Why is bleak music so widespread these days?

The Quietus’ Ryan Diduck:

Historically, pockets of doomy and gloomy music have flourished during traumatic times. The spiritual quoted above was sung by Harriet Tubman — also known as “Black Moses” — a former slave who had herself escaped bondage, helping countless others to freedom at the risk of her own recapture. Scholar and activist Dr. Charshee Charlotte Lawrence-McIntyre wrote: “Upon hearing this song, whether or not able to see the singer, slaves knew their Moses’ had come for them.” In the depths of the Great Depression, both Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee recorded maudlin versions of Brother, Can You Spare A Dime’, earning them each number one hits. More recently, The Cure, Joy Division, Bauhaus and a slew of post-punk, darkwave acts coincided with the first hints of Thatcherism in the UK. Across the pond, Skinny Puppy, Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails were the most visible constituents of an industrial-metal cohort that documented the sinister transition from Reganonomics to Bush Sr.‘s militaristic and evangelical conservatism. Once again, that old black cauldron has been bubbling toil and trouble for some time. Fever Ray’s self-titled 2009 album “proceeds at a crawl” conjuring “an eerie, becalmed atmosphere,” according to Alexis Petridis of The Guardian. And at the turn of the decade, acts such as Salem and oOoOO chopped and screwed a path toward the surge of subgenres alternately dubbed Witch House and Drag, whose aesthetics crept their way into new artists’ repertoires, from A$AP Rocky to Holy Other. So it’s little surprise, what with the global sway that the extreme right-wing appears to have mustered over the past few decades, the further marginalization of the Occupy movement, the persistence of casual bigotry, and significantly, the all-too-real possibility of America soon slipping back into Republican hands, that ominous music should once again be sounding its not-so-distant early warning sirens. Are these the sounds of the new bleak?

I’m not sure what this meandering article, which goes from discussing Tim Hecker, Joy Division, and Ministry to referencing Naomi Klein, Slavoj Žižek, and Simon Reynolds, is trying to say, exactly. I’d agree with Diduck that bleak music has been around as long as there’s been human suffering, pain, and alienation, i.e., forever. But is it really plausible to say that the “all-too-real possibility of America soon slipping back into Republican hands,” etc., is responsible for the increase in bleak music out there? Furthermore, is it even possible to quantify that there is, indeed, any such rise?

Seems to me that the rise of technology in the last decade or so that allows folks to quickly and cheaply create, promote, and discover music of all stripes is as responsible as anything for any increase in the amount of bleak music out there.

I also recall discovering and listening to plenty of bleak, depressing, and ominous music when the Democrats held power.

But perhaps he’s not actually talking about any sort of quantifiable increase in bleak music, but rather, that bleak music is increasingly responding to and addressing such things as the rise of the extreme right-wing. I didn’t get that sense from the article — he seems primarily focused on simply talking about how widespread this stuff is — but perhaps I missed something.


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