Welcome back to our ongoing analyses of clipping.‘s Splendor & Misery. In case you aren’t caught up, we highly recommend reading the first part. If you’re a

7 years ago

Welcome back to our ongoing analyses of clipping.‘s Splendor & Misery. In case you aren’t caught up, we highly recommend reading the first part. If you’re a busy adult with many busy adult things to accomplish today (such as undermining the basic structures of our lives as we know them), here’s a summary: we’re in the future. Our protagonist, Cargo 2331, has seized the ship on which he was being ferried to a distant space war. The ship, in turn, fell in love with him (or, rather, its AI did) and now they are hurtling through space, jumping at random in order to escape their pursuers. This leaves 2331 in dire straits as his life literally flashes before his eyes every time the ship jumps and he is put into hypersleep. This is where “Wake Up” left us, with 2331’s mind slowly degrading as his history, genesis and family get left behind in the unfathomable millennia that are involved in any form of “realistic” space travel.

Before we dig back into the continuation of our story, I’d like to correct a necessary oversight from the previous part. In it, I gave a somewhat brief introduction to Afrofuturism and science fiction, two culturally-centered phenomena that empower and inform Splendor & Misery. However, for lack of space, I glossed over the exact sub-genre of science fiction which most influences the album, namely space opera. Let us then turn our metaphorical eyes towards that subsection of science fiction in an effort to better understand what it gives clipping. when they come to tell us this story. Space opera is a hard genre to define; its origins lie in pulp science fiction, basically the main form in which the genre was published up until the ’60s or the ’70s. You see, science fiction needed to sell in a market not fully convinced it was literature. In response, it turned to over-the-top romance, action hero mentality, and borderline offensive, hyper-sexualized depictions of women.

These attitudes can be seen in the works of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, for example. Even their masterpieces, such as “Stranger in a Strange Land” or “Foundation,” are tinged with the pulp-like attitudes of their time. However, long after the originally derogatory term “space opera” (used to denote an extravagance unjustified by the genre) became nomenclature for the genre, the New Wave of Science Fiction had more to say within its framework . Authors like the ones we had mentioned previously but also Samuel R. Delaney, Stephen Baxter, M. John Harrison (who is referenced to in the album directly, as you will see later on) and others, started re-working what space opera meant. They did so both by innovating on the genre by making it darker and more “serious” but also by digging back into the 50’s and extracting less popular but more accomplished works of space opera, like the writings of Poul Anderson and Cordwainer Smith, two of the greatest science fiction writers of all time.

Thus, a new form of space opera was (re)born. Following the success of “Star Wars,” perhaps THE creation of the space opera genre as far as its success with audiences, this style exploded and now bears numerous iterations, schools of thought and style. Charlie Stross, the late Iain M. Banks, M. John Harrison himself, Dan Simmons, and many more, continue to propel this genre into the future (both our own and the imagined one). Its themes are now xenophobia, stellar existentialism (such as the loss of identity which stems from over-saturation of possibilities), the horrors of war, pollution, and more.

Splendor & Misery can and should be understood as an effort to further accomplish that extrapolation. By referencing several of the aforementioned creations and, more importantly, by drawing on and inverting the tropes of space opera, Splendor & Misery tells us a story we already know while twisting it into new ways and understandings. The dashing hero, the stranded AI, the galaxy-spanning war, are all staples of the genre. However, they are told through the unique influences of Afrofuturism and the band’s own perceptions on the world, therefore offering us new configurations and ideas with which to think about the genre. Without further ado, let us dig into the second part of this wonderful album, where references to space opera wait us aplenty.

