2017-11-13

Album Release: 尤卡吉尔奇点 Yukagir

In collaboration with Flamingo Vapor, I am releasing the musical album 尤卡吉尔奇点Yukagir. The name itself means "Yukagir Singularity," a reference to the short story that it's based on and around, among other things. It's another entry into my Lovecraftian corpus of work. It's not traditional, structured music with a defined beginning and end; it's simply tableaux, a scene from a certain place at a certain time. I was really inspired by telepath and HKE, but I also took inspiration from the music of Noryokun and of Ugasanie. Let me explain the individual parts of the album to you.

The first song on the album is, if all has gone according to plan with the release, 对手 ПЛЕНИТЕЛЬНЫЙ - in English, Captivating Adversary (the original title of the song). If you've read my short story Yukagir Singularity, the concept of a largely apathetic elder god that both destroys and captivates will not be alien to you. The story of this song is that the protagonist of the album, perhaps a tribesman or a farmer from near Yukagir, catches sight of a terrible being arising from the pockmarked tundra. Oozing pus and bile, causing it to rain vomit, this creature is unmarred by the passing of time, and is simply apathetic regarding humanity. But the protagonist is not scared of it - in fact, they are captivated, falling in love with this unimaginable horror.

The song samples three works. The first one that you'll hear is Rafstraumur by Sigur Ros, a song about love in spite of violence (perhaps a bad message, but that's irrelevant). The first verse repeats and repeats, fading in and out over the course of the song. If you speak Icelandic, which I certainly don't, you may or may not understand the lyrics. Listen to the heart beat, from inside the ribcage, inside and outside. I'll let you understand the symbolism. The second song that is sampled is much similar. It was suggested to me that I use it by an Australian friend of mine, who had recently re-discovered it after a long period of depression: Lie In The Arms by Stereo Bus, though it's so reverbed and stretched that you probably can't tell what it is anymore. Luckily for me while I was making this album, Rafstraumur and Lie In The Arms are actually in the same key and share many of the same chords in their progressions. It's almost as if they were meant to be together from the beginning. I did change the key signature just to add a sense of unease. While the songs are both in E major, this track is in C.

The second song on the album is  You/Vy - in English, Dream about You. I really tried to evoke the atmosphere of an actual dream here, and I think I achieved it (at least for me, I can't tell what your subjective experience is). It's about the protagonist, either before or after encountering the Adversary, having a dream about their lover, or an object of their affection. It samples Japanese elevator music, which is phased and reverbed to hell and back, and a stretched loop of ocean waves and binaural beats. There isn't actually a lot of symbolism in this track, I just think it sounds good. White noise doesn't have key signatures to match up, fortunately, so there's no additional value in that.

The third song on the album is 红茶 и 扶手椅共产主义 - in English, Earl Grey Tea and Armchair Communism. You might be thinking to yourself, 'what a strange title! Surely Jeyv-ynkev has lost their mind!' And you'd be right. But I actually have a symbolic basis for this title. Earl Grey is one of my favourite types of tea, and I am a left-communist myself. These two things make me feel exceptionally comfortable, and at the end of a long work day there is nothing better than sitting down on an armchair, holding a cup of tea and a Bordiga dissertation. The protagonist has become sedentary. Away from the action, they are sitting in their marble palace in their murex-stained armchair, preaching but not practicing. And this brings me on to why this piece is not comforting.

The songs I sampled on this track were intended to reflect the fact that the protagonist is sedentary and useless. They are Bourgeois by Kommunizm Brigade and FML by Kanye West. Both songs describe a life tainted by riches, a hypocritical and damned existence perpetuated by the elite. The piece aims to reflect this. The main character is an adventurer, yet they do not make any advance toward adventure. And this makes them, and the rest of the world, exceedingly uncomfortable. The tea gives them heartburn. The Marx gives them headaches. Even their armchair is starting to chafe their buttocks. So this track is not comforting. It's restless. Of course, you're free to add your own analysis.

The final song on the album is 我们的时间 Below - in English, Below Our Time. It's a departure from the rest of the album in that it does not directly continue the same narrative thread with the same characters. In fact, it is intended as a continuation of the narrative thread established in the second album by Spook the Horses, called Rainmaker. That album is a Western-themed romp through a doomed desert, a stark contrast to the cyberpunk romp through a doomed tundra that this album presents. Anyway, the story ends here. Below the ice, something has woken up. I don't think anything can stop it, not in our time. It's a tableau. It illustrates a single point in time.

I hope you enjoy the album.


2017-11-06

Album review: X // アースELIXIR


アースELIXIR is one of the most stereotypical vaporwave names you could give a project, but there's definitely an artistic point to all this. This isn't displayed to any less of an extent on the latest entry into the catalogue, a nice post-/classic vaporwave album with the simple title of X. In contrast to the recent trend of introspective, unironic vapour hits (of which I am guilty of creating, in part), X is a welcome break.

Admittedly, I had no real idea what post-vaporwave was before I firstly heard this album and wrote a review on it. I think that everyone has seen the /mu/ subgenre categorisation chart somewhere on the internet, and my mind immediately leapt to the dreaded 'vapormeme' subcategory when I first heard the term. With bated breath, I listened to the album all the way through and was pleasantly surprised. While the album does lamp-shade the tropes and conventions of vaporwave (and especially contemporary eccojams and late-night lo-fi), it does so in an affectionate and relaxing way, much like you would relax with an amicably-separated ex. Needless to say, this was a good thing.

The opening track shows this from beginning to end. The track is introduced by an eerie drone, and then robotic voices follow it through to its completion, a reference to earlier post-vaporwave and plunderphonic artists as well as synthwave (Com Truise, anyone?). This sets the tone for a very well-defined vaporwave album that both critiques the genre itself and the concepts that have continued to be critiqued by other artists. A cyber-punk dystopian theme is established right from the get-go.

The second track caused waves of nostalgia to flow through my body. A looped saxophone riff, much like the owner of my favourite Mongolian restaurant used to play, echoes through the headphones for around 8 minutes. It's a good start. While this might get a bit tedious with extended listening, the loop is generally enjoyable, and the almost-undetectable reverb adds a subtle isolated touch to the track. It's almost as if you're taking a train home.

