Meet the artist: Remi Fox-Novak

An atmospheric dark, blurred photograph shows Robbie in action making music using technology, performing in front of a red velvet curtain

Remi Fox-Novak is one of the three artists selected for the 2019/20 Emergent Commissions, in partnership with Sound and Music and supported by Help Musicians UK.

Remi has been contributing to the Midlands’ underground music scene for over a decade, beginning as a DJ in Nottingham’s breakcore scene, then co-founding the fierce collective Surfacing.

Experimenting with contact microphones, home-made instruments and computer music, Surfacing have been commissioned for exhibitions and events in a range of locations – from art galleries to greenspaces. These include performing at Nottingham Contemporary’s Klaus Weber show alongside his giant tritone wind chime, and a site-specific performance in Dukes Wood for Ordinary Culture.

Away from Surfacing, Remi Fox-Novák released his debut solo record ‘+’ in the summer of 2019, with an album called ‘Free Markets’ scheduled for release in 2020.

Whilst the music and aesthetic of Surfacing has an explicit political anger, the music under his own name was initially conceived to step away from that and focus more on rhythms for dancing.  But as the world’s political landscape has grown more dystopian, it was inevitable that the topic would influence his work more generally and this new commission specifically.

Remi explains:

“At the beginning of 2016 I was in a different emotional place.  I was writing pop dance music that I could envisage being enjoyed by wider audiences of say Capital.FM.  I was courting R&B and pop vocalists and producing lighter and brightly coloured dance music. 

With the Brexit vote and election of Trump in America, the normalisation of racism, hatred and transphobia was too much to ignore and my music changed, meeting half way between dance music and the cathartic frisson of Surfacing’s industrial sounds.” 

The result is a psychedelic style of techno similar to artists such as Blawan, Russell EL Butler and Surgeon.

Remi says:

“My sound overlaps with these artists but more in that they are interested as I am in improvising dancefloor music.  I have built a set of live techno with iPads as a foundation. 

It is a properly live setup and there is always the danger of it collapsing which is a small part of the fun for me.  The ultimate goal is to be able to make it up on the spot completely.  I still want my music to be fun and accessible.  Perhaps the dark and off-kilter character of my music will provide a complex experience for the listener, its as much listening music as it is party music: arty party music!

Where my sound goes from here will depend on what the future brings.  I still have those poppier tracks in the archives, perhaps those projects will still appear in a brighter future.”

Laissez Faire

A computer generated hand with four digits

For this new track the question of transformation arose, at once both personal and political.

‘Laissez Faire’ translates from French to English as ‘Let Do’ or Let (people) Do (as they choose to). One of the ways the phrase is defined in the OED is as “the policy of allowing private businesses to develop without government control”. 

It is also now the title of a composition seeking to channel the anxious powerlessness of witnessing the paralysis of the world’s governing community in the face of looming climate disaster, against a backdrop of social media trolling, ‘fake news’, distrust and rising apathy.

Barely into the new decade and this resonates even more with the sudden pandemic’s push-come-to-shove effect on human life.

Remi explores transformation at both an individual level, considering the despair of whether one can change form and capability to render a label such as ‘disability’ void, and a societal level, thinking about how modern technological advances both drive and limit transformation.

Fox-Novák comments:

Consumer cosmetics and cosmetic surgeries affect appearance. Social media filters allow us to customize our looks and our inner circles to the point of addiction and distraction from the harsh reality that lays beyond the corporate-controlled echo chambers. But surgery, technology and treatments only go so far, complete transformation lies beyond reality at this time in history.

Just as the electoral prospects of social democratic politicians has collapsed, their platforms feel more relevant and urgent than ever.  Transformation is looking increasing necessary, yet the push back against it is colouring the way the coronavirus crisis is being handled and is adding to the uncertainty of what the world will be like if it is overcome.”

For the Emergent commission, Fox-Novak’s track Laissez Faire has been coupled with an accompanying moving image work produced by the artist Bruce Asbestos, in collaboration with Remi.

Digitally rendered four-digit hands (like Fox-Novak’s own) are thrown through 3D treatments and experiments. Collapsing and rotating through digital landscapes, we see that the hand can never truly transform.

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