(Heavy Dose, 2017)
How can anything so grand emanate from the noise, from the static? Usurper’s “Less,” from the Oblivion Intimacy cassette EP, is a study in how utter delight can issue forth from something so horrifying, at least on its surface. Both the track itself and its accompanying video by Jeromie Dorrance take as their base a fully unpleasant element and distort it so that it becomes sickly sweet through the process. Matt Johnson, the man behind Usurper, crafts syrup-dense synth odes, likely from underneath a pile of patch cords and computer guts in a near-future dystopian landfill. If Black Moth Super Rainbow had gone full shoegaze instead of hip hop, the result might have sounded a bit like Usurper. “Less” is the sound of machines and androids retching rainbows of solid industrial filth into the center of a planet once (but no longer) fit for human habitation. But in a totally awesome, eminently replayable way!
Dorrance’s video for the track reminds me a bit of Luke Wyatt’s work as a video mulcher (Wyatt’s also the man behind the excellent Torn Hawk, which Usurper could certainly claim as an inspirational touchpoint), but Dorrance has christened his process with the equally cool descriptor “datamoshing.” Repurposing film clips from the heyday of video-store rentals (there is surely more than one flash of Total Recall in there), he “moshes” the “data” together with other videos of current events and various fragments of internet detritus. Dorrance’s “Less” visuals, heavy on the liquid so you know they’re extra gross, ooze slowly, viscous, congealing into each other until the whole thing becomes a hypnotic exercise. Pixels smear against one another, blending and melding with the audio, as glimpses of scenes you can grasp and understand are almost immediately overrun with other superimposed images, deconstructed for max disquiet.
The video and the track are perfect for each other. Each is a masterful concoction with an eye or ear on the complete disrepair of consumer culture. As unsettling as “Less” is, it also displays a childlike fascination with gross stuff, kind of like when buying slime at the toy store was the pinnacle of your week. Ten-year-old me is impressed. If sculch is junk, then mulch is punk, and datamoshing, both audio and video, is the wave of the future. Usurper will be a pop god in a hundred years when everyone’s dead.