The third track continues this theme. A faster-paced song, coming in at just over five minutes in length, the song introduces a light piano-saxophone duet into the mix. アースELIXIR uses a fast phaser to indicate that, much as the first track likes to remind us, not all is right in the universe of X. The effect? The song is turned from what was originally intended as a 'Mongolian-restaurant' tune into a calming but vaguely disturbing litany. Heavy drum hits inadvertently add to this atmosphere. Clearly, this album wants to relax you. It also wants to awaken something else, hiding deep inside you. Okay, I'll stop with the Lovecraftian imagery.

The fourth track is cyber-punk comme Shadowrun. It's a very short track, but aims to capture the feeling of sitting in an office waiting room, perhaps for an interview. The title (JAL企業サイト) indicates that the listener is now on an irreversible flight-path towards the corporate establishment. Or maybe a more likely analysis, knowing the genre and aims of X, is that it is a complete take-off of classic vaporwave, looped and reverbed to all hell. Nevertheless, it's a very nice song to listen to on its own. It is calming, as intended. Though it is short, I'd consider it a transition piece between the third and fifth tracks.

The fifth track calls back to the second and third tracks, and introduces a new concept: the identity of the listener (reinforced in the title: i). It runs at nine minutes, the length adding to the tense feeling (along with the indomitable phaser). Not much analysis is available beyond what I've already said about the other tracks, though it does serve to reinforce the themes of the earlier tracks. I also appreciate the Golden Living Room-styled pitch wobbling.

Nothingness, the sixth track, is another transition between i and Regional Conditions. It takes a much darker turn than the other tracks, giving you a genuine feeling of nothingness and emptiness as the notes roll by. It reminded me of waiting in an airport gate lounge for a near-empty flight, perhaps to Magadan or Egvekinot or, in the universe of this album, probably to Tokyo or Osaka.

Regional Conditions is really a fun track, despite the connotations of post-vaporwave ideology. It takes what is probably a weather channel track (a concept also played with by Virtual Polygon and, to a lesser extent, Thor Kissing) and adds a distorted voice-over. The track is also slowed down considerably, and looped over the course of around 13 minutes. Now this is a track length I can get behind. It really sets the tone that X is going for, and continues to drill in the themes and critiques that were present in all other tracks. You're still relaxing with your ex, but he's texting his new girlfriend while you watch the weather channel - he's there, but not available, like one bar of wi-fi. And it continues being drilled into you. (I'll stop projecting.)

The final track takes a far different turn. The title roughly translates to Client Service (though I'm translating across not one but two languages here, so give me some slack), and it further reinforces the main themes in a different form. Now, the song is midi-like, late-1990s vapours exuding from it, and looped over and over in a similar fashion. While it's an unexpected conclusion, I'd say it's moderately satisfying. At just over four minutes, it occupies a happy medium between transition and full song.

X overall is a solid entry into the ever-growing vaporwave corpus. Subverting and running with tropes and conventions familiar to the seasoned listener, it calms and disturbs at the same time. アースELIXIR has undoubtedly done a pretty good job on this one. While it's not the usual death-drone-dark-self-harm-dreampunk stuff I normally listen to, I was very pleasantly surprised with my introduction to post-vaporwave.

You can check out the album here.

2017-11-01

厄运 Ivyltin

i have put together some long mixes of out-takes from yukagir singularity.
here they are, in the form of a virtual-dream-plaza release.

http://mozcu.com/kagyrgyn/album/-

2017-10-21

Burying the Hatchet

Burying the Hatchet

Kopit stood on the edge of the sea, watching the canoes return from the open ocean. He extended his arms out in welcome, and silently muttered a prayer to Gluskap, renewing the blessings that he had offered the fishermen upon their departure. Nskawaqn dance rituals were already being performed on Mawiomi. It had been three months since the brave sailors, Abegweit and Eksasoni, had set out on their incredible journey. The drizzle that fell over them was understood as a good omen, that Kisulkw itself was crying tears of joy. They had left the harbour of Mniku under the celebrations of Jipijka’m, and the Chief himself had offered the rituals of Koju’a himself at the beginning of their journey into the unknown. Using animal skins attached to a long stick, the canoeists had been able to harness the power of the winds to travel with the greatest of ease. The night stars over Mi’kma’ki had guided them as surely as Bootup carried Gluskap over the vast world ocean. Soon, Kopit knew that the Heavens would reveal the fruits of their epic journey.

Abegweit waded out of the water, fell to his knees, and lay prostrate on the stony beach, his armpits and thighs bleeding profusely. A woman stepped forwards and wiped his wounds with a cloth. He stayed there for a while, and then summoned enough strength to stand. Greeting Kopit by presenting his hand, Abegweit smiled. “Truly, brother,” he said, after a long pause, “we are as strong as Kinap today! I must tell you everything. Let us get back to Mniku. Gather the whole tribe.”

***

The town of Mniku was packed to the brim with people, waiting to catch a single piece of the story. Abegweit and Eksasoni sat around the fire pit, smoking a pipe. The crowd’s noise simmered to a halt, all eyes fixed intently on the mouths of the adventurers. These men had travelled far beyond the edge of the world, and lived to tell the tale. After a long silence, Kopit spoke.

“What did you see? Beyond the edge?”

Eksasoni remained silent. The journey had obviously been too hard on him, and his eyes stayed fixed on a point just out of view. Abegweit, however, stared into Kopit’s eyes with weary excitement. “I had better start at the most important point. I am, of course, talking about the day we sighted land.”

“Land?”

“There is land far beyond Mi’kma’ki. Eksasoni first sighted it about two months in. Enormous bluffs, cliffs made of yellow rock surrounded us as we paddled closer and closer to this new world. We made camp for a night, puzzled by the strange place that we had stumbled across. I thought, perhaps, that we had died and entered the realm of the Kaqtukaq. But things became stranger yet.”

“Do tell.” By this point, the silence of the crowd had collapsed into a soft murmur. So, the prophecies of the old storyteller were wrong? The world doesn’t simply end at some point beyond the horizon?

***

“It took us another day before we came across a town. It was unlike any town we have ever seen – not in Mi’kma’ki, not in the Abenaki lands. It was quite literally unbelievable. At this point, Eksasoni fell silent; he’s been like that ever since, I’m afraid. The smell was terrible, and it was intense beyond intensity. While you can get pretty bad at times, Kopit,” - the crowd laughed behind him - “this really was a shock to the nostrils.”

