The album was recorded in Barcelona between July 2017 and June 2018 and mastered by Jack Callahan in NYC, 2018.
Bhob Rainey — Saxophone
Nate Davis — Guitar
UNA REALITAT QUE ES FA INSUPORTABLE
(a reality which becomes unbearable)
Participant started from the premise of making a music album but it eventually grew into a project that has been informed and inspired by a series of ideas and factual events that at first glance might appear to have no connection but through observation reveal fundamental links between them.
While the change of millennia as a historical landmark might have appeared initially unaltered it felt like it actually showed its face years later. As average observers we might perceive this phenomenon as a some sort of sudden revelation. Could this realisation trigger new perceptions capable of altering our consciousness altogether? Through the unconscious cognitive process of these realisations (or perhaps illusions) I definitely experienced something that I had only experienced with the exposure to heavy consumption of media, video-games, religion, dreams or hallucinatory substances. It made me wonder whether this could unfold new parallel realities. It definitely has the potential of raising many new questions. Through time and reading many texts dedicated to this subject and speaking to many peers about it became obvious that there is a global awareness connected to this phenomenon. Many testimonials describe a sense of chaos that arises as we are exposed to multiple disconnected realities. These are not only induced by the overwhelming exposure to all of these events that are taking place, and not only in our immediate environment but across long distances. Our direct exposure to these multiple forms of information as we consume massive amounts of data can push these realities to mutate into unrecognised phenomena in our consciousness and as a consequence outside of it.
The musical aspect of Participant became a testimonial element through its development. It has become a work-in-progress which reaches out with the hope to connect with different individuals and groups which have been already dealing with these very same issues. In a time where culture tends to be either eaten quickly without any time for digestion or on the other side of the spectrum over-conceptualised and limited to a few. This can generate utter detachment from our context as humans, always involuntary participants in the events around us, often giving the impression of not even taking part in them at all but always unable to avoid being part of them.
The project doesn’t intend to be an exposé at all but a testimonial and a study meant as a tool to understand this given moment in time and the outputs that it unfolds objectively and to help us deal with this overwhelming feeling of powerlessness by acknowledging a wave of perception common to a lot of us.
Participant is the follow-up and continuation to Península (2015) which pointed to the idea of “connectedness” and Residual (2016), which intended to reflect the transition into post-humanism and the impossibility to escape the re-structuring of realities. Connectedness vs Reality. La Perspectiva Racional (2017) was a search for essential answers, questioning reality itself and our individual relation to it.
Participant – as a continuation of that is an observation of some of the side effects that this perception appears to carry along with a detachment that comes with the rise of individualism, loss of altruism, the blur of reality — it raises the question: Where do we find ourselves right now. How “real” is our experience? Was our experience more real before we were aware of these changes? Each section is a little shattered visit to these different islands of perception where awareness of existence is questioned or blurred. From the ultra-local to the macro-cosmic experience.
—by David Sutton
Disillusioned, peppering yourself around the metropolitan sprawl you call home; the one that used to bellow experiential void filler? A common malady of these days, in times of such velocity. “Participant” conjures perfectly the feeling of when the city you have called home becomes an unfamiliar and alien place. The initial broad stroke of the record echoes that drifting feeling of wandering around streets layered and dismantled in objects of context, motions towards something lost and gone. Classic synthetic waves drift between an evenly dispersed field of phasing pointillism beckoning the listener into fluorescent passages and steam filled corridors. You can hear our familiar human breath in the distance, the same angry yard dog- but there is a recognizable gap between the wanderer and the landscape. The effectiveness of “Participant”’s active paradox is its inclusion of the near world of our five senses, through field recordings passing into and out of focus, but also its acknowledgment of our growing unnaturalness through the sleekness of synthetic movements in sound; closing in perfectly on our separation into convoluted virtual spaces that often direct our motives more than the physical spaces we inhabit. “Participant” does not present a monolithic anthem of our tech infused new world but instead soundtracks its strangeness and the sociopolitical situations it can further unsettle and moreover leaves a pathway for the human to interface with this varied landscape as so much of its contemporaries do not.
