The Gorgeous Dumpster: 100 gecs, Fire Toolz, nascar aloe, and L.O.T.I.O.N. Multinational Corporation
Astra Taylor had the good sense to doll Zizek up in a reflector vest and film him in a garbage dump for her 2008 documentary Examined Life. The documentary, skewed toward left and liberal thinkers, captures different philosophers as they walk around central park, or ride in a taxi cab, or row a boat, or what have you.
But not Slavoj. Slavoj’s at a dump.
For his scene, he lays out the general reactionary romanticism inherent to most ecological thinking: our Promethean industrial tendencies have severed us from the sacred root of nature and climate change is “Mother Earth” exacting her revenge on humanity for this transgression. Economic development serves as our Fall from Eden.
Zizek finds this unacceptable. I agree. Industry, from the second we struck flint to make fire, has defined our relationship with nature. Or, more pointedly, industry is nature. We aren’t separate from the natural world, we’re part of it. The correct position, then, is to reject both the pat eco-Romantic Fall from grace and the dismissive scientistic rejection of that same romanticism as both profess our “separateness” from the natural world. Nature and industry are enmeshed — now more than ever.
He takes this to a surprising place. Zizek moves on to claim that if there’s any “aesthetic dimension” to be had that it must involve garbage, must include a way to cherish what’s been cast aside and turned into refuse. I appreciate the carefully chosen “aesthetic dimension,” which side-steps engaging with more traditional conceptions of beauty because to focus on garbage, on what we leave behind and forget, is to aspire to a different task even if the resultant work could potentially qualify as beautiful. Interrogating the waste is to interrogate something fundamental but disavowed about our world and ourselves. And this isn’t just postmodern pastiche — it’s about creating an authentic, modern New, not just a collage of the old. Garbage changes, after all. Even decay can surprise us with new forms.
For music, I think we’ve entered into this aesthetic dimension, and I’m thrilled. Bubble gum bass, nightcore, trapmetal, etc. all dredge up the digital “garbage” of the internet and turn it into something alive and captivating.
What follows is a list of bands, by no means exhaustive, that I feel participate in this aesthetic dimension, the gorgeous dumpster.
1. 100 gecs
I can’t say enough about 100 gecs. I’m in love with their album, 1000 gecs, and I’m amazed that it exists. They’ve hoovered up myspace music, ska, nightcore, autotune, and everything else left along the roadside. But what I appreciate most is there “over agreement” with the excesses of pop music. The glossiness, talking about how much money you spend (but wait now you’re out of money), the giddy party-vibe that feels incapable of delivering the kind of ego-death you get at the club — all of this comes together into a sum greater than its parts. Laura Les and Dylan Brady have hit a nerve I’m still learning to describe. But it sounds like the odds and ends of our culture datamoshed into a hyper mosaic. I’ve never heard anything like it.
A friend sent me some tracks from Fire-Toolz a few years ago. He described it as “having a nightmare in Windows XP.” Often that still holds true when I listen to some of Angel Marcloid’s music, but it’s also like having a flashback or a daydream in XP.
What I mean is this: what do I do with all those memories of games that can’t be played, but shaped my aesthetic sensibility, with the abandonware of life that accumulates at the outskirts of my mind? Fire-Toolz sounds like that all blended together, but taken somewhere else. I feel like I’m on some sort of digital frontier, looking out at this novel realm of memories laid out before me. (Marcloid might disagree with me here. I’ve seen her thoughtfully discuss her relief at the death of modernism’s imperious demand for the New on Twitter.)
And I’ll also say that moving through a Fire-Toolz album can often feel like one of my morning meditation sessions: fits and starts of random chaos, resistant feelings, bad memories, but then moments of refuge and true peace pass through. Given what I know about Marcloid’s diligent and inspiring meditation practice, I hope what I’m picking up on isn’t too far from the mark.
3. nascar aloe
nascar aloe makes me feel like the kids are alright. Trapmetal is basically the future of punk — labels like Epitaph have already picked up on this and have started signing some of these soundcloud and trap metal acts. When I listen to nascar, I feel like I’m out in a garbage dump smashing shit with a bat. The beats are over-compressed and redlining and super minimalist. Run don’t walk to this stuff. This kid, and those like him, are the future. They’re playing in the digital and physical rubble of the world that’s been left for them.
4. L.O.T.I.O.N. Multinational Corporation
L.O.T.I.O.N. (Legacy of Terror in Occupied Nations), the brainchild of visual artist Alex Heir, and stands as the most analog acts enumerated here. But that’s what gives it the “garbage” feel.
I don’t share some of Heir’s concerns about things like overpopulation or what have you. I think that’s usually an aristocratic anxiety gussied up with eco-concern. And I don’t think technology is the root of all that kills. But there’s a coldwar, Command & Conquer aesthetic at play here that I think is deadly smart.
The past doesn’t go away just because you stop looking at it, just like the garbage we throw out every day. Heir’s floppy-disk, b-movie/arcade game replete with a kind of Kissinger lexicon and skronky guitars brings that reality to the fore. It’s fertile ground for exploration and his music re-invigorates all the old tension from before the “end of history” — a hauntology the way Mark Fisher had it.
You can listen to a playlist I’ve made for this piece here.