When we imagine things like cyborgs and the integration of technology with biology we are usually continuing a long-running philosophical division between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’, one we tend to exaggerate in the images of robotic arms and microchip-enhanced eyes. Arguably, however, the division is not clear-cut, and that integration is not some far-off fantasy but already an everyday fact of life. As I listen to SD Biomix, what I hear is being modified by a Digital Audio Converter and a single wide-range speaker, not to say anything about the very quality of the files being reproduced by a music program in my computer. Without all this technology my experience of the music would be quite different, maybe even impossible, and while there’s nothing physically attached to my ears, I absolutely rely on all these things to listen to the sounds someone who is not in the same room as I am made. I’m not Robocop, but all these fragments of tech function as an extension of my ear, so that it reaches into places and sounds it would otherwise never do. The very heterogeneity of these devices mark myself as fractured, as a non-whole whose needs and senses blur that abstract distinction of nature and artifice, and these sounds are a reflection of this state: as either a Standard Definition or Secure Digital biological mix, it reveals all the bits and pieces that surrealistically come together to hack and mod our interactions with the world.
What artists like Mukqs do is pull back all those old star-gazing and unitarily utopian directives of electronic music into the folds of the here and now, to make present its historical detritus as the synthy beeps and volume-less beats that populate the cracks of current technological narratives of progress. Traditional MIDI melodies deconstruct into the memorable tones of ancient computers; electronic Y2K sounds of the ‘future’ disrupt a (digital) jazz harmony only to be tempered by the background drone of a New Age soundscape; a dense rhythmical complexity of different sorts of electronic beats paradoxically sounds hollow; the playful coming together of will and chance serves as the platform of an exploration that juxtaposes all those sounds that were once intimately familiar, experiential extensions of our being in the world. Just like my particular audio set, it lets the random encounter of all these extensions grow into mechanical life, sometimes giving us ecstatic intensity with sounds meant to soothe (like the bells in “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”), sometimes even giving us a sweet melody to hold on to for a while that comes to be constituted mostly by bugs and glitches (“Petite Cake Set”).
This organicism with which Mukqs manipulates all these fragments does not lead, however, through the usual path in which the aforementioned philosophical divide makes wholesomeness (and with it, things like authenticity) a virtue. It takes a step forward from the implications of past albums and works with the impossibility of such wholesomeness: what remains is the joy of experimentation, of collage, of all those heterogeneous synthy leftovers coming back to life to anarchically cooperate and develop, in each and every case, new harmonies, new progressions, new relations, new natures that see in artifice not an opponent but a friend with which to sit down and play. As these sounds dissolve their historical markings, they suggest another dissolution taking place in the border between person and machine, our bodies modded by the images on screens, our language enriched by GIFs and emotes, our thoughts structured by all the things that super wealthy tech dudes that seem to live in another planet tell us are obsolete every year. The incompleteness of these tracks, of this Biomix, reflects that dissolution back at us, all the bits and pieces of us that we sometimes recover and rearrange, becoming a reminder of all those things into which we often turn to simply live.
The oldest sound of them all, that of the piano, comes back to atonally haunt the album’s last track, “Your Eyes and Patterns”, its ‘natural’ associations done away with and its hierarchical place lost, just one more sound fragment in this (happy) experimental collaboration. In the end, its fracture from its apparent self-unity means the possibility of truly coming together, not as one with one direction and singular purpose, but as many, with as many directions and purposes as there are elements in the mix. (David Murrieta Flores)