Negativland: It’s All In Your Head FM (Seeland, 2014)

December 1, 2014 at 12:10 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Negativland: It's All In Your Head FM

Negativland: It’s All In Your Head FM

There are many reasons why I love and respect Negativland, but one of the main reasons is because they’ve always stuck to their guns and fought for what they believe in. Their albums, concerts, radio show, website, culture jamming, multimedia pranks, lectures, and everything else they do is their life’s work, and they’ve persevered for so long, through lawsuits and controversy, simply because they believe in themselves and their work. Their newest release is all about belief, specifically why humans believe in God, and why Negativland doesn’t. This is a theme the group have been exploring for years on their radio show Over The Edge, and on their tours circa 2005-2007. This album is basically a studio recording/edit of that tour, and was previously released in an earlier version in 2006. I saw the tour when it came to New York (you can download this set on archive.org), and while the concerts were structured as improvised radio shows (the audience members were even given blindfolds), the general premise and sequences seemed to be similar throughout the tours, and they’re honed into a tighter, denser mix here. The album is packaged inside a repurposed, modified King James Bible, with a barcode sticker labeled “file under fiction” on the back cover. The sticker also mentions a limited Qur’an edition, but as far as I know that one hasn’t been made available yet. The album explores several points of view, starting with a sort of virtual collage argument between Christians and atheists, and focusing more on Islam during the album’s second disc. While all points of view are expressed, Negativland clearly makes it be known that they are non-believers, most explicitly with a recurring sample of the harrowing cry “there is no god!!!!!” which pops up many times throughout the album. Ultimately, as the title of the album states, they encourage you to think for yourself and come up with your own conclusions. As with any of the group’s more thinkpiece-type releases, whether or not you agree or disagree with their messages, the recording and presentation is always put together with extreme care and precision, and is entertaining and thought-provoking. The sampling and plundering is as rapidfire and sometimes overwhelming as ever, and the music sample choices in particular are on-point. Most exciting is “Relatively Optimistic Notions”‘ sample of David Byrne’s eternal words of wisdom “heaven is a place where nothing ever happens”, chopped up with the same glee as when Negativland deconstructed “Stairway To Heaven” back in 1995, on their classic Fair Use book/CD, in which they told the in-depth story of their battles with U2, Casey Kasem, Island Records, Greg Ginn, and copyright law in general. Given that Casey Kasem died this year and U2 pissed more people off than ever with their iTunes shenanigans, the time couldn’t be better to revisit Negativland’s immortal “U2” single. Even with all the serious religious/anti-religious talk, this album still has the same moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity that have always been present in the group’s work. Towards the end of the first disc, the group enacts a scene depicting a chimp being shaved live on the air, revealing that a shaved chimp looks eerily similar to a human. Does that prove or disprove evolution, the existence of God, or anything else? Who knows, but the way it’s presented sounds at once funny, disturbing, and surrealist. Considering how long they’ve been exploring this concept, it seems like this release is the band’s definitive statement on faith, but obviously the group’s faith in itself and commitment to its own beliefs will always be present in their work.

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