Berlin’s Creamcake is throwing another massive party, this time with ‘post-national’ group Future Brown and a handful of other performers at Berghain Kantine this Saturday, February 28.
The Creamcake show brings Future Brown as its headliner, whose sold out ICA London show we wrote about here, and the Berlin one, like everything Future Brown seems to touch, is sold out as well. The Saturday performance is also celebrating the Berlin release of Future Brown’s new album, which can be streamed at NPR here.
Barcelona’s Sónar doesn’t seem like the obvious choice for a festival that, in its 21st year, most effectively taps into the cultural moment being lived by its permanently switched-on attendees. But more than any other, with its fluid interfaces, multi-disciplinary focus (on music, arts and technology presented via performances, screenings, workshops and conferences) and interconnectivity, it embodied the particularly 2014 feeling of existing on more than one plane.
The daytime venue houses live music, workshops, talks, screenings and miniature exhibitions, and encasing it in a vast complex of theatres and spaces meant that it was able to bring all of these things under one roof, with a strangely massive capacity for each event. Turf was laid out for the outdoor events to give the illusion of a grassy festival, the plastic spikes of which came unbidden into my mind while watching Warp producer Oneohtrix Point Never’s live performance with his longtime visual collaborator Nate Boyce, for their uncanny performance. Daniel Lopatin and Boyce worked together so fluidly you’d forget the music was ever supposed to exist in isolation, a connection only accentuated by the environment of the dark, seated theatre.
More fluid and kinetic than in their previous collaborations, Boyce’s virtual forms oscillated between metallic stiffness and mellifluous bodies, minutely following the ebb and flow of R Plus Seven’s hi-def structures from Lopatin’s laptop, leading to a sensory experience that was totally absorbing and excluding at the same time. In this space where the artificial interfaced with the organic, it was impossible to look away, while just as hard to know what exactly you were looking at. One moment we were seeing a disembodied bronze hand, the next it seemed we were in an actual bedroom surrounded by slightly morphed, dreamlike Ikea furniture; until, at the end, there was one tremor of light keeping perfect time with a single drone, a sole anchor to hold on to in an unfamiliar space.
Sónar 2014 benefitted from the use of a new daytime venue (for only the second year) which was capable of housing workshops and exhibitions of technological and artistic developments alongside and among the musical performances; with all of it happening in one area, the attendees were able to piece together the links between the various disciplines as easily as they were able to stroll from one event to the next. Walking out of Oneohtrix Point Never’s bodily performance, you were confronted by exhibitions such as Sedition’s ‘Art of screens’, –a company looking to revolutionise the consumption of art through its online purchase and digital display on screens. Several artworks played on a loop around the Sedition booth in intense definition, Field’s skin cells blooming and ZEITGUISED’s liquorice all-sorts tumbling with crystal cartoon edges; each one explored themes of interface between the physical and the virtual, which was in harmony with the underlying question of the privatisation of online space and the physical manifestation of online art. Most arresting was Universal Everything’s 2011 animation ‘The Transfiguration’, which depicted a single human figure walking at a constant size and pace in the centre of the screen while morphing from being made of hair to being made of bubbles to being made of spikes. As with Sedition’s take on the art world, the textures were changeable and shed easily, yet its pace forward was consistent and determined.
Elsewhere, at the Glassworks ‘Pan Me‘ installation, run by the London-based animation and effects agency, users were invited to actually interface with light and sound displays using face and hand recognition technology. A little more explanation and guidance surrounding the works might have been useful to help users understand what it was they were aiming to achieve by flipping through samples or moving lines of light with their faces, but in a way the experience of being plunged into a dark side room and given little human instruction was a more interesting (and fitting) experience. The question of the possibility of an intuitive interface hung heavily over the experience; particularly in light of the way in which computer and human engaged in a two-way exchange, with mounted cameras using photos and facial recognition to embed the persona of the user in both the physical and digital sides of the experience.
As well as a festival that, on the whole, confronted you with the impossibility of the amount of human bodies existing in one section of meatspace and the strangeness of such a place designed to hold so many, here was an experience that demanded you think about the way your living body interacts with technology and with networks that blossom from your every movement; not only a privatised digital landscape like the one we navigate every day via social media, but a digital sub-reality that actually depends on the body. With photos of users appearing onscreen at the air-swipe of a Matrix-style web, I was preoccupied with thoughts about the endless photos people were taking of strangers, the apps being used to navigate Barcelona and the hashtags that beamed from every available surface denoting Sónar’s status as an extension of digital landscapes as a whole.
Those apps were more useful at the Sónar By Night venue, which is notoriously cavernous and provides the most extreme experiences available at the festival. Copeland, performing on the Friday evening, provided the most bodily listening experience of the weekend with a set that shirked her perceived role as “female vocalist” to display her aggressive range of ear-splitting whines and thuds of bass, matched with blasts of light that made it difficult to watch her for an extended period of time. Immediately afterwards, Visionist played a grime set that used a minimal framework as a bassline for contortions that clambered all around the space, with all the fun-not-fun of his cathartic I’m Fine EP series. Both artists played the smallest stage of the venue, drawing their crowd together.
