If we ask a man who is exploiting a commons to desist “in the name of conscience,” what are we saying to him? What does he hear? – not only at the moment also in the wee small hours of the night when, half asleep, he remembers not merely the words we used but also the nonverbal communication cues we gave him unawares? Sooner or later, consciously or subconsciously, he senses that he has received two communications, and that they are contradictory:
(i) (intended communication) “If you don’t do as we ask, we will openly condemn you for not acting like a responsible citizen”;
(ii) (the unintended communication) “If you do behave as we ask, we will secretly condemn you as a simpleton who can be shamed into standing aside while the rest of us exploit the commons.”
Everyman is then caught in what Bateson has called a “double bind.” Bateson and his co-workers have made a plausible case for viewing the double bind as an important causative factor in the genesis of schizophrenia. The double bind may not always be so damaging, but it always endangers the mental health of anyone to whom it is applied. “A bad conscience,” said Nietzsche, “is a kind of illness.”
Felix K arrives on Blackest Ever Black with a front-rank EP of bleak, bombed-out soundboy electronics.
Felix has been active in the underground of his native Berlin since the late ’90s, often working incognito. His roots are in drum-and-bass, and he has repeatedly advanced and invigorated the genre with his own adroitly minimalist, dub-centered productions, making important lateral connections to austere Hard Wax-school techno and more abstract electronic realms. With their Hidden Hawaii label and its small galaxy of subsidiary imprints, meanwhile, Felix and his co-conspirators are futurists who still kill the old way: doggedly DIY, committed to short-run white label culture and covert action.
Even in the context of his wide-ranging discography, Tragedy of the Commons’ 17-minute title track is a stand-alone experiment in form: a labyrinthine, slow-burning dread epic, beatless but crushingly dynamic, its frail minimal synth lines wandering lonely amid plate-shifting bass drones and a dense, disorienting assemblage of field recordings. It’s exemplary Berlin noir: hurt but stoic, pessimistic but unyielding, and closely attuned to the city’s strange psychogeography.
The haunted weather intensifies in the hulking ‘Silent Money’. While dub is there in the DNA of all Felix K output, this is his most explicit nod to the source, a slow-motion soundsystem downer armed with frequencies fit to disinter the dead. Ghosts awoken stick around for Onar Anxiety’s thunderous sub-low techno remix of ‘Fundamentals’, their howled chorus equal in force and fury to the cantering tribal drums.
The 12″ – cut by Matt Colton and presented in full LP-style sleeve, with download code included, in an edition of 500 copies – can be pre-ordered now ahead of February 16 release. Digital formats will be available to buy separately later in the year.