Saturday, July 17, 2010

Reborn In The Rhythmachine

she recorded the video for her single, Tightrope, in the Palace Of The Dogs. A sanitarium that she insists exists (though it appears to be fictional according to the power of Google), the Palace allegedly housed the likes of Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix, and, by her own admittance, herself. "I was a patient there," she announces, but archly refuses to say any more. "I can't really talk about it cos it still exists, and I've signed a clause where I can't disclose information, but I recorded music there so …"

We should keep in mind Kodwo Eshun's insistence that Sun Ra's claims to be from Saturn should not be taken metaphorically, but as a form of counterfactual truth, a hyperstitional weapon against hegemonic social 'reality', and an official history that posits black people as its pitiful objects, not the subjects of change.* The line about the working-class provenance of her uniform - one hardly expects to see this kind of thing in the Guardian! - puts us in mind of others who subsumed their identities in pursuit of collective myth-science, the dispossessed regaining agency through creation: Drexciya, Underground Resistance, Mantronix, Public Enemy, Andre 3000's designation of himself as a "blue-collar scholar" - and note how every one of the potential insane in the video for 'Tightrope'** also wear the uniform.

*Adding only further fuel to my argument that We Were Right, we should note that Plan B took notice of, and got excited about Janelle Monae long before the rest of the music press (minus the hip-hop mags, of course).
**Almost entirely off-topic, but it should be noted that the official End Times verdict on 'Tightrope' co-star Big Boi's album is that it is "boss", and an essential purchase, above and beyond the aforementioned 'Shine Blockas'.

UPDATE: firstly, we discover, via an interview, that Ms. Monae very much knows her black sci-fi - most obviously Octavia E. Butler. Secondly, we find, via Ubuweb's wonderful Twitter feed, this 1980 documentary on Sun Ra, which emphasises the extent to which the Arkestra was a communal venture, in which the music supplanted and empowered the individual band-members.


Post a Comment

<< Home