Monday, June 16, 2008

Negativland to release new song-based album -- its first in its 28-year history -- and remain subversive as ever.

Anyone familiar with the long-running culture-jamming subversive audio collage outfit Negativland would not be surprised to hear that the band has gone and challenged itself and listeners for yet another album. However, what’s truly remarkable about its forthcoming new album Thigmotactic is that it’s the first song-based release of its 28-year history.

The band’s entertaining and challenging cut-up motif remains intact, but these are songs to which you can sing along, ponder existential notions and/or wonder just what makes these guys so prolific and dead-on clever. Thigmotactic takes another path in Negativland’s many twists and turns throughout the musical wilderness, by going deep into song making territory with a project created mostly by one member of the group.

Moving in a very different direction than other recent Negativland releases, and with a decidedly surreal bent, these eccentric toe-tapping electronic folk-pop noise songs are strung together to forma continuous and cohesive listening experience, with themes emerging around meat, pants, milk, cows, trucks, Herb Alpert, Richard Nixon (MP3), and even love.

Thigmotactic continues in Negativland’s decades long collage and cut-up tradition, but while the trademark sound of found audio elements is sparingly collaged through-out, the cutting up here is also in the lyrics, created by combining dream journals, bits of advertisements, found poems, automatic writings, stream of consciousness, old National Geographic articles, and more. The fifteen songs and two instrumentals were written, composed and performed by Negativland’s Mark Hosler, with contributions from the rest of the group, and with well-known San Francisco noisemaker Thomas Dimuzio contributing lots of rather unexpectedly normal sounding instruments, arrangements and production. The found ethic continues with the artwork that accompanies each track, created from found materials to illustrate each song. Many of these have been shown as part of Negativland’s traveling art show “Negativlandland,” and, in a creative experiment in financing this release, each one-of-a-kind work is for sale via Negativland’s web site, Negativland has always existed as an umbrella under which the group releases collaborative work in many mediums - music, noise, collage, film, design, animation, fine art, books, lectures, essays, sculpture, performance, radio, web sites, etc. - with the term “Negativland Presents” sometimes being used as a way to release work that might be mostly the product of one member’s brain, or uses members outside of the immediate collective. To learn more about Negativland’s unusual history, read their bio below.

“Norris bangs one yucca stump after another to rout out an elusive night lizard, and gives me a running resume of the genus: its smallness, its lack of eyelids, how it sheds its skin as a snake does, that it is so incredibly sedentary that one may stay under the same bush or Joshua tree for much of its entire life and, being strongly thigmotactic – needing to keep in contact with world around it – will always try to keep its back against a solid protective roof…” – Ann Zwinger, The Mysterious Lands

Thigmotactic Tracklisting:
Release Date: July 15th, 2008

01. Richard Nixon Died Today (MP3)
02. Lying On The Grass
03. Extra Sharp Pencils
04. It's Not A Critique
05. Basketball Plant
06. Two Light Bulbs Flickering
07. By Truck
08. Jack Pastrami/Flower Bum
09. Influential You
10. Virginia's Trip
11. Steam On A Whim
12. Pork In The Store
13. Perfect Little Cookies
14. Kind of Grumpy
15. Your Skin Is Gelatin
16. Omnipotent Struggle
17. Rancho Pancho

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More About Negativland:
Since 1980, the 4 or 5 or 6 floptops known as Negativland have been creating records, CDs, video, fine art, books, radio and live performance using appropriated sound, image and text. Mixing original materials and original music with things taken from corporately owned mass culture and the world around them, Negativland re-arranges these found bits and pieces to make them say and suggest things that they never intended to. In doing this kind of cultural archaeology and “culture jamming” (a term they coined way back in 1984), Negativland have been sued twice for copyright infringement.

Okay, but what, you still ask, is Negativland exactly? That’s hard to answer. Negativland definitely isn’t a “band,” though they may look like one if you see their CDs for sale in your local shopping mall. They’re more like some sort of goofy yet serious European-style artist/activist collective - an unhealthy mix of John Cage, Lenny Bruce, Pink Floyd, Bruce Connor, Firesign Theatre, Abbie Hoffman, Robert Rauschenberg, 1970’s German electronic music, old school punk rock attitude, surrealist performance art, your high school science teacher… and lot’s more.

Over the years Negativland’s “illegal” collage and appropriation based audio and visual works have touched on many things - pranks, media hoaxes, advertising, media literacy, the evolving art of collage, the bizarre banality of suburban existence, creative anti-corporate activism in a media-saturated multinational world, file sharing, intellectual property issues, wacky surrealism, evolving notions of art and ownership and law in a digital age, and artistic and humorous observations of mass media and mass culture.

