Even though what you did was wrong, you’re still a good kid, and that guy was a prick. Sometimes that matters more.
In Mr Robot, the critically acclaimed new tv show created by Sam Esmail, we meet Elliot Alderson, a mixture of Dexter Morgan, and hacking vigilante at night, who also speaks to his dead daddy, and Tyler Durden in Fight Club, as he has a split personality. Rarely, have I watched something and thought it was addressing accurately current social, moral and health issues such as Mr Robot. Depression, social anxiety, work stress, corporations, capitalism, hacking culture, loneliness, OCD, this show has it all. With a righteous tone, it would be an understatement to call it clever. And not a tad pretentious. Just the right tone in my opinion. The tone of helpless people, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the 1 %, us…vs them.
Them are the villains, in the story and in the real world : the corporations. It’s no wonder why Tyrell Wellick, the psychopath nemesis character opposite Elliott is named Tyrell. Tyrell corporation ? In Blade runner. A coincidence, I think not. It’s just one of the many Easter eggs found in this show…
Mr Robot directs strong criticism toward corporation and the world of suits. I found that often, the show attempts to address these subjects :
- Greed (Corporations are like Sarlac (the living mouth in the desert in Return of the Jedi) : their greed for the green is endless and will go through any lengths ; Evil corp has a sociopath mentality that echoes that of American psycho
- Paranoia (One of the greatest leverage our employers have toward us is the threat to fire us : characters in the show live in constant fear of losing their jobs and climbing up the corporate ladder, furthermore, the CEO’s exploit that vulnerability in their employees, fully aware of their own personal financial cupidity)
- Oppression of small people / workers (We learn that Elliott’s father, played by Christian Slater, was killed due to toxic waste. Those companies use people as pawns : they are nothing more to them than usable and disposable commodities, but they also don’t hold on grudges : it’s bad for business so we learn! Anything can and will be solved with money for them, echoing the sentiment delved in the documentary The corporation, that these entities are sociopaths)
- Reality vs dream world (The world of hacking embodies the dream world, the world of freedom, what Edward Snowden has called the Golden age of the Internet, before social media became the guardian state police for the states because it was spinning out of control. Hackers are outcasts, drug addicts but those drugs they take are just merely different than those used by the corporate drones (alcohol, cigarettes, coke)
- Violence vs peace : Evil corp uses threats, murders and any violent deeds in order to threaten or impose their will. Often, the gentle characters embodies us – the powerless citizen – although that trend has become far less present and rather the opposite in season II.
Mental illness 2.0
Another pool of subjects in which Mr Robot delves deeply is mental illness and I personally related heavily on the show as I have had 2 major depressions, social anxiety, and the latest : avoidant personality disorder. Even though Sam Esmail, the creator of the show hasn’t said anything about Elliott having such disorder, I strongly suspect this could be added to his paranoïa and split personality. Often, people who are plagued by this disorder tend to be very meticulous but also quite reclusive, by choice. They choose to remain aside of society’s bourgeoisie, often struggling to maintain relationships with the opposite sex and display awkwardness with others : family, co-workers, friends, bosses.
‘’Things are awkward between us. I’m ok with things being awkward between us’’. Caption here!
Elliot Alderson also struggles with clinical depression and extreme bouts of loneliness. He wishes he could grasp a taste of happiness, but for some reason, he cannot. That’s why he sees the world as an outcast but his outlook is also, mostly, spot on most of the times : he reads people and deciphers them through hacking but with a stunning and uncanny accuracy. The scene where he analyses his shrink, Krista, is quite simply an outstanding outburst of awareness : could Elliot act as a mirror of what’s wrong with society ? A mirror that acts like a boomerang toward us as he tell us his story, or, our story.
Sam Esmail has acknowledged several major influences on the show, such as American Psycho, Taxi Driver, and The Matrix. In particular, Esmail credited Fight Club as the inspiration for a main character who suffers from dissociative identity disorder creating a new manifestation of his deceased father in the form of a hacker, as well as for the anti-consumerist and anti-establishment spirit of its characters. Commentators have also noted the parallel in its plot on the erasing of consumer debt records to the film. In an interview, Esmail explains how playing the song that David Fincher used to underscore the climax of Fight Club (“Where Is My Mind?”) when Elliot initiates the hack in episode nine is intended as a message to the audience that he is aware of the inspiration they took from the film. The narration by the protagonist was influenced by Taxi Driver, and other influences mentioned included Risky Business in its music score, Blade Runner for the character development, and the television series Breaking Bad for the story arc.
Media & voyeurism culture (everyone watches everyone)
In short, there is absolutely 0% filler stuff in Mr Robot. Every scene, every line, every character is relevant to future episodes / future seasons. I have a feeling that when all is said and done after the planned 4 or 5 season run, this will go down in history as one of the greatest stories ever told on TV. Mr Robot captures the existential crisis of the millennial generation. The world that has been passed off to us is morally decayed and wrong on many levels. How is it that we are more connected and yet further apart than ever before?
And the soundtrack by Mac Quayle, drifting between electro and ambient is top notch, just two more reasons to watch this incredible, essential and more than ever relevant show!
‘’Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give him a bank and he can rob the world’’…TW.
