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Journey Into The Retro-Futuristic Soundscape Of Occult Hardware's "Obsolete"

Innovative multimedia duo Occult Hardware defies genre boundaries. Their new single and music video, "Obsolete," takes listeners on a mind-bending odyssey.

Fayann Smith and Robert Burnham, the masterminds behind Occult Hardware, have been pushing artistic limits since their inception. Fusing elements of pop culture, contemporary dance, dark electronica, and live ritual, their confrontational projects have garnered global attention from Vogue, BBC Television, and Dazed.

"Obsolete" is more than just a song; it's a 14-minute conceptual adventure that serves as the soundtrack to an art film by October! Collective. The track delves into the complex interplay between reality and the extreme restructuring of boundaries due to technological advancements, questioning reality and what's to come with AI.

Immersing in "Obsolete" is like stepping into a dystopian dreamscape. The multi-textured soundscape, crafted with a passion for synthesis and sound design, draws inspiration from conceptual rock legends like Pink Floyd and Trent Reznor. Occult Hardware masterfully blends soft synths, robust analog hardware, and nostalgic digital tones to create a retro-futuristic atmosphere that transports the listener into another universe.

The accompanying music video is an equally trippy experience, questioning reality at its very seams. Through a captivating performance by movement director Morgan Barbour, the visuals explore the tension between the physical body and the encroaching influence of technology, complementing the song's cautionary tale. It's a needed reminder that we can either do good with this technology or we'll face its wrath.

Ready for an immersive experience like nothing else? Dive into Occult Hardware's "Obsolete," now available on all digital streaming platforms.

Welcome to Buzz, Occult Hardware! Your new single, "Obsolete," is a mesmerizing journey that blends music, art, and technology. What inspired you to create such a conceptually ambitious piece?

We were compelled by the time we existed. As people who are concerned with ethics and immersed in technology, we felt that it would make sense to tackle the issues head-on. Our friendship groups, composed of many artists who are all tackling the same issues regarding creativity and digital tools, have raised many valid concerns, and this was our way of opening a dialogue that felt open and exploratory.

Our position is of cautious optimism. We are aware of the dangers of unmediated advanced technology. Still, we also believe that if we allow for meaningful debate, then we can shape the future together, not just be subject to it. As much as there are huge and somewhat greedy corporate interests they can be amenable to people power if it is focused and well organised. They have everything to gain by keeping their customers happy and finding applications for their products.

The soundscape of "Obsolete" is incredibly rich and diverse, referencing various genres and influences. How did you approach the composition and production to achieve this unique fusion of sounds?

We relied on our own musical knowledge and obsessions to dig deep into a compelling sound. As people who have spent thousands of hours not just making but consuming music of all genres, we felt that the time spent listening to our favorite bands and composers has paid off. We’ve all got all kinds of equipment fetishes, so any new project is an inspiration to try out gear that we’ve not gotten our teeth into.

The revolution of digital tools means that certain equipment that would be prohibitively expensive as hardware can now be played with as emulation plugins; this is enticing as we are always trying to find something new. Some bizarre combination of synthesizers, pedals, sequencing hardware, and effects, everybody making electronic music can probably relate to this. As much as we love classic instrumentation, there are limits to how unique you can make something so familiar. Combining this approach with sonic montage via sampling really expands the sonic palette.

The themes of "Obsolete" touch on the complex relationship between humans and advancing technology. What message or ideas did you hope to convey through the lyrics and spoken word?

We used two techniques: Smith pulled apart a futurist poem she had previously written, While Steinsdotter and Karpowicz combined their ideas utilizing the Cut-Up technique. The Cut-Up technique is a literary and artistic method where selected texts are cut into pieces and rearranged to create a new composition. It disrupts traditional narrative structures and generates new, often unexpected meanings.

The technique is most famously associated with the Dadaists of the early 20th century and was later popularised by writer William S. Burroughs and artist Brion Gysin in the 1950s and 1960s. The idea of randomizing the text was a direct way to underpin the notion of AI once more as it essentially collages all human thought into its own composite knowledge, so the form of expression here again relates to the machine processes that it is a commentary on.

How was your experience collaborating with October? Collective and movement director Morgan Barbour on the "Obsolete" art film? How do you feel the visuals enhance the impact of the music?

Barbour is an athlete in incredible shape. To see somebody in peak fitness like that is an inspiration and affirms human excellence. To keep the human element firmly in the picture, balance the digital narrative. We need to remember what is at stake if we do not honor our bodies and remain steadfast in keeping immersed in human affairs and culture.

Her dedication to her craft and capabilities is a testament to her solid commitment to a task and the ability of individuals to transcend their limitations to become almost superhuman. Being superhuman, either through sheer hard labor on your health or body modification, is part of our future whether we like it or not. Through education and experimentation, we ensure that, again, this is a choice, not a compulsion.

As multimedia artists, you've worked on confrontational, experimental projects that span music, dance, and visual art. How do you see "Obsolete" fitting into your broader artistic vision and evolution?

We’ve been keen to tackle soundtracks for a long time now. Being in bands is fantastic, but with the financial pressure of making it pay, coupled with the time demands related to touring, we felt that the more places we could place our music, the better. The music industry, if it can be called that, is so fragmented, and since the rise of downloads, it isn’t something that’s easy to live on. Additionally, not having worked within a traditional sound format is a lot less limiting.

Social media has made music consumption all about instant gratification and short, snappy music that comes and goes very quickly. If you want to break from this restriction, then moving into long-form pieces allows for the more idiosyncratic ideas to flow through and not be thrown aside as they don’t fit in a radio-friendly form. We also enjoy messing with people’s heads, from post-punk to trap, electroclash, and ambient; we go anywhere we want, and that freedom is part of the reason Occult Hardware exists at all.


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