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choons

autechre at the end of time

This is now my second attempt to write about Autechre, something that feels risky once you recognise how hard it is to do without seeming like an utter arse. The work of the Rochdale-reared duo doesn’t really lend itself well to the format of pretentious blog posts, something Pitchfork writers are stuck dealing with each time they resurface. Obsessive fanboys of the duo often get mad at the inaccurate narratives peddled by the music press in reviews or features, understandably raging at the same three or four anecdotes about a lack of any real melody, absurd album lengths, and a supposed absence of humanity within their (insanely sprawling) creative output. It often seems like journalists are unable to accurately capture what makes the group so compelling, generally falling into the habit of portraying them as stoic mad scientists working in seclusion to redefine the limits of music, or just as some annoying eejits passing off computer fart noises as high art.

Neither description really hits the mark and this distortion of what makes their work stand out is what had me so hesitant to initially cover them. What exactly is it about Autechre’s work that eludes annoying English majors? Why is it so easy for certain people to get so utterly obsessed with their work? Will writing this mean I can listen to literally any other music? I don’t think there’s any clear answers to these questions, but part of me is just saying that so posters on /r/Autechre don’t shout at me.

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choons

for those i love is generation-defining, it shouldn’t have to be

I’ve spent a concerning amount of time thinking about the work of David Balfe, something my friends are all painfully aware of by now. This obsession with their creative world started almost by chance, with a listener of a podcast I occasionally edit shouting out his Jools Holland performance – sending me down this rabbit hole in the process. To say that Balfe’s performance struck me emotionally would be an understatement – the weeks following my initial exposure were spent obsessively trawling the internet for any sparse information, shouting at friends about it’s major importance, and counting the days down until the March 26th release date of ‘For Those I Love’. The project had initially been released in 2019 for the immediate friends and family of the musician and that fact nearly tortured me – I knew it was out there in the digital ether and finding the few remaining traces of it became my main coping mechanism as lockdown dragged on. ‘For Those I Love’ is a record that infinitely more interesting and talented writers have covered and because of that I’m going to be a bit more specific in my approach – you most likely know how cool this album is and because of that I want to focus in on what fuelled my initial obsession, what made these deeply personal tracks about friendship and loss so utterly poignant, and what prevented me from being understandable by non-Irish mutuals for the past while. Balfe’s music melted my brain in the best possible way, here’s a lame attempt to explain why.

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choons

beyond the cultural colony

I’ve been using the term “cultural colony” a lot more than I should lately. A dumb combination of the Yank elections, endless Twitter discourse, and my constant urge to annoy people has had me obsessed with how much hold American politics and culture seem to have over us all. Ireland was always doomed to some degree of East Yankery on account of our Anglosphere status – our shared language leads to an anaemic local press and an easier ability to completely opt-out of what’s going on nearby. However, I can’t help but feel that lockdown has accelerated things a bit further – a world where we’re stuck living online is one that can become extremely American quite rapidly.

I think this acceleration was seen most blatantly through our embarrassing obsession with the Yank election – you had insane anti-maskers droning on about QAnon on one side and middle-class weirdos getting concerningly horny for John King on the other. I’m reminded here of ‘Watching the U.S. Election While Irish’, an article published in the New York Times that seemingly depicts one of the most terminal cases of yank-brain humanly possible. “On Saturday afternoon our time, Wolf Blitzer crossed the spaceship floor of CNN’s studio to announce Mr. Biden as victor. The game, or this part of it, was over. We greeted the news like it was an acquittal for a crime we had not committed, gasped at the commentary for another hour or so, and promptly switched off CNN for the first time in four, long days”. How did we collectively get to this point as a nation, why do we need to break from it, and what does breaking even look like in an extremely online and globalized world? The answers are (somehow) more convoluted than you’d think.

