Song: Superpuppet – O Sun review

by Maria Sledmere

Looking out from my quarantine window, I find myself seduced by a strange force that takes a good while to be identified as… the sun. And in this seduction I’m listening to the fulgurating, looping house piano that compels me to a higher plane, like a song and the sun were doing some fancy vibrational dance and somehow between them I would learn a thing about physics. What’s the song? It’s O Sun, a new release from Superpuppet, who must get a lot more sunlight in their hometown of Athens, Georgia than I do here in Glasgow.

What is it Deleuze and Guattari say about puppets, their strings? Something about multiplicity, ‘not tied to the supposed will of an artist or puppeteer but to a multiplicity of nerve fibres’ (A Thousand Plateaus). Describing the track, taken from their forthcoming album, Under a Birdless Sky, as ‘an homage to UK garage and Chicago footwork with an apocalyptic refrain’, the band’s frontman, Grafton Tanner, points to the song’s tension between darkness and solarity. There’s this urgency: a murmuring claustrophobia in those frenetic beats, coupled with the sense of longing for release. A pleasurable incongruity, like listening to Burial at twice-speed with the heat of fierce noon dramatising a not-unwelcome atmosphere to your state of having not slept and veering between sleepiness and the highs of adrenaline. Tanner has written nonfiction work on the vaporwave genre — Babbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of Ghosts (Zero Books, 2016) — and while his own work operates on a whole other dimension from that mucilaginous plaza of haunting samples, Superpuppet pull together multiple influences and histories in their ‘sick’ theatre of searing refrain, intimacy, scorch and shadow.

Tanner reveals that the track was written ‘during a period of exile’ and there’s a sense here of vicarious devotion (the ode in ‘O’), of replicating genres through the glitching filters of remove and memory. It feels like at some point, having swept up blue-red bundles of electrified nerves, the band let go of these threads and feel into the entropic dissolve of the groove that would leave you, limb-flailing in the syncopation of air and noise, intrusion of sample, begging for deliverance, past and future collapsing in a weird, luxurious three minute ecstasy. Judging by the cover art, I think the melancholia of Julia Kristeva’s Black Sun, but I’m also reminded of the dark parodic motions in George Bataille’s The Solar Anus – the sheer bloody rush of future myth, the psychedelic symbolism of a secret literary cult. As the track winds down into ambience, with the ghost-trace of its formerly prominent beats, a cloud passes over the sun and out loud I say, this slaps, regardless.

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