hyphology

"hyphos is the tissue and the spider’s web"

Tag: Music

The Life and Death of a Subject: On Dance Gavin Dance’s Instant Gratification

Who are you? What are you all about? Tell me about yourself.

In these and many other colloquial requests, what is interrogated is none other than the “self.” The self is what each one of us has, but no two are exactly alike. Your self makes you a unique individual, although the structure of selfhood is common to all. This structure is what I would call subjectivity. One has subjectivity (meaning, one is a subject) by virtue of being a unique individual (that is, having a self). While the notion of self may not be controversial in itself, its precise domain has eternally been unsettled ground.

There are those who maintain that the self is what stays constant amidst our changing experiences. For our entire lives, we harbor the same self within us through to the end. However, there are experiences that chip away at our faith in an eternal self. A common experience is looking back at ourselves as we were in the past. Who has not seen a picture from their childhood and thought: “Was that really me?” Yet the past is not the only realm in which one’s self seems precarious. The experience of the “uncanny” in the present can lead one to feel out of step with oneself. This feeling of being at odds with oneself can also occur in our anticipation of future events. The anxiety associated with an imminent break in routine can make one feel the poverty of one’s current self. Nevertheless, each self adjusts, in one way or another, to every novelty.

The occasion for these comments on subjectivity is the recent release of Instant Gratification, the latest album from Dance Gavin Dance. The album provides a timeless meditation on the manifestation and annihilation of subjectivity. The “you” referenced in many of the songs is none other than the subject’s dialogue with itself as it struggles to make sense of the world. While the lyrics are conceptually dense (contrary to what one popular critic believes), they resonate with the form and style of the instrumental sound.

Our current task is two-fold. First, we must clarify how Instant Gratification deals with selfhood and subjectivity in general. Second, we will underscore the contribution that the album makes toward a new theory of subjectivity. Given the fact that the album follows the chronological life and death of a subject, I have chosen to follow the same order from the first to the last track. The album reveals no less than the transcendental structure of subjectivity as it is grasped from the subject’s point of view.

Album Art

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Poppin’ Xanax: On Lucki Eck$’s Body High

Lucki Eck$’s second album, Body High, is only the most recent work within a milieu that has been slowly coming into focus. One might say that this milieu (known here as disavowalist works of art) first became visible in Charles Baudelaire’s prose poem, “Be Drunk!” However, this was only the first manifestation of a tradition that has always been clandestine; radical disavowal is akin to an untranslatable secret, like those (un)covered in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. Having just been released this month, now is the perfect opportunity to look more closely at a contemporary example of this tradition.

In this album, we find the mutual manifestation of challenges to the sovereignty of the autonomous subject, projected “lines” of escape through drugs, and the search for a community of those who have nothing in common. Eck$ leads the listener on an outlandish Bildung in which the transgression of law is only the first act. We float along with him, at different rates of speed and slowness, like drunken boats who dance on savage waves. The light at the end of this bizarre trip is not the lighthouse guiding us home, but the illumination of transactions yet to come. Read the rest of this entry »