QUALIATIK - Discarnate
Living and non-living things work hard. Buckling under strain, fractured into grist, materials are pushed beyond their capacity — crumbling under an empyrean pressure, a gravity whose source still remains unknown. The Standard Model of particle physics still can’t account for gravity: one of the simplest rules of our universe, and one that accounts for the movement and statehood of both the living and non-living. Still, it pushes all inward, into dust, into oceans, farther still into the burning cores of countless planets. We and them are bound to this anonymous force, toiling away, while the non-living are pushed around, laboring even still as their substance bores into the muck: constantly shattered and reformatted. This is a kind of chronic, cosmic pain that defines our relationship to materials and cuts across ontologies. Yet, within this force, there remains a kind of surplus, cognitive labor between the living and non-living: a discarnate force of unspoken and unsettled energy simmering away at our psychic perimeter, occasionally spilling out into this world, destabilizing our boundaries. Things leak out into our vicinity: unexplained seismic events, 10,000 UFOs, dobby the house elf. There is tension between our bound state and the discarnate; there is still so much that we don’t know.
Pulling from their studies in neuroscience, Brooklyn-based sound engineer, performer, producer, and multimedia artist QUALIATIK’s work addresses the traumatic collision between the material and the abstract, specifically how the anxiety of a body bound to form gives rise to other forms: forms that demand articulation in the wreckage between the psyche and embodiment. This tension exists at the very intersection of the heard and unheard in music; as a result, music and the physical wavelengths of sound become prime sites for the evocation of the discarnate — a place for them to become substantiated. Discarnate, the eponymous namesake of QUALIATIK’s new EP, are “abstract, noncorporeal entities in the psyche that have a life of their own.” Music, a medium with distinct and measurable physics, but also one entangled in and incongruently affected by our various psychological states, becomes a carrier signal, or a host substance, that QUALIATIK uses to encode traces of a series of non-corporeal relationships and characters. The EP becomes a summoning ground for these entities and a stage for the artist to nurture them in a substantiated form. Through music, the artist works with the discarnate on their own terms: an ephemeral setting lasting for but a moment — a fleeting sonic glimpse into form existing interstitially between the physical signal of sound and the artist’s manipulation of it — music’s breakdown, its disintegration, its evocation, its sheer emotional intensity.
QUALIATIK thoroughly nurtures discarnate energies through a constellation of work, methods, practices, and identities that all form a distributed, networked space for the entities to thrive. One of the hardest working beings in NYC, they currently host “Paracosm,” a nocturnal DJ residency at H0l0 in Ridgewood, Queens, that has become a kind of hybrid space that houses many of the themes that the EP showcases: shared concern with unseen forces, be that underrepresented artists in NYC’s experimental music community, or the actual (rare) communal sharing of sonic space without any pretense other than voicing unheard sound. Similarly, they (along with Dasychira and sentinel) curate Unseelie (named after the folkloric classification of faeries), a curatorial platform and experimental event series that gives further refuge for such discarnate forces.
Even more, as a visual and tattoo artist, they give visual interpretation to the forces they are contending with, often through ornate ink drawings that make their way inked into skin. A unique insistence on the discarnate’s complex relationship to embodiment — and the fact that these characters might even emerge through the discomfort of embodiment — tattooing becomes an extended project to nurture their ephemerality on a grander physical scale, allowing these beings to unfurl with the body in solidarity with it, through its decay, as a reaction to the emergencies both we and them undergo through identification. Recently, they created a FaceFilter through their label and visual art platform Psychoid Devices, a virtual skin that quickly went viral, implanting the discarnate characterization across the multiplicity of faces. Again, this work emphasized a kind of empathic solidarity shared between bodies and identities when considering the unvoiced. Finally, all these forces seemed to oscillate around the premiere of the music video for “Mother Tongue,” Discarnate’s first single and a total visualization of the thematic elements of the EP. A true achievement and colossal expression of the possibilities of DIY community and art practice banding together to consider and physically represent invisible forces, the video features an immense cast of friends and associates working across medium (from video effects to nail technicians). “Mother Tongue” becomes a showcase of how far our desire to embody the discarnate can go, a triumph of personal vision and the obsessive plight to give agency to the unseen.
Discarnate’s sound is stalwartly abstract, despite QUALIATIK’s obvious affections for pop music and the ability for melody to draw out the emotions so entangled with the shrouded characters that make up the music’s abstract ensemble. The EP’s more accessible areas and orientations are empathically conjured to reach out wide with emotional content, an embracing decision that sprawls out passionately from the EP’s more coiled, esoteric tendencies. “Tiamet” immediately presents a disembodied sonic palette that the entire work regularly refers back to; flexed, taut blasts of sub-bass and errant frequencies form the gnarled vertebrae that support draping pitched-vocals and willowy synths. “Mother Tongue,” the aforementioned centerpiece of the EP, stretches out of the previous track’s ambience, unleashing a maniacal, gothic-baroque melody that descends hauntingly over a detailed, industrial rhythm. Matching pace is “Presage,” the EP’s next overtly pop moment; these tracks form an inspired mix between Ghost In The Shell OST’s “Inner Universe” (by Yoko Kanno & Origa), Evanescence, Enya, or Marilyn Manson, coalescing with the ecstatic genre sensibilities of t.A.T.u. or the vocal snarl of early Deftones. More abstract cuts like “Discarnate I” give ample space for QUALIATIK’s entities to become further substantiated, as poetic lyrics expand from blooms of ambience and machinic foley. Eventually, the track bursts into an ecstatic proclamation, a lyrical and literal breakdown that essentializes the kind of dynamic collapse occurring throughout the EP’s more abstract tracks. The extended lyrical monologue of”Lotus Birth” similarly traverses open territory, giving room for the EP’s tonality to develop fierce amplitude, as voices converse and intone celestially, reciting tome text written in communion with secret forces.
Throughout the EP’s creation and release, QUALIATIK shared numerous traumatic experiences that informed the music’s wounded tone: squatting in basements lined with decaying rats, caring for a chronically ill child for work, and themself coping with a life-altering tailbone injury. Yet, throughout, damage isn’t presented as a defect; rather, pain is given the empyrean dignity it deserves as the creator of worlds, a gravitational presence that brings materials together in profound empathy. Swirling around this force are the discarnate — not evil forces, but beings in agony, finding solace in their communion with each other in secrecy and in occasional intimacy with material beings. During a recent conversation I had with the artist, they assured that these entities were completely and unequivocally real, and after tapping into a kind of global agony that can only be felt on certain days in NYC, I too felt that they had to be — that pain could bring beings closer in ways that simply aren’t visible — that one could strive, in their words, “to be as soft as possible under the hardest of circumstances.” With an unknown force bearing down, I could begin to understand what she was saying, and I found that I could understand the music too, buckling under strain, fractured into grist, pushed beyond capacity — like sound itself — something invisible all around us — unseen, discarnate.