While it is true that, after being sued, Negativland became more publicly involved in advocating significant reforms of our nation’s copyright laws, Negativland are artists first and activists second. All of their art and media interventions have intended to pose both serious and silly questions about the nature of sound, media, control, ownership, propaganda and perception. Their work is now referenced and taught in many college courses in the US, has been written about or cited in over 150 books (including No Logo by Naomi Klein, Media Virus by Douglas Rushkoff, many legal journals, and various biographies of the band U2), and they often lecture about their work here and in Europe. Negativland is now on the advisory board of a Washington DC based intellectual property lobbying group called

Since 1981, Negativland and an evolving cast of characters have operated “Over The Edge,” a weekly radio show on KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California. “Over The Edge” continues to broadcast three hours of live, found-sound mixing every Thursday at midnight, West Coast time, with online access. In 1995 they released a 270 page book with 72-minute CD entitled Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2. This book documented their infamous four-year long legal battle over their 1991 release of an audio piece entitled “U2.” They were the subjects of Craig Baldwin’s 1995 feature documentary Sonic Outlaws and created the soundtrack and sound design for Harold Boihem’s 1997 documentary film The Ad and The Ego, an excellent in-depth look into the hidden agendas of the corporate ad world and the ways that we are affected by advertising. Their 1997 all-cola focused epic, Dispepsi, also tackled some of these same topics. In 2002, and to very mixed reaction, they unleashed the dark and noisy book/CD project Deathsentences of The Polished and Structurally Weak, which combined destroyed sounds with images of things found inside of wrecked cars in automotive wrecking yards. 2004 found Negativland working with Creative Commons to write the “Creative Commons Sampling License,” an alternative to existing copyrights that is now in widespread use by many artists, writers, musicians, film makers, and websites. In 2005, they released the elaborately packaged No Business (with CD, 15,000 word essay, and custom made whoopie cushion), and debuted “Negativlandland” - a large visual art show of over 80 piece’s of their “fine art” works, video, and home-made electronic devices, at New York City’s Gigantic Art Space.

More recently, Negativland have been touring a new performance piece called “Its’ All In Your Head FM”, a two-hour-long audio cut-up mix about monotheism, the supernatural God concept, and the all-important role played by the human brain in our beliefs. Christianity and Islam are the featured religions, as Negativland asks its audience to contemplate some complex, serious, ridiculous, and challenging ideas about human belief in a show best described as “documentary collage.” In late 2007, Negativland released Our Favorite Things, a feature length DVD collection of their many years of collaborative film work, and in 2008 they surprised themselves and everybody else by putting out a toe-tapping all-songs project called Thigmotactic.

Negativland is interested in unusual noises and images (especially ones that are found close at hand), unusual ways to restructure such things and combine them with their own music and art, and mass media transmissions which have become sources and subjects for much of their work. Negativland covets insightful humor and wackiness from anywhere, low-tech approaches whenever possible, and vital social targets of any kind. Foregoing ideological preaching, but interested in side effects, Negativland is like a subliminal cultural sampling service concerned with making art about everything we aren’t supposed to notice.

Below are some actual real big-time media quotes for Negativland that help make them sound respectable and legit:

“Declared heroic by their peers for refashioning culture into what the group considers to be more honest statements, Negativland suggests that refusing to be original, in the traditional sense, is the only way to make art that has any depth within commodity capitalism...” – New York Times

“It’s an often ignored request, but you may pay more attention to the phrase ‘Please remember to take all your belongings’ after seeing Negativland’s eerily mesmerizing new project…” – Newsweek

Negativland argues persuasively that creators should be able to appropriate bits and pieces of anything and incorporate then into their work without fear of legal action.” – Utne Reader

Negativland isn’t just some group of merry pranksters; its art is about tearing apart and reassembling found images to create new ones, in an attempt to make social, political and artistic statements. Hilarious and chilling.” – The Onion

Negativland, longtime advocates of fair use allowances for pop media collage, are perhaps America’s most skilled plunderers from the detritus of 20th century commercial culture...the band’s latest project is razor sharp, microscopically focused, terribly fun and a bit psychotic.” – Wired

“For more than 20 years, Negativland has earned renown for manipulation of both tape and media.” – Los Angeles Times

“Collage pioneers.....genre-defying, densely layered, strangely accessible...” – Washington Post

Negativland…known for their media pranks...” – Time Magazine

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