“Were there people?”

“I’m just getting to that. We approached the town in our canoe, paddling slowly so as not to arouse suspicion. But this was in vain, as we could see something approaching us in turn.

“A massive canoe, the size of two longhouses, floated by us, and we could hear men shouting in a strange language. I began to believe that we truly were in the land of the gods. We eventually sailed to a bank of pure white stone, and exited the canoe. I stood on the edge of the water, watching as these foreign angels gathered around us. Though I could not understand their strange, guttural language, I could see that they were welcoming us to their land.” Abegweit coughed, and a little liquid spilled into his open hand.

***

“How did they treat you?” Kopit asked, leaning closer and closer to Abegweit with every passing moment of silence. The crowd had once again fallen silent, and only the sound of the fire was audible. It seemed that even the owls and insects were listening in.

“We were treated like kings! For seven days, I said nothing but prayers to Koju’a. I was repaid in kind by the strange men of the new world. The boatmen, though they could not talk to us, showed us treasures and trinkets that no Mi’kmaq could ever imagine. Their streets were paved with gold. Even their food was so decadent that myself and Eksasoni scarcely believed that we were still alive. Strange animals roamed around, kept in corrals and pens.” Abegweit coughed once more, and fell into a fit of respiratory spasm. After a long intermission, he picked himself up, wiped his mouth, and continued wearily.

“Ahem… yes, I attempted to share our culture and language with them, and they attempted to share theirs. They seemed to be unaware of our gods, but still believed in something. Spirit-walkers – they called them priests – fed us sour bread and a sweet yet bitter concoction. They said that their place was called Porto. I replied that they could visit us at any time – we are just across the world sea. And they seemed to reply in kind.” By now, Kopit – and most of the crowd – had noticed the startling blackness of his nose.

***

“Why did you leave?”

“Only because I felt it wrong to spend longer in the realm of the gods. A man that enters the longhouse of Gluskap is great, but a man that returns is greater still.”

The crowd muttered in agreement. But Kopit assumed a confused look, and stared Abegweit in the eye. “How did you get back? The animal skins are missing.”

“It’s a good point you raise. The truth is, we lost the skins – the sails, as the men called them – three days into our stay. I assume they were stolen, or packed away somewhere beyond our comprehension. We, along with our canoe, were forced to travel with the strange men aboard a fishing boat. Under the auspices of the gods, the men sailed to a location near Nitassinan, though they did not land. I thanked them, muttering prayers all the while, and then deployed the canoe. We sailed here from then.”

“An epic tale that will live forever in the annals of our tribe. Truly, brother, you have done us proud.”

As the crowd dispersed, Abegweit vomited a steady torrent of blood. He collapsed onto the ground, and lay with his eyes bulging toward the heavens. Kopit rushed over to check on him.

He was alive, but in a poor condition. It almost burned Kopit’s fingers to touch him, and his muscles seemed to convulse and contract under his weak, dry skin. Red welts covered his upper torso. Under his armpits, the wounds continued to leak. Kopit called for a medicine man. Upon inspection, Eksasoni, now in a deep, uninterruptable sleep, exhibited the same symptoms. Kopit called for calm, and uttered a concerned prayer.

***

It had been a month since the two men, covered in wounds and marks, had returned from their journey to Porto. The flesh had swiftly fallen away from their bones, and it had been concluded by the spirit-guides that the place that they had visited was not the realm of Kisulkw. Rather, it was the land of the Chenoo, of treacherous men that lured the unsuspecting travellers in with promises of gold and food.

But this was all irrelevant now. Merely three days after their arrival, the village had collapsed into a collective stupor. Eksasoni had long since died, and Abegweit was barely clinging to life. Only the prayers and offerings that they made to Nakuset, the Sun, could help them.

Two weeks after that, the town of Mniku had fallen silent.


____

i may post semi-regularly from this point, as i progress towards the distribution of my music and art through online platforms. i now have a twitter account as well!

2017-10-14

Collaboration and Letter

i really am on a music kick at the moment

i apologise for not posting more literature, as other obligations are getting in the way at the moment.

nevertheless:

here is a collaboration that myself and james from 'kommunizm brigade' (a neo-zelandian noise/chillwave band) have created. it is entitled "kazakhia".

track 1: air burial 
https://yadi.sk/d/1rBzyGyR3NjqCQ

track 2: nazarbayev university 2006
https://yadi.sk/d/32VzPeKV3NjqAw

and here is a letter, which will also be included in the bandcamp release of '尤卡吉尔奇 点 yukagir':

to you:

ч'инэңқ лаччаҳ эсазэн: қуӆҳ со̆ллозэн.

itelmen language is good for poetry.

in my head, the language is not yet on its deathbed. too many archaic languages before it moved, losing an endless battle with the forces of russian and english. but this one will remain in use, if it is only i and a handful of other people. according to the magazine "the world of indigenous peoples living arctic", in 2001, in the year that supposedly marked the coming into the future, there were only 35 native itelmen speakers. they were all old and sick. kamchadals were absorbed in this huge feature of other, more advanced languages. and for what?

this was part of the inspiration for this album. seeing that many others are being pushed by this tsunami, it was just not enough. anyway, i had to make an effort to save culture in the far east. my short stories have done enough for this, some have argued. a friend from kalmykia, however, argued differently. "jeyv-ynkev," he once told me when the internet worked smoothly: "why don't you continue the revival of siberian culture through music?" i thought about it and began to realize that this is perhaps the best idea i heard at the time. besides, it saved me from other work.

and that's why i started to work at the age of sixteen, playing around the music around my city anadyr. although at first i was pretty bad - check out the "chukotka mausoleum", in which the tuba is used - i soon began to improve my craft. under the influence of ugasanie, telepath, and cult of luna, i reached the point at which i could play live, and people came to see it. sometimes they even applauded. this led to the uploading of my album on the internet.

so, what is this? let me explain the name. like itelmen, yukagir underwent a complete culture leak. only 200 people ​​are still learned in this language. thus, this was also covered in the horizon of events in russian and english, and it is no longer visible. in the fantasy world of these audio recordings, the siberian dream is not lost. the existence of yukagir was not caught in a singularity. so, using the languages ​​of the far east, i presented the most non-russian record: 尤卡吉尔奇 点 yukagir.

i hope you enjoy this album, regardless of whether you use it for research in the atmosphere or just for background noise.