Our second part begins with the sixth track, “Long Way Away.” Heard over static, perhaps as the ship listens in on the performance or recorded in its data banks, the track opens with a soulful, gospel melody. From this we can draw conclusions as to the identities of the singers: they are none other than 2331’s “cargo mates”, the other slaves carried with him on the ship before his escape. In an historical parallel (a tool often used in the space opera genre, like Cordwainer’s sheep in “Norstrilia”) these “future-slaves” sing songs very reminiscent of those sung by African-Americans looking for shared values, language and culture following their uprooting. These songs were, and still are in this case, inherently pensive. They sang of lost places, of longing, sorrow and loss and therefore supplied a birthing ground for blues.

Here, the slaves are doubly bereft. Consider, once again, the realities of space. Although reunions of actual slaves with their families were a distant and unlikely concept, there was no physical or chronological impossibility inherent in the concept. With these slaves, chances of reunion are not only improbable; they are impossible. The gulf of time and immense space ensures that. It’s no wonder then that this brief track is almost all about distance, ending with heart wrenching advice to those who might be listening:

It’s a long way away
It’s a long way away
And I’m all alone
Along, along a long way

There’s no use in crying
No reason to wait (Long way away)
We’ll not again meet
‘Cause the distance is great (Long way away)
But look to the stars
Where the sun is long gone (Long way away)
And pray that your children
Do not sing this song

Naturally, you should pray that your children aren’t forced to sing such pensive and forlorn songs. However, these last two lines are more than just a hope; they contain within them with a dire fact of slavery. Slavery, whether of African Americans or otherwise, tends to be generational. The ownership of others, the uprooting of humans, tends to cross generations and reach its dirty hands into the children of slaves as well. Therefore, the last two lines are not only a proactive refrain warning against the loss of currently free children but also the hope that the slave’s children, those already promised to their masters, might one day be free. Singing these songs or not is the sign and testament to this freedom: if you’re not forced to these kinds of music, then you’re a free person, able to sing of other, better things.

From these dire endings, we arrive at “Interlude 02 (Numbers).” This enigmatic track, tied to our previous and hostile interlude, is simply a series of words being read out. The style of the reading, as well as the droning static, hints at a real world phenomenon. Secret services around the world, and most famously the Mossad, use radio channels to communicate codes. On these channels, read repeatedly so that any agent can tune in at any time and receive the code, letters, numbers or a variation thereof signify the information being spread. These number stations are simple yet effective tools for the spreading of clandestine knowledge since, without a keyword, their codes are very hard to break. So, where then shall we look for our keyword? How do we make sense of this:

Delta, Lima, Quebec, Foxtrot
Echo, India, Quebec, India
Foxtrot, Uniform, Whiskey, Romeo
Whiskey, Charlie, Oscar, X-Ray
Echo, India, Uniform

First of all, the pattern used above should be familiar to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of radios, languages and ciphers or even an avid fan of Hollywood. It is of course the famed NATO phonetic alphabet, designed to make reading letters over radio devices filled with static more accurate. Each word’s first letter above simply spells out the letter itself. Running the repeating verse (where the beeping sound indicates a repeat, as it was on number stations), we arrive at: “DLQFEIQIFUWRWCOXEIU”.

This is, of course, nonsense. Without the keyword. We know we need a keyword because that string of letters should tingle our code-breaking senses; it looks like a Vigenère cipher prior to its decoding (I do recommend you read that Wikipedia article I linked to; Vigenère ciphers are fascinating). From here, an intuitive leap must be made. If we’re searching for a keyword, why not simply search the lyrics of the album for the phrase “keyword”?

Such an effort, using the simple tool of Ctrl+F, yields us this line from further on in the album (we’ll be analyzing the reference embedded in the lyric when we get to it, later on in this segment): “the keyword is kemmer.” Thus, feeding kemmer into the many, many Vigenère cipher solvers available online, gives us the encoded text and it is “thetargetisamyclark”. Who is Amy Clark? I’ll be honest with you, dear readers, I have no idea. At this point in my research, I turned to the internet. The consensus right now appears to be that the only lead we have is Doc Clark, from “Story 2” (“No, no, musn’t joke about these things / Wouldn’t want to disappoint Doc Clark”), Mike Winfield’s therapist. Whether this means that Amy Clark is, in fact, Cargo 2331 or that she is connected in some other way, we do not yet know.

