure aggression we see instances of laziness, vanity, frustration and joy as the family goes about its day, a more complex, though ultimately just as horrific, infinitely repeating routine as those embroiled in an eternal war. Another radicalization pipeline, just by a different name. “I like to examine where this ork culture is coming from and what it’s referencing in terms of real life cultures,” continues Triantafyllidis. “One thing I truly relate with them on is that they’re always presented as making these very crude but efficient war machines, which is related to this idea in modernist architecture of form following function. This is a pretty common trope in design, but seeing how the interpretation of this by orks comes with these very funny results makes it much more relatable.” 

It was this common ground that, in 2018, led Triantafyllidis to choose an ork as his artistic alter ego. “I spent quite a few months in virtual reality, looking at myself in the virtual mirror, looking down at my body and really trying to become this character, to change my movement, my speech, the way I was thinking, to see how that would mess up with my perception of self and the perception of my body, and how that would then, in turn, affect the type of work that I was making,” he describes. In a self-described effort to queer the ork aesthetic, Triantafyllidis’s avatar is a butch-femme ork with blue hair and aggressive pretensions of grandeur, whose testosterone-fuelled art practice is underlined by very literal heavy lifting. In Painting, the artist’s ork avatar creates a painting in virtual reality with digital paint splatters, scribbles and bold, violent lines, a painting that was reproduced physically for his show Role Play, which took place in 2018 at the Meredith Rosen Gallery in New York City. In the same series, the ork avatar constructs a statue to the ancient greek goddess of victory, Nike, out of sci-fi junk in the middle of a virtual studio, filled with digital objects painstakingly designed by Triantafyllidis. This dichotomy, between the very real work of making digital objects using design software, and the performance of virtual work carried out by Triantafyllidis’s ork avatar, is borne out in Ork Haus, where the notion of physical labour is subverted not only in the online entrepreneurial drive of the ork family, but in the form of the live simulation, in which, through the application of formidable technical skill, Triantafyllidis can sit back and let his work simulation as artwork run for as long as the computer has electricity. It’s a hilarious interrogation of the realities of what Mark Zuckerberg describes as an “embodied internet,” as well as an incisive critique of the monstrous potential of what the Meta CEO describes as “the creative economy we’ll all build.”

For more information about Theo Triantafyllidis and his work you can follow him on Instagram and visit his website.

Ork Haus Credits:

Live Simulation – Theo Triantafyllidis
Motion Capture Performance – Rachel Ho

Watch next: Theo Triantafyllidis Presents – Radicalization Pipeline

Theo Triantafyllidis Presents: Radicalization Pipeline

Using surreal humour and an absurdist aesthetic sensibility inspired by high fantasy, classic science fiction, MMORPGs and niche online communities, Theo Triantafyllidis builds immersive worlds that pry at the wider capabilities and broader ethics of the technology used in their creation.

Theo Triantafyllidis was making art in the metaverse years before Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of his company with the promise of a new, immersive, “embodied internet.” Before Meta had revealed its vision of a virtual world with the expansiveness and interactivity of Ready Player One and the expensively rendered digital architecture of a particularly luxurious WeWork, Triantafyllidis was spending months in his virtual art studio, building digital sculptures in virtual reality. During this time the only discernible difference between his virtual and IRL practice was that, for this project, the artist assumed the role of a muscular ork, an avatar he has used across a series of works probing the limits of what a virtual art practice might look like. Even before he had made the transition from architect to artist, Triantafyllidis was acutely aware of how physical public spaces were fast becoming a thing of the past. “I felt like making traditional buildings was somehow irrelevant to my thinking, because the spaces we are cohabitating are becoming increasingly online”, he explains. “I was very drawn to becoming more of an architect of the metaverse and trying to think what that means for the architectural profession: how do you translate this very old history and tradition of making buildings into this new medium? How can this knowledge be transferred? How can we make online community spaces that are interesting in the way that they’re structured and the way that they can enable new kinds of interactions?” 

