Arts Desk

The Pragmatist – Three Songs For A Robot Apocalypse

It's coming. The exponential rate at which technological progress keeps happening, according to respected futurist Ray Kurzweil and his kin, points toward an impending Singularity, when artificial intelligence will suddenly exceed the capabilities of its human creators in wildly unpredictable ways. In other words, remember pre-gubernatorial Schwarzenegger? Turns out the underlying plot of Terminator (aside from the whole time travel dilemma) may not be so implausible if computer geeks aren't careful about the programs they write. I'm not in any way qualified to argue about the likelihood or logistics of such an incredibly badass robotic attack, but I'd imagine that while you're sitting awestruck, watching fireballs streak across the sky from your back porch, you'll want some killer tunes to blast on your futuristic equivalent of a boombox.

Of course, when the word first arrives that robot domination is near, people will laugh. They always do. There'll be mechanical parodies on TV, pundits claiming it's all a conspiracy, bad SNL skits, and more importantly, android-themed dance parties. You might as well take one last chance to groove out before it all falls apart. In that case, the robotic sounds of "Get Real Paid" by premier musical absurdist, Beck, is a glitchtastic dance anthem.

After the parties end, I imagine there'll be some kind of creepy sense of suspense in the air–some pregnant lull, as humankind realizes the inevitable is coming to fruition. With their 1977 underground classic, "Ghost Rider," Suicide captures that rising technophobic panic. The sneering vocals holler like some drug-addled Elvis Presley atop a creeptastic synthesizer. It's perfect to play as the looting begins.

It won't take long for the initial panic to give way to full-fledged survival of the fittest. With the AI's superior technology competing for limited resources, who knows what weapons they'll fashion. Humans will end up running for cover underground, beneath rubble, or wherever they can steer clear of their own robotic creations. At this point, only the most fiercely defiant music will suffice, and the genre-straddling work of DC's own Imperial China fits the bill nicely. Their percussion-heavy jam, "Corrupting The Integrity Of The Grid," works in both squealing electronics and dissonant post-punk guitars, conjuring chaotic images you might find in a Michael Bay film. You can see Imperial China voice the impending apocalypse live at Black Cat this Sunday, Sept. 12 with Tortoise.

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  • Tom


  • Brian Quinn

    'Drug-addled Elvis Presley' indeed. The author of this article should wash his mouth out. He obviously has no respect whatsoever for America's Greatest Ever Entertainer.He should remember that without Elvis NONE of his favourite entertainers would be performing today.

  • Tom

    M-m-m-m-m-m, penis. It's what's for breakfast!

  • Gene

    "Bad SNL skits..."????

    What planet is this douche from?