Hyperpop, Capitalist Realism, and Articulating the Future

Simone A. Medina Polo
13 min readMar 19, 2021

I looked into your eyes
I thought that I could see a whole new world…
I feel so cold
Is this the way I feel? — SOPHIE, “Whole New World.”

This blog post is somewhat distinct from what I usually do here — which I consider to be a repository for some of my essays on philosophy more than anything. Right now, I am looking to discuss a very different side of what I do, not so much as a philosopher, but as a type of non-philosopher — an artist (Badiou, “Philosophy and Art” PDF). It suffices to say that in everyday practice, I oscillate between my philosophical commitment to truth and my artistic work in processing the partialities of truth. This is to say that, in some subtle way, the work I’ve done as a philosopher informs the work I do as an artist, and vice versa (A prior essay offers a systematic account of where I stand on this).

With this in mind, I’ve been working on something that has been quite transformative of my own relationship to music. Since October 2020, I started working on a form of experimental pop under the name pseudo-antigone. At the beginning of 2021, I was able to debut the project with an 5-track EP titled “Things are sinking in.” While I have some reservations about this record — for instance, that the production is somewhat muddied — it nevertheless set some important foundations for my work as a music producer and my artistic experience.

I have an extensive history making music, but rather than focus on that here, I think it would be important to discuss what the personal difference in this work has been. (For those interested on this history, I have an interview that addresses a portion of it.) In short, most of the musical work I’ve done in the past has had no capacity to stick or be able to facilitate engaging collaborations — I was stuck at starting “guitar rock” bands from the ground up over and over, and often times being the only one taking the lead putting these things together in an unenthusiastic manner. So, in some respects, I was hitting this experience of “going-nowhere” in much of this creative process, falling back on the same repetitions, and releasing things that are not what I want to be doing in retrospect.

For sometime, I was interested on electronic and computerized music; however, I never figured myself to be the kind of person who do would such a thing, much less imagined that I would go back to audio-engineering in a dedicated fashion. The turning tides were certainly my exposure hyperpop and A.G. Cook’s groundbreaking music label PC Music. PC Music refers to personal computer music, and it is worth noting that the artists involved under the label and its influence tend to work from home/bedroom studios as opposed to classic music studios — furthermore, that their work often draws from speculative forms of the future as always already here in the present (How PC Music defined a new kind of pop). Early in the 2010s, the work of Charli XCX and SOPHIE started clearing the ground for the shape of today’s pop, and this was only formalized as SOPHIE, A.G. Cook, and Charli XCX started working more closely together once Charli distanced herself from the archaic music industry and labels which would overdetermine the creative output coming out of her work — this transition particularly occurred with the release of Pop 2 produced by A.G. Cook and the Vroom Vroom EP produced by SOPHIE.

As the 2010s went on, the impact and influence of PC Music became quite subtly dispersed as the sound of the pop-to-come; for example, the release of SOPHIE’s Product drew attention from as notable pop artists as Madonna looking for a collaboration. And at the end of the 2010s, this wave of pop experienced yet another mutation with the work of artists like Dorian Electra, Katie Dey, and 100 gecs. 100 gecs is a particular beast of its own, as their debut EP drew some curious interest but their first full-length, 1000 gecs, shook music altogether with genrebending, experimental pop sounds. This record was impactful enough to be celebrated through the remix album 1000 gecs and The Tree of Clues in collaboration with as ranging artists as GFOTY, Kero Kero Bonito, Rico Nasty, Dorian Electra, A.G. Cook, and Charli XCX. This remix record also played a considerable role in founding the famed Spotify Hyperpop playlist (Laura Les Interview). And well, since then there has been a prolific amount of work, collaborations, and community gathering around the intangible banner of hyperpop.

