Enter Kode9’s “Sonically Wild” Astro-Darien Project – Features


In another dimension almost parallel to ours, where the efforts of British colonial activity had failed, what would the nation look like? Had the notoriety of Scotland Darien Project, which attempted to colonize what we know today as Panama, successfully crossed over in the 17th century, the inner workings of the country would surely be very different. For Scotland’s sake, the once independent nation could remain so some four centuries later. “You would have Scottish imperialism, either on its own or as part of the UK, so in that sense I’m not sure one or the other is preferable,” he added. Kode9 is considering. “But I wonder how things would have worked out if London was just the capital of England and not the whole of the UK, because that model looks increasingly unsustainable.”

Glasgow’s Kode9, the nickname of Hyperdub’s chief honcho, Steve Goodman, reflects on what Scotland would be like if this project had gone as planned. The mission sought to bring wealth and power to the country through the colonization of the Gulf of Darién and the establishment of New Caledonia, but it failed after several expeditions and thousands of deaths. Its failure was due to several factors, ranging from tropical diseases to English opposition and violent Spanish reprisals.

The doomed plan led Scotland to financial ruin at the turn of the new century due to much of its support coming directly from the nation’s pocket through financing by public subscription. It forced a broke Scotland to unite with England as it sought new paths to prosperity. The Darien Scheme, as it was named, has now become the centerpiece of Kode9’s ongoing work – a comprehensive project that ticks several artistic boxes and sees the completion of its first full album in seven years.

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“Astro-Darien is about a video game set against the backdrop of the breakup of the UK,” says Kode9. “The Darien disaster contributed to the founding of the United Kingdom because it Scotland almost bankrupt, so I wanted to rethink and reverse this story thinking about how the union could disintegrate and the lessons to be learned from the regime, as well as the many crimes and mistakes of the British Empire. So the duration of the game, integration and disintegration, is kind of framed by the Darien pattern in the past and Astro-Darien in the future.

Astro-Darien is a self-proclaimed “sound fiction” project that merges multidisciplinary works of visual installations, audio essays and the resulting album, “Escapology‘, allowing Goodman to break the mold and put all his creative eggs in one basket. He imagines a futuristic vision mixing spaceports and science fiction, originally created as an audio project for the ears of pre-pandemic Paris through the Acousmonium, a 50-speaker sound system built in 1974. “What I was planning was pretty sonically wild,” Goodman tells us. “It was postponed by the pandemic, which gave me time to deepen the research process. Once I finished it, produced it as an installation at Corsica Studios and I sent it off for mastering, I thought, “That’s kind of weird, just let me do another version.”

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