I assumed that moving this week’s post back to Friday would lead to me actually discovering new music to write about but all I’ve done this week is listen to Amnesia Scanner, which makes writing this post significantly harder. I’m not particularly sure as to when (or even how) I first stumbled upon their work but I’ve been constantly looping it for the past forty-eight hours, presumably as I’m too lethargic to seek out anything else. Amnesia Scanner are a Berlin-based Finnish electronic music duo who make tracks that sound like drowning in a bathtub filled with Diet Coke – I’ve seen their work described online as being UK Bass or Deconstructed Club but neither label really seems to fit their creative output, they seem to live in their own sickly-sweet world that eludes clear description and I find it enthralling. The duo’s production is nearly solely based around their approach to vocal processing – samples are essentially tortured through post-processing, pitched up, and detuned to the point of sounding actively sinister. Amnesia Scanner essentially use the human voice in the same way that Aphex Twin modifies his drum machines – the original sound is contorted and mangled to the point where only hints of it remain, creating something uniquely tormented in the process. American jazz musician Ornette Coleman once stated that “jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night, but differently each time”, utilizing cheap plastic saxophones to contribute to the harsh, wailing quality of his performances. Amnesia Scanner are great as they take this approach and apply it to the human voice, artificially channeling the same atonal intensity that made stuck-up jazz critics despise “The Shape of Jazz to Come” in a way that feels simultaneously refreshing yet languid. It sounds vaguely like a summer spent wearing face masks in the heat, but perhaps that’s just me projecting a bit.
In 2018 the group released their debut LP ‘Another Life’, a sluggish hellscape of self-described “avant EDM”. With this record the group ventures into pop territory, exaggerating aspects of Top 40 songwriting in a uniquely grotesque way. This album feels extremely European in a way that’s scarily hard to explain – its as if someone left the mangled carcass of Happy Hardcore or one of those Eurobeat Disney CDs in a desert for a week, creating the aural equivalent of gone-off milk. I think I’ve nearly always been obsessed with the ways in which musicians can distort the human voice – we’re naturally hard-wired to recognize some shred of humanity in anything even resembling a voice and this record seems to take full advantage of it, effectively blurring the line between human and machine. Everything falls into this weird symbiotic androgyny, making it nearly impossible to work out what started out as a vocal track, a synth patch, or a sample. Every Amnesia Scanner track is maximalist in an oddly vague way – you know that a lot of things are happening at once but you’ll never be able to place exactly what. Maya-Roisin Slater hit the nail on the head when she described this record for ResidentAdvisor as sounding like “staring at a laptop screen for so long the glut of information makes you feel sick” – its a vaguely dystopian overflow that feels scarily relevant, like a zoomed out screenshot of a website solely consisting of landfill pictures. While I was stuck writing this paragraph I decided to start texting a friend, hoping that by venting my enthusiasm to someone else I’d be able to translate it into something that’d improve this blog post. However, I just ended up making a shite joke in which I compared this album to what’d happen if the CIA decided to torture Guantanamo Bay prisoners through blaring Nightcore – presumably coming off as an arsehole in the process. Writing about music is hard!
I think I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m a very ritualistic person – I’ll have one good experience doing a certain thing and then I’ll endlessly chase after it, assuming that serotonin arrives like a speedrun exploit and that if I recreate the same conditions it’ll suddenly arrive again. This rarely (if ever) works, leaving me with a collection of habits that are scarily hard to justify and the same three or four tropes constantly appearing in these music posts. Around the time that I was drafting ‘the demolition of the blue bridge was an inside job’ a friend remarked that my work was beginning to feel like some sort of drill – she thought it was good, but just in a largely consistent way. This was intended as a compliment but it made me freak out internally, mainly as it gave me a new thing to feign false self-awareness over. I began to obsess over my minor rituals, noticing certain trends and tropes popping up over and over within my writing but not actually bothering to change them. This eventually spilled over to my day-to-day experience of lockdown, I’d notice all the constant repetitions in my life but didn’t bother to change them – after all I felt decent doing these exact things at some stage in October and perhaps that could happen again if I managed a frame perfect execution. These rituals become significantly more defined when I drink, I nearly have an internal to-do list after going on the cans and it feels inherently wrong to break from these habits. I’ll annoy every single person who is still on their phone at that hour, fire off one or two tweets, revisit an album from three years ago in the hopes of finding something to write about, comfort eat a scary number of calories, and self-insert into Terrace House. I’m nearly dependent on this internal schedule to keep my blog posts consistent, my drinking rituals essentially just detach me from myself for long enough to feel unrestrained enthusiasm and my bouts of false nostalgia help me find the albums easiest to write bullshit paragraphs on. I was perfectly grand with this until drunk me decided to obsess over an album that I felt weird writing about, leading us to the following failed paragraphs.
