Tone Glow 049: Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt
An interview with drummer Chris Corsano and guitarist Bill Orcutt + our writers panel on Linus Hillborg's 'Magelungsverket' and Jane Arden & Jack Bond's 'Anti-Clock' soundtrack
Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt
Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano should need no introduction for readers of this newsletter, but let’s give it a go anyway. Bill Orcutt first gained attention in the early 1990s for his guitar mangling with powerhouse noise-punk group Harry Pussy. In 2009, he returned with a series of recordings rewiring musical traditions in his singular playing style featuring a 4-string Kay guitar. Corsano is an endlessly prolific and creative drummer, whether performing on his own or with a list of experimental heavyweights that stretches far beyond the limits of this intro.
The duo are now set to release their latest collaborative album, Made Out of Sound, on Orcutt’s label Palilalia. Recorded remotely, it showcases a relatively restrained approach in comparison to previous outings with the guitarist overdubbing spidery dive-bombs onto the drummer’s free-flowing clatterstompf. Jesse Locke chatted with Orcutt and Corsano on the morning of Joe Biden’s January 20th inauguration, with everyone keeping an eye on their televisions or news feeds. This lively conversation touches on Canadian connections, finding inspiration from individual musicians instead of genres, and the importance of personal chemistry in improvisation.
Jesse Locke: How’s it going, guys? Are you watching TV right now?
Chris Corsano: Yeah, I just noticed what time it was so I came upstairs and tore myself away from the thing.
I’m honestly really glad to be doing this interview today so I can tear myself away from it too. Have you been following American politics as obsessively as everyone else seems to be?
Chris Corsano: I think so! (laughs).
Bill Orcutt: You know, four years ago I was so pissed, just on a selfish level. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to look at this guy, listen to this guy, and think about him and his stupid family. Aside from all the terrible things he did, it’ll be nice to not have to look at his face every day.
Absolutely. OK, I guess we can dive into some questions. I’ve read that the first time you played together was a trio with Alan Bishop in 2011 that you called B.O.C.—Bishop, Orcutt, Corsano. Had the two of you met before that?
Bill Orcutt: No, I don’t think so.
Chris Corsano: Not really. We did meet quickly at Byron Coley’s place when we both played that church in Amherst. I talked to Tom Lax a lot that night so everything else was eclipsed.
I’m sure Tom has a lot of interesting stories.
Bill Orcutt: He thinks so! (laughs).
Chris, you’ve mentioned that Adris Hoyos from Harry Pussy is one of your all-time favorite drummers. What specifically do you like about the way she plays?
Chris Corsano: Nobody else is like her! It always fit perfectly with whatever was going on with Bill in Harry Pussy. It was the thing that needed to be done and I don’t think anybody [else] could do it. Seeing her live was eye opening because she generates a different economy of motion than I had ever seen before. She moves a lot! Sticks get fully extended in the air, almost like a Pete Townshend windmill thing. It’s amazing that you can keep this continual flow without it being disrupted. She invented a whole style that I haven’t seen anybody else do. I mean there is that video of the dude playing the ZZ Top song with stick twirling and crazy arm motions…
Oh yeah, it’s called something like “the drummer is in the wrong band.”
Bill Orcutt: Yeah, that’s it! (laughter).
Chris Corsano: If you close your eyes, that guy is just playing straight beats. I guess that’s a different thing, and the YouTube play count would tell you it’s interesting, but for me it’s way less interesting than a drummer like Adris. The physical movement of what she did was all about opening up new sonic possibilities, I guess. Nobody sounds like her. At the same time, it did the same thing for me as Muhammad Ali—Rashied Ali’s brother, not the boxer. A lot of so-called free jazz drummers were able to generate all of this sound with so many things happening in it that were far away from a straight 2/4 rock beat.
Bill, do you still talk to Adris? Is she playing drums at all?
Bill Orcutt: I don’t think she’s playing. We swap emails a couple times a month probably, but if she is drumming she hasn’t mentioned it. I’ve encouraged her and think she should be, but she’s also busy raising a couple kids.
I love that Harry Pussy 7-inch you put out last year.
Chris Corsano: Yeah, it was great!
Bill Orcutt: I actually have a 12” version of that that I’m going to do with all of the live versions and studio outtakes.
Oh nice! I missed the physical copies of the 7-inch so I’ll have to get one.
Bill Orcutt: Yeah, yeah. That’s the idea.
How did you first discover Chris’s music?
Bill Orcutt: YouTube, I guess. It filtered in somehow. I hadn’t seen him play live and just became aware of it by the same social media forces that I seem to find out about everything from now.
Did it feel natural to play together right off the bat?
Bill Orcutt: I don’t know if it felt natural, but it worked for me. Sometimes when you play with someone you’re afraid of stepping on their toes, you know what I mean? I’m speaking for myself, but I sometimes have to reign myself in and be on my best behaviour. With Chris, I wasn’t worried about that (laughs). I guess it was natural, now that I think about it! If you’re not having to pull it back a bit, I guess that’s how to describe it. For me!
Chris Corsano: The first time was with Alan, so natural is an interesting word. It was a trio first off, and I already had a shit ton of both of their records, so I had my version of them in my head and what I would bring to it. I wasn’t worried about stepping on toes but bringing it enough to where they can do the thing that makes me love their music. My thinking was “don’t fuck it up!” (laughs).
There wasn’t anything unnatural about it though, if you want to think about it that way. I didn’t want it to be three guys soloing at the same time, because we’ve all seen that show and come away less than excited about it. This wasn’t going to be Sun City Girls or Harry Pussy, so the challenge was finding out our nature on the fly in front of an audience. That’s always exciting and a little bit nerve wracking. The second time we did the trio was really fun and that ended up being a record. I can go back and hear it to remember how it came together in its own little way.
My friend Brady always says “the tale of the tape tells the true story.” Recordings are more realistic than memories.
Bill Orcutt: That first show with Alan was super crowded and we weren’t on a stage, so the audience was right up against us. That was a wild show because everyone was just so close.
Sounds like a Lightning Bolt show.
Bill Orcutt: Yeah, kind of! The few times we played with Alan I kind of thought of him as the bandleader. He’s also doing vocals and I’m just cueing off him. He’s got it, basically (laughs).
Chris Corsano: At the Newcastle show he did a move where he turned his bass up like a rifle and was shooting it into the crowd. Then at the North Carolina show he had a bunch of expired condoms that he threw into the crowd and said “go fuck yourself” to end it. You kind of just give the reins over to Alan.
That’s pretty wild!
