001 // introduction to the aesthetics of lingering
002 // case study: step-printing; temporal stutters
003 // case study: software accelerations; technological affordances
004 // case study: space; glitch
005 // case study: the cloud; disembodied distribution
005 // case study:desire; spotify’s ‘hauntology’ playlist
006 // conclusion and bibliography
the aesthetics of lingering
Drifting in the vacuum of in-betweenness; contemporary online audiovisual culture aestheticises the collapse of linear chronology; operating in the latent space between frames, the web bubble. The aesthetics of lingering can be characterised by sharp temporal stutters, smoothed by a wash of euphoric longing romance: the glow of the ever-present. Desire fuelled almost-moments dilate and stretch; pulling away from one another in a play of networked intimacy.
The resulting effect of simultaneous speeding up and slowing down creates the feeling of a stuck-ness which first struck me in Wong Kar-Wai’s use of step-printing, a sensitivity I noticed also permeating contemporary music bred online.
‘-CORE’ -CORE: I am proposing a blanket term that, rather than grouping all music which has emerged from an internet scene in a group, acknowledges the expansive and experiental lineage of hardcore music emerging in the 1990s. Hardcore similarly underwent a craze of taxonomy giving birth to a myriad of cores such as frenchcore, speedcore, j-core. Another important aspect of ‘-CORE’ genres is their process of normalisation through -- “artist, label and critic arbitration and consensus” (Press-Reynolds, 2022). This further plays a part in the reconceptualization of a ‘-CORE’ as a vibe embedded in associated aesthetics which runs parallel to social media culture. An undergraduate student of mine even re-termed Magritte’s paintings as a cross between weirdcore and dreamcore.music - artists such as Drain Gang, meatcomputer, Sad Boys, and Babyxsosa - take a necessarily transmedia approach in distributing not only its sonic output but an associated visual aesthetic which cultivates an encompassing fiction. I will focus primarily on Drain Gang’s output as a nexus of these online microgenres.
Fully immersed in augmented, technologically disembodied encounters; the experience in internet culture where chronology is incoherent yet up to the minute means that “all presence is presence at a distance” (Virilio, 2009). Considered in the framework of hauntology outlined by Mark Fisher et al, it denotes that rather than contemporary music carrying aesthetic notations of the past, it inhabits a space of eternal presence - reaching neither forwards nor backwards, but deeper within a folded fictioning of the present as a location in-itself.
step-printing: temporal stutters
opening sequence Shot by a handheld camera, “only glimpses of the sky are visible and, even so, they are ‘denatured’ with the clouds moving at an abnormal speed … the camera then freeze-frames on a woman we do not and cannot recognise, because she is in disguise” (Tong, 2003).; dir. Wong Kar-Wai; 1994
Chungking Express opens with a multi-perspectival blur - a chase sequence with an incoherent mess of colours which dislocates the surrounding architecture; at friction with the classic cinematic establishing shot where rather than establishing location, Wong Kar-Wai attempts to capture time. This atmosphere of space/time displacement sets the narrative tone which is defined by the tension of action and inaction as characters - often isolated from each other while still occupying the same frame - long for romantic connection. Their images drift through this artificial bubbled present while space splinters as
“images of time” (Tong, 2003). Janice Tong utilises Deleuze's conception of Time-Image in Cinema 2 to make a case for Wong Kar Wai’s “temporal exegesis” in the sense that his films unfold rather than run linearly, less driven by narrative structure (2003).
This effect of simultaneously speeding up and slowing emerges from Wong Kar-Wai’s poetic deployment of step-printing. This opening sequence is shot at double-speed, 48 fps, and played back at 24fps. Frames 1-12 run consecutively then frame 12 gets repeated for the next 12 frames to achieve a ‘pause’; frames 13-24 are discarded and frames 25-36 run consecutively and so on (Tong, 2003). Something gets lost in this process - we lose grip on our surroundings, space becomes ambiguous, things appear and disappear in a mesh. Intercut with these step-printed sequences are our only resting moments - stills of expiry dates, clocks and declarations of measurements in voice-over:
“At the high point of our intimacy,
we were just 0.01 cm from each other”
The use of past tense itself becomes an insertion of time. This tension of distancing is supported by the wash of non-diegetic score - the slow emergence of out-of-sync footsteps as our only diegetic hook. We are relocated in a fictional present through a more conventional orchestral piece which itself suggests a parody of
cinematic inevitability. Straddling diegetic and nondiegetic, the music throughout the rest of the film also splinters our temporal location - the only recognisably contemporary track is ‘Dreams’ by The Cranberries but “even as you hear the opening your familiarity is immediately displaced by a Cantopop version remade and sung by Faye Wong” (Tong, 2003).
Significantly, step-printing is not the same as slow motion, despite its similarity in the experience of temporal manipulation. Where slow motion requires the filmmaker to shoot at a higher frame rate - you are ‘creating’ time - with step-printing you are lingering in a moment. The mechanics of image-making allows us to inhabit a space we cannot ordinarily see - a previously ‘blank’ screen between frames. By occupying this latent space we are afforded a kind of computationally enhanced vision through repetition of what is missing.
software accelerations; technological affordances
The hypermedial digital stutter explored in the analysis of Chungking Express shares an aesthetic similarity with the trap-hat trill which dominates contemporary internet genres of music.