мәзви'н ҳоља'н к'оӆахэ'н.

- jeyv-ynkev, 13/10/2017


be sure to visit kommunizmbrigade.bandcamp.com for more of james's music, and also my own page (link in the sidebar).

2017-09-26

2017-09-25

Yukagir Singularity

yukagir rose before them, a singularity
their lives of toil, brief moments of beauty
the night ferry swept by
in the sky
the night stars erupted
insomnia's vigil
interrupted

The Goat Major, bar designation CF101GM, was nearly empty on the inside. A neglected linoleum floor lined the building, and a few Japanese arcade machines glowed in the back. A television blared Harlech. The bartender was nowhere to be found. A solitary patron sat, hands folded, at a table towards the door, wearing a tweed jacket. He turned and stared at Aspect, and motioned for her to sit with him.

Aspect turned away, and walked toward the door. “Sartre, scan my IRC, would you? I’m sure this isn’t the right place, or the right time…”

It would appear you’re in the correct place, Aspect. Is there anyth--”

She scoffed, and switched off her neural display. The bartender seemed to have returned, and so, with extreme hesitation, she moved over towards him.

Noswaith dda. I’ll have a Faraday, thanks,” she murmured, proffering her identity chip. “On the rocks.”

A Faraday?” the bartender said, turning toward the bottles of vodka on the bottom shelf. “You know, there’s an interesting paradox that Faraday, the scientist, came up with.”

Do tell.”

He uncovered that, curiously, diluted acids can sometimes be more effective than concentrated acids. Much like this drink here. They say it’s got more punch if you don’t serve it neat,” the bartender said, serving her a bright blue concoction in a scratched highball glass.

Thanks,” she said, taking a sip of the cocktail. The door of the bar swung open, and a black-clad figure waltzed in, head cloaked in a hijab. Aspect watched as the new arrival removed her dust mask and walked over to her. “Sorry I’m late,” she said in English.

Aspect stood up to talk to the woman, shoving her wooden barstool under the table. “I appreciate that you want to meet, Static, but could you choose somewhere a little more... upmarket... next time? I’m not a fan of the whole aesthetic this place has. Anyway, what’s the problem?”

Static wiped her camera-eyes with a velveteen cloth. “I’m in some deep shit, Aspect. I’m just a regular girl, yeah, so I don’t want any trouble, right? So I --”

Allow it. Just get to the point.”

Static looked at Aspect with tears in her eyes. Her hands shook as she spoke. “If we’re not raps, there’ll be a war.”

...what the fuck did you do?”

It’s complicated, but, long story short, I got this gig from Blitz to hack this shipping corp in Estonia. Turns out, they was inserting fake data - about nukes, missiles, you name it. I didn’t get found out, but somebody got proper angry. Now the NATO database says it’s preparing for a fight against somebody. Fuck. What are we going to do, Aspect?”

Aspect exhaled sharply, and folded her hands in front of her mouth. Swiftly regaining composure, she looked Static in the eyes and spoke calmly yet firmly. “We need to get to work. Now,” she said, grabbing her Commodore QL-256 out of her backpack and setting it on the table.

Aspect slid open the keyboard cover, making sure not to bump any of the keys. She pulled out the display connector, and closed the back panel. With a single, swift movement, she stabbed her visor with the display jack.
***

Immediately, the overload of information came. Aspect winced, attempting to steel herself against the unexpected pain, and waited for the influx of data to pass her by. She placed a hand on the table in front of her, as if to steady herself, and then placed herself gently on the barstool.

She watched as gigabytes of data, personified, zipped by into the dark realms of cyberspace. Lines of endless ALGOL appeared to join with her as she opened a portal into the Net. She activated her QL-256’s brute-force algorithm, and at once a door in front of her appeared to vanish. Waves of white light, affected only slightly by neural interference, washed over her as she walked into the raw data systems of NATO itself. She smiled, at once relieved and nervous. “Okay, Static. I’m in,” she said, her own voice sounding distant to her.

Static, a world away, leaned in. “You’ll want the file on Revaline Incorporated. Take out anything - anything, fam - about nuclear shit, about missiles and other such stuff, and get the hell out of there. Got it?” she said.

Aspect thought of a snarky reply, but decided against saying it. She ran into the depths of the databank. The light began to change in nature, as if it were milk curdling against vinegar. Solid beams of luminance shot through the void around her, plunging her surroundings into pitch darkness as they disappeared into the abyss.

She fumbled around her belt, and continued into the corridor of information. She passed an infinite collection of files within folders, folders within drives, drives within arrays in the aether around her. Finally, she saw a folder matching roughly what she was looking for. A dossier on Revaline.

She touched the file. A mistake. A high-pitched hum hung in the vacuum of cyberspace around her. Aspect grabbed the document and began to disconnect from the deck. Libraries flew upwards, spastic, the ambient light of cyberspace turning all colours on the spectrum. An alarm blared, and a bitcrushed voice screamed.

A figure appeared, skeletal against the nothingness behind it, raising its limbs behind its head. Mosaics of sequin-like pixels disintegrated off it, and it brought its arm back as if about to throw a punch. Aspect smiled wordlessly, and shut off the neural display port. A message appeared on her visor. It is now safe to turn off your computer. Extraction successful.

***
Aspect threw off the visor and shoved the QL-256 to the other end of the bar. Static grinned. “You’ve done it, then? I’ve got nothing to f--”

That was only half of it,” said Aspect, disconnecting the cables from her computer one by one.

Static looked confused. “So you’ve only extracted the information, then? Why didn’t you change it? Fuck! You taking the piss?”

Blitz gave you a hard job. They had security in there, in case you didn’t know. I almost got taken out by one of them. I’ve got to edit the info, anyway, so be patient. Jesus,” said Aspect, shaking her head. “You’re talking to the hacker that fucked up Kremvax in 2097, so have some respect. Count yourself lucky you’ve got me,” she continued, hardly leaving any pause even for punctuation. She fiddled with her visor for a minute, and then glared at Static. “I expect half of whatever Blitz is paying you, by the way.”