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choons

some records my friends are sick of hearing about

It’s been a while – over 140 days since my last music post to be exact. Back when I still had the energy to put pieces together I knew an elongated burnout was pretty much inevitable and just pretended to plan around it. In other (more honest) words, I just wanted to milk whatever energy I had for as long as possible in the hopes that it’d somehow be useful in future. This “plan” was fundamentally flawed on multiple levels, as best evidenced by my false assumption that this burnout would sync up with a return to normality. For God knows what reason I thought that I’d be able to swap this place out for normal friendships, fading off into the distance in a world where I don’t have to know who Stephen Donnelly is and where I don’t have opinions on every record with a synthesizer of some sort in it. However, as we’re still stuck in this hellscape (as well as the fact that this blog makes potential internet friends view me as way cooler than I actually am) I’ve intermittently thought about trying to tie up loose ends on here – I’ll probably never get back to writing as much (or as soppily) as I did back in May or June but there are certain records and artists I’m mad at myself for never getting to cover. This piece is the culmination of that urge – I’d initially planned on putting a series of posts together but eventually amalgamated whatever I had composed into one uncurated mess. I’ve never really liked the tone of year-end lists and have intentionally avoided trying to structure this piece like one – these aren’t the best records of the year (or even just a list of my favourite ones), they’re just records my friends are now sick of hearing about. Does this distinction change or mean anything? Probably not. Here’s the music I’ve been obsessively thinking about lately, for better or for worse.

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why we're fecked

LOKdown, the culchie problem, and where to go next

Some of the best letters that get sent into our local newspaper are the ones that capture an existential crisis – whenever anything of note happens within a fifty-kilometer radius of Portlaoise at least one person will try composing a piece in which they lament about how utterly irrelevant our county has become and there’s something oddly beautiful about it. These pieces never actually go anywhere or lead to anything changing but I guess that’s the point, you’re essentially just seeing someone go through the five stages of grief over the absence of a bridge and that feels oddly poignant, mainly just as it’s surprising that anyone would actually put in the effort to write about it.

I think its time for me to finally try putting together one of these letters – Laois is just after entering a two week localized lockdown due to a resurgence of COVID-19 and my plans for the month have been put into flux as a result. I’d initially planned on weaning myself off my current writing schedule over the next few weeks as we edged towards normality again – the way in which I’ve kept this blog updated over the past few months requires at least two all-nighters a week and that isn’t really feasible while living in the real, non-insane world. At first I assumed that I’d spend the next few weeks making up for lost time – cutting down to just writing once a week in order to focus on returning to regular exercise, actually productive work, and the friends I’ve gone a concerning amount of time without seeing face-to-face. That’s all essentially gone out the window now, leading to me sitting here on a Monday trying to throw together a response to three cynical tweets that made me vaguely angry yesterday for some reason. This year has gone well.

Categories
choons

this is what alienation sounds like

cw: some descriptions of violence, references to suicide attempts

The internet is impossibly large and a bunch of useless-seeming algorithms determine how we interact with it – a majority of what we see on the net is purposely targeted to us based on our past actions and it’s scarily easy to not realize how surreal that is. I think I’m gradually coming to terms with the fact that these blog posts are heavily indebted to Spotify’s recommendation algorithms – I’ve discovered half of the albums that defined my lockdown due to them popping up on my home screen as an album ended and the other half initially entered my life through the rabbit holes these algorithms enable. The space in my life that was once occupied by a certain music forum has been substituted by a piece of software trained on the exact same people I actively chose to stop paying attention to and there’s something morbidly interesting about that to me – there are people out there with nearly the exact same musical tastes as mine and I’ll probably never interact with them. Any (largely flawed) sense of community created by shared fandom has gradually been sidelined as the death march of communicative capitalism (and the world pandemic we’re still living under) atomizes us further and further – the coronavirus outbreak may have accelerated this process but it feels as if we’ve made a major shift over time from the shared, communal spaces of record shops and concerts to the finely-tuned desert islands created by these algorithms. We’re still all connected in a certain sense, just not in a way that lends itself to meaningful interactions – whatever data we generate online is constantly being compared to those around us but these algorithms actively obfuscate that fact, tricking us into assuming that we’re isolated individuals with genuinely unique tastes. This week I’m going to try (and presumably fail) to write about an album that the Spotify algorithm shoved in my face, if anything just so I can pretend to fully understand it.

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choons

of course i had to write about the new katie dey album

It feels odd to write about Katie Dey’s music as I’ll never be able to think about it objectively – ‘asdfasdf’ and ‘flood network’ have essentially been wedged into my brain for the past four years and that makes me oddly sentimental about the Melbourne-based musician’s creative output. Around this time in 2016 I met an internet friend who went on to become a scarily large influence on my life and one of our first conversations revolved around Dey’s first EP – I essentially just looped the record over and over in order to have something to say to that random internet person, starting an obsession that hasn’t really ended yet. This obsession essentially just snowballed when Dey released ‘flood network’, my favorite album of all time – I remember wandering around a post-Fleadh Ennis essentially just killing time until I got a text back while blaring ‘fear o the light’ and feeling a vague dread that now seems fairly nostalgic to look back on. I’m not sure exactly why Dey’s discography resonated with me so much at the time but it captured a larger feeling that was oddly cathartic to observe – Sasha Geffen once remarked for The Fader that the album “fold[ed] somatic joy into waves of chaos and anxiety” and that’s the closest I’ve gotten to explaining the appeal of ‘Flood Network’. The record essentially channeled the same anxious energy my life was constantly defined by and turned it into a bunch of shoegazey hypnagogic pop songs, something that offered me an odd form of solace when I was probably at my most misanthropic.

