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[Music Monday]: Sonic Warfare
Got a few heavy hitters visiting us on Friday night. Rhythm as social manipulation. Weaponized sound. Dive inside the mind of Kode9...
By Dec 8, 2014 Nightlife

Music Monday is a weekly SmartBeijing column, serving up fresh audio/video streams from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever).


OK let's get serious for a minute. This music's not all fun and games. Got a few heavy hitters visiting us on Friday night. Rhythm as social manipulation. Weaponized sound.

Kode9 (photo by Maximilian Montgomery)

Gig of the week is Kode9 + DJ Spinn @ Dada on Friday, easy. This is, I think, the third time Kode9 — née Steve Goodman — has come through China, as always under the banner of Shanghai label-cum-progressive party brand Sub-Culture. But this one's special. First of all, Hyperdub celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Here's a cut from their discog that might ring a bell:

Opaque 2-step / garage producer Burial may be the biggest name that's emerged from the Hyperdub matrix (Hyperdub released his self-titled debut in 2006, 2007 followup Untrue, plus a smattering of EPs), but Goodman has always been the steady hand at the helm. His debut LP as Kode9 also came out in 2006, a collaboration with MC Stephen Samuel Gordon, aka The Spaceape. Here's one off that (with some sample sharing):

Over the last decade, Hyperdub has established itself as one of the most important generators of new electronic club sounds in the UK, really in the world. Goodman's work as a producer, DJ, and label-runner has essentially made "dubstep" a household word. But Hyperdub's dubstep is pre-haircut, pleasure-center-detonating bassline dubstep. It's critical sound. Goodman has some academic bona fides in this department. He studied with controversial svengali-philosopher Nick Land in the '90s, under him co-running an ambiguously provocative, guerrilla multi-media arts and post-human exploratory think tank called the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit. Dive into that whole thing here if you want. He also wrote a book — published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, no slouches — called Sonic Warfare, treating the salient subject of "Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear." Not really a page turner in the classical sense, but I've slogged through it a few times and here's a choice cut for you:

The “nonlethal” sonic weapon under study was the “vortex ring generator,” de- signed to “target individual[s with] a series of flash, impact, and concussion pulses at frequencies near the resonance of human body parts,” forcing evacuation from the zone of disturbance, fighting social turbulence with air turbulence. Such tactical instances of sonic warfare draw attention to the directions in which control of volatile social groups, “far from equilibrium,” is developing through the investigation of volatile properties of material systems “far from equilibrium.” Such cases serve as a portal into the problem of turbulence and its controlled propagation through the management and intervention into the rhythmicity of urban systems, the modulation of the ecology of fear and its affective potential to spiral out of control. It is in the context of these basic population dynamics that sonic warfare should be understood, intervening into the affective ecology of crowds."

If you just skimmed right over that one, I'll reiterate the last few words: "affective ecology of crowds". That's sort of Kode9's game here. In a long 2009 interview with UK's Wire magazine, Goodman talks a lot about rhythm as control mechanism, bass as unconscious body cue. And this has in many ways shaped the direction not only of Hyperdub's output, but UK bass music in general. He operates in a unique nexus between academia and the dancefloor, serving the latter while constantly dissecting it, analyzing. Here's another long pull-quote, from that aforementioned Wire int:

What interests me about these rhythmic culture things is that they’re one way of people doing things together, in time, that operates underneath or adjacent to ideological concerns, political concerns and so on. And part of that is they tend to operate contagiously. You got possessed by these dance crazes, they move like vectors through populations, from body to body, people copy moves, and don’t necessarily have control where they suddenly break out

On top (or in spite) of all that: his music's good. Broody, minimal, slow-burning, but with the proper sound system (and you can expect that at Dada on Friday): a calculated sonic attack on the body. As producer, selector, and intellectual checklister, Goodman has a keen sense of what makes people move.

Aside from celebrating the major career milestone of Hyperdub's anniversary, his 2014 tour also rings bittersweet. This year, Hyperdub suffered some heavy losses in the form of the untimely death of Chicago's DJ Rashad — arguably the most prominent HD affiliate after Burial — and the passing of Spaceape, one of Goodman's earliest and most frequent collaborators.

To represent the other side of the Hyperdub universe, DJ Spinn from Rashad's Teklife label is also making the trip out to China. He does fast Chicago ghetto house, aka Chicago Juke, also Footwork, just listen:

So the summary of all this is: Kode9 / Hyperdub have been on the vanguard of bass-oriented dancefloor sonic warfare for a decade now. In addition to that anniversary, this tour also commemorates the 7th anniversary of Sub-Culture, who've placed their own small mark on the Hyperdub worldview. About half of the tracks on Kode9's 2011 LP Black Sun feature Sub-Culture crew member Chacha on vocals, and one of Goodman's more recent singles is named after a pre-eminent Shanghai nightlife lane:

One more stream to seal this one: here's a one-off mix that Kode9 made in anticipation of this tour called "Welcome to Shanghai", a follow-up to a mix he made in 2005 according to some hidden rules of a non-existent genre called Sinogrime (not even getting into that whole thing, but check out the original sinogrime mix here).

All that said: highly recommend you check out Kode9 (Hyperdub) and DJ Spinn (Teklife) on Friday, December 12 @ Dada.


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