Static turned to the bartender. “A vodka, thanks,” she said, her voice quivering. She took the shot without hesitation, winced, and then stood upright. A faint rumble of thunder echoed through the bar, alerting her to the sound of the rain outside. Aspect sat down on one of the barstools, opened her QL-256, and began to peruse the data from the Pentagon.

A single text file jumped out at her, entitled simply REVAL.txt. Furrowing her brow immensely, she read every word of the document, sifting through paragraphs upon paragraphs of data. Occasionally, the clatter of keyboard strokes was audible, erasing any trace of Static’s mistake, or of the wanton Posadism of the hackers’ collective. Static stood next to her, observing the corrections in the fake data, and picking up any missed spots. After what seemed like an eternity, but what Aspect’s visor indicated was an hour, the document was completely erased of any reference to weapons trafficking.

Now for the tricky part,” Aspect told herself, her voice less grating than before. She motioned towards Static. “You know how to operate a deck, right?” Aspect asked her.

Static nodded her head slightly, and sat on the barstool adjacent to Aspect’s. “Ah… I mean, yeah, a little. But you’re the expert here, so --”

I’m not being funny here, Static,” Aspect interrupted. “To extract and edit data from a multinational database belonging to the world’s largest global power is one thing. But the difficult bit is inserting fake data.”

The sound of thunder reverberated through the pub once more. Static jumped, and then shook her head, sitting herself down once more.

Aspect continued, pretending not to notice. “The security’s already been triggered, which makes it already difficult, but there are systems in play that detect any extra data on the servers. So, if anything happens to me, I’ll need to rely on you to get me out. I have an emergency escape switch, if cachu hwch happens, but I’d rather not use it.”

Static nodded again, this time even less sure of her ability. “Good, then,” said Aspect, sliding open the hatch on the computer. The display connector slid into the socket with ease. The sound of the rain faded out. Within seconds Aspect had once again fused her mind with the machine.

***

Aspect was thrown into the databank once again, the pain less acute than it was the first time around. All of the sensations of the outside world were dulled, and her eyes merely presented her with the inside of the NATO servers. Looking around, she could see that she was in a remote area of the repository. The neon lines that guided her towards the files glowed a soft red, a cascade of incandescent voxels amalgamating into a central spire in the distance. Her destination. Aspect sighed, took a deep breath in, and started running towards the mass.

She kept running for what seemed like miles, getting closer and closer to the central databank as she traversed the digital landscape. Black-body walls appeared to close in on her, forming corridors and halls as she continued forwards. She closed her eyes as she pushed forwards into the middle of the immense grid.

As she neared the centre, she felt the cold grind of the pixelated walls against her arm, shocking her out of the trance. The neon lines continued to glow red, but the sound of the alarm starting up did nothing to reassure her. Her eyes snapped open, and her body tensed up. She continued to run, her fists tightening, and her muscles bulging. Out of the corner of her eye, white flashes began to appear, one after the other.

The security projection’s first strike barely missed Aspect’s cheek, a miscalculated right hook, perhaps. She noticed too late that it was merely a fake-out, a move designed to throw her off her path. The projection threw its entire weight behind a follow-up. Aspect gasped as the sharp fist of the AI doubled her over. If this were reality, she would have been winded. It was a heck of a punch, for sure, especially for an algorithm.

This unusual show of physical force did not go unnoticed. Though Aspect was used to the odd punch here and there, even in the tangible world, the sheer amount of power behind this shot was simply unprecedented. Her eyes glinted with a mixture of fear and anger, and she retreated backwards.

The projection remained staunch. Expressionless, the algorithm had presumably been deployed to defend the archives from any rogue hackers such as Aspect and Static. It was a figure somehow without form, as if it was contained purely in a dream. Taking this one down would be difficult, as Aspect’s stance suggested.

The program stared at Aspect, apparently mocking her. “Error three-two: unauthorised file access violation. Intruder, your files have been restored. The server states: This is bigger than you, Asp--”

Aspect spat. “Fuck, Blitz better be paying up for this,” she murmured, her mouth slowly recovering from the hit.

She could see that she had no other choice than to fight it. Swiftly regaining her composure, she adopted an aggressive stance again. She reached down to her belt with one hand, and pulled out her measure of last resort: a sword, seemingly forged within the simulation. The sword radiated energy outwards, causing Aspect to squint. She smiled wryly as the projection approached her.

The fight lasted barely a minute. The projection charged at her with its ethereal fists clenched, its cadaverous form gliding towards her with ease. She dodged the first swing, and countered the second, meeting the algorithm’s arm with her glowing blade. The sheer brutality of the sword’s cutting action sent the drone backwards a fair distance, but the sabre did not do enough to end the guard’s advance.

Aspect braced herself for another onslaught from the projection. It swung at her with scarcely a second to allow her to catch her breath. The shot was almost enough to damage the neural connector on her visor. Arcing through the void like electricity through air, the drone landed punch after punch onto Aspect’s body.

Finally, Aspect slashed forwards into the algorithm, catching it in the centre of its mass. Slicing at random, she launched into the projection with an atypical rage, even for her. She seemed to exhaust her entire stock of energy into destroying it, gradually slowing her thrusts until it was clear that nothing remained. Aspect dropped to her knees and stared at the ground for a minute.

More white flashes appeared in her peripheral vision. Exhausted, she attempted to signal to Static to cut the connection. She breathed deeply, started the process of shutting down the QL-256, and stood up again. There were more of them now - maybe five or six projections, far too many to take on at once. “So not worth it,” she thought, swallowing sharply. She looked back, and sprinted back from whence she came.
***

Aspect did not remember the last few hours. Awakening in an unfamiliar environment, she attempted to piece together how she had gotten here. She thought back to the bar, and then the task that she had been given. Her eyes widened, and she furiously attempted to get up. She began to sweat, and she kicked fruitlessly at the void surrounding her. She had realised she was still in the virtual reality environment.

A deluge of images started to flow back into her mind. The end of the corridor - then, she was running - and finally, she recalled a party of projections rushing towards her. Her stomach dropped as it registered with her that not only had she failed to re-insert the data, but that it was likely that whatever it was that she had removed had since been restored. She screamed into the darkness, and nothing replied. “Sartre, disconnect me from the network, would you?” she said, a vain attempt to save herself. “Oh, for the love of God!”

