Maximalism

Curator's Note

Indigenous music spans beyond tradition and into masterful use of technology and story. Most recently, Skookum Sound System has launched live performances that weave together traditional and contemporary voice and instruments with digital visual arts. Skookum is a multimedia arts and performance collective that includes Csetkwe (Okanagan and Shuswap), Deano (Heiltsuk Nation), Bracken Hanuse Corlett (Klahoose and Wuikinuxv Nations), and culture-bending musician Darwin(g) Frost(wing). Darwin(g) Frost(wing) is also behind Impossible Nothing, whose tracks reach to the stars and back. His chopping style is referred to as “maximalism,” a term he coined to capture the essence of his works.

Remixed Blood, featured here, is an experimental animation cut to “Thank You,” which was one of the last tracks put out by Darwin Frost before his death and transformation into Darwing Frostwing. Impossible Nothing’s unique chopping style brings forward powwow culture and transforms it into a multitude of voices and quick beats. I’d enjoy seeing a Grass Dancer try to keep up with it. His tracks have always called me visually and created their own stories, which ignited the creation of Remixed Blood. I wanted to say thank you for the life of Malcolm and Katherine and to lift them up as individuals. In Indigenous ways of knowing, children are not possessions. Mal is not “my son” and Kat is not “my daughter.” They are life. Impossible Nothing’s tracks speak to these Indigenous ways of knowing. He, along with the Skookum Sound System collective, see music as ever-connected to performance. Indigenous music is tied to characters, stories, and day-to-day representations of ourselves as artists. Whether through live shows, music videos, interviews, social media, or day-to-day life, our words, our clothing, our terms for ourselves, and our art are all connected to Indigenous self-determination. Tracks like “Thank You” welcome a remembrance of tradition (traditional instruments), acknowledgement of contemporary culture (powwow music), and invite technology in to play.

Comments

Jonathan Hill's picture

Re: Maximalism

This is outstanding. I was just having a conversation at a small powwow where sampled drums and remixes were were being passed around the drum via smart phone. These new forms are impacting expression in some innovative ways. Most recently, I have heard the “chopping style” and “auto tuned” aesthetics incorporated as a vocal “trademarks” during the leads. These sounds add to stylistic repertoire in ways that sound amazing.

This is great post!

Thanks,

JH

Siobhan Senier's picture

Indigenous Maximalism

I love this track, and your images; I first heard about Skookum Sound System through Ojibwe comedian Ryan McMahon’s podcast [if we had another week on indigenous sound, I’d love to curate a piece on this show, “Red Man Laughing,” which all readers of this site should check out: (redmanlaughing.com). In his words, they produce

a completely unique West Coast [Canada] sound …it’s not ‘world indigenous,’ it’s not just powwow, it’s this West Coast sound. You know it’s badass when you can hear a frog in the background of the song, much the same as a beat or a bass kick or something. It’s. A. Frog. That’s how badass Skookum Sound System is.”

I’ve learned a lot by following this music on SoundCloud, where Darwin Frost (aka Impossible Nothing) gets major appreciation for his skill in chopping and rearranging samples. I am pretty new to this style of music, but if I understand the “maximalist” aesthetic correctly, it’s all about the mashup—juxtaposing genres, styles, instrumentation and other sounds. So, that’s probably not so different from the way indigenous sounds, and indigenous cultures, have always survived—by borrowing from each other, and from Others, adapting it and that is both wholly and really indebted to the oldest traditions. You guys in western Canada and producing some amazing and beautiful stuff!!!

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