fugitive frequency episode 09: Rhythmic Intelligence

‘Rhythmic Intelligence’ (RI) is a phrase coined by theorist and artist Kodwo Eshun when writing about hip hop and jungle in the late 1990s:

rhythm isn’t really about notes or beats, it’s about intensities, it’s about crossing a series of thresholds across your body. Sound doesn’t need any discourse of representation, it doesn’t need the idea of discourse or the signifier: you can use sound as an immediate material intensity that grabs you. When you hear a beat, a beat lands on your joints, it docks on the junction between your joints and articulates itself onto your joints, it seizes a muscle, it gives you this tension, it seizes you up, and suddenly you find your leg lifting despite your head. Sound moves faster than your head, sound moves faster than your body. What sound is doing is triggering impulses across your muscles … Anywhere you have a sense of tension, that’s the beginning, that’s the signs of a bodily intelligence switching itself on.

This hasty live mix is a rehearsal for a livestream club that fugitive-radio is proposing to host during the darker, colder months of Northern Europe to chase and perhaps harness urban bass musics’ ‘forward pressure’. The idea is not to fence in sound with concepts, trace histories or perform political alignments, but rather to simply play ‘what grabs you’.

Writing around the trajectories of jungle in the 1990s and early 2000s Simon Reynolds observed a ‘Hardcore Continuum’ across the UK and North America of mutating, viral and infectious urban dance music. Technologically enabled, such music culture can be read as an Afrofuturist extension of Black Modernity, that Eshun (1998) traces as a kind of alien and inhuman intelligence. As such, mixes such as this attempt to make a situation conducive to opening up towards sound and, as Eshun observed, to be ‘abducted by audio’.

Notably, livestream clubs operating during lockdowns have shifted the experience of such music. ‘Clubbing’, for want of a better word, is not what it used to be! It now seems unusual to enter a club and lose oneself amongst other dancing bodies, although new waves of illegal raves are undoubtably sprouting in urban peripheries. Infectious rhythms don’t rely on physical proximity to spread, but they are nevertheless a consequence of touch. Shifting air pressure presses on the eardrum and pulses through other bodily organs; RI inhabits the ‘sensual mathematics’ of code and vibration that is digital music production (Goodman 2010), the synthetic imagination of machines and the spontaneous alchemy of the mix.

I am curious about the capacity of such sound cultures to produce affects, fictions, modes of identification, and what theorist, DJ and producer Steve Goodman AKA Kode 9 describes as an ‘unorthodox hallucinatory [R]ealness’ (2010). While sound, as Eshun argues, ‘doesn’t need any discourse of representation’ music experiences and sound cultures certainly produce them, and many, such as myself, enter into these tribes via such means. (Notably, Eshun introduced and the term ‘sonic fiction’ to describe the interacting narratives and myth-science-poetics of artists, listeners and communities who collectively produce music cultures). Thinking through sounding infrastructures, such as sound systems, audio streaming platforms and peer-to-peer networks, we could draw on rhythmanalysis to consider how networked intelligences, software automation and mutating (narcosonic) music traditions shape bodies, shift behaviours, and induce states of subjectivation.

Track list
Arash Pandi – Chargah
DJ Spinn – Crazy ’n’ Deranged
KABLAM – For Hildegard
Iyer – Ratnam’s Riddim (Nonfuture Remix)
Badawi – No Schnitzel (Machinedrum Remix)
Mark Pritchard – Manabadman (Instrumental)
Jlin – Carbon 7
DJ Rashad – Love U
Rizzla – Dick
Air Max ’97 – Hounded
Subjex – Fractal Geometry
Gant-Man – Distorted Sensory (Kode 9 Remix)
DJ Rashad – Let It Go
Jlin – Asylum
RP Boo – Off Da Hook
Nkisi – Parched Lips
Iyer – Rakkama, Clap Your Hands (Wellbelove Remix)
Si Begg – Sick and Tired of the Bullshit
Zomby – Kaliko
Elysia Crampton – Oscollo (drums only version)