“I would conceive of a forward-looking art, which seeks its images in the future. Why is there no such thing? Art attaches itself to reverence” - Friedrich Nietzsche
Friday, June 7, 2013
TimH Gabriele picks up on a recent FACT magazine story on the excessive number of returns by legends in 2013, which he describes as "a litany of comebacks and reunions, the past
regurgitating itself, a perverse ouroboros wherein death is staged,
sometimes only for a few years, only to facilitate the cycle of rebirth".
He argues that this is not revivalism but "the zombie vanity project... a ouroboros that doesn't
engender recreation, just reaffirmation", i.e. "brands" who rematerialize in a swirl of hype. "The reaction to the music itself"--The Next Day, m b v, Random Access Memories, Tomorrow's Harvest-- "is almost secondary. Simply returning
in and of itself reestablishes the brand, and thus pushes the act into
the contemporary.... The result is a 2013 in which a flood of old names have become
Gabriele finds something "almost heartening" in this trend, evidence of "a
collective nostalgia" for the Album as Event. Certainly Daft Punk have explicitly restaged the mass psychology or mass fan-libido structure of anticipation/delay/witholding/mystery as a renegade act of time travel, a return to the Analogue System.
I would also argue that these acts -- Bowie and My Bloody Valentine, but to an extent also Daft Punk and Boards of Canada, whose rise to eminence predates the broadband era - are Analogue System creations, whose high stature in the popular imagination stems from the ability of the old Analogue System (i.e. major labels, centralised music media, etc) to build legends (even semi-popular legends or cult legends in the case of My Bloody Valentine, in which particular case it also worth remembering that the music of m b v wouldn't even exist without the extraordinary largesse of Island Records for the better part of an entire decade, their belief in investing in music's outer edge).
In other words, these comebacks are the reactivation of latent or dormant or stored monocultural energy.... the recapitalization of assets accrued and built up in the past through a system that has now almost wholly crumbled away and whose replacement, the Digital System is not, I suspect, creating phenomena with equivalent mythic profile or durability.... or future reactivate-ability.
Gabriele also notes gloomily that "there hasn't been a whole lot that has popped up from
the margins to demand attention like Death Grips did last year" and that "as I scan the blogs and the zines... it still seems like
music at the current moment is being swept up in investment into
(diminishing) returns rather than the shock of the new."