Needless to say, this left an impression on me enough that I made me drop the guitar and embrace computerized music production as an attempt to hack my very understanding and vision of music. The extent of the philosophical preclude to this creative leap was documented through a speculative theory-fiction essay on the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, speculative realisms, accelerationisms from point of view of the amphiboly of virulence, viruses, and virality. Particularly, I drew insight from the Xenofeminist program(me), which is an example of the open-sourcing where thought is calling for its corruption as it adapts to the Science of the Real (The Xenofeminist Manifesto). This not simply theoretical, but it comes with a practice of corruption and hacking that is already occurring on the basis of our thoroughly integrating cybernetization:

The will will always be corrupted by the memes in which it traffics, but nothing prevents us from instrumentalizing this fact, and calibrating it in view of the ends it desires (The Xenofeminist Manifesto).

This can be supplemented by the CCRU’s understanding of hyperstition. As opposed to the belief-dependent phenomenon of superstition, hyperstition entails an element of becoming-real through “a positive feedback circuit including culture as a component. It can be defined as the experimental (techno-)science of self-fulfilling prophecies” (Delphi Carstens, “Hyperstition”). To give a tangible example of this, the early Mark Fisher would note in a CCRU blog post that economics are an example of hyperstition insofar as they self-perpetuate their own tendency, as in the stances of virtual financial capital has further made apparent where “beliefs, fears, hopes, anticipations and potentials are immediately effective” (Mark Fisher [aka. mark k-p], “Hyperstition/Superstition”). Or as Nick Land has himself elaborated: “capitalism incarnates hyperstitional dynamics at an unprecedented and unsurpassable level of intensity, turning mundane economic ‘speculation’ into an effective world-historical force” (Delphi Carstens, “Hyperstition”).

This is a core theme to the work of the CCRU and those influenced by it, which could be said to operate from the core notion that virtuality can glitch and corrupt the actual. In a way, the CCRU itself is an example of hyperstition. Though in actuality, the CCRU was research group based out of the Warwick University under the lead of cyberfeminist Sadie Plant and her post-graduate students (which included Mark Fisher); the CCRU was itself a form of theory-fiction as Nick Land took a hold of the leadership of the group following Plant’s departure. In “A Short Prehistory of CCRU,” the CCRU provides a fiction for itself to be a hyperstitional event much like Y2K:

Y2K is just one more example of the way in which capitalist reality is indistinguishable from fiction: in capital’s world of simulation and cybernetic anticipation, all that is solid has melted into the abstract and virtual. Which is not to subscribe to some melancholy postmodern story about derealization so much as to point to ways in which virtual agencies — such as potentials — have the most material effect imaginable (“A Short Prehistory of CCRU”).

This brings us to the often misrepresent subject of accelerationisms — the core misunderstanding of acceleratonisms is that they are often represented through personalized agencies like a white supremacist committing devastating acts of violence, which certainly ties to some forms of accelerationisms like r/accelerationism and neoreaction, but it is mistaken to think this to be comprehensive of accelerationisms. I stress this, because I think it is crucial to actually breach the topic of accelerationism seriously given the virtual-actuality of hyperstition always already at work through algorithms as a form of id-frastructure of exploitable human drives. Specially in the case of the CCRU, it is inappropriate to suggest that accelerationism is concerned with human agency, as the question of the inhuman and the radical Outside takes precedence at all times.

One key example of this is the Cyclonopedia by Reza Negarestani, and in light of the topic of hyperstition, it is worth noting that the subtitle to this text is “Complicity with Anonymous Materials.” In short, this text is a form of speculative theory-fiction that reads best as a form of Lovecraftian story about how hyperstitional fixiation on petrochemical oil is yielding to a form of inhuman insurgency of the Earth (Negarestani, Cyclonopedia, 16–17 and 25–28).

Petroleum is able to gather the necessary geo-political undercurrents (subterranean or blobjective narrations of politics, economy, religion, etc.) required for the process of Eradication or the moving of the Earth’s body toward the Tellurian Omega — the utter degradation of the Earth as a Whole. As the ultimate Desert or Xerodrome, the Tellurian Omega engineers a plane of utter immanence with the Sun where the communicator can no longer be discriminated from what is communicated to the Sun. Xerodrome is the Earth of becoming-Gas or cremation-to-Dust (Negarestani, Cyclonopedia, 17).

