Klein - cc
Recently, after writing on Klein’s 2017 EP Tommy and weaving in an analysis of her music into the 2017 year-end essay “Traditional Music of a Wrecked Species,” I feel compelled to create distance from any analysis of her music as “disjointed, beguiling, flawed, chaotic, messy” and also “abstracted, cathartic, degraded.” In 2018, I’ve seen the contrarian and obfuscating qualities of her music taken up in comparison to off-the-grid musical abstraction, grossly exaggerated as when Pitchfork compared her work to Jackson Pollock, Captain Beefheart, and The Shaggs. Also, my own comparisons of her work to Sun Ra and the heralding that her music demonstrated “the complete limits of our current technology” (technology that simply could not sufficiently contain or adequately express her music) hits off the mark in what Klein’s transversal, multiplicitous sound has in store — that is, music for a Disney Princess, Furby-like voodoo doll made from obsidian and melted Laffy Taffy, not revelatory of anything our critical gazes could hope to extract, but rather an inaccessible mystical horcrux with googly eyes whispering “we’re doomed” between prodigious chuckles, starkly indifferent to our species-specific failures, content to “laughing and crying” as adequate responses to this wrecked life.
In an essay on Ulysses Jenkins and the Non-Ontology of Blackness, artist, writer, and curator Aria Dean writes on various possibilities of a new black universalism in relation to Jenkins’s video and performance work. She writes beautifully on the expansion of blackness that begins to repair or move beyond its originary “ontological failure.” While I invite you to explore the certain complexity of these arguments as well as Dean’s source material (material that footnotes a transversal approach to Afro-pessimism and black optimism that cites Fred Moten, Frank Wilderson III, and others), therein is suggested a trans-ontological extendability of the opacity of blackness, one formed from the 1000% absorptive/reflective quality of trauma as a paradoxical shade of emptiness and fullness. Dean goes on to suggest that “the prism effectively positions blackness as a stance from which all else must be thought, much like François Laruelle’s uchromia, wherein we might ‘think from the point of view of Black as what determines color in the last instance rather than what limits it.’” In this frame, the view that Klein’s music would be an effort of “abstraction” or even the fact that it would attempt to map the limits of a given music technology fails to a grander analysis that Klein is Disney music. Evidenced in [Care](https://archive.ica.art/whats-on/care), Klein’s responsive fantasy musical set in a care home, we can see her profuse onstage clustering of this all-encompassing universality. Moreover, with cc, Klein’s new EP self-described as a “come-of-age record written about myself to myself,” we should consider her approach as the only Disney music. This is the trans-ontological stature to the disjunctive, spiraling quality of Klein’s music, with any and all materials caught up in its orbiting and consuming gravity.
In this way, cc is Klein’s most “spirally and Disney record yet.” The EP opens with crowd noise, clipped ascending pads, and saccharine harps that announce a vocal feature from American artist Diamond Stingily, who contributes a reading to opening track “Collect.” Stingily is a poet, writer, and exhibiting artist who recently debuted Kaas (at Queer Thoughts Gallery), Elephant Memory (at Ramiken Crucible), and was the star of Martine Syms’s video Notes on Gesture (at Bridget Donahue), all in New York. She deadpans familial scenes about the embodied immutability of a baby’s past lives, speculates on the presence of dairy-free ice cream in heaven, and generally extends the character of Klein’s compositions — their rooted brilliance, their implicit meditation on kinship and character — into poetic form.
The EP as a whole expands upon the character Stingily sketched in her poem, fleshing it out into a scribbled-out cartoon, its hues bleeding out over its figure lines. Both “Slipping” and “Stop” serve as variable-speed cybernetic renderings of lurching, bowed voices (humming, cheering, yelling); the samples are shot into the sky, into outer-orbit, as if told to escape this doomed earth. Klein turns their cacophonous underbelly into dirge-like boleros, transforming them into a Fantasia 2000-style gargoyle scene where bats flutter around gothic archways and rock-outcroppings, the stalagmites appearing stably content to wear Mickey wizard hats as their price to pay as being a part of such a wretched planet. “Explay” resamples Tommy’s “Runs Reprise” into an even more utterly mad shape, as mutated pitch-shifted vocals call out: “I don’t give a fuck i just want to die, man/ I don’t give a fuck, I just wanna cry, man/ Just leave me here, I just want a ride, man.” Eventually, Klein’s characteristic hum ambles above the scorched plain — and it doesn’t give a fuck.
The EP’s overall affect is relatively bleak, despite it also being a Quinceañera anointing Klein as an actual Disney princess. “Apologise” and “Last Chance” bring the record into a fully musique-mystique-concète frame, while shades darken into an extended, extra-flattened vision of noise music. All the easily appropriate-able elements of her work — her use of freeware Audacity, her “youtube-concrète” style, her love of Nigerian B movies, of Andrew Lloyd Webber, of Toni Braxton, of Mariah Carey — all become transparent ghosts shown off in cc’s last minutes. Her voice, somehow both husky and wraith-like, is left as the irreducible and frozen core of this essentializing process, revealing, perhaps, that these are still songs — sad songs, theme songs for something fucked up and also celebratory, free.
Earlier this year, I felt something like this bleakness when I witnessed the NYC intelligentsia both rush the stage and shuffle about aimlessly during Klein’s performance at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York, a situation that, while compelling in its transversal presentation of Klein’s work in the flawed and barely-clinging-to-life context of New York’s avant-garde and experimental music culture, was hard to take in. The scene seemed to emphasize the implicit tension between cosmic pessimism-optimism that Klein’s music contains; although, here, in this context (a warehouse-turned-gallery in Harlem), something felt suffocating, as if the tunes demanded that the whole of New York’s pundits should either start tossing around a rubber ball and play wall ball against the brick exterior of the gallery or else get out. cc is an undermining of pessimism/optimism into a uniquely incognito form, a peripheral orbit away from this space, and an insistence on proclaiming an irreducible, all-encompassing, inaccessible subversion always. Lastly, cc is a bona fide Disney soundtrack for the Frozen planet we partially inhabit in 2018, and the one we will surely wrought; it is a celebration soundtrack for the subzero spatial winds that hurtle through space on the tail of a comet, bound for us, intent to rip the atmosphere off earth as confetti, laughs echoing in the infinite darkness remaining.