Giant Claw - DARK WEB
“The brands that built their empires around accessibility and ubiquity (hazy shopping) succeeded through distribution, not the enigmatic force of their branding (thoughtful purchasing). They forgot that saying who you aren’t is just as important as saying who you are. Limits localize you. They tie you to a certain place, and more importantly to a certain vantage point. When your products can be bought just as easily in New York as Shanghai (not to mention every Factory Brand Outlet in between) it’s pretty difficult to convince the consumer that you’re doing anything different from anyone else.” – K-HOLE #1, “FRAGMORETATION: A REPORT ON VISIBILITY”
Let’s consider DARK WEB as a sonic manifestation of NYC “trend forecasting group” K-HOLE’s FragMOREtation concept — a marketing strategy aimed at contextualizing a brand through negatively-positioning a product. FragMOREtation describes the process of designing a less-than-obvious advertisement scheme in order to attract a potential consumer into brand loyalty. This can range from Brisk™ tea’s hilarious “Not Half-Bad” ad campaign to the simple act of not disclosing the address to a warehouse event. The goal is to get people hooked and interested in the hidden, unknown benefits and qualities of the product for sale. As such, DARK WEB fragMOREtates the whole of Soundcloud drivel — those dominant sounds swimming around in the website’s cascading wall of noise — and uses them to covertly shroud a serious emotional agenda in a cloak of technological mayhem.
The space the album creates is a little more “wacko” than your standard gloppy plunderphonics album; DARK WEB is an outlier because it’s not based on the premise of creating simulacra; rather, every track sketches out a view of organic mental architecture that is intertwined with a modern, emotional situation. There are secret feelings concealed within the tumult, feelings that might even be genuine, natural, longing. The longing is for MORE — more ideas, more sonic elasticity, more acrobatic music — all rooted in quicker composition. Our material condition — embodied, but virtually extended — demands technologically-aided rapidity and ease. Yet, there is still the need for biotic release through a visceral melody, a straight-up rhythm, or a cultural frame. Giant Claw is using common-denominator images and sounds: romanesque statue, 808 kick-and-snare, stock-MIDI hoopla, R&B voice samples, etc. to compartmentalize the aesthetic eclecticism of 2014 into digestible, cellular tracks soaked in empathy. Yet, the question remains: is DARK WEB an indictment or celebration of these tropes? Or, is the confusion of intention here — the veiled emotionalism, the biological strangeness — meant as a universal catharsis, a return to feeling for those assaulted with the coldness of infinite information?
Rather amazingly, people are still saying things like “this sounds like the internet.” “DARK WEB 002” and “005” both suffered this qualification in the album’s initial, generative blog-buzz. It’s a shame, because I have no idea what that means, other than maybe “This is music being made right now.” TMTer Adam Devlin put it more succinctly: “It sounds like therapy for a generation who grew up with the internet, where the density and modularity of music has flourished at such a rate that we never get time alone with just one song or idea anymore.” Our accelerated condition has forced compositional strategies of cultural pastiche, irony, etc. to differentiate between and push sounds into unheard realms, to give us new spaces for our intellect or emotions to react within. Similar to the saturated market, where there is the need for a fragMOREtated advertising strategy to distinguish the brand and create interest, DARK WEB plays with the psychology of demand by nearly weaponizing cultural content; it uses fashion as a means to situate a nervous sentimentality. Out of necessity, the record utilizes a sugar-coated sonic palette; it’s loaded with those infernal “internet sounds” and is steeped with tinges of footwork, trap, vaporwave, sound collage — all that stuff you likely see quite a bit over in Chocolate Grinder (<3). “DARK WEB 001” begins by unloading the repetitive hit of the all-knowing 808 sub kick, quickly exploding into piano rolls and sultry, chopped soul samples. The materials are well known, but more interestingly, there is a near-virtuosic control of arrangement and progression — I’m never bored, because I’m constantly being fed sonic candy AND (somehow) feeling an odd tingle… it’s all making me feel… inspired, even emotional?
Similarly, the crescendo in the latter half of “003” is a slow-burning, whirlwind of an adagio; I swear I haven’t felt that sort of orchestral ascension since my high school Neon Bible-banging days. Considering all that’s happened since those days (you know, all the music: 2009, 2010, 11, 12, etc.), it makes sense that it’s a MIDI choir and chipmunk-y-pitched vocal sample that are creating the emotional turbulence. Much appreciated are tracks like “004” or “008,” where careful attention is paid to negative-space; the sounds are given a small bit of room to breath and flourish as melodies are stacked and deconstructed in beautiful, floral clusters — fragmented rhythms meander, minor fourths are raised and diminished freely, masterfully. Yet, even given these moments, some will likely complain about how fucking jam-packed the album is with freewheeling, wild moments — things nearly fall apart in “005” due to just the sheer amount of ideas flying by. I hate to say it, but any exhaustion felt at the end of this record is most likely due to not enough virtual exercise — the soreness you may feel in your head, your ears, is lactic acid built up from years of not paying enough attention.
If DARK WEB were any longer, one might begin to suffer. But the album’s nipped off with a beautiful, billowy conclusion — MIDI trumpets chorus a group of digital angels who sweetly bring the whole storm to a tensely gorgeous end. Especially here, it’s difficult to avoid a comparison to the recent work of Daniel Lopatin; however, whereas OPN’s R Plus 7 was a formal deconstruction, Giant Claw’s approach is perhaps more confrontational in its pace, its insanity, its sheer relentlessness in giving in to far-out impulses and emotional indulgence. But that’s what’s most endearing about the album: although its cover art has the stock (at this point hilarious) inclusion of the romanesque statue, it is not a 3D-rendered high-definition object. Instead, it’s an oil painting — penis-less, with an orb spewing strange nucleic liquid. It’s the organic representation of an image loaded with weird digital significance, a return to our biological embodiment with mastery of the digital form — using it freely, even naturally.