Triantafyllidis graduated from architecture school in Athens just as the 2008 financial crisis was hitting its peak, throwing the global architecture and construction business into freefall. After relocating to Beijing he became involved with an active community of artists making work that foregrounded the internet as a medium, projects that took the legacy of Net Art and Post-Internet Art and refocused those references through an architectural lens, inspired, in part, by the monolithic skyscrapers and entertainment malls that Triantafyllidis was working on at the time. It was at UCLA, where he enrolled to complete his Master’s degree, that the then architect was introduced to the game engine softwares that would open up a completely new way of conceiving of space and become instrumental in his art practice. In the years since Triantafyllidis has developed a highly technical, uniquely acerbic and deeply multidisciplinary approach to making work, using interactive experiences, mixed-media installations, extended reality and live stream performances, as well as live simulations to build immersive worlds that pry at the wider capabilities and broader ethics of the technology used in their creation.

Using surreal humour and an absurdist aesthetic sensibility inspired by high fantasy, classic science fiction, MMORPGs and niche online communities, Triantafyllidis carries out a sustained critique of the tech industry and the wrestling of new technologies away from the benefit of the user and user-generated communities in the interests of corporate expansion, financial growth and the commodification of information. The way he achieves this can be understood in the interplay between two central aspects of his art practice, computational humour and AI improvisation. “I like computational humor as a concept because it is a very niche research objective within computer science that’s analyzing how the human brain responds to humor,” he says, “trying to create a mathematical formula for what is funny. In my work I generally like to have a humorous aspect because I think it’s something that has the capacity to break the audience’s defenses and be a first line of approachability in the work.” This comedic drive can be traced all the way back to one of his earliest simulation works, How To Everything, in which the artist attempted to create an algorithm that could, in theory, generate an infinite number of visually funny scenarios. In a gesture that bears contemporary resonance with the conspicuous barbecue sauce bottle placed in the background of Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta keynote, these scenarios throw together precarious physics and random objects within different environments with what the artist describes as “empathy, effort and failure.”

Triantafyllidis’s work with live simulations comes to its most complete expression with Radicalization Pipeline, a RPG-inspired battle royale which renders online social platforms as literal zones of conflict whilst demonstrating the artist’s improvisational approach to A.I. “I feel the most interesting aspect of these live simulation works is the connection to theater and live performance, how you have these very simplistic AIs, that are usually used in games for enemies or player interactions, that can be directed in the same way a theater director would direct actors,” he explains. “By giving them simple instructions you can create a performance score that is producing an infinite variation of some specific situations and you are able to produce humorous results out of that.” Across a flat expanse of concrete, Triantafyllidis whips between different perspectives, flitting between a top down, god’s eye view reminiscent of table top strategy games and the shaky, NPC-locked perspective of a first-person action game. Under a sky burning orange, MAGA cap wearers brandishing claw hammers fight alongside hulking orks dragging battle clubs and flails. Special Ops teams in riot gear wield sci-fi swords and shields, sprinting into the fray while dodging Antifa super soldiers and independent militia members holding fascist presenting flags high above their heads. Furries batter Proud Boys, cyberpunk elves band together with crypto anarchists, each with their own intricately rendered weapons and armour.

“With Radicalization Pipeline a few of my ideas about live simulation have started to crystallize,” says Triantafyllidis. “It’s more transparent to people that this is happening right now, it’s easier to point out that all these characters are in there and are, frame by frame, second by second, making small decisions on what to do based on who is around them, where they are right now, the friends and foes that surround them.” Programming each type of character with differing stats cribbed from RPG systems, such as health points, speed and strength, the artist adapts the concept of ‘boids,’ a classic artificial life simulation model within computer science created in 1986 by Craig Reynolds, to create infinitely repeating iterations of hostile crowd dynamics, where friends will join together to defeat foes and search for weaker enemies. As each of the characters is killed, they fall through the floor, only to be resurrected moments later to rejoin the battle. “For me, live simulations and the infinity that they can produce is closely related to the myth of Sisyphus,” continues Triantafyllidis, “how all these characters are really trapped inside the simulation and have to repeat these actions over and over.” The futile skirmishes that make up Radicalization Pipeline serve as a hilarious and poetic response to the synthetic approximations of person to person proximity that social media platforms take as their ground zero. “This idea of proximity is quite paradoxical,” notes Triantafyllidis.