Chris Corsano: Oh yeah, he’s amazing! I’d say this too about Rick [Bishop] after touring with him. The way those two interact with an audience, which they’ve been doing for years with Sun City Girls, there’s a level of disdain they have for their fans, but not really. It’s hard to place but it’s amazing how they have the confidence to get to that place. To be behind it, literally for me, since I was… Alan is a perfect frontman in that way.
The first times I saw both of you play were in Montreal when I lived there from 2009 to 2011. Chris, you were with Mick Flower opening for MV & EE, and Bill, you were playing solo at Casa del Popolo. I remember vividly that you stopped suddenly in the middle of your set to ask for the score of a basketball game (laughter). It broke a spell but it was also the most hilarious moment. It felt like you were doing an Alan Bishop type thing fucking with the crowd like that.
Bill Orcutt: Maybe! I don’t know. I was very interested when the Heat were in the finals of the playoffs. Or maybe it was the Warriors? Depending on who’s winning I’ll follow either.
There’s another random Canada-related question that I wanted to ask you about. A few years ago at the Strangewaves festival, you invited a guy named Ian Steinberg to join you on accordion and mentioned that he had played in Harry Pussy years before. Can you tell me the story about how he came into your orbit?
Bill Orcutt: He’s actually on that Superstar 7-inch too. Adris and I were playing as a duo and at some point we were trying to expand. I put up some goofy fliers in the record store, and this was even before email, so I just included a phone number. Ian called me when he was still in high school. He was probably the weirdest person we talked to so we invited him to play. He was really good at screaming and not at all shy, which I guess were his qualifications. I can’t remember if the accordion figured much, but he always played it. I actually did some accordion, drums, and vocal mixes for a few of those songs on the 12-inch and it sounds amazing.
Oh wow! So he’ll get his moment in the sun again.
Bill Orcutt: (laughs). The other thing I remember is that Ian’s mom had to drive him. We lived on Miami Beach and he lived on Coconut Grove or something, so it wasn’t easy for him to get to practice. He was definitely part of the band for a while though.
Chris Corsano: Was the accordion amplified?
Bill Orcutt: Yeah, yeah! I can’t remember how we were working it out in practice, but he was just really good at screaming. On the first LP there are a couple songs where you can hear him screaming as part of the ensemble.
Ian is even more embedded in the Harry Pussy history than I realized. I’ve seen both of you guys play a bunch of times in Toronto and Montreal over the years. What are your feelings about touring or playing shows in Canada versus the U.S.?
Chris Corsano: I like it! This doesn’t seem to happen as much in the States, but whenever you play a show in Canada the people ask where you’re going next. Then they say “Oh, Ottawa. Hmmm.” There are a lot of rivalries, so I enjoy getting the dirt from one town to another. I live in Upstate New York, so it’s close-ish. It’s great to get out of here to a place with a different mindset in some ways. I’ve played some great shows in Toronto and Montreal. Casa del Popolo is a very special place, I would say. I’ve been going up there for close to a decade and it doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else in North America.
Chris, I read a stat somewhere that you had played on over 100 albums, and that number was from a few years ago. Do you have any idea how many it is at this point?
Chris Corsano: Ummmm, no (laughs). More than it was then? Probably too many? I keep being here on this planet, so if that happens I’m going to play with people. Albums are fun to make. Even during pandemic times they seem to materialize, so the number keeps creeping up.
I wanted to ask you both about remote recording, since that’s how your new album together [Made Out of Sound] was made. How does that process feel to you as opposed to being in the same room? Did you feel like you were able to capture the same energy?
Bill Orcutt: It’s different. When we decided to do something, Chris said he could send me some drums and I would add to that. The drums arrived in the inbox and I had no idea what it was going to sound like. I think it worked out surprisingly well. When we’re playing live, I feel a little bit frantic, almost like I’m throwing myself into space. I was much more… I don’t know what the word is… relaxed, I guess, when I was recording this album. I wound up doing two guitar tracks, because we were missing these ingredients of being together and responding immediately to each other. I thought two guitars might be a good way of compensating for that missing piece.
Totally! It’s a great record. I’d say it’s a bit less intense than what you guys have done before, in an interesting way.
Chris Corsano: I don’t know if that’s a function of us not playing live in the room together. If you take away that energy, anxiety, franticness or whatever it is, that’s part of it, but if you record first you’re trying to react to something that’s going to happen in the future, in a weird way. I tuned the drums by guessing what Bill’s tuning would be. If the toms are a half step out from him, it matters. I was listening to one of his solo albums, the self-titled one, and that put my head in a certain spot.
I don’t know if we’re getting soft in our old age, but the first record we did was super blown out. The one after that… I guess it’s loud too! I was just trying to figure out how to leave space for the person who’s going to be overdubbing on this. You’re still reacting like any recording to what the environment is, the sound, the weirdness of having people crammed up in your face, or me being comfortable in my basement. I’m also reacting to the past, present, and future by structuring an improvisation somehow. How do you get to the end of this over a record?
Interesting! So the chance elements are your own memories or perceptions as opposed to the other person. It’s a new form of improvisation based on how you guess they might play.
Chris Corsano: Yeah, and to allow possibilities. I don’t want to weigh anybody down with my limitations. If you’re going to be a free-ish—whatever that means—player, you don’t want to paint people into a corner. I tried to leave space so it’s not just a total blast. I think Bill would have done great with whatever I sent him, but if I sent him just a redline mass of noise, it would be very different. It’s like the dual solo thing. That can be cool at points, but if that’s all there is… I like to hear the interplay.
In his write-up for your new album, Tom Carter describes it as “not-not-jazz.” Do you think of what you do as jazz music or being part of that tradition?
Bill Orcutt: (long pause) I don’t know (laughs). It honestly would never occur to me to think of it in those terms. It also doesn’t seem like rock. I don’t know what it is.
Chris Corsano: I think of people like D. Boon and Hendrix, some of my favourite guitarists from whatever point of my life. Bill will play something and a synapse will fire calling me back to when I was 13 and being like “ah, Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell.” Of course Mitch Mitchell was copping so much from Elvin Jones. So I don’t even think in terms of genre, but there are people who may have been located in the genre of jazz even if they hated that word anyways.
(phone buzzes) Sorry, the red cross keeps calling me. You give blood once and then you’re on their list forever! (laughs). Anyway, I wouldn’t locate us in jazz. Not for any reason other than it’s not that easy a fit.
That makes sense! It’s like influences refracted through jazz. That’s cool you mention the Minutemen too, because I feel like George Hurley isn’t referenced enough as being a great drummer.