In short, when we actually look at texts pertaining accelerationism, it is crucial to realize that the non-human and inhuman aspects of what constitutes acceleration are more central than the transcience of humanity — in this respect, it is more adequate to say that humans are very unwittingly complicit with these anonymous materials through a form of techno-demonic possession. And accelerationism as a praxis tends to embrace this complicity to develop what can best be described as a form of technomancy — namely, a practice of corrupting, hacking, and dislocating the very groundwork of acceleration.

In light of this, it is best I discuss accelerationisms head-on. I will mostly refer to a helpful blog by Matt Colquhoun (aka. xenogothic), who took the time to develop a handy primer on u/accelerationism, as well as Pete Wolfendale’s “So, Accelerationism, what’s all that about?” At its core, I believe it is best to breach the notion of acceleration as unconditional accelerationism (u/accelerationism) prior to discussing any of their conditional political contingents. The broadest thesis that can be offered about accelerationism is that tendencies are accelerating and intensifying, any room for negative/reflective feedback closes off into the impulses of positive feedback stimulating the acceleration — in this respect, Colquhoun refers to u/accelerationism as a naturphilosophie for late-capitalist modernity as biological, socio-systemic, and virtual drives blend and integrate into each other. This form of u/accelerationism only gets as far as noting that tendencies are accelerating and intensifying; however, it does not speak to which tendencies and how exactly they are accelerating, which ultimately amount to a more conditional approach to accelerationism.

When we turn to the question of conditional accelerationisms, then we are breaching the question of the more politicized aspects of accelerationism: tendencies are accelerating, but it is a question of seeing how to feed or direct these tendencies. In the case of r/accelerationism and neoreaction, it is a matter of accelerating capitalist and reactionary tendencies in everyday life — this is very much a hyperstitional praxis that has successfully taken off with the discussions of “Fake News,” for the better or the worse; or through the exploitation of algorithmic structures to exhaust human cognitive capacities through degrading burnout of getting into another hellscape of a comment section. As opposed to this, there is l/accelerationism and acid communism that propose an attempt at changing the bedrock id-frastructure that stimulate the accelerating drives through positive feedback, and instead it is a matter of redirecting what and how tendencies are accelerating. Of course, this oversimplifying a wide-rage of open-sources corruptions of thought; and this fails to more properly introduce other forms of accelerationisms like neorationalism, xenofeminism, bl/accelerationism, g/accelerationism.

However, this helps contextualize the contemporary impact of the CCRU’s understanding of hyperstition and numograms actualized through the virulent proliferation of algorithm id-frastructuralizations of human-inhuman drives as time has gone on. And this also helps as a background to understand what Mark Fisher refers to as “capitalist realism.” In this text Capitalist Realism, the late Mark Fisher confronted the notion that it is easier to envision the end of the world than it is to picture the end of capitalism (this thesis has been notably shared with Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek). We can also refer to capitalist realism as a capitalism in a strong hyperstitional state continuing to perpetuate its own tendency while foreclosing political imagination altogether — Fisher’s own attempt at stimulating an alternative and redirecting tendencies came by way of his notions of postcapitalist desire and acid communism stressing their own hyperstitional capacity.

Nevertheless, this thesis that Fisher is most known for is crucial to another aspect of accelerated capitalism — namely, the notion of the body-without-organs, originally coded by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. In short, the hyperstitional effect in capitalist realism is the result of an on-going process of deterritorialization whereby capitalist systems and processes smoothen themselves out by suppressing any resistance to them — in short, they become integrated into an undifferentiated body, without any differentiating organs to process and mediate any of the constant positive feedback capital stimulates (another prior blog post has extensively touched on this subject, particularly as it pertains the deterritorialization of capital into financial and virtual forms of capital such as the financial system and bitcoin). In the instance of Nick Land’s work, this process of deterritorialization is described as form of “Meltdown,” and he goes on to note:

Philosophy has an affinity with despotism, due to its predilection for Platonic-fascist top-down solutions that always screw up viciously. Schizoanalysis works differently. It avoids Ideas, and sticks to diagrams: networking software for accessing bodies without organs. BWOs, machinic singularities, or tractor fields emerge through the combination of parts with (rather than into) their whole; arranging composite individuations in a virtual/ actual circuit. They are additive rather than substitutive, and immanent rather than transcendent: executed by functional complexes of currents, switches, and loops, caught in scaling reverberations, and fleeing through intercommunications, from the level of the integrated planetary system to that of atomic assemblages. Multiplicities captured by singularities interconnect as desiring-machines; dissipating entropy by dissociating flows, and recycling their machinism as self-assembling chronogenic circuitry (Land, “Meltdown”).