Minutes passed, and she still remained in the pitch-black environment of the virtual construct. She pulled out a single key from her pocket. In normal lighting conditions, this key had a clearly visible picture of some forgotten 20th-century leader printed on it. The plastic it was made of was dyed red, and the switch could not be activated without undoing a large yellow toggle on the side.

Aspect gulped. This was the emergency escape key, a last resort for any hacker. Simply put, the key ejected the user from the simulation automatically, without pausing to disconnect the neural interfaces or the human-computer API. Most of the time, it worked fine. But every now and then - just often enough to worry Aspect - you’d hear of some blue-hat contractor who, on encountering a minor bug, used the key. Then, you’d hear about their closed-casket funeral.

Aspect barely had time to consider the dilemma before she heard the unmistakable sound of somebody else dropping into the virtual world.

***

She turned her head to the side, and saw a man heading towards her. She attempted to shout, but found that her voice was somehow inhibited. She tried and failed to move. Whoever this was, he had excellent command of the cyberdeck. Aspect would have been impressed, were she not so confused.

The man was fully illuminated, despite there being no discernible source of light in the abyss. As he slowly approached her, Aspect was able to pick out details. He was wearing a tweed jacket. She remembered back to the bar, what had seemed like hours ago, and immediately she recalled who he was. He was the solitary patron of the Goat Major, who had beckoned to her in the pub.

I thought something might have gone wrong,” said the man. “I saw you over there, and I noticed that you’d been there a while. Now I see what’s happened.”

Aspect felt her body overcome with cold, and she began to shiver. The man looked at her out of the corner of his eyes. “I’m just deactivating your brain wires, lass. Don’t worry yourself,” said the man, now adopting a calm and measured tone. “You’d just--”

Aspect shouted, unaware that she was able to do so. The void fell silent. She moved her head to face the man, and then shrieked at him. “What the fuck are you thinking? I can’t bel--”

Allow it, mate. I’ll tell you about what you’ve done - or, rather, what you haven’t done. Come and talk to me outside, once you’ve quite finished,” he said, disappearing from view. Aspect lay there, completely motionless, a shocked expression on her face. Talk to him… outside? She thought about this for a second, and then attempted to remotely disconnect her neural display port yet again.

The visual display subtly faded to a deeper black. Aspect began to hear the hum of the bar’s fluorescent lights, the high-pitched thrum of the Japanese arcade machines, and Harlech blaring from the television screen. The rain was deafening now. The Commodore logo flashed up onto the display’s screen. It is now safe to turn off your computer.

Aspect removed the visor, squinting due to the light. She swiveled her head around, noticing Static asleep at the bar next to her despite the lightning. Her computer was shoved to the side of the table. She rubbed her eyes, swallowed sharply, and then walked over to the man’s table.

***

The man was in the process of packing up his computer, a particularly nice custom RISC system with Plaid Cymru decals stuck to the back of the folding screen. Aspect stood, arms folded, facing the man. “Explain. Now,” she commanded.

Oh… yes, of course,” stammered the man, looking much scrawnier than he did in the virtual world. His tweed jacket was buttoned unevenly, and his brown Aertex shirt had visible sweat-stains on it. He stopped fiddling with his deck, and turned towards Aspect. “I was sent by Blitz. He wants you to know the truth of the operation.”

Will Static still get paid?” Aspect said, her eyes digging into the hacker’s hunched figure.

...sure, yes, of course. I’m Pathfinder, by the way,” he said, offering a hand in greeting. Aspect stared at him, immovable, and he drew his hand slowly back inwards. “Blitz had a job for Static that he expected her to fulfill. That’s the long and short of it. Are you familiar with the Faraday paradox?”

Aspect nodded slowly, her face overcome with growing suspicion.

It’s the same thing, really. A few hackers with the right tools for the job can execute something much more effectively than a lot of hackers. It’s a matter of detectability. That’s why we got Static and Blitz alone to work on inserting missiles into the equation.”

Aspect glared at Pathfinder, who paused, making sure not to make eye contact with her. He closed his eyes and continued. “Once you had reversed this - or it might have been Static, I don’t know - we had to get inv--”

Don’t you understand the meaning of nuclear war, you thick bastard? They’re about to nuke the Soviets. That means you die. And I die. And Static, and Blitz, and all of your squad, and --”

The Soviets?” interjected Pathfinder, his eyebrows raised in utter confusion. Silence. Aspect blinked sharply. A peal of thunder extended the gap in conversation. Pathfinder opened his mouth, and inhaled. “NATO weren’t going to nuke Russia. There wasn’t an enemy specified in the files, unless I’m mis--”

Well, who was it then? Think of all the incidents that have been happening in the news. Who else are the Americans going to nuke?”

Pathfinder stared at the ground. “I couldn’t say. I can tell you, though, that that isn’t thund--”

Whatever!” Aspect grumbled. She threw up her hands, and moved back to the bar. She shook Static awake, and then started to pack up her computer. She wound up the video and audio cables of the visor, she slid the back panel back into place, she folded the screen into--

***

Aspect froze with the sudden sound. The television turned itself off, and a flash of light came in through the frosted glass window of the door to the pub. A low rumble of thunder poured in, reaching an ear-splitting climax, and rattling the panes of glass. Suddenly, Aspect felt as if all of the air had been ripped from her lungs. A wave of heat overcame her, forcing her onto the blue linoleum. She had no time to note the reactions of the others.

Aspect opened the door to the Goat Major, leading her out into the stone-paved streets. The sky was black now, and the rain came down in buckets. It was a viscous, yellow rain, not entirely common in Cardiff. A drop made its way between her lips. She froze as she registered that it tasted of bile.

With another tremor, she toppled over, catching herself on a bollard outside of Pizza Express. She pushed herself up, holding her head in one hand as she rose. She stared towards the Castle.

In the sky, around thirty miles away, above the Brecon Beacons, floated an object that defied comprehension. Something about it caused Aspect to lose her grip on the bollard, and to gaze, open-mouthed, upon its brilliance. Something about it warranted worship. Aspect could not help but fear - yet also, somehow, love - this entity.

