#this accurately labels 60% of my vibe
Fandom, Labeling Theory, and How Purity Culture Creates Its Opposite
so, first, some disclaimers: i’m not a sociologist or a criminologist (yet), and i don’t have any statistical data. this is just a trend i’ve noticed with some basic observation of fandom. i might try and gather data later, but i still need to decide on methodology and have no idea if anyone is interested in this but me. what i’m about to say isn’t a conclusion, it’s just a hypothesis. but with that said, i still think it’s worth saying. i think there could be some truth to it.
What’s Labeling Theory?
labeling theory is a criminological theory first proposed in 1963 that was very popular during the 60s and 70s, and still has a fair amount of influence today. while it is used in criminology, it doesn’t just apply to crime; it can speak to any behavior deemed deviant in general. here’s how it works:
1. a person is given the label of deviant. this means they’ve either committed an act that society has deemed unacceptable or have been accused of it and people assume that they’re guilty.
2. society begins to treat the person based on their label. this means that the person is outcasted and stigmatized. they are treated as their label demands that they be treated, and their label demands that they be treated poorly.
3. the person begins to internalize this label. after spending such a long time hearing that they are this thing and that that is bad, the person begins to believe that it is entirely correct.
4. the person acts on this label. kind of self-explanatory, but yeah. they begin to do the deviant acts they’ve been accused of and now have that label as a part of their identity. with something generic like “criminal,” it means the person starts committing some crimes. there’s various lines of logic behind this decision that vary from person to person (stuff like ”if i’m going to be accused of it anyways, i might as well do it” and “the only people who accept me are other deviants, and i need to actually preform the behavior to fit in”), but that’s not necessarily what i’m getting into with this post. that’s for another day and a formal study.
How Does This Apply To Fandom?
so to get this one across, i’m going to tell a story i’ve seen the same iteration of what feels like thousands of times. it’ll probably sound familiar to you, too.
an artist makes nsfw art that somehow doesn’t fall into the category of “two adult characters who are adults in canon are doing perfectly consensual, non-disturbing acts.” or maybe they make gory art, or associate with artists who make some of the above stuff. or maybe their art just gives someone a “weird vibe” somehow. (and before you ask, yes, i’ve seen people put on blocklists for that. i’ve seen a lot of shit.)
this artist now ends up with a callout. maybe everything on it is accurate and in context; maybe it’s not. either way, the callout ends with them being given some sort of label. if “pedophile” is too strong for what’s going on (aka, the characters they drew are adults in canon and in their art), then “freak” or “weirdo” or something else that gets the message across that they’re not meant to be interacted with is thrown in there. even if the label isn’t explicitly given, the label is often implied within the text of the callout.
now, the artist is outcasted by ~good fandom~. they get blocked, sent abusive asks, their stuff screenshotted and made fun of behind their backs, rumors spread about them, the whole nine yards. they get put on blocklists with actual predators, people who have committed real crimes and harmed real people people encourage others not to follow this artist and even to harass them. this leaves the artist isolated and with very little support. it can aggregate existing mental health issues, damage self esteem, and interfere with their day-to-day life.
once this has happened, they begin to internalize the label. they look at what they’ve drawn and realizes that it doesn’t fit the moral code of ~good fandom~ and that they qualify as deviant in some way. and with all of their non-deviant content being shunned, they cater to the audience that’s left. they dive deeper into what got them called out in the first place. they often feel as if there’s no other choice.
essentially, labeling theory plays out in a fandom setting, with “problematic” replacing the commonly-used “criminal.” it’s obviously not as severe as facing charges in the court of law, but it still causes a lot of problems.
just to avoid some misinterpretation, here are a few additional notes about that very common story.
1. this in no way implies that everyone who has been incorrectly labeled as a pedophile in a callout is going to end up actually becoming a pedophile. it’s incredibly rare for people to go beyond the limits of their label. someone labeled a thief doesn’t usually become a murderer, and the same rule applies here.
2. not every artist who receives a callout is going to have this exact arc. people are diverse and have diverse reactions to events, and labeling theory isn’t a perfect thing. no theory is. if there was a perfect theory, there wouldn’t be so many of them.
3. this doesn’t just apply to artists. i’ve seen it happen with fic writers, gif makers, or people who just interact with creators deemed problematic. it can be anyone.
