Harmony Korine’s Boiler Room DJ Set Was A Lurid 2013 Fever Dream
With an appearance by Yung Lean and the unlikeliest opening track.
When I read one of the first tweets about the “Harmony Korine Boiler Room DJ Set At Miami Art Basel,” I thought it was a joke. But there it was on the Boiler Room website, and that’s how I found myself loitering in a Coral Gables dive bar, waiting for the address as if it were 2013 — the same year Korine’s Spring Breakers captured a warped zeitgeist and idolized a certain American depravity.
Those lurid visions came to life when I pulled up at El Palenque, an after-hours club by the Miami River, lit by a sign that flashed “LATIN MUSIC.” But what had just begun to play inside the packed club was not Latin music but serotonin-rush trance hacked to bits by MPC sampler — the calling card of AraabMuzik, who composed the ambient score to Aggro Dr1ft for EDGLRD, Korine’s secretive design collective. The machete-waving little people and gyrating strippers who live in Korine’s “post movie non-film” are here, in the flesh, at El Palenque, twerking ominously on a small stage backlit by projections of ultraviolet hitmen.
I step out for a cigarette with AraabMuzik’s entourage and miss what must’ve been a five-minute set from BLP Kosher, a 23-year-old Boca Raton rapper who’s giving “Jewish Kodak Black.” Back inside, the crowd parts reverently for Yung Lean, his hair shaved into goat horns, to plug in his phone; he then drops 12-year-old Soulja Boy and Waka Flocka Flame songs in between the type of jolly Eurodisco anthems that ring in Polish dancehalls. “I f*ck wit’yuuu, Miami,” Lean says, and I remember a story from years ago, which described his time in Miami Beach circa 2015 that culminated in a stay in a mental hospital.
The song from Lean’s phone that goes off hardest is “Vanished” by Crystal Castles, something I head-banged to on ecstasy at parties 15 years ago. Iconic, but was there no song from the past year that hit the same as late-aughts leftovers? “HARMONY KORINE UP IN THIS B*TCH,” growls a deep voice narrated onscreen by a laughing demon. “WE GOIN’ TO WAR!” To the sound of a medieval battle hymn, in march masked men in EDGLRD sweatsuits, girls in neon wigs and corpse-painted faces, and two more guys who take the decks in horned masks and hunting gear. I see Korine’s impish eyes shining from inside his demon mask as ... Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” plays.
I am neither a DJ nor a woman in STEM, so I cannot say for certain if Korine’s DJ debut was pre-recorded. What I can say is that, a few songs in, the opening chords of “Kiss Me” began to play again; the sound guy rushed in, knocking horns with the second DJ’s mask as he fiddled with cables, but no dice. The set played out for a second time, the sweet ‘90s pop transitioning to nasty Brazilian phonk tracks underlaid now and then with black metal. But what did it matter? It wasn’t very EDGLRD to care.
Buzzed on Modelos, my mind spun with half-remembered passages from Mark Fisher, the late post-punk philosopher. “Life continues, but time has somehow stopped,” he wrote of 21st-century culture. I could hear the music blasting as I waited for my ride, watching a drunk woman shriek to the doormen: “You can’t do this to me! I work for the mayor’s office! I work for the GOVERNMENT!”
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