rival dealer and desiring machines

In the first chapter of Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari (D&G) claim that it was a ‘mistake to have ever said the id’, because the unconscious is a productive force ‘at work everywhere’. The world is comprised of ‘machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines […] all the time, flows and interruptions. This essay uses the concept of the desiring-machine to explore how Burial’s 2013 EP Rival Dealer (RD) – and, in particular, his use of vocal samples – is constructed like the mind of the ‘schizo’, from desiring-machines making rhizomatic and productive connections to machines outside of itself. I then suggest how Burial’s invocation of a Body without Organs (BwO) and his ‘schizophonic hauntology’ resist the underlying capitalistic forces that form the schizophrenic mind.

D&G state that ‘there is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together […] the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever.’ Throughout RD a desire to connect to ‘celestial machines, the stars or rainbows in the sky, alpine machines’ is foregrounded through the choice of vocal samples. In ‘Come Down to Us’, they cry out for connection to the natural world: ‘the stars, down to us, in the dark, in my mind / […] stars, dark, down, in my mind, in my mind’. Similarly, the samples in ‘Hiders’ proclaim that ‘You are the sun, it rises / […] out of the dawn / I will always protect you / […] You are the sun, it rises / Home. / You don’t have to be alone.’ These words suggest the creation of a ‘chlorophyll- or photosynthesis-machine’, a further undermining of the ‘man-nature dichotomy’ via an identification with the ultimate ‘energy-source machine’: the sun.

Rival Dealer further reflects the collapsing of these archaic boundaries through elements of its composition. As Mark Fisher highlights, when listening to the EP ‘what you momentarily thought was muffled bass turns out only to be the rumbling of tube trains’, and this phenomenon can be extended to the sounds of sirens, alarms, the hissing of static, the crackle of vinyl, and even the shaking of a spray-paint can; all point outwards to the draw of the urban landscape. Fisher suggests that this lure of the city in Rival Dealer, as in Darkside Jungle, is not just ‘an invocation of the powers of cosmopolitan conviviality’, but the lure of ‘the dark’, ‘the liberation of the suppressed libido in the dystopian impulse’, a movement of desire outwards into the architecture of the schizo’s surroundings.

D&G explain that ‘this entire level of distinctions’ is founded upon ‘the existence of capital’, ‘the division of labour’, and the ‘false consciousness […] necessarily acquired’. The schizo’s mind ‘seeks out the very limits of capitalism’ and in doing so becomes ‘its exterminating angel’. There is a temporal desire for connection with a historic-cultural machine in Burial’s work that has an anti-capitalistic effect: Burial’s sound is characterized by many critics as an elegy for the so-called ‘hardcore-continuum’. What Steve Goodman, also known as Kode9, describes as the ‘downcast euphoria’ pervading Burial’s work is shown, once again, in the cut-up and pitchshifted vocal samples that are ‘looped fragments of longing’. The cultural slowdown that has arisen under capitalist realism demands work like RD, Fisher suggests, because it creates a sound of ‘mourning rather than melancholia’, the lost object and lost time are still desired, and through literal echoes Burial ‘refuses to abandon the hope that they will return’.

However, D&G do not identify this kind of longing as a comprehensive solution to the forces of capital; they identify the BwO as a site of resistance. The BwO is birthed ‘when [it] can no longer tolerate these machines’, and is a ‘fluid and slippery’ entity that resists distinctions, boundaries, the connections and interruptions of the machinic mind; it is pure flow. RD uses its vocal loops and samples to invoke a BwO by creating a voice that ‘has nothing to do with the body itself’ and is a ‘body without an image’. Burial claims to ‘like pitching down female vocals so they sound male, and pitching up male vocals so they sound like a girl singing’. Through this process, he ‘removes the voices from biography and narrative’, and they are transformed into ‘fluttering, flickering abstractions […] liberated from the heavy weight of personal history’. In ‘Come Down to Us’, the pivotal moment of realisation – ‘the moment when you see who you are’ – is also the noisiest, most thickly layered moment of the track; the moment of epiphany is when the mind gives way to all machinic connections and becomes pure flow, a surface through which the sounds of nature, of the city, of technologies and of the voice simultaneously move.

RD demonstrates that desire is not only multivalent but productive, just as D&G theorise. The mind of the schizo under late capitalism is a machine that longs to connect outwards; it longs to connect to nature and the city, it longs to connect to a different time and, in doing so, resist the forces of capital that define the contemporary moment. Most importantly however, at moments it longs to disappear altogether, to break down the machines that comprise it, and in doing so reorganise itself and the world.  

Primary:

Burial, Rival DealerEP, (Hyperdub, 2013)

Secondary:

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane, (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1983)

Fisher, Mark Capitalist Realism, (London: Zero Books, 2009)

  • Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology, and Lost Futures, (London: Zero Books, 2014)

Reynolds, Simon, ‘On the Hardcore Continuum: Introduction’, <www.thewire.co.uk>, last accessed 6 November 2019

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