Evian Christ, meanwhile, took to the huge SónarLab, but created an intimacy all of his own with a series of well-worn tunes and straight bangers from his early YouTube cuts (‘MYD’ and ‘Fuck It None of Y’All Don’t Rap’ being the stand-outs) as well as ‘I’m In It’, the tune he produced for Kanye West’s Yeezus, and a slew of current dance floor heaters from Young Thug and MssingNo. These recognisable moments appealed straight to the producer’s online success story, and hummed with the closeness of bringing together a congregation of people who usually worshipped together in the form of Soundcloud comments and ‘@’s.
On the Saturday, an easy stand-out at Sónar By Day was Sinjin Hawke, who had the same body-slamming approach as Evian Christ despite playing closer to 9pm at the close of Sónar By Day. All presence and lightness, Sinjin is the kind of performer you can’t take your eyes away from, and his willingness to drop big tracks like his 2013 hit ‘Yea Hoe’ and his ‘Say My Name’ remix created a similarly familiar atmosphere to the IRL hype of Evian Christ the night before. Future Brown were one of the most-anticipated acts of the final day, and as expected brought a similar slew of cold, metallic hip hop and grime shot through with vocal stabs. It was a little disappointing to see that Fatima Al Qadiri, Nguzunguzu and J-Cush took turns to play B2B from a laptop, however, despite being right in the middle of one of the biggest stages: some of the tension that had been building for their set from the promise of their hyper-stylised hip hop dissipated in the actuality, as they seemed lost and disjointed in all the space. But with more of a visual component to pull viewers into their space like OPN, or just more musical and performative involvement from the whole crew, sonically this is a set that could make any venue connect.
Where they didn’t quite come through was where the rest of Sónar succeeded almost seamlessly; in making use of space, as a physical entity but also a social, emotional and sensory one, as well as a thing to be considered and discussed in itself. Despite movement to a bigger venue and an impossibly huge line-up, Sónar remains an intimate festival, because of the way it so comfortably inhabits the digital alongside the physical. Dominating social media feeds, placing music in its context of consumption by presenting apps and other technologies, and wising up to the artists that generate the most intimate live performances thanks to the IRL audience they summon from the digital ether, this was the music festival for this year’s hyper-connected crowd. **
After announcing their “extremely normal” collaboration four months ago with a video soundtracked by Future Brown, Telfar Clemens and Babak Radboylaunch a “lush” new website for the former’s unisex fashion label, TELFAR, today.
Designed by Radboy and developed by Denis Nazarov, the site aims to contextualise eight years of work in anticipation of the A/W 2014 TELFAR show (see: “surreal retail wonderland”) takeover of the New Museum on February 10.
The event is set to include a “surprise” sculptural component, runway show and a long-form ‘AS SEEN ON TV’ video directed by Radboy with music by Ryan Trecartin.
It’s feeling like we’ve talked too much about Future Brown lately but this happened and it’s the best. A new track featuring vocals from a cast of London grime emcees Prince Rapid, Dirty Danger of Ruff Sqwad and former Roll Deep member Roachee, just dropped in advance of their debut live performance at MoMA PS1 on Sunday.
It’s lyrics speak directly to the “movement” that the Future BRown project points toward. The announcement that Tink, Shawnna, 3D Na’tee, Maluca, Riko Dan, Ian Isiah, Kelela and more TBA will be on the upcoming album makes you think said change could be rather dramatic.
After dangling two incredible tracks in front of us over the last few months, NYC hyper-group Future Brown will present their debut performance in collaboration with DIS Magazine at MoMA PS1, Nov 17.
The group, consisting Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda of Nguzunguzu, Fatima Al Qadiri and Lit City Trax‘s J-Cush , have already dropped the brilliantly grimy super club number ‘Wanna Party‘ featuring vocals from Tink, at the beginning of August, as well as instrumentals from ‘Marbles’ on Babak Radboy’s trailer forTelfar Clemens‘ 2014 clothing line. Extending their interactions from Telfar’s “extremely normal” fashion to “extremely normal” past times, the performance will involve a choreographed basketball game, organised by Dis, at the PS1 VW Dome. Of course it will. **
In a match made in utopia fashion designer Telfar Clemens and our favourite ‘fake capitalist’Babak Radboy echo the mainstream fetishism of the day by introducing the forthcoming TELFAR line. It’s a collection of customizable sportswear that they describe as neither conceptual nor practical; “highly polished, eminently accessible, yet stranger than any underground production”.
