"My theory is simple. The 'artist' is over."
Since coming together in New York as a record label, management group and production company in 2012, Godmode has been responsible for one of the most immaculately curated yet inversely and criminally unsung discographies in modern American music. Over time, what began as limited edition cassette tape and SPECIAL DJ VERSION vinyl releases from the likes of noise rockers Yvette, disco house auteur Shamir and dream pop duo Courtship Ritual has transformed into regular digital dispatches of retro-leaning club music, abstract techno, angelic noise and experimental pop.
For most of 2016, Godmode's output has hung off their 'Faculty Series' – a weekly program of songs, EPs, and albums mostly delivered straight to SoundCloud from their South Williamsburg Faculty studios. So far, the series has introduced us to a constellation of new Godmode artists including, but not limited to, genre and language blurring singer and beat-maker Yaeji, and the transcendental synthesizer adventurers Gioia and Bari. On Saturday, September 3rd, these three will share the bill with Godmode regulars Soft Lit, Malory, and emerging DJ duo Smash Brothers at our Dummy Presents: Godmode event which is set to take place at Halcyon in Brooklyn.
In celebration of this, Godmode have put together a special, genre-defying playlist of songs from artists showcased at the event for us. Listen to the selections below and catch some further reading on the 'Faculty Series' from one half of the Godmode team Nick Sylvester after the jump.
"What is the 'Faculty Series'?"
by Nick Sylvester
My theory is simple:
The 'artist' is over.
A slightly less hot take for sensitive souls: the 'artist' as an organising principle is a creative albatross. Only the artists who free themselves from being 'artists' will remain creatively viable.
In our current scenario, the non-musical concerns of 'artistry' outweigh the musical ones. That's been the case for a while but it feels more pronounced lately. An artist is not a person but a brand, and the core product is seemingly not the song but the artist himself. I find these kinds of self-imposed "brand guidelines" creatively stifling, anxiety inducing, and ultimately bad for music.
Self-imposed brand guidelines drive an artist's work toward a kind of accidental narcissism too. What do *I* care about? What am I trying to say about *myself*? What socio-artistic strata do *I* wish to be perceived in? It's fussy and boring and I don't know – a little too high school?
Not that the two are necessarily inversely related: the music I've always cared about is less concerned with presentation, and more with communion. I like when music feels like it was made to share and enjoy with others, even just a few.
I've spent the last two years in writing sessions for artists at all points in their careers. The best songs are always the ones that challenge the artist's current 'brand guidelines,' or flat-out ignore them. We talk of artists 'reinventing' themselves and faculty is the daily bread of that. In my best sessions, I let the song guide me, rather than the opposite. It's admittedly a little hippy-dippy but you get the idea.
What's amusing to me is that the biggest pop artists in the world – Beyonce, Drake, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift – are more likely to make these kinds of seismic changeups in their aesthetic, or at least go with the hippy-dippy flow, than some hobbyist techno artist in Bushwick. The former type has a lot more to lose! The latter has willed himself/herself/theirselves into a 16-step strait jacket. There's room between the two poles of course. Perhaps all I mean is maybe the original Greek understanding of how art happens – i.e. the artist is but a vessel to the muse's expression, if she shows up at all – is not the worst one.
I want the 'artist' to be over because I love artists. Like anyone, I'm skeptical of our new streaming overlords, a/k/a the new organizers, and playlists, a/k/a the new organising principle. It has nothing to do with the money or anything. I'm just not sure what's lost when we let purpose-driven playlists become the primary context for listening. It runs the risk of making music a mistress to lifestyle.
The difference between a playlist and a mixtape is key here. Maybe what I want is for artists to think of their work more like mixtapes. A playlist is something you listen to. A mixtape is something you share.
With the 'Faculty Series', I challenge all the 'artists' on Godmode to break free from themselves and try something completely new, maybe even a little uncomfortable. Collaborate if you've never tried that. If you don't sing, maybe try singing. If you don't know how to play the Moog, why not start a song by coming up with something on that first?
We opened our studio, FACULTY, in January this year, and have put out a new Faculty single every week since then. It has birthed modular synth experiments, bizarre trans-atlantic rap collaborations, aggressive remixes, new approaches to sampling, and mostly just a lot of incredibly weird and raw and expressive music.
Almost all of it was written and recorded and mixed at the studio through our equipment, but what knits them together for me is the sense of freedom. That something beautiful and unlikely and powerful happens when we give up control."
Dummy Presents: Godmode on September 3rd at Halcyon, Brooklyn (free with RSVP to email@example.com).