Chris Corsano: He was super huge for me. I kind of learned drums by trying to cop his stuff as a kid but not really being able to do it. I love his use of toms, especially on What Makes A Man Start Fires? Then hearing Milford Graves later, there’s a thread that runs. You could point at all these different things that are connected. I guess Hendrix would get located in classic rock, if you were a station manager. I wouldn’t say we’re classic rock either, but the way those three people interacted was hugely influential on us. It’s people, not genre, I guess.
I’ve heard the music you two make compared to Doug Snyder and Bob Thompson’s album Daily Dance, which was reissued by my friend Aaron Levin. Are you guys fans of that record?
Bill Orcutt: I have that record. It’s a good record! I heard it only after because people were comparing Harry Pussy to them, so that’s how I came across it. I was listening to that the other day, actually. You forget what things sound like and want to hear it again. It’s not an influence per se, but I like it.
Do you know that record, Chris?
Chris Corsano: No, what is it?
It’s these two Velvet Underground tapers who started a guitar and drums duo in the early ’70s. Pretty far out.
Chris Corsano: Oh wow.
Bill Orcutt: I think Byron probably told me about it at that same party you were at (laughs).
OK, I’ve got some random questions I wanted to ask you now. Have you ever played an improvised set with someone where it just didn’t click?
Chris Corsano: (short pause). Yup.
Bill Orcutt: (laughs heartily)
Do you have an idea why that happened?
Bill Orcutt: They sucked!
Chris Corsano: Yeah, I believe in chemistry. It would be weird if you could just play with anybody. You can get better and expand how you relate to someone, but I like having friends! There are a fuck ton of people in the world that I want nothing to do with, and in music there’s an analogue to that. There are just some people coming at it from a different way. God love them, but it just doesn’t work for me. That means when it does work there’s something special about the connection you formed. Improv is great, but not all of it and not just for its own sake. It’s great when people have something to say to each other and together.
I think that friendship connection is super important. I’ve heard stories about Damo Suzuki making a big soup for people when he puts his improvised bands together. They eat and get to know together before they play, and that probably makes a big difference.
Bill Orcutt: There’s a weird thing I find when I’m playing solo and I have a good conversation with somebody before the show. If I’m enjoying myself I’ll get on stage and it almost feels like I’m continuing the conversation with the person in the audience. I don’t know if I’m playing better but I feel somehow like I am and that I’m more connected. Does that ever happen to you, Chris?
Chris Corsano: Hmmm! I’m not sure.
Bill Orcutt: It happens to me a lot. Like if I’m playing and a friend is there before the show or maybe there’s a new person who I’m really hitting off with, I get on stage and I’m more relaxed. I feel like I’m just continuing the same chat I was having.
I like that!
Chris Corsano: I’ve had it where it didn’t work (laughs). Once at a show in Bristol I met this guy Kushal Gaya, who’s an awesome musician. We were talking before the show and I got so wrapped up that it was hard to get out of that feeling. In a way it was a continuation of the conversation but it made it hard to get into the present situation. Then there have been times when it’s worked to my advantage. That individual conversation can be applied to a bigger audience, if there is one.
Is there anyone you haven’t played with yet that you’d like to?
Chris Corsano: (long pause). Again, it goes back to that chemistry thing. I don’t know what it’s going to be until it happens. You can sort of guess that it would be pretty great to play with whoever, and sometimes it works out. Magda Mayas, the piano player, for example. I had always wanted to play with her and loved her records, and then it was even more mind blowing. I couldn’t keep up with her and it was totally incredible. Sometimes your intuition about that stuff is right. Other times the realization is unexpected, maybe just because the sound is weird.
There was a time when we played as a duo in Philadelphia, then Peter Brötzmann and Jason Adasiewicz played duo, and we all played a quartet at the end. The way we were spaced out it was kind of like this line and there was a lot of distance. It was hard to deal with as a quartet, you know? That was my first time playing with Brötzmann, who was someone that people in interviews would ask me about. I love his records, so there’s no shade at all, but I couldn’t make the music work. I just had to play to Jason because he was slightly quieter than Brötzmann. I wasn’t going to blow out Jason though, because he’s great. Bill was stage left so I couldn’t really hear him, and he’s the person I know how to link up with best. Basically the logistics of the thing made it totally different than the idealized version of what I wanted to bring to it in my head.
That moment where you get to play with Peter Brötzmann is something people would make a big deal out of. I know how this works with the nuts and bolts of it. You just have to get your hands dirty and deal with whatever the situation is in terms of audience and acoustics. Because of that I don’t really have anyone that I’m super dying to play with. There are people I’m curious about, like Mazen Kerbaj, the trumpet player. Like Magda Mayas, he was someone whose records I really liked and was curious how it would work out. We did a thing and it was weird on a stage with the PA and all that kind of shit, but that one worked I thought and made me want to do it again. I don’t get too invested in it. There are people whose music I totally love, but I don’t know if I would be the detractor when I played with them. Sorry, long winded answer to that question!
Bill Orcutt: They’re bringing out Lady Gaga right now (laughter).
Chris Corsano: Her and Tony Bennett, that’s my answer. I want to sit in on that duo record they did.
How about you, Bill? Is there anyone you’d like to play with?
Bill Orcutt: Nobody specifically. I was going to say I did this thing that they put together in the Bay Area. Ethan Miller put together this two-night Grateful Dead show in San Francisco. Every song had a guest musician, so he had a really crack band playing these Grateful Dead songs and Steve Gunn played, then I came out and did some blues thing. It was the first time I had played with a backing band since, I don’t know, college.
Are you a Deadhead?
Bill Orcutt: No, not at all! I don’t like the Dead at all (laughs). But I have to say it was a good band and it had been a very long time since I had played live with a non-improvised backing band. Then I got to do a big corny solo. It was really interesting and different and fun! I guess that’s where I’m headed.
Purchase Made Out of Sound at Bandcamp.
Every issue, Tone Glow has a panel of writers share brief thoughts on an album and assign it a score between 0 and 10. This section of the website is inspired by The Singles Jukebox.
Linus Hillborg - Magelungsverket (Moloton, 2021)
Press Release info: This solo debut lures listeners through despaired soundscapes of electroacoustic orchestral arrangements seeped in rich harmonic synthesis. Magelungsverket is a rendering of materials from Hillborg’s own computer game hacking project, Orphan Works, where an obsolete game engine was modified to create an interactive installation in which participants drive through the midnight streets of a decrepit and abandoned Stockholm. Displaced, uncanny narratives and depictions of both real and semi-fictional locations in Stockholm that could have existed — but do not — procures distinct sequences of sound constructed with the Buchla 200 system, programmed synthesis, bowed cymbals, metal clarinet, and tape machines.