How Does Purity Culture Create Its Opposite?
as implied above, purity culture creates deviant subcultures and encourages deviant people to continue their actions by intense shaming and outcasting. by acting out step 2 of labeling theory, treating the person as their label, steps 3 and 4 (internalization and acting on the label) occur. when you exile everyone who doesn’t meet an incredibly high standard, you’re going to have a large group of exiles who are going to band together and make their own groups. these groups are not going to follow the moral code of the group that shut them out. it wouldn’t make any sense for them to, since those codes resulted in their isolation and harassment. they’re going to follow whatever code they want.
What Do We Do About It?
so, maybe you’re someone who doesn’t want these deviant subcultures to continue rising, or maybe you’re someone who doesn’t want to see people getting harassed, or maybe you just don’t like conflict and want everybody to get along. maybe it’s none of those, or all of those, or some other combination. no matter what, you’re probably asking “well, what the hell do we do about this?”
i can’t say i have perfect solutions in mind. it’s a hard fix, but following the general outlines of labeling theory and some of my own thoughts, i do have some suggestions.
1. determine who actually needs a public callout. before making a callout post, think about a few things. is this person an actual danger that needs to be warned about, or do you just personally find their content distasteful? is this callout something that you could just give to friends who also don’t like their stuff, or does the greater public absolutely need to be warned about them? take at least a few days to determine these things, and don’t be afraid to ask other people for their opinions.
2. use very specific terms for predators. if someone has done harm to another, irl person, call them an abuser. don’t just say that they’re nasty, or a freak, or something like that. using those generic terms will lump in other, less harmful people in with that person. even using them once will have that effect. give those people separate callouts and blocklists. don’t lump in anyone with them unless it’s another actual irl abuser. don’t use the same terms for anyone else, either. if that abuser is a pedophile and you call them as such, don’t apply the same label to someone who draws aged-up nsfw.
3. lessen shaming, shunning, and harassment. while you’re in no way obligated to interact with people you are personally uncomfortable with, it’s a good idea to not publicly humiliate them or harass them. even if you’re doing it somewhere where they can’t see it, you’re still sending the message that this sort of mockery is okay. allowing this sort of outcasting creates these deviant subcultures that many people who are doing it want to avoid, and also does a lot of harm to the person in question. if someone makes something you find morally questionable, you can block them. you can ask them questions about it. you don’t also have to instantly shut them out just because they made something problematic. second chances exist. you don’t have to insist that all of your friends block them. you don’t have to completely cut the person off from a section of fandom. you’re not obligated to do any of that. in a lot of situations, you probably shouldn’t.
i don’t know the effect these solutions will have, or if anyone will put them in place. i don’t even know if my hypothesis is entirely correct. it’s just something that i’ve noticed and found incredibly disturbing, and i don’t think people are actively aware of it. if i’ve done nothing else, i hope i’ve made you notice it. i hope i’ve made you think about it, at least for a minute. i hope i’ve managed that.
clarification: the growth of the "deviant" subcultures i mentioned isn't inherently bad! they actually can provide really supportive spaces for those who have been put through the ringer. it's just something that happens in part due to labeling theory stuff. were i able to put footnotes in a tumblr post, this would be a footnote, but alas. formatting is a prison.
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2019 Best Press 3/4: カタカナ・タイトル + Kanji Title by TANUKI
While for many vaporwave vinyl is doubtless equal parts collector’s item and audio source, I don’t want to lose sight of the goal of this blog here: developing a canon of the genre for high fidelity enjoyment. That said, when I come across something remarkable or noteworthy about a particular piece of wax, even if it is not a “purely audiophile” object, I want to make mention of it.
And TANUKI’s カタカナ・タイトル + Kanji Title wax release is not only noteworthy, but contends for hi-fi consideration despite it’s status as a picture disc.
But let’s back up slightly.
Going back to the previous thesis on why we buy records, sometimes you just want to own a vinyl just because. Just because you’re a collector trying to compile a discography on wax — or, better yet, just because you truly love the album art. For me, カタカナ・タイトル + Kanji Title (Double EP) was undoubtedly all of the three “just be-causes”.
A while back, I noticed that the LP was going into its 3rd press, and decided to snap up a copy because I like Tanuki, I like Lum, and because of those other just becauses. Unfortunately the only format available was not the pink vinyl, but the picture disc. As I’m sure is well-known (because audiophiles are very loud about things they dislike), picture-discs are a big no-no in the audiophile community. This is because while a beautiful objet d’art, a serious listening session of a picture disc release will usually produce greater amounts of surface noise than any other type of vinyl. You can, of course, with the right system, neutralize and mitigate this process slightly, but true-blue hi-fi heads pursuing that elusive muse of “pure sound” would never give a picture disc a second look.
I’m not one of those people.
