Backbeat: Non Plus Temps, 'Dark on Harmon'
Save Street Spirit
Non Plus Temps, Dark on Harmon EP (PNU), now playing on Bandcamp
We are self-releasing a new tape of home recordings, and giving some of the money to Street Spirit, newspaper of the East Bay homeless struggle, which recently lost funding. I started reading Street Spirit more than ten years ago, buying from a vendor in front of Sweet Adeline, and in recent years looked to the publication for in-depth, emotionally-textured coverage of life and organizing in embattled encampments like Wood Street.
Bandcamp is waiving its revenue share today, so any purchases of tapes or downloads boost the proceeds we can pitch to Street Spirit. The tape has a lot of our hands on it. We drew the art and labels, and printed and assembled everything at Oakland Printshop. There’s also a small insert with the below statement, describing some of the lyrics.
The clown car crashed into nuclear winter, so we chased shadows in our hideout. It was an intuitive process, like making Desire Choir, only with more limitations. A typical living-room percussion setup comprised snare, spatula, and plinky bolt. Every four-track mixdown cemented in place another layer of sedimentary noise, another vision of superseding our condition as human rentals. ‘Saw the Car Free’ imagines all of the converterless cars and lockless bikes of the city as avatars for an insurrectionary and communal subjectivity, while ‘Heads of State Roll’ casts Bugs Bunny and Italian anarchist Alfredo Bonanno as joyful and deranged propagandists of the deed. ‘Clod Clog’ alludes to the insight of another ultraleft theorist, Gilles Dauvé, that ‘nothing is more alien to a strike than its end.’ The cutup contractual jargon of ‘Wash Cycle (Dub),’ meanwhile, comes from a bogus eviction notice marked for the address of our home recording session. ‘Hideaway’ conveys impressions of the same place. As distant as the emancipatory horizon remains, the rent-strike that subsidized our prior release is resolving favorably (without end). Some light shines on Harmon, not least from the flaming moon. To Viv!
Cam Scott, singer of Winnipeg hardcore band Age of Self, who we played with at a DIY venue in Oakland earlier this year, published a lovely review of Dark on Harmon. It is a poetic and materialist engagement with our music and written statements alike, incorporating the words of an artist-critic dear to our entire band, Vivien Goldman.
Beyond closed quotation, Non Plus Temps channel their forebears with intent, extending a communal ethic back and forward in time. This knowingness feels convivial and non-foreboding, prompting participation—in punk as process; dub as sonic reservoir, knowing no scarcity of means; and DIY as an authentically resistant enclave. As importantly, every aspect of the group’s self-presentation seems to insist on its own provisionality; making a tentative departure from present conditions, and borrowing a latent, partial music from its total, social form. Almost no one plays this well, though anybody could, and the sound of Non Plus Temps is invitational—succinct in itself, but without end.
We were also featured in the June issue of The Wire, in an article drawing a thread from the pre-Ghost Ship formation of Preening through to Non Plus Temps. It’s awkward to read about the broad contours of my life, but the article conveys well my conviction that the tenant movement builds the conditions of possibility for underground music scenes.
In June, at the annual convention of Tenant and Neighborhood Councils (TANC), member-run autonomous tenant union of the Bay Area, I presented a media training for tenant organizers. We discussed media depictions of tenants, the structural character of pro-landlord bias (guided by Stuart Hall’s Policing the Crisis), and “speaking through the media” as a broad strategic orientation for press interactions, borrowing the phrase and key principles thereof from the Los Angeles Tenant Union (LATU) (via ACT UP).
I drew some from my experience as a journalist, and primarily from the union’s experience publicizing tenant council actions. Our press releases yielded coverage in the course of organizing with Ivy Hill-Alice Tenant Union, which rent-struck for 13 months, winning $200,000 concessions; Fox Courts Tenant Council, which won modest concessions amid collective-bargaining with John Stewart Company; and Renew on Merritt Tenant Council, which experienced brutal repression of a rent strike.
Over the past year, we also published nine issues of the newsletter, Bay Tenant-TANC Talk. We published dueling perspective internationalism and the tenant movement (July ‘22, August ‘22), and TANC’s orientation towards the anticipated end of local eviction moratoriums (December ‘22); a comic series on the tenant struggle of Sneaky the Dog by Krusty Wheatfield (Aug. ‘22, October ‘22, February ‘22); a series of reflections from Tenants in Movement training program participants (March ‘23, April ‘23); a eulogy for Oakland tenant martyr Mary Jesus (Dec. ‘22); anti-YIMBY polemic (Dec. ‘22); rights briefs; and regular reportbacks on council actions and TANC labor solidarity actions.
Immediately after the June convention, we turned back to doorstepping landlords. We produced documentation of Coliseum Connections Tenant Association members, now displaced more than seven months, confronting landlord Michael Johnson, a serial evictor flush with millions in public funds. Watch as CCTA organizers deflect Johnson’s lies and condescension, and deliver their demands. Shortly thereafter, TANC and CCTA organized a larger rally at Johnson’s house, garnering considerable press for the council. More details in the latest Bay Tenant-TANC Talk, and you can read past issues here.