House of Intergenerational – Soft Subversions 2LP
Soft Subversions is the debut release by House of Intergenerational, the DJ platform for Toronto-based artist and clinical sonician Andrew Zealley. Published as a 2LP vinyl gatefold edition of 250 numbered copies with a two-sided poster/insert of visuals and notes, Soft Subversions is the sonic culmination of six years of research into risk, art, and sex in the era of AIDS industry: listening to risk and risky artistic and sexual practices as a method of aesthetic self-creation.
Twelve tracks flow across and through different dance music tropes, ambient sounds, minimalism, and other music genres that trace back to what Zealley imagines as an AIDS playlist: musics that unconsciously laid the foundations (and soundtrack) for socio-sonic and -sexual cultures and spaces where gay/queer men, and Black and Latinx people gathered together in celebration, resistance, sex, and nonnormative identity-making; and became sites where HIV first noticeably (and devastatingly) hit North American urban centres in the early 1980s. But this release is not just an historical survey. Zealley examines and activates this AIDS playlist through the lens of biopolitics and queer political theory, and uses sonic source material treatments, spoken word, and original music composition and word-work to reflect on and respond to the current moment: PrEP, U=U, and homonormativity.
Soft Subversions features poet/vocalist Robert Bolton, and artists and activists Alan Belcher, Anthea Black, Faizal Deen, Jessica Karuhanga, Shan Kelley, Tim McCaskell, and Simon Muscat. The result is a listening experience that seeks to conjure seminal disco dancefloors, gay bar backrooms, and the kinds of ludic, radical, and risky sexual practices that write historical and evolving narratives of risk-taking over four decades of HIV and AIDS. This persistent dialectic—or dynamic continuum—of risk includes outlaw and so-called risky sex practices (anonymous, bathhouses, cruising and public sex) that have thrived in every era, and art and activism that responds to the AIDS crisis while simultaneously encouraging forms of personal agency and sexual citizenship. From Continental Baths manager Steve Ostrow’s introduction to a Met soprano’s 1974 performance at the infamous New York City venue, Faizal Deen’s poetic rage over protecting the disco as a sacred site of queer power, discussions of mental illness and disco mystics, and field recordings made in gay bathhouses that draw the listener into different sonic scenarios, including a darkroom cluster fuck of men gathered around a leather-and-chain sling where a couple is fisting: Soft Subversions isn’t just about risk and art and sex, it is risky, sexual art that demands deep listening.
“[T]o listen to records becomes work in itself,” writes Nicolas Bourriaud on DJ practice, “which diminishes the dividing line between reception and practice, producing new cartographies of knowledge. This recycling of sounds, images, and forms, implies incessant navigation within the meanderings of cultural history, navigation which itself becomes the subject of artistic practice” (Bourriaud, Postproduction, 2002.18). Zealley hands over this work to the ears and hands of DJs, and listeners, who can imagine the links and likely relations between disparate sonic sites as semionauts (qua Bourriaud) who produce original pathways through signs and new cartographies of knowledge. The DJ listens to the movement on the dance floor and responds in dynamic fashion, a fashion that in turn produces new possibilities for dance floor self-creation.
Soft Subversions is produced by PSBEUYS and mastered by Brandon Hocura.