The rendered pieces on Magelungsverket have been adapted from Orphan Works’ interactive and generative material into separate, fixed compositions, bound by duration, each one named after a location in this fictional, virtual Stockholm.
Purchase Magelungsverket at Bandcamp.
Chloe Liebenthal: The death of a video game is a slow and drawn-out process. There are the MMOs that disintegrate into ghost towns before their servers fall forever offline, the decades-old passion projects nobody has thought about since the initial publicity blitz accompanying their release, the indie Kickstarter detritus that now clutters the furthest reaches of the Steam search algorithms… a game dies when it is no longer played, and it’s more poignant than other kinds of forgotten media because of a game’s necessary interactivity, its dependence on a player to give it shape and form. A dead game is just a chunk of code that once meant something.
Magelungsverket envisions a Stockholm as empty and glitch-riddled as the dead video game it sprang from. Its droning echoes and buzzing crackles of windswept noise evoke streetlights glinting off the wet cobblestones at night, rendered in flat textures and blocky polygons. The complementary evocations of space and claustrophobia are particularly effective, especially as they break down the stereotypical associations of electronic noise and orchestral melody. Here, the discordant melodies curdle into creaks and groans like a haunted house, whereas the bursts of noise serve as something of a respite. Its desolate, uneasy melancholy serves as a beautifully fitting funeral dirge for the cast-off debris of the gaming industry.
Josh Feola: By way of conceptual and practical introduction, the liner notes say that Magelungsverket grew from a “computer game hacking project, Orphan Works, where an obsolete game engine was modified to create an interactive installation in which participants drive through the midnight streets of a decrepit and abandoned Stockholm.” All the track titles are “semi-fictional” future place names. The title track itself presents an oblong melody that begins to cohere around halfway in, foregrounded by a carefully placed, hard metallic clang at the 01:27 mark.
In general the album is an intentional study in wound-down chordal variations and full-spectrum synthesis warped to make a durable, livable, folk-magical environment. “Magelungsverket” is the only song that exceeds five minutes, but it’s not the slowest one. There isn’t really a tempo to Magelungsverket overall, its ideas unfold at a deliberate pace. It's thoroughly metallic—the two other credited musicians are Isak Hedtjärn on metal clarinet, and Dennis Egberth on bowed cymbals, bells and chains. Swedish folk music is mostly unknown to me, but obliquely referenced on “Offerkasten,” which is evidently based on an old tune. It does have the most recognizably melodic organization on the record, a brief inflection point that underscores the tonal density and complexity of the whole. It’s an immersive experience, and its programmatic origins in hacked game design gives Magelungsverket a future-facing feel, a sense that traces of these sounds will persist in media paradigms not yet realized.
Marshall Gu: Magelungsverket is a collection of ten songs whose original intent was “to create an interactive installation in which participants drive through the midnight streets of a decrepit and abandoned Stockholm,” and I find it brooding to the point of boredom. Hillborg is not the first artist to find desolation in the major populated cities, whether those places are real, “semi-fictional” or long abandoned (speaking from experience, somehow, sometimes my big city manages to make you feel stiflingly lonely despite being also overcrowded) but the actual sonics are not interesting enough to go beyond that. A few exceptions: in the end of “Offerkasten,” the sounds start wavering in and out of focus at such a high speed that it makes you feel like something is stalking you through the street; closer “Stadshagens värdshus” has a gentle synth sound pinging around and sounding like the first night-time walk during snowfall. I have never been to Stockholm—it’s on the list—but even if it were completely abandoned, I’d like to think there’d be more to it than just gray blear.
Jesse Dorris: There’s a ruin porn aesthetic icky: making games of imagining major cities collapsing and as prompts for pricy collector hardware just, I don’t know, feels tired and cynical in this moment of COVID, GME, and the death of SOPHIE. Yet there’s an undeniable loveliness to the end result, though maybe my own complicity has embedded that “yet.” When grief is familiar its mood music is comforting. And so, look, these gulches of harmonic synthesis are bittersweet and gritty like draughts of vitamin fizzy drinks, and I suppose whether that’s nutritious or placebic depends on your diet and whether consuming intentional doom makes you feel better or makes you feel perhaps slightly less.
Mark Cutler: Linus Hillborg’s Magelungsverket is adapted from an earlier video game, titled Orphan Works, in which players drive around an abandoned city rendered by a 1996 game engine. I haven’t managed to find any footage of Hillborg’s game but these pieces make it easy to imagine. Hillborg successfully conjures a dark, wintry landscape, sparsely populated but with a persistent air of malevolence. The music is generally slow, but suggests a recent or impending cataclysm. The incorporation of bowed cymbals and bells prompts one to imagine metal twisting and shrieking under the strain of some terrible force.
Whereas the game’s musical cues were procedurally triggered by player activities, these pieces are quite deliberately structured. Hillborg’s Buchla alternates between deep, square-wave rumbles and high, stringlike stabs. Both of these blend well with the metallic instrumentation, which likewise tends to cluster at the extreme high and low ends of the audible spectrum. At times, one of the instruments—I’m not sure which—sounds rather like a harpsichord passing an event horizon. Although the album doesn’t quite shake the feeling of being a complementary piece, it is, in this capacity, extremely effective. I can think of few albums I’d rather have playing while on a long, lonely walk, or—as I’m doing now—watching a blizzard inundate my city.
Samuel McLemore: Despite the prominent use of the Buchla synth, any attempt to brand this as ‘modular synth music’ seems like a simple category error. This is a bit of classical music, full of dissonance and drama but in a recognizably mid-twentieth century style. Since at least 1980, when The Shining was released to theaters with a score featuring the likes of Penderecki and Ligeti, dissonant modern orchestral music has been the calling card of the horror film soundtrack. There is of course a long history of avant-garde music sneaking into public consciousness through the soundtracking of visual art, but it remains a curious fact that I can draw a straight line between Giacinto Scelsi and Hans Zimmer.
