Bourgeois Speedball: Red Threads

September 9, 2016

Now it’s time for something different, something outside the box. A breathe of fresh air called Bourgeois Speedball, in its current form, consisting of Katsy Pline and Danny Lewis. It is one performance wing of the Field Recording Working Group, a group focused on listening to and recording soundscapes of struggle in the Bay Area. We are premiering their album ‘Red Threads’ in an unconventional way: we asked them to present the record themselves. 😉 

Bourgeois Speedball

Bourgeois Speedball (Photo: Ariel Appel)

Originally a four piece with traditional rock instrumentation (bass, guitar, keys, mpc), a desire to make music capable of distilling these field recordings into legible dance tunes shifted instrumentation to exclusively sampler/sequencers and synthesizers. The aim was to make dance music 1) outside of, and agitating toward, those electronic dance musics that fail to address contemporary issues and 2) to attempt to re-introduce concepts of anti-racism, anti-capitalism, and queer struggle into the sphere of “cultural production.” In short, we sought to make explicitly politicized music, by combining the form and aesthetic tendencies of different popular styles with field recordings from soundscapes of struggle and explicitly political, vocalized samples.

‘Red Threads’ is a method of listening to the history of electronic music in the context of social antagonism and struggle. It names a subversive history of electronic composition fundamentally opposed to the world as it is, with its order imposed through violence and exploitation, and seeks to construct alternative futures of a different kind. ‘The aesthetic, especially the queer aesthetic, frequently contains blueprints and schemata of a forward-dawning futurity,’ (Munoz, 2002). We went listening for those sound-organizers and collectives who connect, in thought and practice, the liberation of sound with the liberation of society. Here, electronic composition is for the partisans.

Sounding alternative futures outside the frequency spectrum of capitalist realism is a necessary and vital task for composition in our contemporary juncture. We tend to think of composition’s relation to emancipatory politics through the work of Commune Editions, an Oakland-based poetry press. Compositions are a ‘promissory note…realized in revolution’ that work to generate ‘glimpses of another way of living that can only be realized through a total transformation of society,’ (Commune Editions, 2015).

We heard these glimpses of another way of living in the soundscapes conjured up by social movements against racist police brutality and economic inequality (among other things) in the Bay Area. We wandered, microphone in hand, with the crowds that assembled in Oscar Grant Plaza in solidarity with Ferguson, against the reproduction of a society predicated on anti-black racism at every level. The sonic archive of resistance from which we drew for this record stretches from November 2014 to May Day, 2015, and is freely available to download HERE.

The aim of creating and using this archive was to extend the affective and ambient environs produced in moments where the reproduction of the social is temporarily halted out beyond itself. It was an attempt to give a sort of tactility, a sensory component, to re-frame the question of police brutality and economic violence as questions of re-making daily life in the most basic, and thus revolutionary, sense. To listen, record, and share the sounds of revolutionary tendencies coursing through the crowds assembling.

‘Red Threads’ also names the techniques we utilized to generate the sonic material for this record. As artists who work with sampling, we began to think of sampling as a kind of gathering-together of different resistant sonic threads running through the social fabric. Sampling becomes an act of weaving disparate cultural threads from poetry, philosophy, field recordings and popular music into a heterogeneous yet interconnected whole. We sampled queer theorists, revolutionary poets, top-40 charlatans both contemporary and not, garage rockers, Bigfoot Statue peddlers, robot voices, our friends and sundry else.

As a record, ‘Red Threads’ is not united by a strict adherence to a single tempo, key, genre or style. Its coherence lies instead in its methods, politics and ends. It makes for an odd, disjointed listen. But perhaps this disjointedness is fitting in a world reeling off its axis heading straight for a fucking black hole…


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