Rabit & Chino Amobi - The Great Game: Freedom From Mental Poisoning
Maybe its a crass comparison, but the necessary aggression emanating from NON, an aggression now also being funneled into Rabit’s newly minted Halcyon Veil imprint, is similar to the harsh austerity that aims to minimize spending and encourage increased frugality in the financial sector. Their aesthetic austerity serves as an indictment for the state of cultural oversupply, the rampant and often grotesque artistic deflation that has occurred through the freely absentminded use of software platforms by the masses. NON, particularly Chino Amobi, has long been incredibly adept at hovering drone-like over the mayhem and ruins of culture; he has consistently offered incisive, brutal commentary that operates as a gesture coded between a high-five and a stab-in-the gut to culture at large. His oppositional violence encircles culture in the manner of an alpha-wolf — directing by example and by fear, to the point where THE GREAT GAME’s leading quote remarks: “There is a fine line between Piteous Gate and The Great Game,” to unknown affect. The reference itself is compelling, offering a political side-chain to a quote on M.E.S.H.’s Piteous Gate: “There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.” The way in which the oblique reference functions is unclear. Regardless, it’s the political orientation that’s essential, one that seems to be organizing the critically engaged, musical powers that be to not only build personal visions of future through music, but to rip apart the symbology that’s been flying around electronic music this year in an effort to “purify” the mental poisoning that can occur through culture-consumption. As such, my initial visceral reaction to the mix was: game over.
And that’s exactly the kind of commentary Rabit and Amobi are offering: an extended critique of “The Game” as it exists as a binary institution of musical bureaucracy, a structure that distributes, arbitrarily and infinitely, positions of power to the players who arrange their little pieces in the right formation at the right time. Of course, the two are optimizing their oppositional tactics within the state of aesthetics, enough so that Halcyon Veil hired Kyselina, one of the best 3D artists in “The Great Game,” to design their visual presence as a gorgeously grotesque Decepticon-style icon. All of this organizes a phalanx to push through the rampant dominance that occurs at the level of signification; THE GREAT GAME devastatingly pours gasoline on the whole of culture, urging that there shouldn’t be any wasted labor regarding the world’s thoughtful electronic music. The capitalization that occurs at the level of energy drink sponsorships (from QT to Red Bull) and “game-winning” relational aesthetics inevitably flows into capitalized features, interviews, and panel-discussions, into the very structures that position the disruptive potential of music into new rock stars who ultimately just help us forget our problems. But Rabit, Amobi, and NON are underground, and this is what happens when the underground pays enough attention to the culture of alienation and structural oppression that occurs through the glorification of symbology, a symbology manifesting itself translucently across the vapid SoundCloud network and into the hearts and minds of impressionable “game players.”
As such, THE GREAT GAME is a mix operating as an extended study of game theory in a manner similar to how Lacan knew that the study, as a formalized/diagrammatic practice, accurately revealed the precise limits of the sayable and the representable within Saussure’s semiology. In this way, we see aspects of culture engulfed in the industrial sounds of high- and late-capitalism, the actual metallic noises of production vs. the mechanistic sounds of speculative and cinematic practice. The mix positions various binaries within Game Theory — Cooperative vs. Non Cooperative, Symmetric vs. Asymmetric, Simultaneous vs. Sequential — and contextualizes them within a Metagame that violently critiques the entire culture it actively participates within.
The relational model of political realism, or a geopolitical stage, serves as the macrocosm of the ulterior micro-political battleground of music — the scrap-fighting and sound-mongering happening throughout capitally-forced spectacular game-playing. This is the essential frame of The Great Game at large. The assemblage of a phalanx formation, or the establishment of a “third covenant of the east coast,” are essential resistance efforts against the binary modes of thinking that still plague every level of art production and dissemination. The mix itself is an ecstatic rendering of contemporary electronic music eating itself in a transformational geophasia to the original project of industrial music, actualizing it through the material potency achieved through wild sampling and drum-rack manipulation possible only through open-DAW production. The ecstasy produced, then, isn’t dissimilar from the sheer emotional force possible through the exalted force of Swans or Throbbing Gristle, with all their sonic peaks and witness to destruction, greed, god, and purification. In all his eloquence, TMTer Matthew Phillips discussed Swans’ practice:
“…as if the acidity and diffidence witnessed in contemporary culture are symptoms of the consumption of unwholesome art rather than a response to the ever-deepening alienation into which modernity has thrust us. Although this nostalgia for lost sincerity contains a note of genuine belief in the power of art to heal our existential woes, it forgets the crucial vector of the virus. But at least one corrective to alienation has always existed, and it rarely takes the form of a critical pose or heartfelt sentimentality. Since the beginning of consciousness, the most primal of all methods for generating intimacy has always been the achievement of ecstasy.”