As a solo listening experience, Magelungsverket is more or less hollow. There are some clever production touches—the bowed cymbals are an excellent choice to add a rattling physical edge to the Buchlas synthetic color—but mostly this is what it says it is: a soundtrack to something else. Without the context that gives them meaning most soundtracks are bland and unmemorable, and Magelungsverket is no different. You can compare and contrast them with ambient music to understand why: both are designed to play in the background while other activities take precedence in the listeners focus, but only one is meant to play a subservient role in a larger schema. It takes a different kind of approach to make music that holds up to the kind of extended focus and attention that home listening implies.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: The general conceit defining Linus Hillborg’s Magelungsverket brought to mind Graham Dunning’s Panopticon, an album that involved replacing audio inside Half-Life with samples of ’90s rave tracks. The thing is, that album at least came with accompanying videos, and the absence of a visual component here—to both expand the experience to multiple senses and help listeners make sense of why these songs sound the way they do—ends up neutering the listening experience. This is ultimately fine, but taken on its own, the music feels like little more than typical abandoned-city soundtracking: booming thuds and faint winds on “Högdalen Incorporated City”, metallic squeals on “Vårbergsobservatoriet”, and saccharine ambience on “Mälardynen” to function as some sort of denouement. The bit of field-recorded rustling on “Atlashamnen” is welcome, but makes evident how these tracks all fail to uphold a truly evocative mystique; when I fully immerse myself in this music, the bits of dissonance prove most interesting, but that’s really the only trick here. For video game-related art that feels truly lonely, I’ll stick with Phil Solomon’s Grand Theft Auto-sourced video art.
Raphael Helfand: Magelungsverket is at once a dense lattice of palpitating drones and a thin layer of atmosphere, a gloss on whatever space it occupies. Like all good ambient music, applying it to any setting will change the scene’s character. It haunts the dark, cavernous dining room of my friend’s New Orleans home, where I currently sit writing this blurb. It pours into the living room, where my girlfriend is watching My Brilliant Friend on HBO. It blends in as seamlessly with the show’s Italian countryside as it does with the eerily quiet house surrounding it. It takes her half an episode to realize the music isn’t part of the soundtrack and ask me to put headphones in. The music pairs almost as well, though not as smoothly, with the inter-semester sexual harassment training I’m completing in order to be allowed into my university email account, though I graduated from my master’s program in December. The droning of strings, horns and timpani exacerbate the dystopian undertones of page-long hypothetical scenarios accompanied by facile true/false statements such as, “David did not commit an act of sexual harassment because the incident only occurred once.” (I click through quickly.) But it makes the presentation slightly less numbing to imagine I’m viewing it while speeding down a lost highway on the outskirts of Stockholm.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many not-so-good ambient works, the dark spirit Hillborg’s album infuses into whatever situation it meets is generally one-note. For the most part, the album acts as a uniformly solemn mood board, wherever it’s played. Still, some of its slow-burning soundscapes are genuinely rewarding. The six-minute title track gathers interest through the ominous bowing of cymbals over churning string drones, collapsing into fragmented, screeching moans by the song’s end. The rest of the record’s A-side, though texturally stimulating, is dynamically flat. But late-album tracks such as “Vårbergsobservatoriet” breathe life back into the LP’s digital grooves. Here, Blade Runner synths echo in lonely metal chambers, reminding us of our own unconquerable solitude. Magelungsverket’s brilliant moments stand out against the bleak baseline Hillborg hangs on for most of the record’s run-time, making them all the more stunning.
Shy Thompson: My lack of ability to go to places I once used to go often due to the pandemic has really screwed up my idea of what’s familiar. Ever since that fateful March that feels like has never ended, I’ve gone no further than the Walmart that’s a five minute walk from my apartment, with some rare exceptions. I either prepare my own food or order, so I haven’t hit up any of the places I used to go and eat at in nearly a year. I’ve only been on public transit twice, and each time I forgot how to scan my bus pass—something that used to feel like second nature to me. My bubble of familiarity shrinks a little bit more each day; I can barely remember what’s outside of it.
When I think about what I’ll do once the pandemic is under control, I can’t help but conjure up images of my city as a desolate wasteland—businesses closed, no cars on the road, everything looking a bit different than what I’m used to seeing. This might partially be because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Fallout: New Vegas recently, but I’ve realized there’s something else at play here; fantasy is tricking into those gaps where I can’t remember what reality feels like. In the absence of the latest map data on my surroundings, I’ve gone and just made some stuff up.
Linus Hillborg’s Magelungsverket feels a little bit on the nose with its concept; an aural construction of a fictional Stockholm, born from a hacking project that modified a game engine to depict an abandoned version of the city. Real and imagined locations co-exist with no distinction to set them apart, setting the stage for an experience that’s both familiar and unfamiliar—a plausible, albeit unlikely, iteration of Stockholm that could exist on one of the many infinitely branching paths on the decision tree of our vast universe. You can’t know that it’s not real until you go out and see for yourself; a Schrödinger’s city; a possibility you entertain simply because it’s possible.
I’m making this album sound pretty cool, but in practice it’s not all that evocative of the derelict digital domain it’s built upon—at least not to me. I’ve had the experience of roaming a deserted version of my city, when the power grid was non-functional for 36 hours. That was one of the most bizarre and terrifying experiences of my life, one I’ll never forget. I had to limit the amount of times I opened my fridge so my food wouldn’t spoil, and my only light source for two nights was an inflatable solar lamp meant to be used in a swimming pool because the local stores had their flashlights and batteries completely cleaned out. Magelungsverket is a much more conventional experience—a collection of atmospheric ambient synth tracks that are pleasant enough, but my frame of reference for engaging with them is right here in my bubble.
Maxie Younger: Even if I were in the most charitable of moods, I would have a hard time giving Magelungsverket much attention. It’s a record whose pace and atmosphere feel wholly at odds with what I consider compelling, where MIDI-adjacent orchestral motifs limply assert themselves out of soft, taffy-like mists of discordant drones. It’s interesting that Hillborg developed these pieces as an accompaniment to (virtual) driving; if there’s one thing these tracks all have in common, it’s their sedate pace, fading in and out with purposeful crawl. I don’t get as much of a sense of transportation and movement through each new environment as he might have hoped for. Some of these spaces remain entrancing despite this; I connected a lot with mid-album highlight “Pendeln,” which features a detuned, ebbing and flowing cascade of harpsichordal synthesizer tones gradually imposed upon by a throbbing metallic drone pierced with the screeches of bowed cymbals. Hillborg arrives at other bewitching ideas like this throughout the album, but struggles to sustain their brilliance for entire tracks.
Magelungsverket functions more as a collection of occasionally interesting sounds than it does a compositional endeavor. This is probably owed to its stemming from a generative game engine: these arrangements lack the organic, tensile strength they might have been bestowed in a setting where your actions could shape their development. While I can see Magelungsverket’s potential for immersive beauty, I think the lack of its original framing only does it a disservice. This work just doesn’t shine brightly enough on its own.