Thus, more confused with what few answers we have (as characters often are in stories), we arrive at one of the most intricate and thematically rich tracks on the album. “True Believer” is also one of the most accomplished, cohesive and down-right disturbing tracks on Splendor & Misery. Lifting away from the more micro-managed mysteries of cipher and code, it returns to the bewildering mix of Afrofuturism and science fiction that the album does best. It opens with a classically dramatic invocation of the gods, contained in one word at the beginning of the verse, and continues to finally describe the war that we have been hearing so much about. Apparently, like the multitude of wars that erupted here on Earth to prolong and maintain the slave trade, this war is being fought for the very slaves which in turn fuel it. Thus, the cyclic nature of the ownership of people is confirmed:

Flesh is hanging in sun
Purple sky and this war
Women shooting their guns
Men protecting their shores
Running red as these ships
Made for cargo and death

The last two lines are a clear allusion to the ships that made up the slave trade, hellish containers transporting their cargo in abysmal conditions. Here too, these ships scour the land clean, leaving none behind (“To the sky with them all / Not a one left on land / Traded in for steel hauls”). Contained within these hauls, hauls quite like the ship now in love with 2331 we must assume, these slaves adopt the musical habits of our own, Earthbound slaves. Singing within these terrible transporters, tying us back into “Long Way Away” and our own ship, these slaves transform the death that they know awaits them into a promise of freedom. The lines “True believer, I know when I’m goin’ home”, taken from an actual slave song published in Slave Songs of the United States (New York, NY: A Simpson & Co., 1867), carries clear religious overtones. The true believer knows when he’s going home, a home that been taken from him; he’s going home when he dies, just like the slave. The cut off ending of the chorus, later finished for us, clearly solidifies this idea of death (“I’ve been afraid to die”) and of homecoming being interlinked.

In a purely classic, Afro-futuristic move, we are torn apart from images of warring ships making their way into space towards the beginning of time and the genesis of the world. However, as is befitting the style, this story contains no bearded, old men and faintly veiled moral stories in the form of trees and snakes. Instead, we find a powerful and visceral genesis story whose origins we can easily locate. Using the names of the gods given, we can ascertain that this specific creation myth comes to use from the Kuba kingdom, a powerful conglomerate of tribes that enjoyed prominence in western/central Africa before being torn apart by inter-African conflict and turned into a Belgian colony. However, clipping.’s version adds to the original stories, adding in Enefa:

Three siblings happen to be gods
And they fight as siblings do
The world was only water then
The universe was fresh and new
Enefa poisned Bumba’s food
Once just to see what he would do

In the original myth, Enefa does not appear and “Bumba” (which is another name for Mbombo, the creator-god of the Kuba) is the father of the three siblings and not one of them. Enefa comes to us straight from one of the best contemporary fantasy series, “The Inheritance Trilogy” by N.K. Jemisin, a woman of color who also explores issues of oppression and cultural conflict in her books. Enefa is part of a trinity there as well, being the goddess of balance, life and death. Fittingly, she is the one to poison “Bumba” in our version of the tale, causing him to vomit creation. This extraction occurs in the original myth as well but is not precipitated by Enefa. Regardless, the effects are the same: the world is not created via an abstract, Divine word or will but rather by a very daily, very base, very physical process:

He vomited the sun which dried
The water leaving land and soon
After came Moon and stars and animal
And man of many hues
The white one in the image of
A sickly god would get his dues

Just in case you had any doubt that these were in fact snippets of the mythology of the slaves in our story, the last two lines and the following verse should hint heavily towards that. The “white one” is an allusion to Loko Yima, who later remains in Mbombo’s stead and rules over the earth as its god. Alone, these two lines might just be a further continuation of the myth we had been describing. However, what is the purpose of myth if not to make sense of events that unfold before our eyes? Myth, as psychologist Carl Jung might say, is an extrapolation, an aggrandizement of prevalent forces, ideals, fears, neurosis, and power structures that exist in the society that upholds them. Thus, we must ask ourselves: if the slaves hold on to this myth, what aspects of their lives does it abstract? Why are these stories the ones which survive? More to the point, which themes and ideas within this story correspond to the current state of affairs in the slaves’ world?