“The internet is all about dispersing and cutting down on distance between people, but I think that our brains are somehow hardwired and excited by this idea of proximity and being able to represent that in virtual spaces has been around in video games and online multiplayer worlds for forever.” Without some careful curation of each group’s behaviours and allegiances, Triantafyllidis admits that early versions of the simulation resulted in even more chaos, with all the characters piling into a huge sphere of death. This is where the artist’s conception of programmer-as-dramaturge is manifested most clearly, as he describes: “the thing I spent most time on developing this work was fine tuning all these values and the range of these values so that the overall choreography of the crowd would always feel dynamic and evolving in some way.” The practice of crowd curation within the virtual space of Radicalization Pipeline is resonant with Triantafyllidis’s wider thoughts of how the virtual spaces of social media platforms, as well as their respective radicalization pipelines, function less as spaces for communication and connectivity and more as enclosed sites of conflict. “Now we have come to a point where everything is so walled in by social media platforms. There’s still the excitement of discovering new accounts, or new people, but I personally find that this feeling of excitement, of browsing through an expanding field, has now become a feeling of anger and dopamine hunting through the linear feed situation.”

“The incentive to discover new things has now been offloaded to the algorithm, where we are now being told to let the algorithm tell you what you like and what you want to explore and give you the new things you want to see. It even feels like random encounters are not really random anymore, it’s always within the bubble you are presented.” Radicalization Pipeline is one such bubble, where encounters are random, yet dictated by highly focused algorithms to guide behaviour and movement. Yet within the concept of boids, a decades-old precursor to the kinds of live simulations that Triantafyllidis works on, the artist finds the potential for a more community-oriented model for the ways in which we will exist online in the very near future, within and without Zuckerberg’s Metaverse. “I am personally interested in the spatial quality of communication in a more 3D-based Web3,” he says, “where instead of hearing all the voices together from the entirety of the internet, you need to be physically close to a group that is online to listen to their voice and exchange information. These smaller groups are perhaps more meaningful, as they can incentivize chat and friendly interactions.” Far from the sisyphean hellscape of Radicalization Pipeline, free from the walled gardens of social media platforms, for Triantafyllidis, Web3 offers the potential for staying clear of the pipeline, granting us a space where it is possible to lean in close to listen.

For more information about Theo Triantafyllidis and his work you can follow him on Instagram and visit his website. Radicalization Pipeline is currently on show at Among the Machines, a group show at the Zabludowicz Collection.

Radicalization Pipeline Credits:

Live Simulation – Theo Triantafyllidis
Sound Design – Diego Navarro

Watch next: Stephen McLaughlin & Maxwell Sterling summon images from the digital void in Decay Time

Fact Mix 853: Jamz Supernova

A 3am club mix full of inspired blends from one of the UK’s favourite DJs and presenters.

Over the past decade, Jamz Supernova has grown to become one of the UK’s most multi-talented dance music figureheads. As a DJ, she regularly plays to main stage festival crowds and holds down the club with sets that explore global club sounds, broken beat and UK funky. On radio, she is a familiar voice on BBC Radio 1Xtra and also on BBC 6 Music, where her Saturday afternoon slot has become one of the station’s must-hear shows. With her label, Future Bounce, she helps to incubate rising and established talent.

The common thread that runs through Jamz’s career is the genuine excitement of bringing new music and older gems to her audience, no matter where she’s playing. It’s the same exhilaration that runs through her Fact Mix, which begins with ROSALÍA’s ‘CUUUUuuuuuute’ and continues at lightspeed with productions from Chloe Robinson X ADHD, Mella Dee, Joy Orbison and Floating Points, and is filled with the kind of inspired blends that are likely to make fellow DJs envious.

“The theme of the mix is it’s 3am somewhere,” Jamz says. “I wanted to capture the rawness of DJing in a club at 3am and feeling like you can mix anything! It’s raw and energetic <3”.

Follow Jamz Supernova on Instagram. You can also listen to her podcast, DIY Handbook on Apple and Spotify – it returns with a second season soon with guests including Conducta and Sam Interface. Jamz will also play at Brighton’s Patterns this summer, as well as festivals including Love Saves The Day, Kala, Sónar and We Out Here.