Sunik Kim: Hillborg offers something like a deconstructed Ben Frost here (not a good thing)—we can run through the checklist:
[x] has low, booming IMAX-trailer thuds that ‘build tension’
[x] has that weird reverbed ‘screeching’ sound that’s included in every Horror Film FX sample pack
[x] has the occasional filtered mid-frequency drone wash to break things up
[x] has the occasional submerged/warbled sample that sounds kind of ‘creepy’
What we’re left with is the most vanilla, cookie-cutter music imaginable: palatable enough to soundtrack an anonymous second-tier 2000s computer game, but nothing more. As is often the case with work in this vein, this music stacks clichéd, done-to-death textural techniques (as partially listed above) on top of an extremely brittle compositional foundation (the same two or three evocative chords or pairs of notes), all hastily stuck together with excessive washes of reverb (as effective as watered-down Elmer’s Glue). The whole tower inevitably collapses.
This music was originally part of an interactive audio-visual installation involving a hacked video game. Though nothing will make this music great, that fully interactive experience would certainly change things—including my own expectations. But, divorced from that context—without the distraction of interactivity and visual stimuli—this music inspires nothing but boredom, and makes me wonder why it was severed from its original context in the first place.
Nick Zanca: The lights are on, but nobody’s home.
Jane Arden & Jack Bond - Anti-Clock (Low Company, 2021)
Press Release info: What do you think of when you think of British film? Probably not the 1979 ‘puzzle picture’ that is Anti-Clock. And yet, for anyone who has seen this extraordinary film, it would be unlikely that they could forget it. Its sounds and images burn into the brain. It’s an infuriating and invigorating experience. It’s like entering a dream state only to find that one’s unconscious mind has been hijacked by somebody else’s skewed (il)logic.
And the trance-inducing static of its opening sequence, the burnt-out surveillance monitors, the super-saturated filmed sequences, bewildering performances and labyrinthine ‘plot’ are only half the story; there’s that soundtrack, too. It’s not unusual for a film to have one, of course, but this one fits like a glove. Arden sings the songs (‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘Who Are Those Figures In White?’), and it’s as if Val Denham had been secretly recorded during a session with R D Laing. Its feels warm and comforting, but it’s unsettling too. More than anything, though, behind its apparent calm, it’s angry at us for our complacency, our willingness to consume and to consent to a life within ‘the system’. It’s a lullaby which aims to wound. —Sam Dunn
Purchase Anti-Clock at the Low Company website.
Mark Cutler: Jane Arden’s extraordinary Anti-Clock (1979), co-directed with her partner Jack Bond, came at the end of a thirty-year career, and shortly before her death, by suicide, at 55. In addition to acting, Arden spent the ’50s and ’60s writing radical, difficult dramatic works for stage and television, exploring toxic dynamics between couples and family members, and breaking new ground in their frank depictions of mental illness. Though her early works for screen remain unavailable, they were, by all accounts, exceptionally controversial and uncompromising by the standards of 1950s British television. In the 1970s, Arden also began to direct her own material. Over just a few films, she produced some of the most singular, striking imagery in the history of cinema, largely abandoning narrative in order to push the medium to the extremes of technological abstraction. Anti-Clock is the culmination of this trajectory, largely playing out on screens within screens within screens, like a baffling and self-referential video maze.
Treatment of Arden’s work has often ranged from dismissive, to downright disrespectful. The TV Guide once described one of her films simply as “a tiresome and confused independent production.” Another, the magazine called “obscure and self-indulgent, with some nudity.” It is hard not to attribute a stubborn sexism to these casual eviscerations of Arden’s work, and to her subsequent erasure from accounts of British avant-garde theater and cinema. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that a woman making such adventurous, difficult cinema simply mustn't know what she’s doing. Even Bond took it upon himself to give Anti-Clock a new structure and soundtrack, on a thankfully-forgotten bonus disc in 2005.
This latter tampering is particularly insulting given the extraordinary importance of music to all of Arden’s film works. In 1972’s The Other Side of the Underneath, which Arden directed without Bond, Sally Minford’s score is minutely choreographed to the onscreen action, bouncing and lilting along with each word and movement from the actors. The effect recalls a Tom & Jerry cartoon more than a feature-length film, underscoring the surreal dynamics of the insane asylum in which the film is largely set. In Anti-Clock, Arden and Bond’s score functions in service of the meticulously constructed sound experience. The film is a sonic assault, in which disparate fragments of sound—cryptic dialogue, languorous guitar, recordings from cities, wars, explosions, bursts of radio static, piercing synth tones—continuously fade in, loop and weave around one another.
Other than two despondent, psychedelic ballads which Arden composed for the film (and which previously appeared on an ultra-limited 7” by Blackest Ever Black) this LP collects snippets of audio lifted directly from the film—dialogue, sound effects and all. Stripped of visual reference, Arden’s writing becomes even more opaque, and borrowed materials from films and newsreels lose their historical mooring. It’s an interesting approach, but I wonder for whom this already-sold-out release was intended. Though containing, by my estimate, a third of the film’s dialogue, it does not at all replicate the experience of watching Arden and Bond’s dense and recursive imagery. Therefore, anyone who bought the LP likely has or will have to watch Anti-Clock.
On the other hand, the inclusion of all the dialogue and foley work means the music itself isn’t particularly foregrounded. It is bad form to fault a release on the grounds of one’s own prior expectations, but I must admit that I was looking forward to hearing how the music functioned independently of all the film’s sonic collagery. Instead, I find myself trying to match these scrambled fragments of drama to the film’s scenes, from which they never feel wholly detached. It is, sometimes, easy to stop noticing the music altogether. Look: if you’re reading this, you already either bought the vinyl, or missed your chance. Either way, it seems pointless to comment on the quality of the music when it remains so closely bound to Arden’s writing and imagery. My recommendation is just to go watch the film, and then Arden’s other available films. If this review can achieve anything, I would be happy if it put a few more people on to one of Britain’s unfairly maligned and forgotten geniuses of the avant-garde.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: This soundtrack is, more than anything, two things: 1) a neat bit of ephemera for film nerds, and 2) a welcome audio document from a masterwork of British avant-garde cinema brought into the world for posterity. While a gorgeously hazy film, Anti-Clock is rather odd to approach in this truncated audio format (though, to be certain, it’s more enjoyable than a potential soundtrack for Jean-Luc Godard’s somewhat similar Numéro deux). It coheres largely because of Mihai Dragutescu’s guitar, which lopes around in a manner most delicate and sensual. It drapes every spoken word in a vapor that enhances their peculiarities, which is derived from both the actual text and the bits of repetition. The guitar’s sound and melodies remaining uniform is key: they keep one ensnared in a hypnagogic state.
