Reviews

Empirical Replicants – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Dust to Dust

James Orbesen
Anything To Make You Smile: Writer Chris Roberson taps hidden layers of the drama of perception from the original Do Androids Dream" in his prequel, Dust to Dust,

It's not often that prequels hit their mark. But Dust to Dust clearly does, a feat made more surprising by the fact that this series is the prequel to Philip K. Dick's celebrated Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Dust to Dust #1-8

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Length: 22 pages (each issue)
Writer: Chris Roberson
Price: $2.99 (each issue)
Publication Date: 2010-12
Amazon

Crafting a prequel to one of the most beloved works of Philip K. Dick couldn’t have been an easy job for writer Chris Roberson. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? exercises a considerable hold on the science fiction zeitgeist due to its deep themes from one of the literary giants in this genre. Furthermore, the Ridley Scott adaptation expanded on Dick’s prose to craft one of the most fully realized, and philosophical, science fiction films of all time. Ambiguities abounded in Blade Runner. What does it mean to be human? How does one reconcile what it means to be human when the replicants appear to exercise more compassion and emotion than their masters? What is Deckard’s true identity? Debatable questions, such as these, elevate works of science fiction beyond the stereotypical alien babes and blasters. How does Roberson’s yarn compare?

The tale itself follows a similar formula to its source material despite occurring a number of years prior to the events of the novel and film. A pack of renegade androids are loose in a crumbling megalopolis. While the clock is ticking on their artificially shortened lifespans, civil authorities are attempting to hunt down and “retire” the misanthropic replicants before they can enact any schemes of mass murder and genocide.

Stylistically, the story sheds the film noir quality that infused Blade Runner. There’s a more militaristic vibe to the entire setting with a higher emphasis on gunplay than those familiar with Dick creation are accustomed to. It’s fitting considering that the world war which transformed much of the planet into a lifeless hovel concluded shortly before the story began. However, Roberson introduces enough philosophical talking points to elevate his story beyond a standard sci-fi/action romp.

Empiricism, questioning its importance, features heavily in the text. Malcolm Reed, an erstwhile, sans medication schizophrenic, caught up in the plot, comments "How could you trust your senses when you saw things, heard things, that couldn't possibly exist. How can you know what's real?" Despite the fact that this is a work of fiction, how do know what’s real? I can experience a dream full of fantastical imagery through my senses. Just because it’s a dream doesn’t mean my senses weren’t utilized. Does that make it real? Injecting philosophical musing like this keep the story more in line with its original source material. One of my greatest fears going into this miniseries was the magic of Dick’s prose and Scott’s film wouldn’t translate properly. Prequels often don’t hit their mark.

However, questioning knowledge has always been at the heart of this world. How does one really know what is real and what is imaginary? This is expressed quite literally in Blade Runner when the latest model replicant is unveiled to come equipped with implanted memories. Furthermore, due to the androids’ shortened lifespan, their sensory experiences, things humans have a lifetime to become accustomed to and make sense of, are compressed into a space of three or four years. Observing how Roy Batty, Malcolm Reed fulfills this role in the comic despite his humanity, comes to grip with that knowledge forms the emotional and philosophical backbone of the tale.

This is compounded with an exchange between Malcolm and the villainous leader of the rogue androids. The replicant states: "You can see me, standing right here before you. Don't you trust the evidence of your senses?" To which Malcolm responds: "I see a lot of things, and I don't trust any of it." Essentially these two have articulated one of the oldest philosophical arguments. Expanding on this discourse places Dust to Dust alongside the source material as a worthy addition to the canon. This is, by the way, the official prequel to the novel, as explicitly stated in bold on the credits page.

Questioning knowledge is at the heart of this world. When the person sitting in the cubicle next to you turns out to be an android, how can you trust your senses when they look, sound and smell human? Sure, a Voight-Kampff test can determine who’s who, but then the results are examined via one’s senses. How can you trust those when you’ve already been fooled completely once before?

It’s beyond the scope of this review to weigh in on the merits of empiricism. Nevertheless, Roberson is able to encapsulate a piece of Philip K. Dick with a heaping helping of Ridley Scott for good measure. Dust to Dust is a fine prequel that doesn’t really rock the foundations of its source material. But I imagine this project was never intended to perform that function. What this comic does achieve is broadening one of science fiction’s most beloved tales through philosophical discourse, not moody atmospherics or pulse pounding action. A nice piece of the canon that doesn’t upset or offend.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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