The next verse gives us our answers. It is one of the densest and more bewilderingly articulate verses on the album, so we must take it step by step. First, a chronology beginning with the moon landing. We’re back in actual time, that is the narrative time of the slaves, of 2331, of the ship; the main narrative time of the album rather than the mythical time of the previous verse:

Man walks Moon and he makes time come to a standstill
One gloved hand, diamonds are flickering like candles

So much is contained in these two lines. First, an immense technological leap: after the Moon landing, man’s hunger for the stars causes him to go further and to develop hypersleep, the same device which 2331 “later” uses on the ship. This technological advance, taking many years we would suppose, puts the galaxy within their reach. The second line is both a possible reference to Michael Jackson (whose gloved, bedazzled hands were his icon and who also enshrined the “moon walk” dance routine into popular culture) and an intimation of the vast spaces now open to mankind; the diamonds are the stars, flickering in the night, while the gloved hand (perhaps gloved from an astronaut’s suit) reaches out as if to grasp them. However, in true space opera fashion, something waits in the inky blackness. This is one of the major tropes of space opera: the Terrans (i.e. humans) set out for space believing they are superior, much like Columbus and his ilk did. When they arrive in the vast expanse of space however, they discover they are anything but superior:

This one slip, registered worlds away in vandals
Raised to find this race of beings that could handle
Time inside other bodies so they could sell it
The one thing in the universe no one held yet
Gifts in blood that had been shed as long as time had

Now things are getting interesting. Unbeknownst to you, dear reader, we have been referencing these five lines since we had set out on our path. They contain the raison d’être of this whole thing, the entire universe that clipping. have created and the heroes which inhabit it. Apparently, man’s initial probings into space do not go unnoticed; somewhere in the galaxy, “vandals” register the initial explorations and, especially, the use of hypersleep. This idea of vagabonds, of barbarians which roam the farthest reaches of space (as hinted at by the use of the term “vandals“, who were a migrating people on the outskirts of the Roman Empire) is one which is common to space opera. It appears in Dan Simmon’s “Hyperion” for example, where a strain of mankind have taken to wandering deep space with the aid of millennia of evolution. Ursula Le Guin’s “Hainish Cycle” (referenced just two tracks ahead in the album) features the same, nebulous threat, unnamed and ultimately alien to the “civilized” peoples of the galaxy.

Here, this impenetrable threat comes for humanity to seize their technology. As we, and the album, had alluded to before, hypersleep represents an all-important and lucrative solution to the problems of space. Put yourself in the shoes of someone trying to run intergalactic trade or even an extra-solar political unit. Every move you make has an unbearable cost in life; some machinations might even mean casting your own people into exile, alienating them completely from their own families and flinging them forwards on their own generational tree. While hypersleep doesn’t solve these issues, it makes them bearable; instead of cumbersome, generational ships, replete with the risks of madness and isolation, you get a sleek method of transportation which ensures the sanity and efficiency of your pawns. The problem of the sheer amount of time that crossing space takes is still very much real however. What elite for example would serve such a master, where every one of their actions requires complete estrangement and denial of life?