Tangentially, I’ve heard whispers of ghosts of rumors from when I was living in Shenzen, China — that various record suppliers (small batch Makers) are working out manufacturing and material processes that minimize these issues on pic discs to create appealing records that cover all the bases: hi-fi suitability, collector oriented visual esoterica, and price. I should also admit I have no idea where those companies are in terms of R&D and/or producing these. I end up catching a lot of very fast talk from extremely motivated enthusiasts, but Chinese is still as elusive a language to me at times as “pure sound” can be. With that in mind, however, it’s logical to surmise that advances in technology will eventually render the differences between picture discs and traditional black wax undistinguishable. So long as the world isn’t destroyed in some cataclysmic climate disaster (very real possibility), or -- as we are watching evolve now: World War 3. My view is that it’d be pointless to dismiss the format out of hand when there are active attempts to innovate it as we speak.
That all said, I know what to expect when a contemporary, big-label picture disc plays. During my college days, I used to spin wax at the university radio station. One of the previous catalog managers had a fetish for this “collectible” format, and was convinced he was doing the station a favor by purchasing all these vinyls, noting a pre-supposed resale value later. I remember throwing these on the well-worn Technics SP-10 we had as our main turntable, and listening to the occasional scratch, frequent popping, and constant surface noise, that for the uninitiated (bless you), sounds like a sustained “cracking” in your Rice Krispies — or for those born in the analog age, CRTV static.
So when I sat down with the Tanuki picture disc, I had this laundry list of preconceptions and prejudices about the format. I thought that I could listen to a moderately scratchy record once or twice, keep it as more a visual boutique item and then eventually include in an article where I bemoan the poor quality of the genre’s releases.
But then, I actually listened.
And it sounded… well, I won’t get ahead of myself. Here’s the full review:
BABYBABYの夢 — is doubtless the reason why many of us have bought the EP from a sonic perspective —especially if the band-camp reviews are indicative of trends. I still maintain that this is the Mariya Takeuchi sample/remix work par excellence. Tanuki hits all the essential notes here, a genuine respect and love for the sound-staging of its original source, Yume No Tsuzuki. I still get echoes of the original arrangement in my system, (ever so slightly) with a bright and dance-infused collection of unique sounds — particularly in that delicious, wide mid-range — that flesh out the track into its own sort of masterpiece.
何がGoin' On — the curatorial and conspiratorial side of my brain tells me that Goin’ On will probably go down as one the under-appreciated vintage bangers of this era of future funk. I can envision hipsters two or three decades from now sussing out a neophyte with pretentious questions about this track’s pitch-shifted sample draws from. It has that sort of vibe that you know hits with a certain subset of electronica fans — rich & vibrant, making the tweeters on your system work out in all the best ways — it’s just great.
がんばれ — Tanuki is at his best when he gets playful with brass samples. I firmly believe that the titans in this genre each have their go-to piece in their best arrangement — like Dan Mason’s creative vocal array, or greyL’s manipulation of micro-samples. For Tanuki, it’s whenever her gets a horn — synthesized or otherwise, into his production workflow.
ファンクOFF — continues Tanuki’s magic act, taking another city pop track more iconic for its soulful electric guitar riff and turning it into the most slap-worthy single on this EP. I prefer it when Japanese pop samples are fundamentally re-imagined, although I can see how the perfectionist tweaking of someone like Yung Bae is more appealing for some. Tanuki is undoubtedly one of the innovators of this genre, and there’s no more solid evidence of that talent than this track.
腕の中でDancin’ — if I ended up hosting a sort of mythical vaporwave grammies or something like that, (I’m available, folks!) I would probably go off on a Ricky Gervais style rant on how artists aren’t in touch with “the people” (read: me) because all we really want are more remixes of Meiko Nakahara songs — who given her impact on City Pop should have way more play in this genre than she does. This one, like most of the Meiko mixes I’ve heard, is a banger with an absolute fire bass riff punctuated throughout.
Radiant Memories — this might be my first certified “hot take” in the publication (they’ll be many more, I imagine) — but as far as I’m concerned this is the superior Plastic Love edit. I’ll just leave my thoughts there, so they can soak in with a portion of the fanbase who split my reddit account on an open fire of downvotes for suggesting that other artists than Macross 82-99 (Praise be upon him!) are allowed to touch this song as well. While Macross’s mix is definitely the more up-temo of the two, and that for some is the very essence of the genre, this slightly down-mixed version is both the perfect conclusion for the EP and ideal antithesis.
THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE
Signal to Raise ratio on the following albums:
カタカナ・タイトル + Kanji Title: ~61.9db (1 db MoE)
Tron Legacy, Daft Punk: 58.4db
Love Trip, Takako Mamiya, Kitty Records Press: 65.8db
(ratings based on averages 5 minutes of sustained play on the testing unit, the machine actually complied this data on its preset, which is another fascinating part about this sort of vintage press-testing tech). The margin of error is because the machine, according to my mentor Dr. Juuso Ottala formerly of Harman International, informs me it was never meant to give accurate readings of picture discs, and to add about a dB of error margin.
One of the benefits of growing up in New England and, subsequently, New York, is that there are no shortage of heritage professional audio brand HQs in operation around a 200 mile radius from Manhattan to Boston. Off the top of my head, there’s Harman/Kardon, Boston Acoustics, Bose, NuMark, Marantz, and Rane headquarters within an hour’s drive from my two hometowns. Early on in my audiophile quest, I got my hands on some cool vintage gear — vinyl lathe testing equipment that has collected dust in both an old Harman technician’s storage unit, and now my parent’s basement. Over the holiday, I recently brought it out to do some surface noise testing on it to get a rough confirmation of what I was explaining in yesterday’s hi-fi guide. The innards of the machine looks eerily like a plinth-less linear tonearm and plate pair attached to a monitor. After making sure I’m not violating some kind of Harman International trade secret, I’ll post it on instagram.
Wanting to also get a firm idea on just how good my ear-test sounded, I grabbed another picture disc vinyl I had received as a gift a few years ago from my brother — the Tron Legacy OST. While I found the film passably enjoyable, my own preconceptions about pic discs, and a general exhaustion with french house — left me with no discernible desire to spin the thing. I hadn’t even broken the seal on the plastic wrap, so it seemed like as good as a blind test as any. I also grabbed what my ears tell me is a “good”, “heavy” press, a 1982 original dead-stock copy of Takako Mamiya’s Love Trip LP pressed by Kitty Records Japan. I’ve played it maybe a half dozen times since I bought it, so it’s as close to “new” 80s audiophile pop record as you can get. The Japanese are infamously anal about low SNR on their vinyl.
And, well, the results speak for themselves. The sweet spot for most black vinyl records is between 60-70db depending on age, weight, and a host of other frankly uncontrollable factors that aren’t worth getting into detail here, as I’d go on forever. The main takeaway here is that Neoncity’s and Tanuki’s record sat at the low end of the audiophile vinyl reference spectrum. Which in itself is a remarkable achievement for a pic disc. It’s worth taking a look at Tron Legacy, which just barely scratches 8db above a cassette tape, and 7db a Japanese vinyl from 1982.
This is all in an effort to say: damn, this is pretty good.
This also somewhat counters the usual “picture discs sound like shit” narrative that’s prevailed pretty consistently in the audiophile community. Tron Legacy? Yeah, that probably sounds like shit if I could bother to suffer through a listen. But whoever Hong-Kong based Neoncity is using actually makes “good” — if such a qualifier needs to be attached — image-pressed records. And that devotion to audio fidelity should be rewarded.
It might be time for me to re-asses picture discs on the whole, and that mind-expanding moment is something I owe to the fine folks at Neoncity.
There is something timeless about the music of Coastgaard that, while playing to a listener’s sense of nostalgia, still feels innovative. On their latest stellar release, ‘Devil On The Balcony’, the band has accurately arranged dynamic chord progressions over immediately engaging rhythmic motifs, reminiscent of 50’s and 60’s rock and roll, to form the foundation of what is undoubtedly a breakthrough record. Coastgaard’s music takes on a very cinematic quality. Each song on ‘Devil On The Balcony’ takes the listener through a distinct scene, or moment in the overall story of the record. The influence of surf rock luminaries like The Beach Boys and The Ventures (as well as the recent surf rock revival) is apparent in the beachy vibes scattered throughout the record. With ‘Devil On The Balcony’, Coastgaard is poised to send a warm wave of nostalgia through the hearts of a much wider audience… We catch up with Matt Miller to discuss creative control, TV shows and future plans…
TSH: Now that it’s been out for a while, when you look back and assess the record, ‘Devil On The Balcony’, what comes to mind?
Matt: Well, I’m actually taking a breather from it, I haven’t listened to it for a while and it’s something I did with the first album too. I like to come back to our records and this allows me to not criticise the collection of songs. You know, I definitely appreciate it more and the elements within, I’m very proud of it overall. We wrote a bunch of songs and we weren’t sure if everything was going to flow as an album, we didn’t know until we took a step back and it was pleasing to hear as a cohesive body of work. I look back on the record and lyrically I can really relate to it. Also, I feel the genre hopping we did worked out well too.
