"i'm in your walls" by Death Insurance

Album link: https://deathinsurance.bandcamp.com/album/im-in-your-walls

Much like my movie blog (which hasn't been posted to in awhile – soon hopefully) I think I shall start a series for writing (hopefully concise) posts about albums I like. Technically I already did this with my Johnny Hobo post, but that was something I originally wrote an extremely long time ago. Much like movies, I tend to listen to a lot of random and often somewhat obscure music, and sometimes even form thoughts about them! Unlike movies, which have a high barrier to entry in terms of how many different skills and people and resources need to be coordinated together to produce something, music has arguably only gotten increasingly more accessible throughout its history. In the era of the internet, even in spite of the death of subcultures in the sense we typically think of them in the 20th century, the exact opposite has happened where in the film industry anything different and interesting tends to get suffocated out of existence by ultra-fascist mass culture media products like Marvel movies. There has, with music, been a Cambrian algae bloom of different microcultures and microgenres, and increasingly more music of the past that fell through the cracks of subcultural music scenes has been rediscovered.

From the very beginnings of when I first got interested in music in high school, I was always aware that the internet created the conditions for an often incredibly overwhelming deluge of different art to experience. Perhaps the accessibility of music as a medium, including how much easier it is to pirate, is why I gravitated so strongly towards an undying interest in listening to and hoarding as many obscure, new, and niche things as I can get my hands on and dance to. This is why it's so appropriate for my first post in this series to be about Death Insurance.

I don't know much about the woman behind Death Insurance other than that she's part of what seems to be a yesterweb-adjacent collective/scene of net artists. This alone is something I find incredibly fascinating, because we typically think of "net culture" as something that has become eerily archaic in the social media algorithmically-driven content slurry that defines most peoples' experiences of the internet. It seems that a distinct net culture that defined the internet in the 90s no longer exists, but as I said above, it's more that the corpse of the old internet culture – something that was a bit more monolithic – has been fertilizer for seemingly hundreds or thousands of net microcultures. They range from the sorts I've personally been involved in that are heavily interested in critical theory, communist politics, and occultism, to things like the "yesterweb", which by its very nature is a very multimedia type of culture.

Death Insurance is exactly the sort of project that comes out of this environment of extremely online Gen Z and Alpha kids being raised by the internet. Everything about it just aesthetically, from her website (she has her own fucking website!) to the album art of "i'm in your walls" indicates art that is created in a moment of history where the Amerikan empire is visibly in decay and there is practically zero possibility for anyone to ever have a "normal" socialization ever again. There's a reason why so many young people today are more queer and neurodivergent than potentially any other generation in human history; the societies of control have tried their damndest to restrict the flows of information by introducing social media as a poison to kill net culture, but they are clearly still failing.

In fact, it seems that the more time people spend not having access to the internet has a correlation with the likelihood for someone to have radical politics or be neurodivergent and queer. Compare millennials to zoomer and alphas and you will likely find that there is a direct increase in tendencies towards being insane queer communists. This of course doesn't relate exactly to Death Insurance, but it's an important thing to take note of, because part of what's so fascinating and worth writing about with Death Insurance isn't just her music (though it is also incredible and I will get to that) but also the entire background as far as I can tell of all of it. There is something undeniably radical and exciting about young people forming their own art collectives like this on the internet, having actual engagement and autonomy in how they get their work out there (again, she hosts her own website), having a distinct style that is essentially a maximalist cut-up of different types of media. The same sort of tendency as in internet memes to subvert recognizable imagery and trade and mutate it across different social groups, but taken to a delirious extreme, cut through with absurd algorithmically generated clickbait and grotesque textured imagery. When you go on Kat's website or look at her album art, it's not just something digital, but something you also can feel, perhaps even smell or taste.

This is done to such interesting effect in the album itself, which has a lot in common musically with the sort of digital hardcore revivalist cybergrind of artists like Machine Girl. But it differs a lot thematically in ways that could be called more gendered. Machine Girl's work has this to some extent – their most famous album is called WLFGRL after all – but Death Insurance takes the musical structure of maximalist digital hardcore influenced cybergrind/speedcore and where there is usually a cut up of sampled video game sounds and pirated Fruity Loops instrumentation, she adds lyrical narratives to it. All of her music doesn't just reflect aesthetically the environment that young people exist in, but she also writes about it from her perspective, describing the state of being "extremely online" and losing touch with reality, being a suicidal shut in, having horrible anxiety about the future, or just rotting in general.