Tracklist:

ROSALÍA – ‘CUUUUuuuuuute’
Bianca Oblivion – ‘Selecta’ 
Daddy Yankee – ‘Machucando’ (Nick León Bubbling Mix)
Villager – ‘Rave Bender’ 
Protect Ryan – ‘DJ Weddings & Receptions’
Chloe Robinson X ADHD – ‘Redbull’
Mani Festo – ‘Leviathan’
Danny Goliger & Justin Jay – ‘Sticky Rice’
Joy Orbison – ‘Pinky Ring’
Floating Points – ‘Vocoder’ 
BIG DOPE P feat. DJ SLUGO – ‘Work Move Shake’ (LAUREN FLAX Midwest Jacker Remix)
LSDXOXO – ‘The Devil’ (Tygapaw Remix)
Mella Dee – ‘Ridgewood’ 
Asna, anyoneID – ‘Abissa’ 
Dismantle – ‘Hammertime’ 
Busy Twist – ‘Yagga Skank’ 
Sam Binga x Foreign Concept – ‘BAMF’
Sister Zo – ‘Don’t Test Me’
Bodhi – ‘Drop One’

Listen next: Fact Mix 852: Nene H 

Heinali performs live from a bomb shelter in Lviv, Ukraine

The composer, sound artist and modular synthesist will perform new material based loosely on the on 12th century organa of the Notre-Dame school, which is taken from a new album he was unable to finish due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Heinali is the musical moniker of Oleh Shpudeiko, a composer, sound artist and modular synthesist from Ukraine, who back in 2021 featured as part of Patch Notes, our ongoing series exploring modular synthesisers and the art of making electronic music with hardware. On Saturday, April 2, at 17:00 GMT / 19:00 EEST, Heinali will livestream from a bomb shelter in Lviv, a city in west Ukraine where the musician is currently based.

He will perform new material loosely based on the 12th century polyphonic organa of the Notre-Dame school and earlier medieval polyphony, on his modular system that he was able to save in his relocation to Lviv. The new material is the foundation of his new album, Organa, which he has not been able to complete due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The performance is part of Live from Ukraine, a series of live-streamed concerts featuring Ukrainian musicians performing works of Ukrainian and foreign composers. Set up by Shpudeiko, alongside Alexey Shmurak, Michael Balog and Ivan Kostyk, Live from Ukraine is described as “a wartime statement on the subjectivity, vitality and resilience of the Ukrainian musical communities.”

You can find Heinali on Bandcamp, Instagram, Twitter and at his website. For more information on how you can support the people of Ukraine, check out Crack’s invaluable list of resources.

Fact Mix 848: Bored Lord

Bored Lord drops us right in the middle of the party we all desperately want to be at in this week’s Fact mix.

Over the years Daria Lourd’s singular approach to dance music has remained consistently exploratory, irresistible and heart-wrenching. Cutting her teeth within the fiercely creative Oakland DIY scene while making art and music as part of the digital collective Rare Nnudes, Bored Lord found a home at underground club imprint Knightwerk before more recently joining kindred spirits Eris Drew and Octo Octa on their label, T4T LUV NRG. Her sound is in constant oscillation, pinging between toothsome hardware jams, joyous pop edits, queasy bass euphoria, pleasure-center inflaming hardcore and amorous, banging breaks, all channeled towards a dancefloor philosophy that is, to use the words of Eris Drew and Octo Octa, “pressed loud and built out of love between queer and trans people…the same love we use to survive.”

Like her labelmates at T4T LUV NRG, Bored Lord demonstrates how propulsive energy and ecstatic sound can serve as both a celebration of the queer and trans people that have pioneered, make, play and dance to this music, as well as a vital space for queer and trans resistance. Across a series of essential releases, including the impeccably titled Transexual Rave Anthems, delusional breaks, T-Groove and The Last Illusion, as well as two edit compilations, instinctual, liberated physicality has remained Lourd’s resolute focus. These are tracks for bodies and souls, music for hearts and minds. “This mix is a good reflection of what I’ve been playing at gigs recently,” explains Lourd. “A lot of breaks and basslines and drumwork lead the way with a mix of modern tracks and classic throwbacks.”

“I also included some unreleased music that I’m testing out. I recorded this live on the full moon at Lower Grand Radio to give it that raw NRG feeling. Hope it makes you dance around and keep reaching to crank the volume knob.” Throwing together classic cuts from Zone, The Cotton Club and Kaotic Chemistry, contemporary anthems from AceMo, KW Griff and James Bangura, stand-out tracks from a host of rising producers such as OSSX and Nikki Nair, as well collaborations between Bored Lord herself and Bastiengoat and Introspekt, Lourd’s mix drops us right in the middle of the party we all desperately want to be at.

You can find Bored Lord on Instagram, SoundCloud and Bandcamp.

