I love to reconceptualize ideas and cultures, and I’ve always been drawn to sounds that are less than straightforward. Accordingly, London label Tri Angle has offered an excellent selection of diverse sounds for me to cram into my already overstuffed earholes. Evian Christ is probably one of my favorite new signings specifically because of this sort of bastardized musicianship: the souls of other songs lurk in his beats, making their appearance known through a snippet of chopped vocals or hidden beneath a skittering 808. It’s more than a sampling: it’s a haunting.
Of course, reformatted ideas are thick within the eye of the public, and the reuse/recycle ethic has gone beyond its application in real life to extend into the realm of URL ideology. The idea of the mystery musician has become a tired one, so young producer Joshua Leary has outed himself as the man behind the Evian Christ moniker, and is supposedly surprised that others are interested in his work at all. We all love to see humbleness, so we smile and say, “So young. So fresh and unpretentious.” Meanwhile, the ADD nature of our listening habits is already awaiting the next thing. But, in the case of this sort of music, the idea of authorship is irrelevant. Nobody really cares that Burial is Will Bevin, or whether iamamiwhoami likes cheese on her burger or not. We’re crafting our own internal Teen Beat these days. What we want are worlds—big ideas to lose ourselves in. Like his rostermates Balam Acab and Holy Other, Evian Christ draws you into a world of mutated, liquid beats that echo our own ideas back to us in new ways. Kings and Them is old ideas made fresh, Top 40 through a glass darkly.
I love the feel of mainstream ideas being run through a DIY filter and then released back into the collective consciousness. Ease of access and home production equipment dissolves the barrier between pop and underground ideology every day. When I was a kid, I had big Nick Cave hair, skinny black jeans and pointy boots, and I spent a lot of time listening to Fad Gadget and Cocteau Twins….alright, not much different from now. But I was also playing tons of TLC, Aaliyah and Biggie, and my pissy, post-punk peers were always busting my balls about it hardcore. I’m fond of the idea that there isn’t a real underground anymore, no limitations for a new generation. This is the main emphasis of my own blogging project Gucci Goth: to take away or reconceptualize these limitations and make them more open. In twenty years, when some post-seapunk kid is codeine- surfing ScannerJammer and they stumble across Evian Christ’s music, what will they warp it into? Hard to say. Who knows what kind of cool-sounding future shit they’ll be listening to. I don’t even want to venture a guess, because speculating about the creative future is futile. Humanity always ends up making some crazy-ass whatever that we usually could never even think of.
Leary says that a lot of the tracks on Kings and Them are so sparse because he’s made them with a vocalist in mind, but I think a vocalist would be distracting. When I listen to the mixtape, I’m totally absorbed in it. It’s like diving into a pool; the repetitive nature of the juked samples takes my mind to a post-physical trance state. The vocals are treated as part of the music rather than the focus. When Night Slugs/Fade To Mind artist Kingdom dropped his That Mystic EP a few years ago, it was on repeat twenty-four-seven at my house. It’s a towering, pulsing collection of sinister instrumentals, and it too treated vocal samples as just another song element, which made it all the more powerful. Kingdom’s latest EP Dreama seems less focused simply because emphasis is placed on vocals; it lacks the raw power of his earlier work.
I can spend hours talking about the effects of the dissolving lines between mainstream and underground culture, but the truth is that this is music for online culture. It speaks to the impermanent state of Tumblr feeds and ever-changing tastes, and to trends that are remade and released. But is that something to lament? Nobody will ever be the next Janis Joplin or the new Beatles. As a collective, we’ve moved beyond that idea. Even the Madonnas and the Gagas are irrelevant outside the context of drag queen karaoke: we have toppled the idol, and any cameos in reality are just fading ghosts waiting to be forgotten. We’ve given ourselves the tools to ascend to something else, and we’ve created a culture where you can release your visions online and in a couple months you could have a record contract. It’s DIY pop music, and it gives us freedom. Be thankful.
Published June 25, 2012.