The object extended far into the upper atmosphere, as if it had descended from the cosmos to unleash its outlandish manifesto upon the Earth. It was a perverse deity; within its black clouds of swirling gas, Aspect could faintly see black, pus-dripping tentacles extruding from a central node. Cities of muscle rotated inwards endlessly into the hole that was its mouth. Its legs, hundreds of feet long each, spiralled chaotically as Vulcan-4 bombers rushed towards it, like flies to paper.

Static and Pathfinder rushed outside, similarly affected by the quakes. Upon seeing the abomination in the sky, Static dropped to her knees and wept, her arms outstretched to the side of her. Pathfinder simply stared at Aspect, his eyes containing the semblance of an apology, before they found themselves lying prostrate before its frightening supremacy. Aspect found herself paralysed in its superiority, at once loathing every aspect of its grotesque, unspeakable form.

Aspect found, after a while, that she was unable to close her eyes in its presence. She felt herself being suspended in mid air, back arched unnaturally backwards. A mist of inky vapour emanated from her body, and she observed that she was now in complete darkness. The long tentacles of the wraith-like being seemed to welcome her. An endless serenity washed over her, and her bloodshot eyes filled with bliss. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the bombs dropping.

The fog dispersed. The sound of supersonic pressure waves pierced the air, and the bombers, still in a shallow dive, released their payloads of nuclear armaments. The sky grew bright. Discharges of searing flame surged forth from the deity. A shock-wave of immeasurable power erupted from its infinite maw.


Aspect continued to stare, the screaming shards of burning plutonium appearing to her as dream sequins in her haze of infatuation. She closed her blind eyes.

2017-06-07

Impact of Solon

The Impact of Solon: A myth, or a legend?

Solon of Athens was an influential statesman and politician in the archaic era. As primary Archon, Solon’s reforms of the Athenian law process were important in providing short-term solutions to many problems. His reforms also addressed many sources of sociopolitical tension in the city-state of Athens, and laid the foundations for the concept of citizenship. These reforms are analysed through texts such as Plutarch’s Solon, Aristotle’s Athenaion Politeia, and Solon’s own corpus. By examining these texts, the impacts of Solon can be readily discerned.

Solon’s reforms set the stage for classical Athenian democracy following the age of tyrants. Solon’s reforms brought much-needed stability to the Athenian economy, as well as reducing the size of the gulf between the rich and poor. Solon’s reform of the political system is discussed first; then, his reforms of the legal system, the class system of Athens, his debt cancellation programme, and finally his other reforms.

Solon’s reform of the Athenian political system was his most impactful reform. Aristotle reports that Solon reformed the electoral system of Athens by according citizens with the ability to run for office and serve on juries based on the amount of rateable property they had, regulating the elections to office through the use of strictly marked property classes (Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 7-8). Though the division of citizens into these classes for administrative purposes did not mark a significant departure from the times of Draco, this system changed Athenian politics by giving these tiers a political importance. Before Solon’s reforms, there was limited democracy in Athens (the assembly was controlled mainly by the Archons) and many were not allowed to take part in the assemblies of the councils and juries, namely the thetes class (Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 5-7). In this manner Solon’s reforms were important. His establishment of citizen classes, as well as the inclusion of all Athenian citizens in civic issues, shows strongly that Solon’s reforms primarily achieved two outcomes. Firstly, Solon’s establishment of classes based on land ownership shows that his legislation was laying the foundations of the later Athenian establishment of defined citizenship, the oligarchy being somewhat overtaken by the designation of political roles to each denizen of Attica. Secondly, the allocation of citizenship even to the thetes class was instrumental in improving the development of Athens: the new responsibilities of the thetes allowed for their use as agricultural labourers and craftsmen, which in turn made it so that Athenian production could increase. Solon’s reforms of the political system in these ways were undoubtedly impactful.

As well as this, both Aristotle and Plutarch report that Solon established a Council of Four Hundred, a judicial board which executed legal and internal affairs within the city-state and its tribes, as well as deliberating on public matters initially (Plutarch, Solon 19.1). The Council of the Areopagus, an Archon-run board, supervised any laws deliberated upon by this Council. Plutarch reports that, though the Council of Four Hundred represented a lower house within the two-council system, it acted as a matter of stabilisation within the city-state: two councils would allow the people and Archons to interact more fluidly and eliminate sources of tension in Athens. However, the impact of this reform is debatable: though Plutarch claims that the establishment of a two-house system eliminated public disquiet, many modern scholars contend that this reform was largely unsuccessful in reducing social turmoil.

Solon also resolved to revoke the citizenships of those that did not engage in political matters. According to Aristotle, the citizenships, and thus the political roles of those that refused to take a position on issues, were relinquished; this was done to reduce the amount of voting citizens that blindly accepted certain positions on issues and reduce the amount of partisan factionalism within the city-state. Plutarch claims that Solon passed this legislation because:

[Solon] wishes, probably, that a man should not be insensible or indifferent to the common weal, arranging his private affairs securely and glorying in the fact that he has no share in the distempers and distresses of his country, but should rather espouse promptly the better and more righteous cause, share its perils and give it his aid, instead of waiting in safety to see which cause prevails. (Plutarch, Solon 20).

Plutarch’s interpretation of Solon’s law is related to its impact due to the implications thereof: in Solon’s new system of citizenship within Athens, it was important that every individual involved in the voting process should avoid factionalism and vote for what he believed should lead to the best outcome. However, this did not have the outcome of reducing the role of the party system - contrarily, those that did not support either of the major parties were the main target of this legislation (Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 8).  Nevertheless, this had the impact of reinforcing Solon’s ideology in politics, which Aristotle contends defined the constitution of Athens by the late 4th century BCE. Overall, Solon’s political reforms were significant in laying the foundations for Classical Athenian democracy and reducing the role of the oligarchy in politics.

Solon’s reforms of the legal system were also significant in these respects. Solon inherited Draco’s legislation, a system which accorded harsh penalties to any criminal (Plutarch, Solon 17). Solon reformed Draco’s laws to make penalties somewhat less severe for criminals, drawing up new laws as one of his first acts of constitutional reform (Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 7.1). Plutarch claims that this was done because the punishments were too cruel, apart from those related to homicide; the effect of this being that the poor were not punished simply for their poverty as they apparently were under Draco.  Plutarch also implies that the Draconian legislation went directly against Solon’s ideology as an egalitarian.