And lastly, this is also expressed in Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia as he depicts oil as a lubricant of accelerated capital melting down the Earth. But what does any of this have to do with hyperpop and a creative piece work?

Well, in a sense, it has everything to do with it. In one respect, there is the late capitalist modernity that has brought about this new and shiny form of plastic pop — heck, even SOPHIE’s last album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides speaks to a number of these themes, particularly in confronting the question of what articulating a whole new world looks like. Or 100 gecs describe themselves on Spotify as “ Scavenging scraps of musical influences and welding them into dangerous machines, they destroy the competition with their army of lethal bangers.” And much like the CCRU’s hyperstitional fiction, there are moments in PC Music that articulate similar dislocations of chronological time where the future is articulated as being already a part of the present. In addition, there is the general disdain for capitalism and the perpetuation of its own closed off horizons that are breached through aesthetic practices — in a sense, we could say that hyperpop was a virtual corruption of the actuality of pop, so we were able to move on from pop to pop 2.

And there is another element of this that closely ties to my personal creative practice: namely, the tension between accelerated capital and the notion of lingering that I took on as a core question of my creative process. This blog has given me an opportunity to articulate the strong form of the problem I am confronted with when I am trying to linger in my creative practice.

I derive my approach from the philosophical phenomenology of Byung-Chul Han in his text The Scent of Time which is subtitled as a “philosophical essay on the art of lingering.” What Han presents in The Scent of Time is a case on the contemporary of state of “dyschronicity” — a crisis time experienced as forms of acceleration, as a loss of centers of gravity for social and ethical bonds as burn-out, as well as the dissolution of any prospective future. In short, nothing lasts and contemplative lingering in philosophy offers a way of being which works against the tendencies of these contemporary forces in so far as lingering lets things take time and space, duration and vastness. Though Han never refers to the CCRU (maybe just Mark Fisher), the convergence of themes here is striking: particularly in the loss of centers of social gravity and the dissolution of prospective futures. In light of the constant and immediate positive feedback of capital, Han is interested on contemplative lingering as a negative and mediating space. As we noted with the CCRU folks, the issue at hand is that capitalist deterritorialization breaks down any and all resistances to the acceleration of its process, therefore it is no surprise that Han tries to articulate a negative space of resistance to capital. (For a more thorough look into Byung-Chul Han’s philosophy, I have a prior essay examining him and MLK).

The creative work I have gone on to do has been personally significant for reflecting upon the everydayness of accelerationism, especially as I needed to take moments to slow down and resist my own impulsive tendencies. In addition, accelerationism has been enlightening for my own capacity to rethink how to articulate a future at all as well as introducing a praxis of corrupting cultural forms — in a sense, I am hoping to achieve some degree of hyperstitional technomancy in this computerized approach to music by hacking my own voice and my own creative insight beyond the rot of “guitar rock” music I was stuck at for a decade.

Nevertheless, the final note that I want to leave this blog essay with is the philosophical stakes of the question at hand: can there be a future at all anymore? And if so, how do we articulate the future? Indeed, PC music and hyperpop flirt with this notion of articulating the future in the present while also transforming that very present through its interventions; by themselves, they remain artistic processes and that comes with inherent limitations to the kinds of interventions that can be done through music alone. So the question of articulating the future extends much more beyond the aesthetics of the future — at worst, hyperpop could default back to the hauntology of remixes and nostalgia closing the future off to the past-present as the continual announcement of the slow cancellation of the future (Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life).

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Simone A. Medina Polo

Simone A. Medina Polo is a philosopher and an PhD candidate at the Global Centre for Advanced Studies for Philosophy and Psychoanalysis.