Mostly, I’m reminded of a regular experience I had as a child: I would wake up early on Saturday mornings and lie in my parents’ bed, turning the radio to a station that always had radio plays. I wouldn’t pay attention to them; every bit of sound dissolved into sonic elements that would coax me back to sleep. And as I played this soundtrack on repeat the past few nights and mornings, I allowed myself the beauty of an uncareful listen, allowing the foley and speech and melodies to put me in a mesmerized state, one that’s significantly different from watching the film but no less beguiling.
Zachariah Cook: Anti-Clock is a tough sit. After one too many archival fascist speeches and Warholian split screens, I gave up trying to chart the narrative. But I’d wager that piecing everything together would have led me to the same bleak conclusion. Anti-Clock indeed has pathos, for which Arden and Bond deserve credit. Almost every scene invites painful awareness of the fatalism that hangs our lives in balance. Unfortunately, this emotional core is hardly aided by the tedious banality of what’s on screen. I can’t say I was pleased with the dialogue either. For every point that sticks, there are dozens of half-baked ideas and platitudes.
Soundtrack opener “Sleepwalking” features the singing voice of Arden, who already sounds mired in the arid confusion of what’s to come. It’s a nice little psychedelic ballad. What follows is a mish-mash of audio clips from the film that speak more to its numbing pretension than its sporadic beauty. Anti-Clock’s legacy might be better served by just watching the film, warts and all. It’s not a fun experience per se, but a highly idiosyncratic one. I’m not persuaded by this soundtrack’s quirks. I’m not convinced it’s necessary at all.
There’s an exceptional scene in the film I’d like to point out. In it, an old man sits at a crowded poker table, his skin “taut and strained.” He allows himself a timid pour of Johnnie Walker Red while rubbing the few meager chips he has left, “as though trying to give them life.” This is a desperate final pass before conceding the game and dying by suicide. The soundtrack includes a description of his routine, and the ambient noises of the poker room, such as shuffling cards, yet it omits what made the scene work for me. It’s the narrator’s damning verdict: We are each other’s murderers. In a world of rigid systems, those who always get the upper hand sure seem like they could be your undoing. I sympathize with those affected by this hostile truth.
It’s also worth noting that Jane Arden’s son Sebastian Saville plays both the drowsy protagonist and a Bond villain-esque scientist who spends much time explaining his evil plan, so to speak. Unless his double casting fell to budget constraints, its meaning was lost on me. Either way, we’re treated to a lot of Saville’s monotone. Mollified somewhat by the chime of Mihai Dragutescu’s score, Saville’s deep baritone reminds me of the narrator of these storybooky specials I watched as a kid. One in particular, The Marzipan Pig, comes to mind. We learn everything we need to know about its shit-outta-luck philosophy from its opening lines: “There was nothing to be done for the marzipan pig. He fell behind the sofa and that was that.” It helps to be concise.
Sunik Kim: Against my initial expectations, the music carries the film (the latter is an uneven, ultimately underwhelming and dated jumble that falls far short of its initial promise)—but not to the extent that it needed to be released as a standalone ‘soundtrack.’ The Song songs are pleasant enough (and provoke simplistic Psychic TV comparisons), with enough of a shadowy edge to be more than mere fluff; and the instrumental guitar passages actually go deeper than expected, gently uncoiling and drifting like plumes of smoke or sea anemone. But, as with many film ‘soundtracks’—even though this one lies on the unconventional end of things—it’s hard to imagine who this album is for, and when exactly anyone would be inspired to throw it on; the film’s visual aspect (though it is, again, less thrilling than I expected) is still its core element, without which the whole project is basically illegible. At the same time, within the framework of the ‘film soundtrack,’ this music does... do the trick, in the sense that one usually puts on a soundtrack to fold a film’s specific world into their own, to enliven their mundane everyday with ‘cinematic’ excitement, dread, or [insert adjective here]. On that level, this music—especially since the film pokes and prods, in its own very silly way, at the viewer and their “complacency,” their “willingness to consume and to consent to a life within ‘the system’” (?!)—does prove itself capable of transforming the everyday for 40 minutes. But will I ever return to it after writing this review? I doubt it.
Chloe Liebenthal: I can’t accuse the Anti-Clock soundtrack of lacking ambition. It combines sound collages, murky monologues on oppression along societal, sexual and spiritual axes, and rarest of all, wisps of melody. But as intriguing as individual elements are, the disparate haze of sound and voice never really coheres into a single statement. It’s got plenty to say, much of it fascinating, but the dialogue snippets and repurposed sounds drift unanchored. The songs featuring Arden’s vocals are more substantial, as her warm, narcotic sing-song phrasing provides something both tactile and sinister for the mind to wrap itself around. They remind me of Broadcast and the Focus Group’s experiments with reappropriated library music, but they’re rare and frustratingly brief. Ultimately, there just isn’t anything to hold on to.
Nick Zanca: Bresson put it best in his book of aphorisms I utilize as oblique strategies–“what is for the eye must not duplicate what is for the ear”–but in this case, the reverse is just as rational. It hardly matters whether their form unveils the transcendental or tracking errors; to strip a film brimming with cryptic, computer-blue symbolism of its soundtrack is to place a blindfold over the eyes and fail to decode the clues trapped behind its temporality (much like our memory-manipulated protagonist when assuming the role of cabaret magician). Maybe the sparse, flanger-forward guitar cues could have floated on their own in isolation were they not drowned out by voiceovers, but who’s to say? Instead, the high point here is Jane Arden’s fleeting and untrained balladry, instantly evoking both Gena Rowlands mid-finale of Love Streams and flagship neorealist actress Lucia Bosè’s criminally underheard late-career foray into pastoral folk song. That aside, this soundtrack hardly stands on its own when separated from its multimodal bush-of-ghosts imagery–perhaps it’s best that we close our eyes and follow the doctor’s deprogramming orders: “don’t try to see, just let yourself see”.