And that’s why you need slave trade. If you combine hypersleep, the method of transportation which not only ensures the efficiency of your “tools” (i.e., slaves) but also their docility, with the forceful seizure and trade of humans, you get the “perfect” system. By waging war on other peoples (preferably not of your own race, so as to make their reification more effective) and combining the physical spoils of war with hypersleep, you receive a sustainable, galactic system that works in the ultimate favor of the ruling class. Sounds familiar? It should; we’ve just described a blown-up, extravagant cross-Atlantic slave trade. The price in human life, in the sheer, chronological cost of the traversal of the ocean, is the same. The horrors of the hold itself, hypersleep or no hypersleep, are all too similar. In that sense, they store “time inside other bodies so they could sell it”. What is being sold here? The privilege of reaping the benefits of space travel, whether political, fiscal, cultural or other, without paying the very real price of a life abandoned, a chronology left behind in the impossible reaches of space.

Recall the ship’s unhesitating decision to kill all the slaves the moment that one of them showed signs of resistance; our historical circle is now complete. These are the “gifts in blood that had been shed as long as time had.” The galactic situation we are being presented with here is nothing new; such prices have always been paid by the oppressed, to make the oppressor richer. However, within these grand circles in time, we must not forgot that we are dealing with a specific, personal story; that of Cargo 2331 and the ship. Thus, clipping. return us from the very heights of abstract, para-chronological thought to the specific realm of our tale with the end of “True Believer,” tying in all that we have just learned to 2331:

Time and he are inseparable in his mind, sad
He must carry the burden of being the one
That time chose, situates him in front of the gun
Talk that talk, stay outta the head and become the best
When times stops, then for him finally there can be rest

From the metaphorical “time inside other bodies”, we arrive at the actual reality of 2331’s life. In essence, he has been cast out of time by imbibing an insanely large quantity of it; any readers of myth would not be surprised by what appears to be an oxymoron. A hero both embodies a mythical idea and exists outside of it. Consider Hercules. Certainly, he embodies strength, possessed of an immense amount of it as he is, but he also exists outside of its boundaries, since no other strong thing can affect him. He is both the embodiment and the antithesis of that which he embodies. So too, 2331: his body has experienced unimaginable amounts of time while in hypersleep. But on the other hand, he exists outside of it, hopping along its surface before suddenly re-emerging from out of the ship’s propulsion into a period in time before falling into hypersleep again.

Who better equipped to begin fighting against the very galactic system which had put him in this situation? Recall to the lines from “All Black”: “The subject seems upset by that to which he is subjected / But convinced he brought it on himself.” Such a train of thought can only lead one to resistance. It contains the admonition of the system which had brought one to the dire situation at hand but also the self-guilt needed to propel one to action. Thus, 2331 is chosen; chosen to fight from outside of time against a system founded on the ability to manipulate that very force which he relies on. In the last two lines, he decides to “talk that talk” and embrace his situation. To do that, he’ll need his sanity back and thus, he will “stay outta the head and become the best.” Finally, maybe, somewhere down the line, the system itself will fall; time will stop. Then, finally, he can rest.

The outro to “True Believer” contains one more, all important detail. The vocal effect utilized here leads us to suspect that it’s the ship talking again. If this is true, then the first line (“Pale gods told me to my face”) both makes much more sense and reveals to us the last piece of the galaxy which the story inhabits. “Told me to my face” implies direct communion; who else among our characters would have such access to those who rule the galaxy? Only the ship, in its communication with them, had the opportunity. Thus, if we are indeed talking about the elusive masters, we know something more about them: they’re white. That fits in with our mythology (consider Mbombo’s pale child, Loko Yima and his dominion of the world) and our weird, cyclical politics. As in the original slave trade, the masters who control this loop of commerce powered by hypersleep are white; they are the distant brother to humanity, come to subjugate them for the technological gift they had discovered. They are the colonialists, the oppressors, while the slaves, black through their music, their mannerism and by polar association, are the subjugated and the downtrodden.