TRAP_HAT these are nothing that can be achieved by a human body slamming their sample pad. it is a copy-paste gesture
Legendary Member, Thaiboy Digital ft. Bladee, Ecco2K & Yung Lean (Audio Visual); 2020
Much has been written about the significance of the technological development of software in composition - specifically on increasingly accessible modes of music production. Most significant in the framework of lingering, is the capacity for sampling to be outside of ‘real-time’ recording. The speed of digital encoding enables the sample - a moment - to be resurrected in a click. Further compacting this, the trap-hat stutter makes haptic this speed of data encoding. The prevalence of the audio preset - the sharing of midi-files on fan-created audio production subReddits, has created a kind of dislocated ‘super-sample’ which has no ghost. This surely marks the shift from
‘amen’ The Winston Brothers’ 1969 ‘Amen Brother’ break, originally lasting 7 seconds, carries with it the gesture of the drummer [the controlled muscular spasms, performed by the body in a moment of energy exertion] , the resonance of the recording space in Washington D.C, the texture of the recording material, the haptics of the vinyl [the damage of the needle], digitised and shared online again and again. The looping of these 7 seconds, often at double speed resurrects this moment of freestyle again and again and relocates this spatially.based -CORE music towards a new kind of production: participation in a genre is removed from a tangible signifier and enters the void. The shift to music-as-data is an audible quality of software produced internet music - a kind of direct line where, in theory, sound never needs to hit the air - it is a hypothetical ‘if’.
As in Chungking Express, the aesthetic language of -CORE can also be identified by its artificial treatment of space in which “the sonic depth of the recording is squeezed into a vastly smaller physical area than an [analog] medium” (Reynolds, 2011). This is a sonic quality of -CORE output.
drain story, Bladee, 2020
The reverb-wasted aesthetic of Drain Gang’s output is coupled with the closeness of the trap-hat stutter. The spatial dislocation is further reflected in the way that music is listened to: the shift from an embodied sense of time and place afforded by hifi-systems - your distance from the object determining audibility - to wireless headphones creating an always there bubble: weightless, wireless and noise cancelling, which collapses the space between you and the mp3. In the realm of recorded sound, the dislocated hypothetical space of production acts as a sort of
non-place, As defined by in ‘Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity’ by Marc Augé, 2009.its artificiality not corresponding to any actual circumstance.
The interpolation of synchronicity - oscillating between absolute presence and delay - is perceived in music video aesthetics and audio output. In particular,
Bladee ‘CEO of Drain Gang’., decisively plays with this wavering dislocation. Identified by tight cuts and audio-reactive edits, his music videos mimic a kind of fantasy zoom-in/zoom-out algorithm diving web experience - a
hyper-synchronous Synchronicity can be described as the symbiotic relationship between sound and image which ties them together, however there is a deliberate deviation through the hyperfixation on synchronicity which side-steps conventional modes (Korsgaard, 2017).hapticity. This contrasts with the out-of-joint performance of lip syncing in the videos, drawing attention to itself in its nonchalant, non-committal modality. A strange parody of music video conventions which fictionalises live-ness and embodiment radiating an aura of almost. There is further a deliberate obscuring of lyrics through vocal processing and whispering.
egobaby, Bladee, 2020
With the ever advancing sophistication of these virtual production places
falling out of time for example, Ableton’s ‘warp’ function automatically synchronises the track-in-progress to a malleable BPM- the temporal glitch - is a decisive aesthetic action. Legacy Russell’s ‘glitch’ framework highlights this fissure as a moment in which we recognise the separation of the physical self from the body-in-online-fantasy, providing a terrain for analysing this separation - both from its physicality, but further from its location in a particular chronology (Russell, 2013).
Indeed, “the slipping across, beyond and through the stereotypical materiality of the corpus”, can expand further to locate the dwelling place of -CORE music: the common usage of the term ‘corpus’ as a dataset in computer science (Russell, 2013).
the cloud; disembodied distribution
Cloud This is not as new as we might assume with the mainstream cloud of Google Drive, iCloud etc. introduced in 2011/2012, but can be dated to 1996, shortly after the release of Chungking Express where MIT Technology Review cites a reference to a patent for ‘cloud computing’, an unrealised model (Hu, 2015).servers such as Spotify, YouTube and SoundCloud facilitate astronomic expansion of memory which elongates the present outside of a physical location - “distance and delay have been eroded to nearly nothing” (Reynolds, 2011). As of February 2020, more than 500 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute - this equates to approximately 30,000 hours of newly uploaded content per hour (Statista, 2022).
Our sense of temporality is increasingly inconstant - a model that is facilitated by the time-display bar, allowing visitors to make-present a particular moment; and the algorithmic sidebar - a lateral drift across time in which everything can enter your personal
timezone Users can also automatically link a certain timecode or comment on a fragment of a song in order to direct others to a particular moment.(Reynolds, 2011). Moreover, I would suggest that the genre-mashing -CORE is itself related to this algorithmically defined experience. Just as “one’s data trail grows with each website visit and each packet one sends through the cloud”, a particular online sub-scene accumulates references from the web ocean (Hu, 2015). This analysis of the temporal effect of listening to music online - “you can flit from the archaic to the up-to-the-minute in a click” - has a similar effect as the one achieved through Wong Kar-Wai’s use of step printing - the paradoxical combination of speed and standstill that locates the aesthetics of lingering as a feeling of stuckness (Reynolds, 2011). This is also explored lyrically.
nowhere fast, meatcomputer, 2020
The vastness of accessible content does not, however, provide an adequate archive for music scenes that originate online. Labyrinthine internet scenes - spread across myriad forums and platforms - are dotted with elisions, breaks, lost moments (Press-Reynolds, 2022). The chronology is consequently impossible to define; this is something which is deliberately mythologized by Drainers and becomes a kind of ‘true-fan’ signifier. In the instance of Bladee’s Icedancer Mixtape, this fictional chronology or ‘drain story’ is used as a distribution strategy in which albums are dropped and
across multiple platforms.