Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The Post-Structuralist Dance Milieu of Milyoo
I've probably already turned you off with that title. It's a little pretentious, I know. But it's in honour of Tommy Wilson, a philosophy-obsessed rock climber who also produces some of the weirdest, fussiest house music around as Milyoo. As I said in my review of his excellent debut album Archeology on RA, I've been pretty heavily invested in the man's work since I first heard his debut single "Dasein" in all its nauseous, pressure-chamber glory on Mary Anne Hobbs' BBC Radio 1 Experimental show. The Kentuckian producer was the discovery of London underground scene-queen Subeena, who signed Wilson to her brand new OPIT label and released "Dasein" as part of a three-track EP that I described at the time as "too airy and hollow to even be called dance music."
That might have been a little harsh or even dismissive, but "Dasein" stands, even in its new context as part of Archeology, as a supremely weird track, like 2000s Autechre rendered in a cartoon world of playfully elastic steam-powered industry. Dismissive because, as it turns out, you could maybe kinda sorta somehow dance to Milyoo. Short-lived Bristol label Saigon released the four-track Kazuadon EP at the beginning of this year, highlighting Wilson's intentionally odd but persuasive grasp of vocal sampling and manufactured melody, but it was still weird as fuck. Then it seemed like a switch flip: on two singles released for OPIT and supremely undervalued London house underdog West Norwood Cassette Library, with "Colors" and "Biogram v2" respectively, Milyoo repositioned himself as a weirdo house producer, whether it was with the savant stomp of the former or the drawn-out repetitive hypnosis of the other. Milyoo's music is eminently post-structuralist, really: it refuses to confine itself to any one meaning, context, or interpretation, and comes from a place of churning alchemical transformation and metamorphosis rather than any kind of definable stability. His drums twitch, his vocal samples are cut into weird and angular shapes, and his chord progressions feel more like exhalations than proper melodies.
All of this comes to a head with Wilson's debut album Archeology released on OPIT, a record that continues Wilson's explorations into house but in typical fashion keeps them clipped in fleeting fragments, a 40-minute record that filters one of dance music's most basic and foundational genres through the tenuously tangential mind of a roving madman. For further thoughts you can check out my aforementioned review on RA, but suffice it to say it's an excellent record, the kind of understatedly brilliant effort you'd expect from an artist as meek but clever as Wilson. Having had on/off communication with the man himself for the better part of a year or so, I've managed to capture a glimpse of his unique, quirky personality -- I suppose it matches the music -- and thought it was about time I got to interview him in some pseudo-professional capacity. So here we are.
This interview is the process of seven months' work. It's primarily laziness and forgetfulness. I first wrote these questions on my iPhone in a nearly empty gay bar in London on a particularly boring Sunday night, then hit "cancel" instead of "save draft," then had to write them again, then forgot to send them, then my laptop with said questions was stolen. Then I re-did them in August finally and the bugger disappeared for a whole season. After much exchanging of blame and dilly-dallying, I finally managed to pin down Wilson for the proper interview. Lengthy, maybe a little self-indulgent, but totally digestible, this is the ever-lucid Milyoo expressing himself in a way that's as simultaneously succinct but multi-paradigmatic as his music. I didn't bother editing his responses like I normally would -- for grammar or consistency -- because I'm sure every typographical decision is loaded with the utmost meaning and implications. He also writes in lower-case, because dude thinks he's fucking e.e. cummings or something. The formatting is a bit off, and that's a bit of post-modern non-conformism from myself. And because I'm really growing tired with blogger's horrible interface.
Oh yeah, there's a free exclusive track at the end of it all as well, 'cause he loves me and I love y'all. "Thenagin Knowles" shows off Milyoo's usual oddball but accessible formula-not-formula, a gaseous mixture of strangely-heawn vocal samples, a lot of which are actually quite recognizable. It's three minutes of weirdness that define him pretty well, really.
Posted by Andrew Ryce at 11:39 PM