The best sounds of 2018, for the worst vibes of 2018 – Part 2

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2018 was another year of great unheimlich. The gigantic cadavers of societies and nations took shape in in our media feeds, crumbling to pieces and flipping their bodies inside out, intestines stretched across multiple realities like vitruvian cenobites in a Van der Meer hallucination.

Facing this, we wove cocoons of emotion, thought and sound where we sheltered to reflect, gather our strength and prepare for the fight ahead.

Here are three.

1. Injustice & Justice

Can an unjust society survive? Can it survive if different groups have opposing views of what justice is? What if different groups have different views of the state of justice? What if some groups don’t care about justice but pretend to?

These questions and many others twist and turn and link up in a network of hypotheses that right now feels precariously poised like a house of cards about to collapse, every component embossed with a cyberpunk logo or dystopian trope.

In 2018 we kept using ambient, experimental electronica and modern compositions to dull the dissonant edge of the discord around us. But this isn’t our soma, a pathway to escape reality into solipsism. No, this music represents for us a democratic space where no sound is superior to the rest, and all work together voluntarily, different and without compulsion, to complete the architecture of a platform where we launch our thoughts.

Many songs represent this spirit. Some of them appeared in the blog this year and some of them didn’t, some await for you around the corner, in January when you will need them most. But if we had to choose someone to carry their banner, it would be Brian Eno, who this year released Music for Installations, a 9xLP boxset where with the sweetest of drones, he convinces space and time to take leave.

This creates a void devoid of friction where our collective intellects expand until they all exist inside each other, in a utopia of eternal becoming, learning and changing.

2. Almost humans

Sigmund Freud once said that one of the most effective devices for introducing the uncanny into a situation was to create uncertainty in the reader about whether a presence was human or artificial. By that token, 2018 is the year when we all realised the extent to which we live in a society of the uncanny, an economy of the uncanny, a reality of the uncanny, that is, of the almost human but not quite. A virtual House of Usher populated by all the dreams and nightmares of the coterie of multi-billionaires who used to live here before they flew off, to New Zealand and Rapture and Mars.

Look around you, at the carnival of the undead. Bots in social media shrieking bout what they think (hah they are mindless) we should do hate-hate-hate and what they feel we should do (hah they are heartless and narrow) hate-hate-hate, yellow electronic eyes scrolling through content and skeleton fingers of information pressing links, videos which could be people or fake people, masks of digital ectoplasm glued over the faces of porn actors caught in the recursive loop of an algorithm of muscle and hate. You speak in our phone and into a server farm by a Nordic glacier where a million GPUs shriek in response, out comes the mellow voice of your ghost assistant with advice about the fastest route to your destination, but was that your destination? How do you know?

Just follow the golden rule of the contemporary Bladerunner: those who don’t hide the seams are the ones with the least to hide.

Here you have two examples from 2018: Holly Herndon / Jlin in collaboration with Holly’s AI dependant Spawn, and Aphex Twin working with Weirdcore.

3. This heat

2018 was another hot year, even for Mediterranean-expats in Britain. We ran by the sea and chilled by the beach, drank expensive beers in gentrified gardens and were mesmerised by the Eastern murmurs. All of this was soundtracked by a bumper crop of neo-balearica revivals and reissues, all hail the convergence of all times in a timeless now.

All our enjoyment was somewhat soured by the realisation that life in the planet will be pretty much exterminated in an apocalypse of water & fire if humanity keeps on like this.

Picture the endgame: a skeleton dressed up in a Hawaiian shirt, washed up by a shore while a solar-powered stereo plays the mysterious Pool Boy in repeat.

Death is a beach.

Happy 2019!