Review date: May. 13, 2003
Insects Sans Shadows
It begins like this: two parallel lines touching tips. Two sinewaves, oscillations of frequency spectrums, ghosting one through the other. Two hums, compounding a fractured rumble. Two oceans, eddying in a current heading purely north. Two tortures, applied without delay and at the same time. Two mechanical operations, executed with swift dexterity and with swift rhythm. Two leaves, falling in different rates to the same tune of gravity. Two rhythms, grating at the body, leaving her exhausted, chaffed, violently encroached. Two spreading cancerous bouts of madness, one in each ear. Two swirling formations of larval bugs, multiplying at each second. Two, and a third, and a more.
Dark. At night there are lasered sounds: wires crossing, passing electricity in sparks. This can be sampled, this can be made to sequence in a pattern. A growing hum of generators – of ships, boats, but also combines, dams, electricity combinators. The hum of an old fridge – digitized, made pure, extracted only until the digital ghost remains, the shell or husk of analogue variation encoded to a bubbling, an indeterminacy of triangular peaks and valleys made slanted, pure lines, lines up and down and at calculable angles.
Ambience. No beats, none would ever be necessary. Rhythm but no percussion. A metric that, although measured, even, torturous, cannot be calculated (like the infinite stretch of the rack, like rhythm itself, even).
If electricity is the plundered resource, then drones, strings, and sculpted keys are the mask of their emergence. Electricity again, but this time with a façade of something other. An elongated orchestral simulation. The wringing or screw of a "new music" subject to processes it never imagined. Never pure, this time, but unpure, distorted throughout. Not in its enunciation, but all the other sounds: graters, burning plastics, frying amplifiers, a thousand marks of violence. Oh, now – she is screaming.
What's left of her. From the body only the vocal chords salvaged by bots that destructed rather than repaired. And now they attempt to make her sing once again. Dropping an octave, her voice becomes man, becomes sonorous, until finally, it too is electricity, and barely a shred of the human flesh remains, stretched beyond all proportion – and it screams again. The madness of the voice. How it sounds its sense in all directions, unstoppable, without reprieve. Filtered, now, but barely a shard more gentle. Even shimmering, at points, refracted lake light, still never cohesive, breaking, eventually, as the oscillators heat up, the digital circuits enjoy the repetition of the fleshbytes.
Harmony (in) scansion: Pure cut-out (I want to say découpé). The cover-art conveys all of this. Whites and blues swirl in a digitized vortex, a "black" hole or other oscillation, a fractal's curve. Then around: lines, in all directions tracing all shards against the darkening blue, almost black, and the escaping pathways of white that form, then a nebulous at the bottom, off the frame, to the left. Further out – the back cover – the thin white lines turn at right angles, (tri)angulate, geometrize empty space that is not space but only the intersection of parallel lines.
Uncomfortable, uncanny, coming in pulses, violence, filtered shards, sharp points, cycles that you wish would never repeat, breaking at the seams, the tapestries interwoven but only cohesive insofar as they destroy each other, not ambience at all, composition but hardly electro-acoustic, significantly more disastrous, verging catastrophe but never improvised, unrepresentable save for an unspeakable amount of numbers representing nothing, the clinamen, the swirling mass of clouds, insects, ants, the infinitely small, moving without regard – what should have been an alternative soundtrack to a Godfrey Reggio film – the frightening, for the ears, depths, it took two years to record: 2000-2002, this is not an album, this is something other, and it incorporates a horror, an inescapeble horror, that should not, nor cannot, be avoided.
By tobias c. van Veen