Aoki & Carnage Make The Sonic Equivalent of a Trump Tweet

I haven’t written about a singular track on this blog in a very long time, but this one requires it. For many reasons, none of which are good. Carnage & Aoki put out something I can only describe as a nightmare of mediocrity and ignorance. If you told me a neural network wrote it, I’d actually respect it a bit more. Thankfully it’s only 2:40, but in that time it manages to annoy, confuse, and disappoint. While being marketed as “Minimal Techno” by the payola industry (You better hope to the Gods of Techno that Jeff Mills doesn’t hear this), the track more closely aligns to cheesy tech-trance that could be produced with a starter sample pack on Fruity Loops around the time the Vengaboys were coming.  Boilerplate EDM snare drums, lead into some vocals that have nothing to do with the title, the video, or much of anything. I’m tempted to believe the only reason they’re structured the way they are is because “North/West/East/Southside” rhymes with Genocide. They feature a vocalist for this, Lockdown, but at this point, Lockdown could very well be the name of the vocoder they used.  The vox push into late 90’s faux industrial kicks and one of the more disappointing drops I’ve heard in the last decade.

To be clear, the song is structurally coherent, the mixdowns are fine, and if it was created by a kid on the Southside of Chicago with some ripped software and a blown laptop in 1999, I’d have loved it when I heard it…in 1999. Instead, we have two artists who have massive amounts of resources and access to a shocking amount of authentic talent & collaborators, squeezing one out in an hour. But, none of this is the worst part. Not even the baby angels having a knife fight is the worst part. The worst part is something that, for the life of me, I simply cannot figure out. Why the fuck did they call this track PLUR Genocide?

A Tweet by @ARPdid911 talking about DJ Carnage & Steve Aoki

Steve Aoki is Japanese and DJ Carnage is Guatemalan. Both of these countries have suffered massively, from internally & externally spawned genocide that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the 20th Century alone. What purpose would there be to naming the track this, especially when you’re discussing PLUR, the aesthetic of the Rave era, the thing DJs like Carnage, Aoki, Swedish Fish Mafia, and GuettaFace killed? There’s something entirely infuriating about a track that could’ve been built by an algorithm fed late 90’s dance music, while actively denigrating the era. Many DJs have rode a wave of fame on the back of parties that would not have existed without communities of poor, queer, black & Latinx artists, which included refugees. Early rave culture on both sides of the Atlantic was a space for the excluded, rejected, and misunderstood. EDM gentrified the shit out of a lot of these spaces, to the point where the original community members were no longer welcome. Over time, “rave culture” gave way to retail festivals, with the safe space giving way to commercialized & exploited spaces.

Then, the culture is packaged and sold back to us at a profit. This track is the Pei Wei version of authentic music that moved dance floors almost 30 years ago now. Which is idiotic when you stop to think about it. This track will get a bunch more traction than a lot of the innovative stuff going on out there. They could’ve named it “Angel Baby Knife Fight” and I wouldn’t have cared. But instead, they called it PLUR Genocide. Even McDonalds has the decency to not call the McRib “Pork Slavery.”

Why call the track this? Why even release this? The only possible explanation I can come up with is that this is the dance music equivalent of trolling. This is a track that a ton of people are going to rail against (myself included), which will drive clicks/streams. This is EDM in the era of the Facebook algorithm. People will have a ton of hot takes in the coming days about it, but it doesn’t matter because they’re still getting paid for it. And while it’s a sound business strategy, I’m just kind of sad that’s where the industry has gotten to. This is what happens when labels decide to start “triggering the libs,” as it were. Trump tweets set the narrative and take the spotlight off people doing real work in our country. This does the same, but on Spotify and YouTube.

A while ago Aoki did this interview where he said that DJs should step aside and let women lead. As Dim Mak doesn’t have any solo producers/DJs on their roster, and Aoki’s work with Carnage sounds like fucking a war crime, maybe he should step aside, book some woke First Nation, Mayan, Japanese, and Guatemalan women & queer artists, let them benefit from his platform, and have himself a think.

Thoughts?

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