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<nettime> U / Radio & Aural Destabilization

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      this is the first of four short texts]

U / Radio & Aural Destabilization

liner notes for CD compiled by Laurent Diouf for Noise

"A broad drape of sound that seems to hypertrophy the
slowness of the tempo into an almost immobile song."
    --Philipe Carles

"varieties of sounds and silences, terrifying, mysterious,
whirling must somehow be felt in the pulse, ebb, and flow of
the music ..."
    --Hildegaard von Bingen

by bart plantenga

3. Wreck This Mess: Remissions 1: Compilation

I saw Dub Syndicate in NY where the speakers emitted deep,
swelling subterranean tremors--dilated, diffuse, insistent
like a heavy train rumbling through a dense fog, into the
cauldron of the solar plexus until finally--vertigo, awe,
breathlessness--somewhere between hangover and rite of
passage; my partner was mugged by the music; it pressed
consciousness from her body. There she lay, puddle of pretty
unconsciousness at my feet. Further into the evening, mate
in full upright revival, a young man dancing, suddenly
withered and collapsed and then a taffy-legged woman wilted
away, eyes lost in her forehead.

Dub causes wax to dislodge from the innermost portions of
our tympanic nerves--fomenting disorientation,
derationalized music, blurring--sound begins residing both
forward and back, as well as inside one's head (head as
drum) where sound can wreak its havoc, invoke boundlessness,
alter relationships to body, environment, desire, and linear
time. Woofers begin to fibrilate, shred like paper flowers,
let go of all moorings and we realize speakers (like our
minds' ears) were not designed to accommodate such sonic

The subworld is the aural nether where these sounds grumble
along below sea level, snugly hugging the contours of
territory with great spectral and counterfrictional
lassitude, beyond "economies of desire," below fetishized
thresholds of pain, near the edge of all audibility. Where
its signature sound (pungent alloy of ephemeral noise, TV
ghosts, found sound, archival musics, distended metarhythms,
nomadic radio frequencies, hidden currents, mind-altering
echo, natural ambience, auto-piloted composition,
psychodynamic mood enhancement, and disembodied voices),
rumbles along at the somnabulatory frequency of 30 hertz.
Like a dense and spacious iceberg, scraping across a parking
lot, immersive dub produces large vibrations in objects.

This vast substratum's denizens, remain behind their
turntables, in the dark; lit only by constellations of
L.E.D. pinpoints strung across mixing boards. Here they
evade the prefabricated pitfalls of fame, the knick of the
knack of product endorsement, the standard
"fandemonious"infantilization of stars, the vectors of
conventional power, prefering to subsume ego in meaningful
patterns found in noise.

Mark Stewart and the Maffia's post-situationist
deconstructions, feedback, cut-up polemical wall of
throbbing noise is the essence of anxiety-as-terror on a
discotheque floor. "As The Veneer Of Democracy Begins To
Fade"--the world upside down 15 years years ahead of its time
never sounded better. The history of Wreck This Mess begins

In 1986, dark music became celebratory for me.
Transcendental gloom (Doris Lessing calls it "divine
discontent") is a noir fictional psychonavigation through
tattered rhizomes and the dingy corridors of Burroughs'
nervous system. Gebrauchsmuzik for internal organs that
process the hypermediation malaise--information decomposing
into data, meaning into false emotions.

Unlike concerthalls, cinemas, video arcades, street theatre
or sports, radio goes anywhere, everyday--flexible, nomadic,
proletarian, wallpaper, subliminal. Radio precedes your
arrival and prepares your environment as ubiquitous,
prescient and subconscious soundtrack of life. Radio is
everywhere and yet, radio is nothing. Lucky then, for the
pirates, independents, community radio stations where sound
might flourish, become sacred, beautiful and fun again.
Amazing then how little effulgence fills the ether. As if
creativity is the enemy of commerce--maybe it is, and maybe
they are rightfully worried.

