I think lockdown has actually gone well for me in the sense that my daily anxieties have gotten progressively more menial the longer I’m stuck at home. I’ve basically operated under a “keep myself busy at all costs” strategy for god knows how long, alternating between attempting to actually read books for once, working on ideas for silly split EPs with my friend Tom, working on writing for this blog, and other dumb distractions I can’t think of off my head. My brain is naturally wired to freak out and feel dread over nothing – when I’m leaving the house there’s a certain set of half-baked repetitive thoughts, and when I’m not leaving the house there’s another, therefore I often find myself comparing these daily anxieties in a weird attempt to glean nostalgia from the things I overreacted about six months ago. Assuming we aren’t still going to be stuck in the gaff in October I guess I have to look forward to fondly remembering freaking out about being unable to write this blog post, taking hours to write emails, and possibly coming off like an arsehole when texting new people. Because of the fact I’ve been able to occupy myself with menial busywork (and the fact that I’ve mainly just been listening to Autechre non-stop for god knows how long), the music that I’ve been thinking about this week is probably quite stale – I think this would usually be the point where I shoehorn the title (which I always come up with first) into the post but I’d feel like that’d come off as too forced. Here are just some rambles about what I’ve been listening to, I swear I’ll post something better next week.
If you’ve had the misfortune of having to endure a one-sided internet conversation about music with me you’ve probably heard of Oli XL. I don’t remember how exactly I ended up finding his debut LP ‘Rogue Intruder, Soul Enhancer’, but this release lead to me having a low-stakes obsession with the Swedish producer and DJ to the point where it’s nearly a running gag within my friend group. Oli’s work defies any real description (or at least one that I can think of while writing), jumping between aspects of UK Bass, IDM, and Garage in a combination that feels unique and oddly cleansing. Oli’s sound and aesthetic are clearly indebted to the tackier aspects of 2000s pop culture, evoking imagery of godawful French anime, the blue bridge in Portlaoise (RIP), and modchipped region-free PS2s. Now obviously this isn’t to say that ‘Rogue Intruder’ is just a rehash of Brisk & Ham’s ‘Angel Eyes’ (even if that’d be an objectively good thing), Oli’s work feels deeply unique to this specific moment – both on the technical level (after all as Max Graef Lakin pointed out in their RA review, Oli’s production relies upon “exaggerated digital cleanliness”) and the thematic. This is an album that relies on a specific vague nostalgia that I start to notice creeping in to pop culture as lockdown drags on.
It’d be an understatement to say that the 2000s were a cultural void – the internet was beginning to lay the idea of a monoculture to rest, Mark Fisher was probably thinking up the idea of hauntology while getting mad at young people for being uncool, and Sky One apparently ran a show called ‘How Gay Are You?’. People genuinely held the belief it was the “end of history” and Seamus Heaney read ‘Beacons at Bealtaine’ to a bunch of spineless neoliberals while ‘Numa Numa’ played in the background. It was a decade without any real ruling narrative or change, sure notable things did occur but it was never truly linked to a coherent identity. Because of this, nostalgia for the 2000s could be interpreted as a nostalgia for living in that hypothetical end of history where feck all happened. As Xenogothic aptly pointed out in his post where he got mad at a Facebook meme, the system of capitalist realism that Mark Fisher claimed was linked to the decade’s lack of identity hasn’t necessarily been killed by the current coronavirus outbreak – instead of watching “the death knell of Capitalism Classic” on CNBC each day, we’re witnessing the ascendancy of the hyper-communicative hellscape of a “Capitalism Zero”. “Capitalist realism isn’t ending — it’s adapting to the times” and because of this change, we’re faced with this ouroboros of nostalgia for an era solely defined by its inability to do anything else but be nostalgic. Oli Xl’s music is so interesting to me as it unintentionally sounds like a yearning to return to the era of tacky CSPE manga posters and a less volatile version of capitalist realism.
‘Come In’ by Weatherday is an album I would have based my personality around if I discovered it four years ago and because of this fact I feel old for having only found out about it during lockdown. Weatherday is the emo/noise pop project of non-binary Swedish musician Sputnik, seemingly a darling among those of us who somehow have the energy to maintain RateYourMusic profiles. ‘Come In’ is a beautifully lo-fi project, apparently being recorded on a five euro headset microphone – which is generally an endearing thing for those of us who grew up listening to the same three ‘Teen Suicide’ albums over and over to make up for being boring arseholes. At its best moments, this album perfectly captures the adolescent, amateurish energy that made records like ‘DC Snuff Film / Waste Yrself’ or Car Seat Headrest’s ‘Twin Fantasy’ so influential to like-minded internet outcasts – anyone with similar life experiences could have made this record and that realization can offer solace to those who feel isolated from everything and everyone. ‘Come In’ is a record that is unapologetically queer, unapologetically emotional, and unapologetically itself (even if that seems like a cliché). Whenever I listen to this album I like to imagine a past, denial-ridden version of myself taking Sputnik’s lyrics out of context so I could claim (just like Will Toledo in ‘Strangers’) that they were speaking to me, even if that’s a deeply narcissistic fantasy. I may no longer be the kind of person who gets to discover and fully fall in love with records like ‘Come In’, but I’m deeply happy that such albums, communities, and sources of solace exist – after all, I probably wouldn’t be the same person if it wasn’t for them.
I feel like it’d be poignant to end this blog post with the following Brian Eno quote my friend Lee reblogged the last time we got to hang out face-to-face. “Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit – all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them”. My love of the music I blog about each week exceeds my ability to actually write like a normal human and I hope that love and excitement comes across, even if these posts are basically just regurgitated from ResidentAdvisor reviews and half-remembered tweets from 2016. Today I offer you no new music. Monday? Who knows. (Did you really expect me to not use a trope just because I referenced said trope in the first paragraph? Someone clearly has scarily high expectations for this blog, perhaps I’ll have to write about the internet again to lower them).