The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'klf'
A few days ago, the hipster-electropop duo YACHT posted a plaintive note to their Twitter feed; the note announced, in a sombre, contrite tone, that, some years ago, the duo (Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans, who are also a couple) had made a sex tape for their own use; now, apparently, someone had stolen it and posted it online. The note ended, imploring YACHT's fans to respect their privacy and not look at it.
Only there was no sex tape; or rather, there was a contrived promotional video for the latest single, “I Want To Fuck You Till I'm Dead”, from their last album. The whole exercise was a publicity stunt; the following day, they were to, with feigned resignation, put up a website supposedly selling their homemade sex video, though one which always gave an error at the time of payment; ultimately the truth would come out, and fans would push the album to the top of the Spotify charts, all the while praising the artists' clever, subversive conceit. It was to be, in their own words, “a slowly-unveiling conspiracy”, referencing The X-Files and The KLF*.
Unfortunately, they miscalculated. What they weren't counting on was the mass outpourings of public sympathy at them apparently having had the privacy of their intimate lives violated. It turned out that the public, by and large, weren't grabby jerks hungry for celebrity skin; they were strongly susceptible to what millennials call “the feels”, and almost painfully empathetic with their sorry heroes. Which was a problem, as, all of a sudden, YACHT had committed the offence of obtaining sympathy under false pretences. Not quite in fake-cancer-blogger territory, but the difference is a quantitative, rather than a qualitative, one. As the truth emerged, they issued a weaselly non-apology, followed a day later by a genuine apology, for both the stunt and the non-apology. But the damage was done. Perhaps ironically, the exercise has left YACHT revealing a bit more of themselves than is entirely flattering.
While this is the most problematic of YACHT's public projects so far, it didn't come from nowhere; they have form taking hot-button issues and using them as superficial aesthetic elements, much like extreme violence in a Quentin Tarantino film. Witness their most recent album, I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler; it was in this blog's records of 2015, and it is a finely crafted piece of infectiously fun chopped'n'screwed electropop, albeit with pretentions above its station. As its title suggests, it is somewhat of a concept album about technological ennui; the actual execution involves taking a number of ideas about how our high-tech world, you know, kinda sucks, and mashing them together, like a selfie-stick-era We Didn't Start The Fire; thus, the Snowden revelations and extrajudicial executions by drone are mentioned within a breath of crappy ads on the web, corny Internet-of-things gadgets and Tinder being a bit lame, like a focus-group brainstorming exercise of some sort. (Needless to say, there is no time to discuss, say, the issues of privacy or trust in the digital age, the potential implications of data mining, or whether, say, the internet's convergence into corporate-run proprietary silos is bad for human development, democracy or civil society; this is pop music, not a Cory Doctorow blog post. Onto the next snappy soundbite!) The whole point of the song is that our technological age kinda sucks, in a nonspecific way that anyone can agree with. It's pretty close to content-free and a brilliant piece of marketing.
And marketing is YACHT's stock-in-trade. They appear to be relentless self-marketers, classic Frommian Marketing Characters, chameleonically superficial, as sexy, edgy or profound as you read into them. To the Marketing Character, depth is a liability that compromises one's ability to self-promote. This superficial engagement with the world in the mode of marketing also jettisons any distinction between critique and complicity; we have seen this with their marketing tie-in with Uber, making their then-unreleased album streamable when surge pricing was in effect; which is on one level a criticism of Uber's exploitative business model, and yet isn't, any potential critique being defanged into mere “edginess” of the sort ad agencies have thrived on since the days of OK Soda in the grunge era. Yeah, Uber, surge pricing, it says, with an affected vocal-fry of exaggerated ennui: but hey, have a listen to this awesome album! And I'm sure the edgily back-handed endorsement didn't hurt Uber.
From surge pricing to leaked sex tapes may seem like a leap, but it's not a huge one; in both cases, newsworthy exploitation is used as a vehicle for self-promotion; in the latter, YACHT don't merely reference the exploitation, with an edgy ambiguity that is well SugaRAPE, but actively concoct it, leaping onto a topical issue (revenge porn) and using it as a marketing gimmick. But hey, there's no such thing as bad publicity, right?