As such, The Great Game fearlessly renders the idea of purification of the unwholesome as an opening of the gates of hell at the iconographic and material level: industrial music’s shiver-inducing darkness is supplemented by the constant sounds of screams, helicopter rotors, and sci-fi weaponry, as if you’ve walked into a climatic Mech battle, suddenly subject to the spectacle disembodied from and turned against the audience as some sickly beautiful détournement. As the tumult intensifies, Donald Hall’s poem “The Man In The Dead Machine” is repeated ad nauseam; its content, sonically realized as missiles and warped explosions, embody the imagery verbatim: “In the cockpit, the helmeted, skeleton sits, upright, held by dry sinews at neck…,” etc. The reader fades away while sirens blare outward, signaling the onset of ascending, detuned synths that support the ever-present detached voice, stating coldly “armed Chinese drones spotted over Nigeria… they think they are invisible.” The voice itself is a constant reminder of the recuperation occurring within aesthetic ecstasy, that these sounds themselves are “twisted, co-opted, absorbed, defused, incorporated, annexed and commodified” within media culture to neutralize and to contaminate the mind, to the point where the best musicians across the globe are willing to have their souls literally sponsored by an energy drink, a commentary explored thoroughly halfway through the mix-file.
Then, yes, absolutely, the “stakes are high” in The Great Game. It’s true that Amobi has long been infatuated with the intersection of Western canonical iconography, specifically with the metaphorical fall possible within an eternal struggle against the impossible — a plight tempered and enhanced not only by Rabit’s own fiery beat-craft, but also by his use of space and its ability to hone and accentuate vulnerability. The intersection is epitomized in their use of Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell” as cover art, a decision tying together Dante and the Furies to the absolute havoc raised through the mix’s quick 38 minutes. After all, the “Purfication of the Furies” can only be known in reference to the Titan Cronus’s castration of his father Uranus, an incident that resulted in the Titan throwing his father’s genitalia into the ocean. The Furies emerged from the bloodshed that rained unto the earth; they were born as tormentors responding to injustice, giving “purification” the connotation of an atonement to the ancient deities. As such, their modern commentary contains a constructed hellish mythicism: painful and noble in equal measure.
The pain emanates from a conscripted history coded to the point where our world is nearly always forced to behave according to the rulebook of a Great Game, where every aspect of our publicly owned culture has eroded into petty reinforcements of a status quo, a complacency, where subversive artistic expression is constantly being co-opted by mainstream culture, rendered as mere fashion or escapist, club-night spectacle. Knowing this, Amobi and Rabit position their will into an act of violent repentance, glowing brightly inward like hot coal and outward like chariots of fire. The two have created something completely devastating, often to the point of inducing tears — tears from pain, pain — they show the “despair of Fifth Avenue, on any afternoon, the people moving, homeless, through the city, praying to find sanctuary before the sky and the towers come tumbling down.”
Their inclusion of James Baldwin’s “Staggerlee Wonders” couldn’t be more fitting; he reads amidst explosive dust, mech-fire, and a sudden, surprisingly serene ambience:
“Perhaps. Perhaps that is why they cannot repent, why there is no possibility of repentance. Manifest destiny is a hymn to madness, feeding on itself, ending (when it ends) in madness: the action is blindness and pain, pain bringing a torpor so deep that every act is willed, is desperately forced, is willed to be a blow: the hand becomes a fist, the prick becomes a club, the womb a dangerous swamp, the hope, and fear, of love is acid in the marrow of the bone. No, their fire is not quenched, nor can be: the oil feeding the flames being the unadmitted terror of the wrath of God.”