The world is more connected than ever, or so we’re led to believe. I can tweet from my current home on the east coast of the United States to someone in Spain or Hong Kong and receive a nearly immediate reply. I can jump in an airplane and be anywhere in the world in a day or so, assuming I have the cash. I can have a video chat with almost anyone anywhere in the world at the click of a button, assuming that person has internet access, something that’s not guaranteed even in industrialized nations.
We have at our fingertips an almost unlimited amount of information, assuming it’s been digitized. You can access almost any movie or album ever made. You can dive deep into medieval illuminated manuscripts or conspiracy theories about Bigfoot, Marilyn Monroe, and aliens. You can watch around the clock news, fresh as it happens in real time. You can see what political party has decided to sell out the human race today, and then you can check back tomorrow to discover it’s someone else’s turn to sell their humanity to the highest corporate bidder, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.
We live in a commercial nightmare. Ads blare constantly from televisions and radios, they hang on the wall in the toilet of your local pub, they flicker on your computer as you look at cat videos, they’re on the bus trying to get you to use the latest hook-up app to fleetingly fill the need for contact. Pollution of all kinds fills our eyes, our minds, our skies, and our waterways.
How do these instantaneous worldwide connections with people and information inhibit our ability to connect with people in real life? How does this stop us from saying hello to the people we pass on the sidewalk, or sit next to on the subway, or stand next to in line at the coffee shop?
The Participant project grew out of a desire to rethink these unsatisfying connections, to rethink how we interact with each other both in person and in virtual spaces, to rethink how we deal with the never-ending torrent of information, political upheaval, growing fascism, and other nightmares we’re constantly faced with.
The music pushes and pulls, filled with micro-movements in every direction as the music surges forward. Moments of noise and slivers of cyberpunk nightmares break like fish jumping out of a mountain stream. The underlying crush heaves the music forwards, pulsating like a stuttering heart. Sometimes the music stumbles, leaving you sprawled on the ground with gravel ground deep into your flesh before picking you up and tossing you forward again, pulling you back towards the deep before slamming you into a shell encrusted beach.
The music isn’t going to show you how to be a better person. The music isn’t going to hold your hand and recite mantras from the latest self-help craze or provide you with financial advice. The music might clear a place for you to take a break from the constant information flowing around us. Perhaps the music will show you a different way to interact with the people around you, both those living on your block and those on the other side of the world.
In The Owl’s Legacy, Chris Marker states, “In order to be a real individual the community must evolve. And it can only evolve when each member becomes different. These two conditions go together.” Ex Continent is Participant showing you his evolution. Give it a listen with friends and with strangers, in your car and from a boom box while walking down the street. Then make your own path towards becoming the Participant.
“You’re Not Stuck In Traffic—You Are Traffic.”
— Kevin Slavin says (Design as Participation)
An Attempt to Go Beyond the Surface
— by Mattin
This record is connected to its time in a weird way, it is at the crossroads of many thoughts and different genres of music. It tries to think of an epoch which is marked by rapid changes, confusion and the consequent, unfulfilled thirst for clarity. Here we have a synthesis of these elements through electronic means, a document which troubles its own temporal nature and locality. Kingston, Chicago and Berlin are present but it is recorded in Barcelona. In fact it includes recordings from Barcelona and the complexity of the record matches the complexity of the political landscape the city has been going through in the past few years. In times of flattened screens, mass production of music and little time to listen to it, it is difficult to achieve depth and it is even more difficult to think historically. Nevertheless Participant is constantly trying to do this by pursuing a dialectic between the abstract and the material, between sounds of a familiarity to the experimental dance listener and the hard asphalt urban texture of Barcelona – which penetrates the rhythms and textures through street recordings of drilling and is the subject of the album’s artwork.
