Culture

Steubenville as Personality Test

The Steubenville High School rape allegations were more than a controversial court case — they were a true test of character.

The Steubenville High School rape allegations were more than a controversial court case; they were a true test of character. Unlike most tests, however, assessments weren't about achieving a final grade or score. Responses to the allegations were a measure of an observer's own personality traits, such as personal temperament, sympathies and loyalties. The judiciary system has, of course, already made its evaluation: the two young students were found delinquent in a juvenile court. The court of public opinion, however, has not being unanimous in its verdict and already appealed the judge's decision. Many people continue to object that the victim was really to blame while others maintain that the defendants should have been tried and convicted as adults. Various media outlets have similarly courted public opinion by instinctively sympathizing with the convicted rapists at the expense of the real victim.

Indeed, societies' general response merely confirms that there is no such thing as an impartial observer. The court of public opinion is a prejudicial tribunal, as there appear to be no rules of evidence or independent adjudicators. Consequently, people's judgment of the case has really been a ruling on their own characters. Sections of the media have been particularly guilty here, as they've editorialized in the dis/guise of reporting. By playing to the gallery, they've reproduced a world view that minimizes and condones sexual violence against women. Such an outlook provides an insight into a societies' own characteristics — as evident by its tendency to blame the victim while defending the character of men who don't fit the stereotypical image of a rapist. As MS Foundation laments, this is what a rape culture looks like: hiding in plain sight and viewed as normal (defensible, acceptable, etc).

The irony is that the Stuebenville High School rape case began the way it ended: as a trial by media. The young defendants sought the judgment of their peers when sharing news of their victim's degradation through social media. The goal was to court favor by appealing to their own peer group. Unfortunately for them, a female observer conducted another trial by media before incriminating evidence could be destroyed. The first 'trial' therefore briefly provided an unobstructed view of the sexism learnt from their elders -- and these norms would have otherwise been visible if they hadn't already blended into the environment.

The students invariably incriminated themselves by bringing questionable attitudes out into the open. It was their own eyewitness testimony that implicated them in a serious crime. The young students provided a sobering lesson about popular culture by publicly exposing the fact that the sexual domination and objectification of women is part of the fabric of society. Indeed, sexual humiliation is so normalised that it didn't even register as a crime in the minds of the assailants and target audience.

There use to be a time where the true test of a person's character was what s/he did when no one was watching. The internet appears to have changed the way people are examined: apparently people should now be tested by what they are prepared to show one another or watch each other do.

The sexual assault was particularly horrifying because it originally occurred without the victim's knowledge and she was subsequently forced to watch herself become the talk of the town. Equally troubling is what happened when she made a formal complaint to the police. She was held in further contempt for daring to cast aspersions on the character of the community.

Therein lies the rub: the rape allegations turned on the question of who had the better 'reputation'. Steubenville's cultural standing was linked to a sport where the very image of manhood was laid bare. Football was more than a game, it was symbol of male potency that galvanized and rejuvenated a struggling community and young women ideally cheered the home team on in their underwear. Football is where traditional conceptions of masculinity are reinforced through male bonding and competitiveness. It lets the best men win by using the male body as instrument of sanctioned aggression and violence. The irony is that football attempts to preserve male dominance in a society increasingly threatened by the power of women. It should therefore come as no surprise that the rape was a calculated act of revenge, as the victim had reportedly rejected another team member and they wanted to show her who was really in charge.

Particularly offensive was the way the defense tried to paint the accuser in a negative light with the footballer's own images and stories. The victim's degraded state was allegedly the true test of her character. The young girl's intoxicated state was a measure of her real worth and a convenient excuse to blame others. The footballer's were really trying to protect her from herself as she threw herself at them. It's difficult to know, however, how an unconscious girl could be capable of consent, let alone upward mobility. The defense conveniently neglected to mention, then, that alcohol is the rapist's weapon of choice and that most rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. And so like many women before her, the rape victim will be serving a life sentence for trusting her male 'friends' in the first place.

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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