So, if “True Believer” paints a broad, socio-political canvas but ends with the unique role of 2331, it’s only natural that the next track drills deep into that role. Skipping over an instrumental version of “Long Way Away”, we arrive at the ballsy, gangster rap induced “Air ‘Em Out.” Here, we see 2331 embracing his role as an exiled, gun-toting, extra-chronological space anarchist. He begins to hound the agents of the galactic power structure, utilizing what we can only imagine as hit and run tactics to destroy as many of their assets as he can. Imagine that; you’re a drone for the company/government that pretty much owns the galaxy and suddenly, from out of nowhere, appears this rogue ship. It opens fire immediately, swooping in and destroying everything in sight before, without regard for the safety of what you would imagine must be a crew, it jumps out again and disappears. Now imagine you’re a drone hearing about something like that happening in the next system over and you can begin to understand the first verse:

We who are about to bang them drums (Bang)
Beatin’ on a dead body ridin’ shotgun
Talkin’ that shit, bitch bite your tongue
See that ship over your city, better run, run
Your war is like a board game where it come from
Already bored, claiming your gang
“Pyong!” Go the gun, boy he on some other shit
Check your solar system bitch
Don’t let a motherfucker catch you sleepin’ at the wrong sun

2331 is done running. With real, gangster rap swagger, he’s challenging the entire galaxy. He knows his power lies in terrorism and the fear that stems from an elusive enemy. Which is the “wrong sun” where 2331 might appear and destroy you? Why, it’s every single one. Chosen at random. Not only that, but consider the embarrassment this military-industrial complex starts feeling after a few of these hits. While 2331 was selected for his prowess in combat and, therefore, his success isn’t surprising, we’re talking about what has to be a galactic empire here, brought to its knees time and time again by one individual and one ship. It must sting even more knowing that that pilot is a human, an inferior, subjugated race and that the ship is of their own making! These are “motherfuckers claiming it’s they purpose” but 2331, again and again, beats them at their own board game. The chorus of the track is pure bluster, 2331 exulting in the inability of the system and their “riders” (that is, low tier space pilots who are supposed to be “hotshots”) to apprehend him:

Whatcha gon’ do about it? Ain’t nothin’ new about it
Shoulda made the noose a little tighter
Cause it ain’t nobody dead, just some motherfuckin’ riders
Air ’em out (Let ’em breathe)
Air ’em out (Got the fire!)
Air ’em out (Wanna see)
Air ’em out (No)
Shoulda made the noose a little tighter
Cause it ain’t nobody dead, just some motherfuckin’ riders

This imbalance of powers is further extrapolated upon in the second verse, with one of the album’s most brilliant science fiction references and inversions. On the third and fourth line, the pale masters of the galaxy are described like so: “Lies high off these lows when they step up in the party / Where they got up in they o’s like some fuckin’ Oankali”. The Oankali are a race from Octavia E. Butler‘s science fiction series, “Lilith’s Brood”, where a race of aliens rescues mankind from a post-apocalyptic, post-nuclear war Earth. They are beneficent and deeply emphatic of the human situation in the books. Can we say the same of the pale masters of Splendor & Misery? Of course not, but consider the haughtiness of the colonialist, the condescension of “white saviors” who feel that, by granting African Americas what is theirs by right, they are somehow better than their fellow oppressors. Such are the pale masters described in the verse; sitting in their opulent, galactic centers, they imagine themselves to be Oankali with the same ardor, self-appeasement and virtue signalling utilized by oppressors everywhere and every-when, believing themselves to be enlightened and beneficial masters. 2331 is of course not deceived; he knows what the true game is and what these oppressors really are:

Whips and chains, that’s they game, like it was in bulk
Back when a mack could slang
With his partners tryna make his fuckin’ name in the traps
All the way from Panshekara to the Kefahuchi tract

