Of Haraway and Himuro
Ever since famed feminist theorist Donna Haraway wrote her seminal thesis “A Cyborg Manifesto”, posthumanism—the notion of enhancing our bodies beyond our biological limits via mechanized means—has entered the academic and cultural consciousness. Throughout the years, the concepts of the posthuman have been seen in pop culture from movies to books to video games, where notable examples, including Blade Runner and The Matrix, reside.
However, what is interesting is that in the area of music, the blurring dichotomy of man/machine has not been properly explored. Marilyn Manson may have made an attempt in exploring them in 1998’s Mechanical Animals, but in my opinion, the industrial genre—with buzzing guitars and generous white noise in tow—is merely man imitating machine and not man becoming machine. The thing about posthumanism is that human ability is eschewed for non-human dependency, a totalizing approach in the sole usage of computer as instrument.
Obviously, during recent times, electronica is the closest we get to a posthuman sensibility on an aural front. However, posthumanism’s core thought of technologically enhanced humanity is found more in the subgenre of IDM, the distillation of music to the purest form of the philosophy. In other words, it filters the warmth of old-school samples and human vocals, ensuring that there is no human trace barr the brains behind the composition. In Mild Fantasy Violence, his first release with Zod Records, Himuro masterfully weaves the steel and cold of technology into an orchestral tapestry, transfiguring bloops, bleeps, and everything binary related into mutated cyborgs organisms.
For example, in the second track “2 MC’s from Thailand”, a repeating 8-bit Super Mario-like riff plays as it is interspersed with Björk-like swells, keeping the overt NES nostalgia in check. The track is layered with robotic beat boxing and a schizophrenic invasion of a whole range of disparate elements, building up into calculated cacophony, a chaos that is founded on computerized precision. Because, upon the track’s end, we discern a purpose to the randomness. We suddenly realize that the Super Mario riff sounds like a bebop line, albeit done in stabs and splits. The two MCs in question are actually jazz musicians, cyborgized to the point where processor speed is tantamount to improvisational ability.
The title track starts with the comfort of something organic, a Caribbean-like bass line that is soon lost in quirky effervescent computerized emissions. Again, there seems to be a running theme of video game soundtracks. This time round, it is the 16-bit SNES, bringing to mind games like the Earthworm Jim series. These are complementary ditties to a cartoony platform game, dodging pineapples and killing oddball creatures, saving the endangered rendered universe. “Mild Fantasy Violence” is celebratory in tone, existing in an ontology where circuitry is oxygen and joy is in amassing shitloads of points. Upon the track’s end, another epiphany strikes. In what seems to be a Himuro trademark, when I pull back from the details of the track, I am able to see the big picture. What I’m hearing is the funk of the future, every staccato and augmented note a James Brown-generating software.
Listening to Mild Fantasy Violence is akin to shards of metal entering one’s skin for decorative purpose, an uncontrolled fetish for body piercings. If there was an embodiment of the album, it would be the cyberpunk pierced within an inch of his life, with multiple titanium rings in various parts of the body, a state where he and his metal are one. He does not wear bling. He is bling. Indeed, in this case, the album’s title is an understatement, because the violence in question isn’t all that mild. The price of posthuman enhancement means the destruction of the biological body.
But for now, we observe posthumanism from a distance. We are content to immerse ourselves in Himuro’s not-quite-implausible projection of the future. In the meantime, may the androids alone dream of electric sheep.