The quotidian social conflicts of Zona Franca, the neighbourhood from Barcelona where this record was produced, also phase heavily into the recording but their meaning is constantly collapsing into a frail web of movements and percussion which hangs perilously over the historical context this record is beckoning the listener to concern with. Participant is confronting Barcelona’s current and historical sociopolitical strife by presenting every common denominator and generic place as historically and contextually implicated to past events. But here we find no resolutions. As we listen to it, a troubling thought creeps in; there is a problem, in both in our relation to the present and in our relation to the past. But as the next track bounces in uncertainty wavers and the confusion of enjoyment, catharsis and contemplation all must be reconciled.
There is a linearity to the form of current consumption which is contrasted by the possibilities available through the internet as if we were
constantly trying to catch the latest cool trend as if our identity building is absolutely dependent on it. Nevertheless this identity never comes or when it comes, it is deeply unsatisfactory. It generates depression and discontent. Ex Continent knows that and deals with this problem in a way that is not obvious. As a matter of fact this is a record of this struggle, a crystallization of thinking and feeling that goes between the personal to the universal, between solitary despair and the longing for a collectivism that never comes but the idea of it is always there, even in its most textural qualities.
The angel of history is trying to turn its head, but it cannot, because it is forced to look at her latest message in the screen of her mobile phone. However she still has her ears to hear the catastrophe of progress in the background. Still rarely pays attention to it, but while listening to Participant on the headphones, she is reminded that the noise behind it will haunt her until it goes beyond the surface of history in order to gain some collective perspective. And who knows, this might only happen in the dance floor!
In order to effectively respond to the significant scientific challenges of our times, I believe we must view the world as many interconnected, complex, self-adaptive systems across scales and dimensions that are unknowable and largely inseparable from the observer and the designer. In other words, we are participants in multiple evolutionary systems with different fitness landscapes at different scales, from our microbes to our individual identities to society and our species. Individuals themselves are systems composed of systems of systems, such as the cells in our bodies that behave more like system-level designers than we do.
Instead of trying to control or design or even understand systems, it is more important to design systems that participate as responsible, aware and robust elements of even more complex systems. And we must question and adapt our own purpose and sensibilities as designers and components of the system for a much more humble approach: Humility over Control.
We could call it “participant design”—design of systems as and by participants—that is more akin to the increase of a flourishing function, where flourishing is a measure of vigor and health rather than scale or power. We can measure the ability for systems to adapt creatively, as well as their resilience and their ability to use resources in an interesting way.
Resisting Reduction — Designing our Complex Future with Machines
by Joichi Ito
Images from the film ماء الفضة — Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait (2014)
Unknown: The Nightmare of Future Wars (Russia, early 1900’s)
From All Tomorrow’s Parties
—William Gibson, 1999
September 1st, 2018
In the times of globalization we have learned that we are dependent on everything that happens around the globe—politically, economically, ecologically. But the Earth is not isolated in the cosmos. It depends on the processes that take place in cosmic space—in dark matter, waves and particles, stars exploding, and galaxies collapsing. And the fate of mankind also depends on these cosmic processes because all these cosmic waves and particles pass through human bodies. And the position of theEarth in the cosmic whole determines the conditions under which its living organisms survive on its surface.
This dependence of mankind on cosmic events that are uncontrollable and even unknown is the source of a specifically modern anxiety. One can call it a cosmic anxiety: the anxiety of being a part of the cosmos—and of not being able to control it.
One can cite Georges Bataille’s theory of the “accursed share,” for instance. According to it, the sun always sends more energy to the Earth than the Earth, together with the organisms living on its surface, can absorb. After all efforts to use this energy for the production of goods and raising the living standard of the population, the reremains a non-absorbed, unused remainder of solar energy. The rest of this energy is necessarily destructive—it can be spent only through violence and war. Or, at least, through ecstatic festivals and sexual orgies that channel and absorb this remainder of energy through less dangerous activities. In this way, human culture and politics are also determined by cosmic energies—forever shifting between order and disorder.
From Cosmic Anxiety: The Russian Case — Boris Groys (e-flux, 2015)
“people cannot grasp the fact… that the true individual can only exist in a certain kind of community. Of course we are all individuals. […]
In order to be a real individual the community must evolve. And it can only evolve when each member becomes different. These two conditions go together.”
From The Owl’s Legacy — Chris Marker, 1989