Image by Jelena Luis
Hood by Air occupies a sort of legendary cult status in fashion and pop culture. The streetwear brand, brainchild of designer and cultural provocateur Shayne Oliver, first arrived in 2006. The identity of the brand is rooted in the underground subcultures of New York, from ballroom to hip-hop and its energy is distinguished by a transgressive anarchist edge. This edge would see Hood By Air stage its first presentation at performance artist Terence Koh’s gallery A.S.S and later, partner with MoMA on a series of multi-disciplinary, multimedia fashion installations that involved the likes of Pieter Hugo. Oliver’s brand has always looked to remould the face of pop culture toward its underbelly, utilising technology, art and most progressively, corporate branding as weapons of reconstruction. Following a three year hiatus, Hood by Air remerged last year having seemingly evolved beyond the runway, an arguably natural progression for a brand which recontextualised the ‘brand’ playbook. Zoning in on the multidisciplinary and collectively-minded spirit of the brand, Oliver revealed the founding of Anonymous Club, a creative incubator for and collective of experimental artists, musicians and creatives who found themselves on the fringe of the mainstream. According to its manifesto, “Anonymous Club creates radical art and artefacts designed to upend tradition, infiltrate the mainstream and remake pop culture in its image.” SCREENSAVERS VOL.1 is the debut compilation from Anonymous Club, a collection of ten subversive tracks that fuse the sounds of New York’s queer, hip-hop and punk scenes into genre-fluid experimental pastiches.
SCREENSAVERS VOL.1 prominently features DJ and producer Tama Gucci, LEECH and Pretty Sick vocalist Sabrina Feuntes. The collection is executive produced by experimental musician Yves Tumor, whose post-punk aesthetic can be felt across most of SCREENSAVERS’s otherwise eclectic tracks. This aesthetic bleeds into the inherent punk rock energy of the music on the compilation, its spirit defined by a sort of DIY anarchy that cuts and pastes its influences into jarring sonic riot posters. Distorted, crunched out guitars and passages of buzzing noise are common motifs across the compilation. Mostly, the music is a Frankenstein monster of subcultural and pop cultural motifs, synthesised into cacophonous and transient aural experiences. Loosen Up opens the set with a mutation of R&B, industrial doomcore and bass heavy hip-hop. Tama Gucci’s breathy vocals warp around a soundscape of growling synths, moments of crunched out noise and a percussive pattern that interpolates the beats of various hip-hop styles and stitches them together. Ketamean is a fusion of grunge and trap where Feunte’s downbeat cadence stumbles across an isolated guitar riff before finding its way across a languid trap beat with ambiguous electronic accents.
Expectedly, there are wildly experimental moments. Bleedinout moves from a Jersey bounce adjacent intro into a full on death metal track with Izzy Spears’s screamed vocals against foreboding guitars. Permission contorts itself from hazy garage rock to an Arca-like pattern of heavy, crunchy bass hits. Backdoor, one of the stronger experiments on the compilation, is largely nondescript. It’s part spoken word, part rapped love song set against sparse, snarling synths and random passages of manic noise. It ends with a remarkably feeling driven passage anchored by a syncopated drum pattern and layers of distorted vocals.
For these wilder moments, there are some fairly straightforward ones too. Leave Out is a 2009 throwback of a hip-pop track. Cruising (NY Mix) is pretty much post-punk with an electronic update, while Pavement could easily be a Frank Ocean deep cut. But the most transgressive moments on SCREENSAVERS VOL.1 come by way of its lyrics and samples. The words heard across the compilation are a tapestry of the sort of queer and Black slang that takes the patois of the New York underground and weaves it into the sonic identity of the music. It eternalises the socio-cultural practices of these fringe groups, finding its language in the tongues of its creators. Hearing words like “cunty” and phrases such as “what’s the tea?” are defiant assertions of the identity of Anonymous Club. In refusing to code their work as anything other than themselves, Anonymous Club lends an air of sincerity to the chaotic abstractions on the compilation, an authenticity that serves as passage into the state of being other for these cultural radicalists.
SCREENSAVERS VOL.1 is an intriguing introduction into the future of Shayne Oliver’s empire of disruption. It’s an attempt towards a cultural shift that for now lands softly but suggests that there is a far larger earthquake to come.
See the music video for Bleedinout featuring LEECH and Izzy Spears and directed by Jordan Hemingway below.
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