Nerve Bumps: A Queer Divine Dissatisfaction, by Dax Pierson, is the latest release from the Oakland based collective Ratskin Records. Co-produced with Dark Entries Records this collection of electronic music pieces pushes against the listeners desires to plop an easy definition on music and the creative process.
For, once people find out that Pierson is a quadriplegic, who spends most of his days confined to a wheelchair, whether they want to admit it or not, their perceptions of his music will be immediately coloured by this information. Some little voice in your head is going to say, no matter how deeply buried, wow that’s fucking amazing for a guy like him. In other words we immediately qualify his accomplishment based on our own presumptions of what someone with a major disability is capable of.
I say we, but as a person who suffers from a disability myself I know how hard it is to struggle against being defined by it. Shit, it’s taken me years to get over defining myself by my own disability. That doesn’t mean you ignore it, because let’s be real you can’t, but it does mean you’re more than that.
Pierson is a serious artist who deserves to be given the respect and accord that we give to anyone who translates a creative process from idea to actuality, and not because he’s in a wheelchair. His music utilizes all the tools at the disposal of all of today’s electronic creators; synthesizers, drum machines, and computer software, but it’s what he does with them that makes his work special.
This isn’t easy listening music by any means. It gets under your skin and disrupts things. It will leave you uncomfortable and disconcerted. He uses layers of rhythm that build upon each other to make textures that push and pull. You will feel compelled to move and stagger to a stop simultaneously.
Now here’s the part where you need to parse the difference between calling someone a disabled artist and somebody drawing upon their disability for inspiration. Pierson can’t ignore the fact he’s African American, Queer and disabled. Hell in today’s America it’s hard to image a three strikes against you combo much worse except if you are a woman or transgender.
In fact, if he ignored who he was his music wouldn’t be as honest and effective as it is. Your art is naturally going to reflect the lens you see the world through, and Pierson’s certainly does. You can’t listen to pieces like “I Slay The Pain” or “Keflex” without hearing and feeling something of his experiences as a person.
That is what art should do after all. Communicate the an artist’s view of the world to their audience in as universal a way as possible so it can be understood by anyone who cares to listen. Pierson’s ability to do this is testament to his abilities as a musician and composer. He creates atmospheres that absorb the listener and immerse them in the artist’s reality. We’re never going to be able to experience what another person experiences, but a good artist can at least explain it to us and Pierson does just that.
With Nerve Bumps A Queer Divine Dissatisfaction Dax Pierson has created a beautiful series of musical pieces that will inspire and enlighten. If you’re brave enough to listen closely you might even learn something.