Categories
why we're fecked

:-)

I think it’s safe to say that we’re living in turbulent times – you’re probably just after bumping into your uncle shouting about vaccines outside the GPO for the third weekend in a row, the government is about to spend all its time and effort making sure a rowdy poor doesn’t dare travel to one of the numerous countries they spent the last three months ensuring we could travel to, and we’ve all collectively chosen to ignore how many homeless people seem to be dying because of how hard it must be to live as some overpaid cabinet minister dozing off in a convention center. We’re headed into one of the worst recessions of recent history, hundreds (if not thousands) will choke to death over the next few weeks so our planet can have McDelivery again, and Kanye West is probably in the middle of sabotaging his next album. The barbarism part of the old “socialism or barbarism” adage is beginning to rear its Elon Musk-backed head and we’ve finally realized that Walter Benjamin was full of shit when he implied that we’d get aesthetic pleasure out of our collective destruction. Things can only possibly get worse and Naomi Klein’s pleas about the worldwide implementation of a Green New Deal are completely foreign (and fairly funny) not even a full year on from their publication. This is somehow a problem that only you are capable of solving.

Categories
choons

seven songs i got vaguely excited about this year

This year has been a bit of a write-off and it freaks me out that we’re over seven months into it. I think that I went into 2020 with a small amount of optimism and that screwed us all over – I was planning on spending most of this year sitting on public transport and I got to do that, it was just with the addition of an ill-fitting facemask, the joys of spending the next week being paranoid about symptoms, and some weirdo behind me blaring Justin Barrett speeches from his iPhone. This year hasn’t really started in my head, it feels like we’ve been in a weird state of limbo for the past four months and that makes looking back on things a bit strange – I actively miss an era of my life where my anxieties seemed relatively menial and I feel like that means something, even if that’s just as we’re rapidly descending into some Michael Martin-backed hellscape. One of the few perks of lockdown is that I’ve constantly been able to listen to music, I’ve nearly always got a pair of headphones on and the time I’ve spent rapidly trying to catch up on some dense text for a reading group naturally lends itself to pretentious electronic tunes. Here are seven of the most interesting tracks I’ve stumbled upon so far this year – I’ve probably put together godawful paragraphs on half of these tracks in the past but I thought it’d be fun to expand on what makes these tracks stand out, even just so some random Discord friend doesn’t have to listen to me drone on about them at half three in the morning.

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this is just solely about the internet isn't it?

if you’re reading this it’s too late (for my google analytics)

Statistically speaking by the time you’re reading this I’ll finally be back on Twitter, an app that’s probably ruined me as a person in ways that I’m yet to fully accept. Nearly half of my readership arrives from Twitter and as a result I’m scarily reliant on the website to ensure that everyone around me sits through my weekly Eamon Ryan diatribes – every time I finally make the realization that I need to cut back on the time I waste on Twitter I cynically shrug said realization off by pretending that constantly posting is somehow good for my writing, coming off as a major careerist in the process. This overreliance is probably best exemplified through the content of this post – I had originally planned on writing yet another piece on Irish politics (fun!) but the realization that the two people who would somehow find that piece funny were significantly less likely to stumble upon it essentially killed any motivation I had, leading to this weird meta-commentary on an objectively stupid microblogging website that I should have quit ages ago. I’ve flirted with completely vanishing off the face of the internet a fair few times, somehow pretending that I have the self-control to actually do something productive with my life every three months or so. These attempts always end in some embarrassing form of failure – I remember completely relapsing on social media during a particularly slow day at work a few years back and scrolling through everything Felix Biederman posted that month like it was a particularly depressing morning newspaper. I felt like an utter arse for the rest of that shift, mainly just as that experience made me realise how dumb my relationship with the internet was. I think that was the moment that I realized I was wired in for life, even if I tried to pretend otherwise for ages. But for now, I’m temporarily free from the endless discourse that consumes my life, or I would be if I actually chose to write about music tonight. Has this led to me having any original or interesting thoughts about our collective relationship with the net? Not really.