Everyone's Korda to say this record is awesome
4 February 2021 by Etienne Menu
“WHAT A FUCKING INCREDIBLE RECORD.” : I might just type that and walk away, because Eight Billion Humans Can’t Be Wrong doesn't need me at all to make listeners understand how crazy it is. The effect is immediate, it can be heard immediately, in the aspect of the sounds, in the energy of the rhythms, in the use of the voice, in the embodiment of the political and metaphysical "message"; if it sounds so much like a definitive masterpiece, well, it's because it is a definitive masterpiece. Even if the term masterpiece should not be understood here as something of "great art" and that the very notion of "musical art" is materially, literally criticized at every bar. Because it literally disassembles, it disassembles the functioning of techno, club music, the electronic manufacture of this music.
6 Billion Humans Can't Be Wrong (its original title) had completely passed me over my head when it was released in 1999, I'm not going to lie to you, I think at the time I wasn't overly calculating the Gigolo releases and that I had a negative a priori about German techno, what do you want, everyone makes mistakes and the important thing is not to blame yourself for having made these mistakes, but on the contrary to draw lessons from it, as we say on Instagram or in French rap. So I listened to this album very recently, on the occasion of its remastered and slightly updated reissue by the Mental Groove label, which has already been discussed here. And if you want to know everything, I did not immediately understand that it was a reissue: I thought it was a new release, without ever finding it out of date or vintage, on the contrary even! Maybe the record was too far in the future at the time? In any case, Chris Korda accomplishes there what very few other artists manage to accomplish in techno: to synthesize art and its criticism in a single language. That is to say, his pieces move the body and the consciousness in the same momentum. The active principle of pleasure is there without any ambiguity, serotonin is active, voluptuous, but at the same time all of this is riddled with its own criticism and contains in its very matter species of counter-powers - it is not limited to the contents messages are not just cliché slogans against consumption, entertainment or narcissism, it is in the transmission of the message that criticism is above all active. The flow of the tracks is at the same time captivating and distressing, desirable and harmful. Chris Korda thus reproduces, I would say, "stereophonically", the experience of life as it is known in late capitalist societies. The patina of synthetic sounds is extremely clean, which is perhaps what must have exploded at the time, but today this glaze takes on more meaning, it evokes the audio of advertising and dressings, the “preset” rendering of high-tech musical machines and the technophile discourse that animates them. The musician and vocalist fights from the inside against this perfection by imposing a permanent dialectical tension: the rush is disturbed by the abuse of stimuli, the gimmicks club are transformed into authoritarian injunctions which themselves are parasitized by a feeling of overflow, migraine, mental jostling, and this, from the first track “Victim of Leisure”, where the work of cutting the voice makes emerge a message of contraband. It is never an overhanging criticism in the ivory tower style, since pleasure is not denied in its existence, and I believe that this is what makes the accuracy and precision of this political music embedded in the heart of the environment that she wishes to destroy with her whole being. The contradictions are directly described in the sounds, the confused intoxication of leisure is practically the only theme of the pieces, it is in this atmosphere of not so simple excitement, but that we always seek a little too simply, that bathes the set of this breathtaking album. And it is this relentless ambivalence that makes it such a strong work in its unfolding.
We also know that Chris Korda is an artist with radical commitments to say the least and that what she tells here about the consumer society through her tracks is not a pose. She is a trans and vegan woman (something almost mainstream in 2021 since mega-balls like Xavier Gorce or Fabrice Éboué make jokes about it, but in 1999 it was less common) and above all she advocates mass euthanasia. That, I like, that changes us a bit from progressivism and its ever more boring calls to be patient blah blah okay that's it yeah. Is this voluntary, anti-natalist pro-death discourse an influence of Gnosticism for Chris Korda? You would have to ask her, and besides I think beyond this article I would have to interview her - I rarely like to interview musicians, but with her I don't see how it could go wrong.
Here is therefore a more than major reissue, which musically recalls and announces a lot of things at the same time. We hear a whole part of synthetic and often feminine post-punk, and therefore unsurprisingly Kraftwerk, even Telex at times. There is also a kind of ghettotech / electroclash mutant that sometimes walks around, and then a few touches of more classic techno, UR, Drexciya, but all that with a “live” side, I don't know how to put it, realistic, demystified, sometimes close to obscenity. It really fascinates me, like few other music fascinates me. There is a slower and concretely live track called “Zeal”, it's super beautiful, a kind of street-soul without street and without soul, focused on a jazzy solo that can drive you crazy, no because he is a virtuoso, but because it looks like he's not going anywhere, that he doesn't know at all where he is going but that he is going there, like an automaton without an off button, and which does nothing but zeal, as the title suggests.
And as we will have understood that Chris Korda is herself the type well zealous in her practice of radicalism, she has since pursued her work, in favor of assisted music, on the one hand, and assisted suicide on the other hand. The Church of Euthanasia is therefore still active, firmly anchored on its four pillars of suicide, abortion, cannibalism and sodomy. On a more strictly musical level, Chris released vocal techno tracks last year, as well as an AI-designed debut CD for Perlon, and has just released the ambient-inspired Polymeter album for Mental Groove, jazzy / neoclassical, also designed using algorithms. It’s very different from Eight Billions, but it’s just as awesome nonetheless. The American says she spent years upgrading a sequencer that bears the name of the record, Polymeter, to make it perform a whole series of instructions themselves defined by algos. I don't know if we can talk about generative music but anyway it's a non-human creation and it totally amazes me to listen to that. I will quote the text written by Korda to be clear:
« The compositions are generated by elaborate networks of polymeter modulation. This sounds complicated and will need some explaining. But the most important point is that these are compositions I didn’t write in any usual sense of the word. I created systems of rules, and the compositions emerged from those rules. The rules that generated these pieces can be conceptualized as kinetic sculptures that produce intricate non-random patterns of musical interference. The resulting patterns repeat themselves over long periods, measured in hours, days, or in some cases years. In order to create this album, I had to write my own MIDI sequencer from scratch, because commercial MIDI sequencers lack the necessary degrees of freedom (…) It took me many years to learn the programming skills I needed to modernize my sequencer, which is one reason why such a long hiatus occurred between my older and newer releases. »
So it's a record made with AI but it's a lot less friendly and Spotify-core than the stuff already done here and there by Stromae or whatever. Uneasiness oozes all over these compositions, we can't say anything else, it's fantastic to have achieved that. This is what we want to hear in the background music of the videos, from the pre-rolls on YouTube, and then in the tutorials for making mochis and in the mini-biopics of small animals that are injured but cared for. I would say that this time Chris did the opposite of what she did with club music on Eight Billion: she took a boring thing (the "lounge library"), plus a creepy thing (the AIs) , and succeeded in deriving from it something which is still rather murky, but which nevertheless seeks the light and which, according to the stereophonic principle mentioned above, manages not to choose between the two poles and instead establishes a perfect balance despair, a kind of harmony revealed by the necessary annihilation of human life, which I sincerely wish to salute. Well done Chris Korda, and don't hesitate to come to France if you feel like it, we can possibly find you a job at the Ministry of Health (for example).