It’s difficult to fully rationalize what Australia’s Chief Whip is attempting to accomplish on their debut EP Aurora Apparatus, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort. Not to be confused with the suburban rap/rock duo of the same name (… and who I think we can agree are wack as hell), Chief Whip are an Australian industrial doom metal group that collapse the aesthetic and conceptual space between analog and digital, the classical and the contemporary, flesh and silicone, thoughts and programmed functions, and the mind and soul and bio-hacked hardware. In some senses, the digital age has made cyborgs of us all. Requiring that we offload many of our mental functions to digital machines in a virtual cloud, while substituting the realm of the social with a series of data-driven feedback loops, it’s becoming harder and harder to tell where you end and a silicon processor begins, or even what you truly think and feel, and what you’ve been trained to think and feel by the companies who own the machines that order our lives.
There is a real, but difficult to quantify, sense of ambivalence to the music that Chief Whip makes on Aurora Apparatus. The project reaches an appropriate level of uncanniness where the elements of neo-classical orchestrations and low-end doom become strangely comforting, even as you can decern that there is something sinister and adversarially motivated occurring underneath. The spooky elements of the mix are hidden under elegant piano traipses and the gentle lift of lofty strings arrangements, enough to makes their presence known, but only rarely intrusive enough to make their mercurial nature appear threatening.
The resulting balance leaves you with a warry sense of disquiet as to what you can’t discern from the surface textures you encounter, and what you can only imagine is transpiring beneath the hood of the human facade that masks the true nature of these sounds. It’s like Bladerunner, except the roles are reversed, and the replicants have been hired by a corporation to interview humans, in order to determine weaknesses and forces of habit and then report back to their manufacturer with their field notes. In this way, Aurora Apparatus successfully conveys the sense that you are part of an experiment, a test subject in a mechanical maze, where the only other representations of humanity that you encounter, simply exist to observe you in order to design further testing scenarios. For those of you who have been paying attention to the last twenty odd years of development in big tech and social technology, this should all feel strangely familiar.
Stream Chief Whip’s Aurora Apparatus via Bandcamp below: