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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clear Tomorrow

posted by on March 11 at 12:50 PM

Let’s take a moment to think about Cybotron’s “Clear.”
cybotron%2Bclear.jpg We know that “Clear” is to hiphop/techno what Blade Runner is to sci-fi cinema and Neuromancer is to cyberpunk. All three appeared between 1981 and 1982. All three were plugged into the emerging global brain. But let’s consider “Clear” against another piece of 80s pop, Ziggy Marely’s “Tomorrow People.”

At the end of “Tomorrow People,” Ziggy makes this declaration: “Don’t know your past/don’t know your future.” A corresponding meaning to Ziggy’s declaration can be found at the end of the eleventh thesis of Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History: “…[T]o assign to the working class the role of redeemer of future generations [is to cut] the sinews of its greatest strength. This training [makes] the working class forget its hatred and spirit of sacrifice, for both are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren.” As the father of Ziggy put it: “Every time I hear the crack of the whip/My blood runs cold…” The point: If you want to know the future, you must remember that whip. A revolution, social transformation, is nourished by the memory of enslavement.

But Cybotron’s “Clear” imagines a completely different kind of social revolution. For Juan Atkin’s first sonic program/fiction, the past must be deleted and the future must be total. For “Clear,” only tomorrow is “a brighter day.” The dark past—with its whips, slave ships, economic hardships—is a loss from which nothing can be recovered. To completely welcome tomorrow, your mind will be cleared.

“Clear,” and the techno program in general, is more radical in many ways than “Tomorrow People,” and the rasta program in general. “I don’t want to go to another planet. I want to save this one,” says the boy at the beginning of the video for “Tomorrow People.” Precisely the opposite for techno heads! In a state of essence, techno has no interest in saving this planet; it wants to go to another planet.

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i listened to the full 'clear' album about a month ago and i was surprised by how much the album (especially the second half) sounds like a l.a. 70's funk / new wave hybrid - like somewhere between george clinton and 'head on the door'-era cure.

unnecessary bonus tidbit: juan atkins would go on to make classics under other pseudonyms, but richard davis of the original cybotron line up released two solo albums under the cybotron name. neither incarnation of cybotron should be confused with the poorly-named dillinja side project titled cybotron.

Posted by cosby | March 11, 2008 1:09 PM

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