Musing our religion: how groups of post-human musicians of the net are taking us to heaven
From the psychedelic subjectivity of hypnagogic pop to the corporate objectivity of vaporwave, a new underworld of musical mysticism emerges through stark LED screens and 3D graphics to combine them into their own ‘harmony of the spheres’. Offering a holistic approach to creativity, of mind, body and soul, artists like New Orleans’ Transmuteo, Contact Lens and PSYCHIC LCD find meaning and ultimately peace within their New World wilderness of digital flux and hypercapitalism. From the soothing mantra of “I deserve my success” in Transmuteo’s ‘Motivational Holography Suite’ to the simulant vocal cloning of PSYCHIC LCD’s ‘Ident Dream’, they create a new religion where money is god and science its unknowable offspring.
Music used to be a spiritual experience. As the art of the Greek muses, up until the Renaissance the Western world practiced it almost exclusively in the ritual invocations in praise of God Almighty, Ancient Egyptian modes surviving to this day through Sufi dhikr rituals. A medium of the gods, Hathor created melody, while Osiris used it to civilise the world, an abstract way to make sense of a senseless universe. It would be an understatement to say that thinking has changed since Antiquity. Although impossible to characterise a single global consciousness, a good part of modern civilised thought rests on the objective, infallible and universal law of Science. Of course, that’s not entirely true. While offering a workable model for building skyscrapers, making computers and programming software, there are still infinite empirically unclassifiable elements to existence that can’t merely be solved through variations of 0s and 1s. Not only that but as its very product, being technology, becomes more complex, pervasive and, ultimately, alienating –when communication exists in an invisible cloud, our very identities embodied in handhelds –our responses to it are equally mystifying.
As founder of new media art collective THE ETERNAL INTERNET BROTHERHOOD (not restricted to brothers), Angelo Plessas, states in their manifesto, “ancient mythologies can network our contemporary condition”. Plessas and company organise annual summits on mythical Greek islands and Aztec soil to work on their computers and be inspired. Here, they harness the “creative offline and metaphysical online,” while recognising that telepathy is real thanks to Snapchat and the Internet is astral projection. Fatima Al Qadiri, extends on that intercultural, cross-disciplinary, pan-global notion of the contemporary experience with her Tri Angle project, Ayshay, mixing gender-bending, pitched-shifted Islamic prayer into the eerie sonic collages of her imagined Gulf dystopia. Contact Lens’ visual aesthetic conjures images of queerly Utopian Mormon ads and Jehovah’s Witness conversion pamphlets, while both read as an attempt at syncretism, bringing together ideas, sounds and philosophies, traditionally in opposition, to reflect the greater (hyper)reality of modern culture. It’s a place where shopping mall stock music, heard through the low hum of consumerism, is interrupted for Azan prayer; where women in Abayas accompany their children next to artificial ski slopes and pyramids made of snow. Even Transmuteo’s Soundcloud tagline reads “Astral Pangea”, Pangea being the hypothetical landmass that once connected all the continents.
These artists might easily confused with the “New New Age”, of Sun Araw’s warped meditations, Salem’s Wiccan imagery and oOoOO’s Tao symbolism, but they emerged as a perceivably retrogressive fetishisation of 90s pop throwbacks circa The Craft and E.T. These musical neotranscendentalists, however, create a sound based entirely in the present; an experience of the world through an evolution in abstract thought that lingers somewhere between the fallacious notion of objectivity in science and the counterproductive confusion of postmodern subjectivity. Here, the pervasive thrust of corporate culture has been absorbed, internalised and elevated to Divine Creator.**