In 2011, filmmaker Adam Curtis released a three-part documentary, titled All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, exploring the way technology and machines dictate the lives of their creators. Arguing that computers didn't liberate humanity, but rather warped our perception of the world, the series features an eclectic collage of footage with an equally varied soundtrack that covers everything from Wagner and Leonard Cohen to Burial and Nine Inch Nails.
Curtis' primary thesis turned out to be eerily prescient, looking at the way the echo chamber of social media has radically changed our geopolitical landscape in the past decade — and it also happens to serve as one of the main inspirations for SONIKKU's new EP, out everywhere today.
The London DJ/producer is back with MOLG (or Machines of Loving Grace), envisioning a dystopian future ruled by AI overlords where raving is humanity's only saving grace. Written early on in the pandemic, the EP sees SONIKKU bridge the gap between the neo-disco synth-pop he explored on his debut album, Joyful Death, and the high-octane techno that defines his live club sets.
From the bouncy pop of tracks, like lead single "Lifestyle" and "Megalomaniac," to the trance-y towers of synths in "Geopolitics" and the relentless techno of "Oligarch," SONIKKU flexes his full raving prowess. MOLG sounds like the chrome-plated soundtrack of a video game from the mid-2000s, which is appropriate, considering the EP's other key influences.
Beyond the Curtis doc that the EP derives its name from, SONIKKU also drew inspiration from video games like Metal Gear 2 and cult classic Killer7, both of which explore the clashes between politics and technology. Touching on ideas of AI uprisings and rogue government conspiracies, it all ties back into the same concept of dystopia that SONIKKU plays with on MOLG, whether that be through a robotic vocal hook or an aggressive industrial beat.
Just as Curtis' doc argues that technology has oversimplified our perspective on the world, SONIKKU compressed all of these various concepts into a slick, four-track offering that puts a bright spin on a bleak future. If society is destined for chaos and anarchy, we might as well party while we still can.
PAPER caught up with SONIKKU to dive deeper into the dystopian inspirations behind his MOLG EP, below.
What was the inspiration behind the EP?
I was playing video games like Killer7 and Metal Gear Solid 2, and wanted to create a sonic world that would soundtrack a dystopian game. I took inspiration from the music I play when I DJ, which is generally late 2000s electro that has this specific dry and textural sound. DJ’s such as Oliver Huntemann, Butch, Kölsch are who I was listening to during writing the project.
This EP bridges the gap between a shiny, aggressive strain of techno and the bubbly dance pop we previously heard on your album, Joyful Death. What was your thinking in writing MOLG?
My music fits somewhere between these worlds of club music and pop music, and this EP being more club-focused than my first album is a way of me connecting the music I DJ with the music I’m releasing. I love my first album, but I’m not going to be playing those songs at a warehouse party at 5 AM, whereas this EP is more in that world.
What attracted you to the idea dystopia?
There’s something about dystopian fiction, whether it be George Orwell 1984 or anime like Ghost In The Shell and Evangelion, that has interested me. I guess it’s almost like morbid curiosity of where we could possibly be headed in the future.
Sci-fi and rave music have historically been intertwined, like inThe Matrix. Why do you suppose that is?
I think both share an element of futurism, and how technology plays a part in advancing music and science. The visual side of the EP uses AI-generated moving images that move in synch with the music, which was programmed by machine learning, so I play with this music and sci-fi connection on the EP.
How did you come across the Adam Curtis docuseries that the EP was named after and what about it spoke to you?
I’m obviously a fan of Adam Curtis and his style of storytelling. I’m dsypraxic and find it hard to digest long-form written information or academic text, but Adam Curtis uses sound and beautiful, haunting archive footage to present his views. which really appeals to how my brain is wired. There are always parallels to his subject matter and those Metal Gear Solid 2, so I condensed it all into my EP.
"There's something about dystopian fiction that has interested me. I guess it's morbid curiosity of where we could possibly be headed in the future."
Along similar lines, how did cult classic video games like Metal Gear Solid 2 and Killer7 factor in?
It’s hard to explain what exactly Killer7 is, partly why I love it so much. The best I could describe it would be if David Lynch made a Japanese video game that had undertones of political fiction and an existential sense of dread dressed up in camp violence and self-aware humor. The soundtrack is also out of this world and ahead of its time (this particular track gives me chills), Metal Gear Solid 2 also plays with ideas of AI and simulation (released in 2001, which is crazy). The use of AI machines learning to create my visuals is a reference to this.
What do you envision the future of rave to look like?
I personally would like to see set design and technology being incorporated into venues and spaces. I’d love to immerse myself in a curated environment while partying.
Photography: Furmann Ahmed
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