* Let's see: The KLF came up with a formula for gaming the pop industry, used it to score a hit, then when invited to
Top Of The Pops the Brit Awards, got shock-metal band Extreme Noise Terror to play with them, and poured buckets of pig's blood onto fired blanks into the audience, and then finally incinerated a million pounds in banknotes, negating any business value their exploits may have had. I somehow can't see YACHT doing anything so gauchely self-destructive or blatantly anti-commercial.
An interesting article about the origins of Discordianism and its influence on British pop pranksters The KLF, and in particular, the esoteric significance of their best-selling pop-house album The White Room and the lesser-known film they made of the same title:
The ideas behind the book can be traced back to the late 1950s, when Hill and Thornley attended California High School in East Whittier, a rural Southern Californian town that was then nestled amongst vast orange groves. In school they were viewed as nerds. Hill was short, squat and introverted, while Thornley was tall, very thin, and bursting with a nervous energy. They both shared an enthusiasm for pranks and strange ideas. They were also both keen on bowling alleys, largely because they served alcohol and remained open until two in the morning.
It was in one such bowling alley in 1957 that Thornley showed Hill some poetry that he was writing. It included a reference to order eventually arising out of chaos. Hill laughed at this. He told Thornley that the idea of ‘order’ was an illusion. Order is just something that the human mind projects onto reality. What really exists behind this fake veneer is an infinite, churning chaos. For Hill, an atheist, the failure to understand this was the major folly of the organised religions of the world, all of which claim that there is an organising principle at work in the Universe.The article goes on to mention Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's initiation into Discordianism through their editorship of the Playboy letters page, in which formed what would later evolve into the Illuminatus! trilogy; Aunt Twackie's, the experimental art space set up by Liverpudlian poet Peter O'Hallighan; and the theatrical version of Illuminatus! that was performed there, which caught the attention of two artists named Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, who, years later, started making music as The KLF, and the set of events which led to The White Room.
Artist/culture jammer Jimmy Cauty's latest project: horrifically gory versions of classic animated cartoon cels:
(via Boing Boing)
While one member of the KLF, Jimmy Cauty, is now busying himself with selling terrorism-inspired art to Londoners (sort of like a more literal-minded SCHWA), the other chap, Bill Drummond, is now involved with a project called Penkiln Burn. This is a catalogue of conceptual art-related jobs proposed and/or undertaken. The jobs in question include returning a work of art to its origins, selling sledgehammers to explore their destructive potential, throwing provocative propositions into the ideosphere, protest through silence or withdrawal of art, an outsider band and a meditation on the finite number of haircuts left in your life. Oh, and if you live on a line between Belfast and Nottingham, Bill Drummond will make soup for you.
Jimmy Cauty's follow-up to his Queen-in-a-gas-mask postage stamp: images of Big Ben exploding like the World Trade Center, labelled "5-11" after the date of Guy Fawkes' Day. The images have triggered widespread public outrage on behalf of 9/11 victims:
Gareth Glover, who helped set up the Robert Eaton Memorial Fund, told the Brighton Argus newspaper: "The images are very cheap and highly insensitive. In my opinion they should be treated with the contempt they deserve."
Cauty's defense is that the images are Tackling Uncomfortable Issues.
Mr Cauty said: "Any uncomfortable reaction to this new artwork may reflect the proximity of the subject. If Blacksmoke 5-11 depicted the government buildings in Baghdad or Kabul, would we pay attention? The war on terrorism starts here."
I wonder what the outraged citizens make of all those computer-generated animations of Big Ben blowing up that were all the rage in action films some years earlier.
(A word of advice to Mr. Cauty: if you wish to avoid public outrage, spraypaint your art pseudonymously on a wall. Nobody expects Banksy to steer away from subject matter verging on the obnoxious (i.e., his stencil of Auschwitz victims wearing lipstick). Come to think of it, could Banksy and Jimmy Cauty be one and the same? The Queen-in-a-gas-mask piece did look somewhat Banksyesque.)
Music publications in the UK have received a mysterious CD purporting to be a new KLF album. Titled "The KLF Live On Stage" and bearing various telltale KLF insignia, the CD contains 13 well-known tracks, including It's Grim Up North, Kylie Said To Jason and What Time Is Love, and claims to be a response to the huge number of KLF bootlegs in circulation. An official spokesperson for the two neo-Dadaist popstars, however, has denied them having anything to do with it, and says the CD is bogus. Of course, it could be that that's just what they want us to think fnord.