As well as reforming Draco’s code of laws, Solon also refurbished the legal system to include third-party accusations and appeals. Aristotle claims that the inclusion of appeals to the jury is the most important of all of Solon’s democratic reforms:

It is to this last, they say, that the masses have owed their strength most of all, since, when democracy is master of the voting-power, it is master of the constitution. Moreover [....] the courts had to decide in every matter, whether public or private. (Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 9).

This shows that Solon’s reforms had a definite impact of leaving a democratic mark on Athenian politics: in the newly reformed legal system, the ability for the accused to appeal was seen as a fundamental of the democratic process.

Solon’s cancellation of all debts was another significant piece of legislation which had an impact on socio-economic and political matters in Athens at the time. Solon’s first point of action here, according to Aristotle, was to eliminate all debts, both public and private, on behalf of the debtors (though Plutarch claims that some contemporary authors reported that the cancellation was, in reality, a reduction in interest rates). In this, Solon displayed his willingness to incur the wrath of both sides in the Council of the Areopagus for the benefit of the stability of the state: Solon believed that the growing division between the classes was the main cause of social and political instability within the city-state (Solon, 4W: GP pp. 25-26) and that the reduction of this growth would return Athens to a state of stability. However, this is not necessarily the case. Aristotle maintains that Solon’s position was not ideal: a large section of the aristocracy was alienated from his politics due to the cancellation of debts without means of compensation, and that the lower classes were also dissatisfied with Solon’s reforms because of his failure to completely redistribute all wealth. This lead to a period of political discord, but contributed somewhat to securing an increasingly stable socio-economic climate: debts had probably been contributing to a rising amount of class conflict in Athens, and Aristotle claims that Solon’s reforms may have helped solve this (Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 5-11).

On a related note, Solon may have ended the debt-bondage tradition of Athens, though this is questioned by secondary sources. Debt-bondage was a system in which loans were taken using the freedom of the debtor as collateral, meaning that creditors gained the right to sell debtors as slaves if they were to default. Solon’s enactment of the law repealing debt-bondage as a practice had immediate effects on the social climate of Athens, and, combined with the laws forgiving all debts, addressed sources of tension between the aristocracy and the thetes (Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 12). Plutarch also makes references to the effects of the “disburdenment,” as it was called: he claims that, anticipating the debt reform, the lower classes borrowed extreme sums of money and, knowing that their debt could not be repaid using debt-bondage, increased their economic standing with little penalty. This was an unforeseen consequence of the reform and may have stood to increase class tension in Athens following its passage (Plutarch, Solon 15). This “disburdenment” may have been another method that Solon used to achieve his goal of greater economic equality within the polis of Athens: Plutarch also claims that, after a brief period of social unrest due to the logistics of such measures, all classes more or less saw the advantages of Solon’s policies surrounding debt and debt-bondage and accorded him more power to amend the constitution.

However, there were negative effects of Solon’s alteration of the Athenian constitution in this manner. Aristotle reports that, though Solon had attempted to solve the problems of economic inequality, he had treated the symptoms rather than the causes; many aristocrats had relied on the interest from their debts, resulting in their reduction to poverty. As well as this, reactionaries had become disenchanted due to the scale of change that Solon had introduced. A result of this is that the tyranny of Pisistratus began, according to Aristotle (Ath. Pol. 13). Nevertheless, it is clear that Solon’s debt policies had an immense immediate impact on Athens as a whole.

Solon’s other reforms also had an impact on the Athenian polis. For example, Solon’s reformation of the various currencies of Athens (Ath. Pol. 10) aided those that would in future likely be in debt. According to Plutarch, Solon made it so that the mina, which was at the time worth 73 drachma, was now worth 100 in the new devalued currency. This was done so that debtors could pay the same amount but in a lesser value, and so that creditors were able to accept such payments without sizable losses (Plutarch, Solon 15.4), further decreasing the socio-economic strain on the lower classes, though there does not seem to have been any political or legal function to this.

Among Solon’s other reforms were social and moral reforms especially regarding women and marriage, though Aristotle mentions none of these. Plutarch mentions that heiresses’ marriages could be automatically transferred to the husbands’ next-of-kin in the event that the husband was unable to perform his duties. Solon mandated that men should gain wealth through working (Solon, 13W 1); thus, Plutarch adds that the main purpose of his social reforms was to further uphold this: those that merely wished to gain the property of the heiress upon marriage were not allowed to do so. This was also the function of his reform which made it so that dowries were prohibited, and was used as justification for legislation prohibiting relationships over considerable age gaps. However, many of Solon’s reforms were strictly moral: for example, slander, even regarding the dead, was prohibited and resulted in fines of up to five drachmae (Plutarch, Solon 21.1). Overall, however, Solon’s various social reforms attempted to close loopholes in the Athenian legal system and prevent inequalities. The total impact of this is not extensively documented.

In conclusion, Solon’s reforms had a large impact on the Athenian polis both immediately and after his rule. Solon’s political reforms, as well as his class reforms, temporarily diminished the role of the oligarchy. As well as this, every citizen of Athens (regardless of class) was able to engage in matters of civic importance, thus laying the foundations of citizenship and democracy. Moreover, these reforms temporarily mitigated many problems of class tension and achieved stability in the short-term. Solon’s debt reforms had a large immediate impact on the economy and social climate of Athens, resulting in the abolition of debt-slavery and the reduction of unrest, but later the widespread discontent of the former aristocrats. The reform of Draconian law, as well as the addition of appeals to the jury, contributed further to the democratisation of Athenian society and lessened the rate at which the gap between classes widened.
References
Farrar, C. The Origins of Democratic Thinking: The Invention of Politics in Classical Athens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Milne, J. G.  “The Chronology of Solon’s Reforms.” The Classical Review 57, no 1 (1943): 1-3.
Noussia, M. “A Commentary on Solon’s Poems”. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University College London, 1999.
Harris, E. M.  “Did Solon abolish debt bondage?” The Classical Quarterly 52, no. 2 (2002): 415-430.

Németh, György.  “On Solon’s Land Reform.” Acta Antiqua Scientiarum Hungariae 45, no. 1 (2005): 321-328.