I veered into radio in 1986, became a standard "alternative"
dj at WFMU, foremost U.S. freeform radio station: whacky
juxtapositions of good music with bad, corny with serious,
post-punk noise with classical...

In 1988 I migrated to Paris. In possession of a radio (or me
possessed by it) in a foreign city, you begin to stray
across wild frequencies of the universal medium called ether
and when it begins to stir we call it the collective

I solicited the anarchist station in Paris, Radio
Libertaire. Their response was immediate, enthusiastic.
They're engage'/enrage' but also talky, talk all day long.
Then I listened to my old show tapes--I never shut up

"Wreck"means causing the ruin of any structure--iconoclasm.
"This mess"means the marketplace-reshaped inner ear.
Consumption aesthetics, aesthetic consumption. WTM became an
abstract explosion inside utilitarian radio.

Wreck This Mess was a response to trop de blabla everywhere;
an abstract explosiona strategy of contrary
seamlessness--against time without pleasure, labor without
meaning, menace without fun, no talk, no breaks, no
announcements, weather, time, news, gossip, chat, no
playlists--unclog the aural and imaginal pathways.

Almost immediately I was contacted by Manu & Laurent, a team
of sonic proselytizers from another station. We became
comrades sonique. Over the weeks they began to infiltrate,
pirate, morph and infect W.T.M. in an insidious but organic

October 1988: WTM emerges with its personal anonymity intact
to diffuse itself facelessly across the ether. On-U Sound,
rumbling bio-rhythms, destabilizations of expectation
through impossible segues, threading as many as 10 sources
of sound (CDs, cassettes, LPs, microphones), all audio
gadgets open at once, threaded through one another until it
sometimes felt I was composing music--live, on air. I
discovered that synaptical exchange called the segue which
sinuously burrows into expectation, smolders between
surprise and pleasure, knowledge and satisfaction, easy
listening and difficult musics. Sometimes the hum of a
waiting soundmachine was the only music infecting a dozen or
a thousand ears.

Almost immediately I was contacted by PanouPanou, a team of
sonic proselytizers from another station. Manu and Laurent
visited, and through hodgepodge of franglais and spun discs,
we became comrades sonique. Over the weeks they began to
infiltrate, pirate, mutiny, morph and infect WTM in an
insidious but organic manner. Other germs of extreme
(mis)behavior--Black Sifichi and Brad Lay--entered, adding
their strange intrusions and hoaxes to the mix.

When I periodically withdrew from Paris, the WTM mutiny
would take the controls in full accordance with its own
bio-sonic laws of mutation.

In 1991 I moved back to NYC, capital of talkaholism, leaving
PanouPanou mid-spin. Like Libertaire, WFMU had trop de
blabla. One talked about everything, the other nothing and
always the twain shall meet.

I applied an extrapolation of the Libertaire agenda: no
talk, no clues when a piece of music began or ended--long
uninterrupted 3-hour sonic voyages. Segue as total orgasmic
focus. I didn't answer phones and barricaded myself inside
the studio with hundreds of sound sources. Anonymity became
a signature, absence an obverse presence--wallpaper became
wall, wall became structure.

Seamlessness meant prodigal strategies of uninterrupted
sound-machine, backmasking consciousness toward reflection
(the opposite reverse spin of commercial radio). An
integration of one sound with another, a daisy chain of
overlapping instants, conversing, collaging,
mutating--sounds vs cut-ups vs musics vs texts. Live on air!
. Seamlessness derationalizing song as passive
product--music becomes more of what it is.

During my exile, Manu migrated south, Brad Lay played the
Irish pub circuit with his Jewish cowboy brogue, Black
Sifichi became Sub Para Dub at Radio Nova. Laurent, 1/2
Panou, flourished, became the Parisian cornerstone of
speculative musics and now he's enthroned at the control
board, ready to pilot WTM into the 2nd decade of aural
gratification. WTM became something different and greater.
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