How is the hipster sublime distinct ( if we’re gonna run with this semi–concept. Might turn out to be a herring-red dead-end but so what… ) from the bog standard po-mo?
Firstly I think there are a couple of elements to pomo that aren’t important to the hip-sub. First up and fundamentally I think po-mo is founded on a rejection of the sublime. This doesn’t mean its neither vastly smart nor compendious, but it is based on foregrounding the formal qualities of the work, there’s a conspiratorial compact between producer/consumer to mutually acknowledge the mediation/formal devices and so on in the piece, the aim is not transport or rapture, but the satisfaction of knowing, pomo seeks not to overwhelm but to flatter. Po-mo’s desire to break down high/low cultural divides is also more generally in the nature of the collage than the possibilities of the hipster sublime, it requires surprising juxtapositions for its effects and as such the boundaries between elements need to remain fairly sharp, or the contrast is lost. Then there is, of course, irony.
The hipster sublime is perhaps just a point of super-saturation within po-mo, po-mo overflowing , eroding its own constraints, shifting to a molecular level, a kind of atomized and diffuse hyper referentiallity, timeless and placeless, that in somehow stretching back and out begins to oscillate into the future.
This is the current nominee for exemplar of the Hip-sub.
Actually I was struck by similarish effects watching Position Normal (Po-No) last night. First up I should confess to slight fatigue around the whole Exotic Pylon thing. It’s Goth and Industrial innit, really? Plus, I mean if we're beaming more than just dubstep back in time as a litmus test to what extent would Po-No sound like the future to anyone who was listening to Nurse With Wound’s “The Sylvie and Bab’s High Thigh Companion” in 1984? (I should point out that I hate that record). I suppose what’s engaging in Po-No at least for me (as it is to some degree in the Ghost Box stuff*) is the extent to which it actually sounds like an attempt to assert a kind of deep Englishness, rescue it even ( all those bathetic sampled voices) without lapsing back outright into folk traditions, a kind of claiming of the technological, the modern as a vehicle for Englishness/Britishness (“Mum’s gone to Grundig’s”) (in this sense it reminds me of Grime) in the face of globalization and Americanization. This is I suppose why, apart from NWW, PO-NO’s stuff reminds me most of Robert Wyatt and Utramarine ( who, of course, collaborated). But this, is, I guess, the arguably regressive/reactionary element in the work. The points at which it gets most interesting is when that conflict seems to be most intensely played out within the structure of the “songs”, the ways in which the song’s ambit seems to enclose this battle, alternating between defeat and resignation and then surges of reiteration and reassertion.
There’s a tension within Po No then that I don’t think there is within Vampire Weekend, a querulous, troubled dialectical quality as opposed to a kind of voluptuous, polysemic infuseness**. This may be generational, it may be an Anglo-American*** split, it may be a question of class, or even just that notorious old bit of flim-flam “sensibility”.
Still too wildly incoherent? Don’t worry I really am going to write those posts on OPN and The Office and clear all your misgivings up in two fell swoops.
*Though I have a feeling Hauntology is in danger of becoming rather diffuse itself, presumably anything made before 1978 is now “hauntological”, look at my grandad’s hauntological slippers, check out my hauntological Jackie annual, feel the nap on that bit of bri-nylon hauntological shag-pile my parents used to clad the loft, and risks a hipsterish Hauntological crate-digging one-upmanship developing, I’ll see your obscure, black and white 1970’s BBC2 children’s pagan horror-sci-fi series and raise you William Hartnell reading Lovecraft on Jackanory backed by the Sheffield Electronic Music Kollective etc…. Do I know my hauntological shit or WHAT???!!! Right, what’s next?
** yeah, I just made that word up. So pseud me.
*** I have to say last year I was taken with Wolves in the Throne Room and Kralice largely because they were the forefront of what I guess get’s called errrr… “Positive” Black Metal.