Playlist by @isseiherr
We take a plunge, head first, into the sonic realm of MACHINES - those unrelenting forces of human creation: imagined by human minds, built with human hands, and ultimately superseding human capabilities. We celebrate the brilliance of various technologies and the new modes of expression they offer, while also taking heed from their various dangers, as well as the lost subtleties of human inflection. A playlist replete with unforgiving energy, industrial tones, computer sounds, processed samples, and factory rhythms, MACHINES is both a celebratory and cautionary tale.
We begin in the mornings mists of Dylan Henner’s “I Was Reading the News but I Felt so Sad I Had to Stop” - a dreamy, human choir is bent and stretched by VHS filters, swimming over the soft hums of Mother Nature, and adorned with dots of synthetic sound. This is a man-made oasis from the everyday buzz of the present.
We are confronted by the unrelenting power of the machine in “Eight Queens Puzzle” by Stallone the Reducer. As the repetitive sound loops go on and on without tire, and more and more layers are added, the human ear uncontrollably becomes hungrier for more. “Hey man, it’s getting a bit boring in here - can you do something to liven it up?” The machine begins to overtake the human, challenging the expectations of our ears.
A rhythmic interplay of industrial sounds follows - “Radiokemia” by Pan Sonic. We explore the sonic subtleties of the machine, and the musical mutterings that result from human manipulation. The ticks and clicks of a sharp pen then throw us into the Swedish cult anthem from the early 2000s, “Like a Pen” by the brother/sister duo The Knife. The human voice blends into the synthetic soundscape, processed here to mechanical intensity.
We sink into swirling vortexes of psychedelic color in Infiniti’s “Think Quick”, only to be halted with grey gloominess in the second movement of Alfred Schnittke’s Cello Sonata No. 1. Played by human hands, the work explores the unrelenting terror, and unforgiving cruelty of the machine. We take a light hearted breather in Haruomi Hosono’s “Philharmony”, an amalgamation of human voices through the magical machinery of the synthesizer. The short vocal samples are manipulated by human hands - listen closely, and we can catch the irregularities of human touch.
Bjork’s “Cvalda” captures the rapture and magic that can yet occur within industrial spaces - the human imagination takes flight within the imagined theater of a busy factory. Pixelated characters and their imaginary conquests follow, within the game-like world of Jacob Sachs-Mishlaine’s “Aogeru”; Arca’s biting beating bop “Brokeup” suddenly interrupts, the artist’s processed voice feeding us a twisted poem of puns.
Julia Govor’s cool, cold “Icebreaker” brings us into a highway of techno beats, with small sonic events passing us by at 135 bpm. We are suddenly thrown to the pavement with Lena Willikens’ “Asphalt Kobold”, a brooding and intense track with a bass that hits us to the core. The stylized sounds of Martyn’s urban track “One Eye” follow, preparing us for the anthem of the dance floor - Niki Istrefi’s “Red Armor”. The fiercely rhythmic track celebrates the transformative power of the machine - the machine which lends to human celebration and transcendence on the dance floor.
Patrick Cowley’s “Mockingbird Dream” is a midnight fantasy - extracted from a porn film, it entrances us and seduces us through its cultivated allure. Repetition is at the core of UMFANG’s “Full 1”, while “Rock’N’Roll Station” by Jac Berrocal is a hazy trip into the recesses of memory.
The prophet bird sings to us in “Vogel als Prophet”, by 19th century German composer Robert Schumann. Chirping knowing warnings of the industrial future, the bird sings from the magical forest, swinging from the trees that are soon to be nevermore, transformed into dust. We launch into a swirling vortex of microtones, tinkling and tickling piano sounds, and fuzzy strings in “Bulb” by contemporary classical composer Donnacha Dennehy. Enraptured by the cyclical rhythms, we explore various routes within the maze of the human ear.
We conclude with Nicolas Jaar’s “Vanish”, a desolate lament for all that has been lost. Wiped out by machines, we mourn the loss of human connection, of emotional touch. “Say you’re coming back…”
1. I Was Reading the News but I Felt so Sad I Had to Stop
2. Eight Queens Puzzle
Stallone the Reducer
4. Like a Pen
5. Think Quick
Infiniti, Juan Atkins
6. Cello Sonata No. 1: II. Presto
12. Asphalt Kobold
13. One Eye
14. Red Armor
15. Mockingbird Dream
16. Full 1
17. Rock’N’Roll Station
18. Waldszenen Vogel als Prophet