Drexciya were James Stinson and Gerald Donald. In keeping in touch with techno’s ethos and true essence, they remained hidden behind their alias for much of the group’s existence. Communication were rather broadcasts through a mythology arc of Drexciyans alias. Deeply influenced by underwater dwellers and deep sea bubbles. There will be no tracklisting for obvious reasons [tracks are hidden under the sea, hence the diver who’s searching for them…] 🙂 Rip James Stinson – 1969-2002. In the mean time, here’s 5 tracks on the mix with a YouTube link and a little description.
- Drexciya : Davey Jones locker
Davey Jones locker was on the compilation True people : The Detroit techno album, for me it’s the best Drexciya track and sums up its mystique. Black sea and Hydro theory are also HUGE electro tracks.
- Elecktroids : Japanese electronics
Elecktroids, one of the most sought after vinyls on Warp, is a classic album release in 1995 that combines Kraftwerk’s musings with a modern-day electro retro futuristic approach. Way ahead of its time.
- Dopplereffekt : Cellular phone
Perhaps was one of the most know outfits of electro in Detroit, Dopplereffekt was in fact, Gerald Stinson alone, without James Stinson. They (he records with singers including one female) : this has a kraftwerkian feeling of pocket calculator somehow.
- Transllusion : Dimensional glide
A side project by James Stinson released in 2001. Very beat driven with awesome synth interplay between the rythms and the melodies. Repressed by Tresor in 2014.
- Der Zyklus : Formentverwandler (Shapeshifter)
Released in 2001, at the peak of the Electroclash movement, Formenverwandler packs a simple but really addictive melody. The chord progression with the spoken words makes it a terrific electro cut. ‘I’m shapeshifting from place to place/bending time/curving space’!
1) Jon Hopkins : Immunity / Domino
Wrecked havoc in Montreal at Mutek. A complete sonic experiment as good for the head as it is for the feet. A future classic and overwhelming experience! I was seduced by Collider straight from the first listen, rough yet genuinely accurate production blended with repeating vocal snippet result in pure 9 minutes technoish power in the massive track Collider. This is music that we, techno heads crave nowadays.. A tour de force, full of emotions and frequencies that is relentless. You should allow your mind to absorb and to feel the cycling beauty passing through. Last summer when I was working with grass-cutter for hours, I used to use it as a natural sound energizer, listening to it with earplug headphones. A couple of standouts tracks like open eye signal and the best vinyl pressing of 2013. Abandon Window is a beautiful ambient piano piece reminiscent of previous albums, and of course the stunning album opener from my podcast below.
2) Holden : The Inheritors / Border community
Wellcome return to form after a dissapointing DJ Kicks for Mr James Holden. It’s not music for the simple minded, it takes a few listens, but once you’re sucked into the experience, what a trip it is! A definetly much better endeavor than the first Album “The idiots are winning” , this one brings more soundscapes but with amazing depth and layers and good coherence. The musical production evokes nocturn atmospheres in rural places with massive forests and stone buildings where the only lights come from fireplaces and torches. This is like an epic soundtrack, with dark, emotional and relaxing tunes.
3) Boards of Canada : Tomorrow’s Harvest / Warp
I ll admit it, I had given up on both BOC and Warp records. But only fools do not change their minds! Tomorrow’s Harvest is a grower. An album that takes a few listens…More than 10 actually for me. But now the aural beauty of Sundown is just stuck in my head…What’s the point of recreating an album of more of the same ? MHTRTC is a thing of the past and this album keeps some of the old synth pads from it but yet with a darker sound and grim approach. I applaud them for always trying something new and not a rehash. With that said it is always a joy to listen to anything made by them. I have collected and listened to all of BOC since 1998. As for this album I actually really like it. I am a fan of ambient and darker sounds. I feel like this is another excellent chapter in their music with this release. With songs like “Reach for the dead” and “Sundown” and ”Split your infinities”.
4) Horror inc. : Briefly eternal / Perlon
Now that’s a surprise. Both in terms of form, musical content and moniker used (Instead of Akufen)…This album has amazing production values and reminds me of Marc Moulin’s Tohubohu from 1975. A fusion of jazz, house and downtempo beats but with a lot of delicate attention to details and especially sounds before sounds. Similar to Matthew Herbert’s Bodily function perhaps ? But not tedious jazz-house mind you. Rather, the atmosphere is very aberrant, warm sounds of guitar are correlated with post-romantic, almost nocturnal pieces, which gives outstanding results. Every track is full of emotions wherein I can really find myself drifting into them.
5 ) Atom tm : HD / Raster-Norton
Uwe Schmidt aka Atom heart aka Senor coconut is also know as Atom tm, whom I saw at the Sonar festival in Barcelona last june. I find myself totally hooked on the sultry Riding the void. It is electro à la Kraftwerk but with production values of 2013, with a thumping bassline and an incredible vocoder. This absolutely funky, funny music and really playful. As with most Raster-Noton releases, the production is extremely crisp, tight and surgically precise. This is the elegant German minimalistic and yet addictive electronic music. Kraftwerk would be proud and dare I say ”Ich Bin Meine Maschine” !
Remix of the year : Leftfield – Song of life by Betoko
Favorite EP : Stingray313 : NKKK4_2
Favorite soundtrack : Cliff Martinez : Only god forgives / Milan records
Remix / edit of a classic : New order : Blue Monday (John Digweed & Nick Muir’s Fact 73-13 mix)