Tracklist:

Zone – ‘Eternal #2’
Ali Berger – ‘pod’
AceMo – ‘Strings of Time’
Russell E.L. Butler – ‘God Is Change’
Varda Hayes – ‘8888’
Bastiengoat x Bored Lord – ‘Thallium’
The Cotton Club – ‘Nu Jack’ 
DJ Mike B – ‘Feel The Energy’
RTCHRD – ‘FEEL THE MUSIC’
Fear E – ‘Principles’
OSSX – ‘Big Yawn’
Bored Lord – ‘Whatcha Lookin For’
Kaotic Chemistry – ‘Drumtrip’
KW Griff – ‘Phil Collins’
afterdark recordings – ‘Energizer #1B’
Ell Murphy & Stones Taro – ‘Hours’
Bored Lord – ‘and the DJ keeps it sincere’
James Bangura – ‘Pinky Ring’
Introspekt x Bored Lord – ‘Early Hours’
B Wen – ‘Zero In’
bastiengoat – ‘Page st’
Bored Lord – ‘Get Loose’
Nikki Nair – ‘Way of the Void’
Introspekt – ‘It’s Cold Up North’
Escaflowne – ‘Hard Playa’
SP*RIT – ‘AIR SUPPLY’
Bored Lord – ‘In Unison With Others’

Listen next: Fact Mix 847 – DJ Lyster

Azu Tiwaline & Defasten conjure audiovisual talismans, live at MIRA 2021

Adapted from a live performance at the 2021 edition of Barcelona’s foremost digital arts festival.

Azu Tiwaline translates the enveloping silence of the desert into atmospheric washes of polyrhythmic dub and techno, combining elements of Tunisian ritual trance music associated with stambali, a group healing rite of chanting and dance, with dense electronics. The artist’s moniker can be translated from Berber as “eyes of the wind,” an image that speaks to the organic textures of her sound, a sonic exploration of her roots in the Tunisian Sahara. When digital artist Patrick Doan, aka Defasten, was brought together with the producer for the 2021 edition of Barcelona’s foremost digital arts festival, MIRA, it was the rich history and invocation of space within Azu Tiwaline’s sound that he felt most drawn to.

“I settled on a visual language derived from talismans – timeless objects of religious and magical power of infinite designs that protect, heal or can cause harm to targeted individuals,” explains Defasten. “Another prominent visual feature is the inclusion of geometric symbols or icons that embody various significance related to geographic landmarks, the natural order and social codes. Together with the talismans, these objects of power exist in a landscape out of time, within a dimension outside of normal human perception.”

As impossible objects shift and spin around each other, Defasten allows us a glimpse of the crackling energy of their live performance, including holograms of Azu Tiwaline, captured using a Kinect camera, and a reconstructed, digital approximation of the MIRA stage. Meeting the organic textures of Azu Tiwaline’s sounds with intricately rendered virtual objects, Defasten draws out the magical potency of her sonic palette, extending the ritualistic qualities outward, folding the audience into the trance.

In his own words, Defasten has been making digital art “since the genesis of the internet age,” creating generative, audio-reactive systems with a singular, retro-futurist aesthetic. He has made music videos for Detroit Underground, Peter Kirn and B E N N. For more information about Patrick Doan and his work you can visit his website and follow him on Instagram.

You can find Azu Tiwaline on Bandcamp and Instagram.

Watch next: Mike Raymond puts a nightmarish spin on Norse mythology in Urðr

Fact Mix 847: DJ Lyster

The Manchester-based head of YOUTH draws us into a hazy interzone of gauzy electronics and downbeat techno.

Over the past decade, Andrew Lyster has quietly gained a reputation as one of Manchester’s most esteemed DJs and label owners. As one of the team behind the cult club night meandyou., Lyster was responsible for early UK bookings of cult artists such as Frak, Kassem Mosse and Rezzett, cultivating his own style as a selector that leans towards foggy techno, 5am ambient and abstract dub frequencies.

Since 2017, Lyster has been the driving force behind YOUTH, a label whose output of scuzzy electronics and downbeat techno sits in an alternate musical universe. It’s a zone where likeminded artists such as Sockethead, FUMU and Shamos exist alongside the Transatlantic experimentation of Sharp Veins, Georgia and Bryce Hackford, a place that’s refreshingly removed from prevailing trends.

Lyster’s DJ sets and occasional radio appearances share the same exploratory spirit, looking between the cracks for sounds, artists and moods that elude many other selectors. DJ Lyster’s Fact Mix, which was recorded “on a lazy afternoon at Soup, Manchester,” is a set that effortlessly shifts between texture and tempo, combining music from Turinn, Kelman Duran, Silvia Kastel, Sockethead, 1012 and more.

