“Arrayed Above the Seraphim Lights” by Even Oxen is a haunting record – this is aided by the fact that the musician behind the record probably doesn’t want you to listen to it. The record, which was released around June of 2016 was removed from streaming and Bandcamp unceremoniously at some stage in 2018, only kept online through a mirror hosted by Space Friend Records and an unofficial YouTube rip. Nobody seems to know exactly when or why the record vanished – with YouTube comments and imageboard posts suggesting that the musician behind the project either “got depressed” or just forgot to renew their DistroKid subscription. Regardless of as to why this collection of lo-fi gospel-inspired tunes nearly disappeared off the face of the internet, there’s something oddly poignant about its ability to do so. This album that I only seem to remember while being oddly emotional at half four in the morning feels indicative of something larger, even if I only seem to recognize that fact at half four in the morning.
As I revisited the blast of noise that greets you in “Our Messiah Flying with the Clouds Toward Heaven” I was struck by how small the possible audience for Even Oxen’s work was. Outside of a few Christian music blogs (which are a thing apparently), the only real way you’d stumble upon a link to this album would be through lurking on a certain music imageboard I won’t name at risk of sounding like a wanker. Because of this, Even Oxen’s online presence (or lack thereof) felt minimal and slightly mysterious – outside of a few anonymous forum posts, an interview with a small music site, and one or two performances in a continent I have never set foot on, nothing about the musician behind “Arrayed” existed. At risk of sounding like a freelance music journalist covering bedroom music for the first time, the work of Even Oxen felt deeply intimate – their music didn’t feel like it was intended for a wider audience (or for shite blog posts to be penned about it four years down the line), it existed solely for the artist and whoever else was also stuck inside mindlessly browsing the internet that summer. I’m reminded here of Burial’s remark during his interview with Mark Fisher that all the music he liked came from musicians he couldn’t attach a face to. “I like it if it’s more secret, people can get into the tunes more. I just want to be in a symbol, a tune, the name of a tune”. Outside of information gleaned through blog posts and imageboard archives I know next to nothing about this record, and perhaps that’s why I seem incapable of forgetting about it.
There’s something oddly beautiful in the ability of musicians like Even Oxens (and the jungle and garage producers Burial grew up on) to just appear out of nowhere, release a few songs, and then completely dissapear off the face of the earth. Obviously as a fan this ability will just lead to sitting around listening to the same eight songs every six months and feeling like shite, but in a world where everyone and everything has to be a Brand(TM) there’s something admirable about solely existing through a few anonymous forum posts and a Bandcamp link. I’m not going to waste your time by going on some banal rant about the commercialization of underground music, but within the world of communicative capitalism we’re currently locked into for the forseeable future everyone is expected to constantly act as if they’re a roided startup CEO – all our work must reach the widest audience humanly possible, we have to parrot SEO slang that would get someone shot in a just society, and if we can’t do something as a living (or even just make a fiver or two off it) it’s not worth our consideration in the first place. If we have to consult a leaving cert business book before making anything it shouldn’t be too surprising that the idea of jumping into the digital ether seems slightly comfy.
Another record that evokes images of forgotten hard-drives is “D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L”, the 2000(?) debut of Nottingham-based band Panchiko. It’s claimed (and for the sake of this blog post we’ll believe) that this album was released in the December of 2000, reached an audience of tens and was promptly forgotten about until some random person on that same certain music imageboard found a heavily rotted CD of the record in the wild, eventually posting a rip online in the hopes of working out who was behind the album. Give or take a few years (and a few pretentious RYM reviews) and a remastered version is up on streaming and the band are saluting “discord friends” in their Bandcamp liner notes (in a move that fits this blog’s aesthetics in a scarily specific way). Regardless of the fact that half the internet have spent the last few months convincing themselves that this was some elaborate guerilla marketing scheme (as we are all startup CEOs now), I feel as if the resurfacing of Panchiko’s debut captures something about our memories of dumb internet shite. Nothing is truly permanent (I tried debunking that with the godawful Yonlu blog post I’ll eventually rewrite in a few years), everything you care about will eventually resurface in a bitcrushed haze, and if people feel strongly about something you’ve put out on the net it’ll somehow linger on in some form – even if that form is just taking up space somewhere on a server farm, a shite thinkpiece, or a post on an anonymous music imageboard.
One of the strangest side-effects of spending so much time plugged into the internet is the odd state of “non-“stasis you end up living in. On a practical level you’re doing the exact same things each day for years on end (plugging into the same screens, opening the same programs, repeating the same songs) yet nothing truly feels the same. Sure it’s not like you’re truly changing or growing but it also feels incorrect to say that you’re the exact same person as you were a year or two ago. Nothing has tangibly changed (besides the websites you waste time on and which people you latch on to) yet things feel tangibly different. Even though your past selves did the exact same things in the exact same order each day they feel foreign and embarrassing – even though the differences are probably cosmetic (and related to YouTube redesigns). It’s not real growth yet it’s not stagnation either and this sensation eludes any clear description. All that is solid melts into air and all your memories are based around defunct URLs. At risk of sounding pretentious, I’m reminded here of that one meme where a lad sits down in front of their computer, starts thinking about when they sat down at that same computer four years ago, and starts to sob. Nothing was the same, but everything was.