Since 1980, the 4 or 5 or 6 Floptops known as Negativland have been creating records, CDs, video, fine art, books, radio and live performance using appropriated sounds, images, objects, and text. Mixing original materials and original music with things taken from corporately owned mass culture and the world around them, Negativland re-arranges these found bits and pieces to make them say and suggest things that they never intended to. In doing this kind of cultural archaeology and “culture jamming” (a term they coined way back in 1984), Negativland have been sued twice for copyright infringement.
Over the years Negativland’s “illegal” collage and appropriation based audio and visual works have touched on many things – pranks, media hoaxes, advertising, media literacy, religion, the evolving art of collage, the bizarre banality of suburban existence, creative anti-corporate activism in a media saturated multi-national world, file sharing, intellectual property issues, wacky surrealism, evolving notions of art and ownership and law in a digital age, and artistic and humorous observations of mass media and mass culture.
Negativland is interested in unusual noises and images (especially ones that are found close at hand), unusual ways to restructure such things and combine them with their own music and art, and mass media transmissions which have become sources and subjects for much of their work. Negativland covets insightful humor and wackiness from anywhere, low-tech approaches whenever possible, and vital social targets of any kind. Foregoing ideological preaching, but interested in side effects, Negativland is like a subliminal cultural sampling service concerned with making art about everything we aren’t supposed to notice.
The mirror image sequel to 2019’s True False, new album The World Will Decide turns the focus away from our very human inability to accurately define reality, and towards the technologies attempting to do a better job at it. But if sorting true from false seemed like a full time job back when all we had to keep track of was our own minds, life alongside the machines built to connect us only seems to multiply the uncertainties. On this album those uncertainties are made almost deliriously danceable: a netweb of densely sampled voices melting speech back down into music and back again, into what we can all agree are the real questions — Did that firefly really land on your finger? Is your food online? Does this app connect you to people, or replace them? Who owns your replica, and why are humans the ones now failing the Turing test? What’s entertaining about survival?
Although entirely finished before disinfecting your groceries became a perfectly normal thing to do, The World Will Decide depicts a world where the technologies we use to live our lives have become difficult to tell apart from those things we recognize as being alive. Or, as one of the many sampled voices on this work will assure you: we can really feel like we’re here.
“Negativland’s music is at a high point, so much so that Laurie Anderson called their recent album THE WORLD WILL DECIDE her fourth favorite album of all time. With their rattling societal critique, it’s clear that their inner drive isn’t for art or the fans or pre-pandemic normality, it’s to meet the terrifying contemporary moment. This group has acknowledged the dystopia perpetually since the late 70s, making them more relevant, and all the better, as the world slides incrementally into meltdown.” — THE WIRE
“Negativland’s catalogue runs deep. Its records form a dastardly through line, along which the twentieth century’s cynical media environment and corporate-ad saturation lead to the groups current target on THE WORLD WILL DECIDE: surveillance and the lack of self in an Internet hellscape.” — THE NEW YORKER
“It may at first seem that Negativland’s sound collage is an unlikely candidate for a Tiny Desk concert, but honestly, how many bands can you think of making music since the late 1970s while sitting pretty much at their desks?
Formed in the Bay Area, Negativland are proud subverters of culture, causing trouble while having fun. The found sounds of Negativland take aim at the media and how technology alters our perception of the world, and you can hear that on their new album, THE WORLD WILL DECIDE.” — NPR TiNY DESK CONCERT
“THE WORLD WILL DECIDE is a tremendous step forward for a band that has always broken new barriers. The new normal never feels so real as when Negativland screams it at us.” — SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
“Negativland created a masterful album with THE WORLD WILL DECIDE, which encompasses the uncertainty of being human in a newfound digital world. The bits and pieces that make up the sound collage create a really impactful story, if one listens close enough. It combines the fear of the unknown, as well as the beauty within it.” — MXDWN.COM
“Declared heroic by their peers for refashioning culture into what the group considers to be more honest statements, Negativland suggests that refusing to be original, in the traditional sense, is the only way to make art that has any depth within commodity capitalism…” — NEW YORK TIMES
“In the world as it is today, now seems to be the perfect time to face up to Negativland’s aesthetic and acclimatise to it, while you can. No one does this better. Not even the people who do it for real.” — CHRIS CUTLER/RECOMMENDED RECORDS