“[The mix includes] quite a few bits that are coming up on the label this year, and a few bits that ‘never leave the usb’ lol,” Lyster writes. “Enjoyed putting this together, finding nice layer combinations and interesting segues.” 

Find YOUTH’s catalogue on Bandcamp.

Tracklist:

Hajj – ‘Loosing U 4 Ever’ [Unreleased]
INFX – ‘Low Repeats’ [Klammklang]
Stonecirclesampler & Scott King – ‘Sheffield City Cuts’ (My Mind – Industrial Coast Mix) 
Silvia Kastel – ‘Mantide’ [Unreleased]
Turinn – ‘Untitled’ [Unreleased]
Ottoswed – ‘وناس تموت حلو’ [Unreleased]
Sockethead – ‘Sian’ [Unreleased]
La Union Metalurgica – ‘Hora De Trabajar’ [Forthcoming L.I.E.S.]
FUMU – ‘Right Future Bounce’ [Unreleased]
Hanah – ‘Ou7ro5p3c71on’ [High Digital]
Hajj – ‘Reverse Catharsis’ [Unreleased]
1012 – ‘Untitled’ [Unreleased]
FUMU – ‘Untitled’ [Unreleased]
Martin Hannett – ‘First Aspect Of The Same Thing’ [Factory Benelux]
Kelman Duran – ‘For Whitney’ – [Boomkat Editions]
J – ‘Yellow Leaf Flutters On A Nail’ (mu tate remix) [Daisart]
Wojciech Rusin feat. Eden Girma – ‘Glass Coil’ [AD93]
SALELE – ‘LELELE For Pitch Division’ [Ominira]

Listen next: Fact Mix 846: Ehua

Mike Raymond puts a nightmarish spin on Norse mythology in Urðr

Artist, director and animator Mike Raymond stares into the void and finds a Norse god.

Drawing inspiration from legendary anime director Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers, artist Mike Raymond proceeds to join the dots between the old Norse Edda, Chris Cunningham’s video for ‘Only You’ by Portishead and The Lord Of The Rings with Urðr, a nightmarish sequence of stunning, hand-painted CGI and foreboding sound design. Centering around a solitary old man, illuminated by a Victorian street light on a bench in the snow, the film follows his encounter with the tituar Urðr, one of the three Norns of Norse mythology, who draw from a scared well to tend to the world tree, Yggdrasil, while deciding upon the fates of human beings.

“In the last few years I have been thinking a lot about certain rules I like to aim for,” explains the artist. “With CG being so endless, sometimes it can just be too extreme. One of the big turning points was through a phase of watching a lot of stop motion. I was having issues with characters and scenes feeling too sterile and I knew I wanted to make emotionally real films, films that felt alive, as opposed to photorealism. Having super realistic human characters and accurate environments was actually part of the problem and in fact stripping things back improved things. I started animating at 10-15 frames per second, hand painting all the textures, particularly for characters skin. When setting up a scene I restricted myself to a certain size as if it was a stop motion set on a table or a sound stage.”

“A big part of my work is centred around this black void I have come to name the Rabbit Hole, a name which is tied to a bigger project that’s been stuck in my mind for a few years,” he continues. “This was probably born out of necessity and not having the budget to work on backgrounds, but is something I have completely fallen in love with. There is a certain lore that has slowly evolved over time and will continue to. It’s a place where you confront your demons, for better or worse. It can trap you, it is a force of its own but can also be used and sometimes can be a mode of transport, between worlds, time, reality and fantasy. It’s become a big part of my language.”

Raymond utilizes this Lynchian nightmare space to drift fluidly between a series of evocative images, from snow illuminated against the dark, grime smudged across the old man’s weather beaten face, the weird, folkloric eroticism of Urðr’s eerie dance, a luminous apparition evoking old trauma and the ominous symbolism of young saplings twisted into a living rune. “I’m not sure I actually remember how the story came about and how all this Norse mythology got tangled in, but I knew I wanted it to be about his past,” says Raymond. “I think it’s one of those ones that just come to you, maybe the Rabbit Hole sent it?”

For more information about Mike Raymond and his work you can visit his website and follow him on Instagram.

Watch next: Yoshi Sodeoka & Julian Zyklus wade into an ocean of sound with Waterpiano n.2