The locations mentioned in the last line are essential to understanding 2331’s current position. Panshekara is a town in Nigeria which stood in the middle of several conflicts, with the Taliban and other belligerents, in the late 2000’s. It’s possible that 2331 hails from there and now reminisces on the long road he’s been on, a trope very common in hip-hop and rap (“started from the bottom now we’re here”). But where has he arrived to from Panshekara? The Kefahuchi Tract is a location/plot device/metaphor within one of the weirdest space operas ever written, M. John Harrison’s trilogy of the same name. Composed of “Light,” “Nova Swing,” and “Empty Space”, it explores themes like body modification, gender, time, faith, space, war and many, many more. It also blends together body horror, noir and space opera to create truly bizarre and masterfully unique storylines. The Kefahuchi Tract itself is an unintelligible anomaly in space which breaks the laws of physics; it defies knowledge, reason and time, smashing through all the different story-lines of the series and represents the ultimate futility of the human ways of thinking on things once we arrive within the interstellar arena.

This is where 2331 has found himself. He is beyond the pale, quite literally. By breaking through time, he has also broken through the constraints of society, of civility and of the multitude other ideas which we use to restrain our internal violence from becoming external. This is what gives him the edge over the hegemony and its many pilots and weapons: he is unrestrained. He is free and in his freedom there is savagery, a reckless lack of concern for the self which makes him impossible to predicate, impossible to pin down. Like the Kefahuchi Tract itself, he is unchained by time and, thus, unchained by all that keeps the rest of us in check:

Your birthright make you scared to get nasty
The keyword is Kemmer, that’s what yo’ ass need
Anybody buggin’ get it in the mandible, shit
Got a problem, better hit ’em on they ansible
Ain’t nobody flyin’ just because they fly here
You could trip sets, real playas trip lightyears

The second line should be familiar; it’s where we found our keyword, “kemmer,” for the cipher contained earlier in the album. Kemmer is a biological cycle of sexual release and biological determination found in Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Left Hand of Darkness,” perhaps the most celebrated of her works (which is also referenced in the line “better him ’em on they ansible“. An ansible is an FTL communication device coined by Le Guin which enables instantaneous communication over stellar distances). In it, the Ekumen (referenced later on in the track) is a benign, galactic empire founded on knowledge and a loose confederation of civilizations against the extra-galactic marauders that had almost destroyed everything when they had last invaded. Among the races they discover are the natives of Gethen, who have no biological sex. Once a month, during kemmer, their body “collapses” into either state: male or female. During that time they also experience intense libido and proceed to procreate, with the number of males and females created modulated by pheromones and herd mentality.

Thus, what the enemies of 2331 need, of course delivered them to with a sneer, knowing that they will never have it, is release. Kemmer is when all social constructs are abandoned in favor of the wildness of the body and its sexual needs. It is the unfurling of docility, the baring of fangs and claws in self protection against what might be coming. And who is coming? 2331, of course. But in there cultured pretenses, in the imagination of the pale gods that they are Oankali, they can’t even begin to imagine resistance: “why would the subjugated rebel? Do we not provide them with shelter, food, work and safety?” If these words are familiar to you, it’s by no accident; the historical parallels should be clear by now. 2331 is here to tell them that what’s coming ain’t a docile, galactic power like the Ekumen but a fall blown, kemmer-infused storm and that they should listen to the elements among their society that are warning them:

Old leakin’ ass man in the corner
Talkin’ that shit to the sky is a warnin’
You might wanna pay attention what he sayin’
‘Cause the Ekumen ain’t everything and these killas ain’t playin’, ho!

Here, is where our second part ends. 2331 has embraced the dire situation that was he was thrust in and, in the context of the galactic, political situation he now exists in, he fights back. Utilizing his very disadvantage, his exile from time, he fights against the power structures that have made him who he is now. By referencing and then inverting numerous ideas from science ficiton, mythology and Afro-futurism, clipping. use the middle of their album to create their own kind of hero, one which makes sense within the space opera setting. But, of course, conflict and drama are what move every good story forward. Join us next time as we look at the last part of the album, where 2331’s new found purpose will shatter in the face of brutality and he will be forced to find a different solution to his predicament.

Click here to read the third, and final, installment!

Eden Kupermintz

Published 7 years ago