I think I first stumbled upon ‘i hope you thrive’ towards the end of 2016, mindlessly scrolling through a website that probably melted my brain. I’m not really sure why but I kept on revisiting the album every few months, eventually developing a minor obsession. Regret Will Come’s songwriting was aptly described by Stevie Lennox for The Thin Air as sounding like a “Bandcamp postcard of a solitary bedroom life” – their work felt unbelievably niche, evoking oddly familiar images to that period of my life in a way that’s scarily hard to put into words. When I was trying to write an introduction for my interview with Regret Will Come I essentially just gave up on coming up with some form of description, spamming the paragraph with semi-autobiographical comparisons – “[t]he music of Regret Will Come feels like that pang of existential dread you get on a Sunday afternoon after wasting the weekend (or your life) on the internet. Their music feels like going to a Supermac’s halfway through November for comfort food after not eating for 24 hours. It feels like rewatching ‘Serial Experiments Lain’ for the third time in a failed attempt to get out of your head”. I think I was obsessed with ‘i hope you thrive’ as it took my sources of dread and turned them in the opposite direction, somehow (unintentionally) making the realization you solely existed behind screens oddly comforting. It didn’t necessarily glorify isolation, it just depicted it over guitar cords ripped out of a Teen Suicide album – something that offered me a weird form of solace for a concerningly long amount of time. It made me feel that I wasn’t the only person who didn’t leave the house and somehow remembered that cursed recording of a NEET’s father berating them from the other side of a locked door (that people somehow get mad at the father for) and that meant something, even if it was extremely hard to explain to other people.
Fast forward four years and I’m here, feeling oddly uncomfortable to be writing about this album as there’s an admittedly small chance that the musician who made this album could be reading these sentences. Irish author Kevin Barry once joked that he was “hugely insecure and desperate” and that he wanted his reader “to adore [him], to a disturbing, stalkerish degree” – in the thirteen years that followed the publication of his first short story collection social media has essentially granted this wish, making writing about art without seeming like the Björk stalker fairly difficult. It’s scarily easy to fall down the path of completely mythologizing a piece of art you get obsessed with, ignoring the fact that an actual, breathing person put it together. In the past this really didn’t matter, it wasn’t like Ian Curtis was going to read your badly photocopied fanzine so you could wax lyrical about ‘Unknown Pleasures’ until you became some boring academic – the Internet changed this dynamic, letting us realize that those who enjoy our creative output assume that we think a lot more than we actually do and that those who make cool art shouldn’t be let on social media at all costs. I think my music posts solely rely on this mythologization, I’m terminally incapable of writing objectively about music and eventually just resort to channeling some vague memories and emotions to make up for it. This is cool when whatever you put out there is solely read by embarrassed-seeming Discord friends but when it crosses over to those who actually recorded a certain record it feels a bit iffy. My brain is soup and I misinterpret every single album I listen to, this will somehow be my undoing – even if it’s just from sudden waves of embarrassment. I write about the idea of a record more than the record itself, perhaps that could be uncomfortable reading for someone who occasionally Googles their own name. Will admitting as such lead to me actually branching out and talking objectively about music? Probably not, that’d take actual effort.