Even from the cover art of "i'm in your walls" it's apparent what Kat is doing with Death Insurance. She makes use of selfies often in her art, but her own face is removed from its context in a photo of the real world. Her album art places herself, as she is in the "real world", in a sort of cheap looking fake video game where her own face is her avatar. She has a knife, a health bar, and is about to face off against some sort of black void entity – and just to drive the point home, it's all framed in a window that looks like it's from Windows 95. Death Insurance in a word is a full realization of exploring the actual reality of how everyone who doesn't have material security in their lives (i.e. boomers and Gen X and some millennials) is experiencing a loss of their grip on reality, a loss of their own sense of identity. Calling the world a simulation is no longer an abstract philosophical idea from Baudrillard, no longer something that only exists in media with The Matrix, but is rather something that seemingly everyone now feels at the level of everyday experience to at least varying degrees of severity.

The younger someone is, the more marginalized they are, the less security they have, the more likely they are to experience this loss of reality that defines our moment in history so acutely that it manifests as what would be classically diagnosable mental illnesses (count me among those people).

I could go on describing the whole album, dissect each individual song, but music is meant to be listened to. What I will do instead is analyze the music video for my favorite song from the album: ifeelgr8. I recommend watching this fullscreen, no distractions at all, in one sitting. It's not a long song, and with the music video it's one of those songs that simply demands the listener's complete attention.

What is so compelling to me about this song and music video is that it is essentially a thesis statement for exactly how I interpret Death Insurance's music. The instrumentation itself of the song mixes together breakcore type percussion with what I'd describe as an almost twee pop synthesizer sound, but much like the lyrics itself which describe Kat's desperate attempt to convince herself that she's working towards a future (the "hustle culture" grindset bullshit that afflicts a lot of younger people), it's clearly failing. The sound itself of the music is almost nauseatingly fake and synthetic, and it so completely perfectly complements the visuals of the music video. Again, Kat is using her own image in the same cut up net culture art that she uses in her album art and in her web design, and in the video she goes all out with this. Her own face is constantly warping, shifting, distorting, dividing like an amoeba before forming back together, but still more or less recognizably something like her. The whole video is just focused on her face, haloed by multicolored electric static, in an extremely confrontational but also sardonic sort of way. The viewer is forced to listen to her talk about her anxieties, how trying to pretend to be normal has itself become a kind of delusional detachment from reality, and the video is just her own distorted face reciting her lyrics to the viewer.

The rest of the video's visuals are a shifting palette of glitchy textures that aren't recognizably anything in particular, but feel vaguely familiar. They are undoubtedly edited together from real footage which has been saturated with so many filters and effects that it has become undeniably artificial but still has some "real world" core underlying it all that has been warped and mutated into something uncanny. Much like so much of her other visual work, the video has a texture, but you're not sure how it's supposed to feel exactly. The sense of the digital being something that has become a simulation of the analog is instead forced into recognition, and it's all done in the context of a girl talking about her mental state deteriorating as she tries to continue to participate in a society that is in decay.

Death Insurance's video for ifeelgr8 not only weaves a narrative together through her lyrics, but is a total aesthetic realization of this in the music itself and the video's visuals of capturing what exactly this moment in history feels like. I hate to sound like I'm hyping up this random girl's music online and not reading it with enough of a critical eye, but I can't ignore how she's onto something that I haven't seen any other artists do so well even though many digital hardcore revivalists are attempting to describe the same sort of historical conditions, and this really is what great artists do is capture a moment of culture and history through a medium that also requires technical skills like understanding music and video editing.1

I think that many artists in so many net microcultures and microgenres try to also talk about the status of being a young person today, being "extremely online" and having a lot of the same identification with various cultural signifiers, but Kat's work feels so completely effortless and authentic in comparison to anything else I've seen. And yet her work is also very technically complicated both in terms of the music itself and also the narrative she is creating. Calling something "authentic" would make it sounds like I'm reducing her work to some mere return to humanity, but her work is clearly exploring in a highly ambiguous sort of way the experience of being "human" no longer even being intelligible. Authenticity is always mediated through these sorts of things and through mental wellness and neurotypicality, and talking about things like neurodivergence in a way that we typically think of as "authentic" or "objective" is impossible. The only way to go about it is by finding new ways of talking about these subjectivities that have been marginalized and erased for most of modern history. It only makes it hit harder how she openly expresses her anxieties about her music as well as everything else in her lyrics, something I personally relate to all too much, when she's so good at all of this.

It's for all these reasons though that I felt compelled for "i'm in your walls" to be the album to officially induct my music posts. To anyone who thinks that capitalist realism is alive and well and that the future was cancelled after the 90s, I would point them to Death Insurance. The future is still reaching back into the past, dead but also frighteningly alive, molding our bodies into something new and terrifying.



And also, let's be real, I want you to buy her music. Give your money directly to musicians, support their work!

Author: n1x (n1x@katak)


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