TSH: You incorporated some soul and reggae, was this type of direction something you felt compelled to pursue?
Matt: Yeah, I feel it was key. I mean there wasn’t much of it on the first album and these are genres I’m very influenced by. I really admire and am a fan of Bob Marley and Toots. Maybe it was a risk - a white guy doing reggae, ha! But, hey, why not?
TSH: Does the live instrumentation feel in the studio allow the band to excel?
Matt: That’s certainly a big part of our sound to date and it’s important, for sure. We like to aim for this vintage and organic kind of instrumentation that you can play with your hands and that sounds like itself, I feel it gives us a flexibility that you can’t duplicate with electronics – a realness if you will. It’s the same way that you watch an old movie shot in film, it’s just kind of richer, you know? It’s nice to have these small flaws in one’s music; it’s almost as if the flaw has to be appreciated.
TSH: Was ‘Ruminator’ identified early on as album opener?
Matt: I wanted it to be the opener for a while, for some reason it just struck me as an opener. You know, I’m not sure what quality it is about a song that makes it feel like a natural choice as an opener, but this song just had that quality, kind of like ‘Airbag’ for OK Computer. The guitar chops on ‘Ruminator’ act as a welcoming for the listener to experience and get a good feel for the rest of the record.
TSH: The excellent ‘Bloodlines’ ended up as a b-side…
Matt: That song is one that we had so many different versions and arrangements of. We could just never nail it down and be happy with it. We scrapped it a few times. We call it our Coldplay song, it sounded like a Coldplay groove, I mean there’s nothing wrong with Coldplay, especially their early material, ha! Anyhow ‘Bloodlines’ just felt straightforward, however, as we were mixing the album we realised we really loved the melody of the song, so we came up with a version that was more stripped down and chilled out.
TSH: With this record you explored a vastness of sound direction, was this aspect one of the most pleasing factors?
Matt: Yeah, for sure. I mean what also pleases me is that even though we took some leaps with the album, we still didn’t get pigeonholed. People like to pen a certain sound to a song, you know? This album proves that we aren’t one-dimensional, we don’t sound like the same band like we did on the first record. It pleases me that we showed variety and it makes me want to delve more into an assortment of different soundscapes.
TSH: Having full artistic control is also vital…
Matt: Absolutely! A couple of years ago, a record label approached us and this guy at the head of it all was like a record wasn’t done until he said it was done and until he decided it could come off the shelf! This was a big no no for us; we really can’t deal with that. We already put restrictions on each other with the direction of each song, so more restrictions via record labels are certainly not a good thing. As a band, we work meticulously and require creative control.
TSH: With the craziness of the modern world being more intense than ever, does this type of subject matter creep into forthcoming Coastgaard music?
Matt: It’s funny you should say that because the first two albums have really been about myself – my personal issues, my childhood, my situations etc. The upcoming record that we’re currently working on makes me feel like I don’t want to write about that kind of stuff. I feel like there’s more important stuff in the world to be talking about. There are so many upsetting topics, like Trump being president, shootings, the penal system, the environment – these are all things that are on my mind, and the rest of the band too. As an artist, it seems like a good time to make your music relatable to something more than yourself. That’s what I love about Anohni, she’s such an amazing artist and her material is really resonant of the times. Thematically, her latest work is such a formidable record.
TSH: You’re also a huge TV show type of guy…
Matt: Oh man! I’m a TV show person through and through! I love ‘Making a Murderer’, ‘The OA’, ‘Westworld’, ‘Fleabag’ – these are all current shows I’ve been watching. Most movies suck now! I feel like all the good talent and writing is in TV shows nowadays. 90% of the time when I see a film these days, I’m disappointed. I’m constantly dissatisfied with movies, which is a shame, because I used to love going to the movies. Now I never go to the movies, I know l I’ll be disappointed all the time. Actually, you know what, screw Trump and all the negativity; they need to get some good fucking movies out there, ha!
TSH: What’s your biggest drive as you look ahead with Coastgaard?
Matt: My biggest drive is to never give up on the meticulous way we go about writing songs. It’s also important to always have melodies that don’t just sound like they are inserted, but the melodies sound like they are fitting and inspired. A good melody defines a good song for me. We’re in the process of deciding what sort of release we want to go for next, it could be an EP, a full length or even some singles. Overall, I’d like to shake it up a little bit, but I don’t know what that means yet.
Coastgaard - “A Well Adjusted Man”
Devil on the Balcony