The backing instrumentals come from a track called ‘Marbles’ by none other than 2020 hyper-stars Future Brown. As a band named after an inorganic colour, its an ideal complement to the creepy grins reminiscent of Shanzhai Biennial‘s Yue Minjun-inspired branding campaign, as well as DIS’ ‘Watermarked I Kenzo Fall 2012′. Mind is blown.
Releases from Fade To Mind, the US sister of the Night Slugs label, manage to be both perfectly contemporaneous and yet simultaneously futuristic, at least in the classically dystopian sense of the word. Absolutely now, they present a music which is overwhelmingly born from, fed and fuelled by information noise. This refers equally to the genre-transcending sounds and also the way they are presented: released in byte-sized chunks – single tracks, remixes, EPs at best, and revealed via SoundCloud in rapid bursts, a swarm of inspirations that result in a high-speed, vertiginous club mix built from grime, garage, hip hop and bass music components. It’s a music born of contemporary modes of exchange and diffusion – Fade To Mind displays an extraordinary level of collectivity and osmosis between the artists, who often tend to team up or remix each other. And yet in the work of Kingdom (the label’s founder), Nguzunguzu, Fatima Al Qadiri and others, there also hovers the older conception of dystopian future; the sense of stimulus-fatigue, the friction of co-existence with alienating mass technology.
Forthcoming weeks bring new additions to the Fade To Mind catalogue. The first of these will be by NA (Daniel Pineda), half of label leading-lights Nguzunguzu, whose ‘sad, sexy, scary’, RnB-meets-footwork sound quickly became a point of reference rather than, as is usual, being compared to other artists, after the duo emerged in 2010. As if Nguzunguzu’s works weren’t foot-friendly enough, Pineda announced that the upcoming EP ‘Xtreme Tremble’ will be more ‘dancefloor oriented’. Listening through the three impactful tracks resolves this seeming-paradox: compared to Nguzunguzu, NA’s solo recordings are further stripped-down, confronting the listener with a sound hi-tech, heavy and minimalist at once, thus moving Pineda closer to the territory usually occupied by Kingdom, and thereby cabling another connection between the Fade To Mind roster.
Meanwhile, yet more osmosis occurs beyond the label – for instance, Nguzunguzu have produced two tracks for Kelela, she’s collaborated with Kingdom and will be dropping her Vocalist mix on Fade to Mind soon, while the spirit of cooperation extends beyond the limit of the label itself. Future Brown –a collective project consisting of Pineda, his original band mate Asma Maroof, long-time collaborator Fatima Al Qadiri, and J-Cush of Lit City Tracks -have released just one track so far (independently from Fade To Mind). The surprisingly simple, hooky, club-friendly ‘Wanna Party’ features Chicago rapper Tink and production from (inevitably!) another Fade To Mind artist, vogue/ballroom-house DJ and producer MikeQ. The slightly trappy track provides a sneak-peek of Future Brown‘s full album, which will also feature Shawnna, Maluca, Ian Isiah and Kelela. Even though there has been little revealed about the project (and the record itself is still in the making), what we know about the project so far suggests it will function as a summary of a certain aesthetic: unashamed genre cross-pollination, a collaborative working policy, and the implicit idea of Web-driven club music.
The imagery Future Brown choose to employ reveals the latter explicitly: they share both their initials and their logo font with Facebook, reinforcing the fact of the Web as an environment in which their brand of music thrives, as much as it does on the dancefloor. The aesthetic employed by Fade To Mind-related artists seems to acknowledge the point that, no matter where the artist ideally imagines their work being played out, in reality it is all-too-often heard through ubiquitous white ear buds or tinny laptop speakers. This may actually have informed the label’s signature sound palette; as per Kingdom’s work, his label’s output teems with the nag of ringtone-synths, a hyper-bright, brittle 8-bit aesthetic and a certain plasticity, which can evoke a Fisher-Price version of Raster-Noton.
Future Brown’s forthcoming LP will most likely be an interesting detour taken by these artists, both when it comes to sound (more hip hop-influenced), as to the shape and length of the album. Fade to Mind’s policy, on the other hand -small doses of singles, EPs and unaccompanied tracks -may have yet more method to it, understood after an extended encounter with their output: whilst many of them are thrillingly heady, attention-grabbing and intense, sometimes their chiptune-on-steroids, cropped and distorted edges make them easy to overdose on. The future, unless taken in moderation, is (as it turns out) a disorientating place to be. **
There are all sorts of things you could extract from an project of truly global DJs Nguzunguzu, Fatima Al Qadiri and J-CUSH called Future Brown. It might surprise you to know that, in spite of the dark connotations and imagery of Facebook reappropriation, it’s actually after a an in-group meme sprung from a shared fascination with a colour that doesn’t exist in nature.
Their first drop ‘Wanna Party’ features a skull crushing bass and typically creepy embellishments from the quartet, plus lyrics from Chicago rapper Tink. A debut featuring other vocalists is coming and Fatima Al Qadiri plays XOYO in London tonight.