Jesse Dorris: Anti-Clock is so visually arresting—its burned-out surveillance footage and hypnotic static as sexy as Videodrome, earnestly occult as Poltergeist, strict in its minimalism like Tarkovsky and gleefully maximalist as Nam June Paik—that in some ways it’s an almost deafening silent movie. Of course it’s not: In this world, speech is plot, linguistics a character, love a telepathy one can’t quite put into words, found footage a Greek chorus that might be paying attention, explaining, or exploring the narrative. Yet to the extent Anti-Clock untangles the wires of Freud and Feynman which power it, the connections are mainly visual, including an inciting trauma revealed without the emotional instruction of musical cues apart from the occasional (and beautiful) guitar rambles by Mihai Dragutescu.
An Anti-Clock audio soundtrack is, then, as perverse a notion as anything expressed in the film, and yet listening to it in the dark with one’s eyes closed is an even more bewildering experience than Anti-Clock in its full glory. The various solos of official or expert voices, loosed from the camera, form collages as effectively as Zoviet France’s “Voice Print Identification” or United States Live-era Laurie Anderson. Sebastian Saville’s alienated protagonist, without the seductive of his Byronic mane and lethal cheekbones, sounds less like Holden Caulfield playing at Meursault and more like William S. Burroughs—which makes his ponderings neither more nor less profound, somehow. The unconvincing facial hair Saville wears as his own doctor can’t be seen, but his unconvincing accent is all the more pronounced, prompting further wonders about whether the doctor even exists. So here’s a chance to experience one of the wilder bits of late-70s experimental cinema purely in the mind’s ear, and replay two proper songs embedded within it to the heart’s content, each so deep and otherworldly that if they’d instead arrived as a 7” credited to Broadcast, I’d believe it and burst out crying.
Matthew LaBarbera: This is the technocracy of the eye. You yourself, reduplicated, talking with yourself, convincing—strong-arming, really—yourself to be not yourself. Black and blue, pooling and pulsating like a bruise beneath the CRT monitor, images of what can only be you. Advancing by perception and apperception, you will find yourself at the epistemic limit, where all stretches back beyond your mole vision. An effect must have a cause, and you, my friend, are an effect. When you hear the—click!—camera, that’s you that gets rewound, unwound, dunked in fluid, left up to dry, and when the world is ready, a light will be shone through you, and we will see.
Lensing and lessening, Anti-Clock probes the structural formations of identity, that self-caught self caught between the millstone of past and that of future, by way of screen and memory, and re-presents us with a screen memory. That’s what I take from it, at least in part. Jane Arden’s elliptical and motivic writing, as enunciated with an astonishing and uncanny profundity by her son Sebastian Saville, attempts to scrape the ineffable, to either push beyond the limits of matter or descend, dive madly, into the ground beneath grounds, to undo the encipherment of reality. It attempts to grip in both hands all of it, everything, the system of systems, the master key, the aleph, the Akashic record.
It is a story aswim with metaphor, suggestion, and legerdemain. No beginning or end, just circles cutting circles, wheeling widdershins along an interminable present, catching a glimpse, just around the corner, a half-second too late, of the eternal process. The logics and limits of surveillance, of capturing thought and action for observation (“Do not analyze. Locate.”), constellate into a film whatever oddments of narrative and concept and image and sound can be found. So, for the sheer complexity and multimodality of the film, I viewed the prospect of a soundtrack with some skepticism.
The soundtrack opens as the movie does, with Jane Arden performing her song “Sleepwalking,” sounding somewhere between Syd Barrett and Buffy Sainte-Marie, a perfect candidate for Sky Girl 2. And then, it continues, it flows into the film itself. Untethered from the eye, the sound takes on a new narrative agency. Every electrical hum and chirp, each buzzy shimmer of a degaussing screen and each copper crack of a shorted circuit, recomposes the film, moving from the cinematic spill of nerves cast by magic lantern to hallucination, a seamless blend of perception, memory, and invention.
Anti-Clock, thinned from 100 minutes of film to 40 minutes of wax, reemerges as a radio play. The incessant stream of voices, overlapping, soaked in reverb and delay, is no longer a document of intrusive thought and psychic litigation, but an itinerary. The layout of the soundtrack seems to suggest a sectioning of the film into cells, discrete units of thought and affect that can be organized and combinated anew. Perhaps the soundtrack trades for distilled concept and concentrated impact the film’s capacity for multiplicity, its tentacular polyvalence that suckers it across itself. Despite these ruptures—the jump from the therapy session to poker game is a chasm much more easily bridged in the film—the undergirding ideas find new and lucid strength in this trimmed form.
I am particularly struck by the difference in effect of those few scenes that feature women. The human ventriloquist act becomes much more terrifying without the trappings of the stage, refigured as a bleak sit-com. “And what does a lady of charm do, Ethel?” “Lie through her fucking teeth!” Even in its separation from the images that explain and contextualize it, the conversation between young Joseph and his mother groans beneath its oedipal bulk.
It is here, though it is surely more than clear by this point, that I must admit my unfitness for assessing this release. It is impossible for me to say what meaning it might have for someone unfamiliar with the film from which it is a piece, the only alteration being done by division. The two songs of Arden’s as they are hold much interest on their own, but without the context, I am unsure how one might assimilate it all: the abstruse mutterings of Sapha and Zanof, the technical fizz of the surveillance apparatus, the gentle phased strumming of the score.
This is, of course, the technocracy of the I. Not merely the onus of identity but of experience, as well. We get no second chances, no opportunity to live it again for the first time. I can only experience this soundtrack as a fragment of a whole, and despite my best attempts to imagine myself otherwise, I am doomed to such a perspective. Once something enters, it eddies inside the brain forever, no matter how smothered or obscured it may seem to become.
However, in a sense, this business of assessing the soundtrack feels thwarted from the start. It will only be released on vinyl and as I am writing, it is supposedly sold out. Instead, it feels that the only thing I can do, and, perhaps should have done from the outset, is simply recommend the film. This can be no entry into the work for an embryonic anti-clockhead since there is no access, no chance for that discovery, when the soundtrack was likely scooped up by those who already knew and identified with the work. I count myself among those so ensorcelled, though not so timely as to even have had the opportunity to consider buying it.
I must also confess no small sympathy with what I see to be the clear goal of Arden and Bond: to discover, wherever it might be and in whatever form it might take, an egress from structure. This is a flight from the electrochemical abuse of the clinic, the vise of patriarchy, the legacy of Oedipus, the sticky fingers of law, the snare of language, the dictatorship of time. So, as a symbol of the lacuna the soundtrack presents to any reader of this piece and as a small sign of accord with the directors, I would elect to not score this release at all and to allow it to remain an article wholly unto itself.
Thank you for reading the fourty-ninth issue of Tone Glow. We’re glad to be back.
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