1: 05 December 2018
These strange constructions toddle away from me, doubling-back on themselves to throw doubt upon their ultimate direction, occasionally flashing me a wry and knowing glance as I sit, bewildered, trying to suss it all out. In the accompanying press release, Me, Claudius talks about the gleeful discomfort of loops that outstay their welcome: tattered clumps of sound that announce themselves, reassert themselves, then wear themselves down until they reach a sort of transcendental tedium, or nihilistic nonsense. A regurgitated spool of slowing tape and drums; a dissonant piano chord flickering like a knackered bulb; they repeat until the sentiment feels important, then continue to repeat until meaning pulps itself. Amidst these loops are other sounds running in giddy anti-parallel: crinkled sheets of white noise, bubbles of jazz synth, the culminated complaint of a bag of cassette walkmans violently shaken…and all the while, I feel my innate, pattern-happy apparatus doing its best to draw everything together, awkwardly riding those unevenly lopped snippets of drum machine, anxiously peering ahead to look for the end of those nauseous repeats. Throughout these early listens to Good Diz, Bad Bird, I’m being utterly toyed with. Like a parent haplessly designated for anarchic redesign at the hands of children, I stand in a stupor with unspooled cassette tape dangling off my arms and foil crushed into my ear canals.
It’s no coincidence that I reach this realisation only upon turning my body clock upside-down, as I prepare for a set of nightshifts this week: there is so much to be gained from scrambling the linear sequence of time. Take the piano at the top of this record. The instrument is made to stammer over itself, chords clambering on eachother as one past is scrunched up and crushed into another. There are, of course, harmonic possibilities generated here. Dissonances arise as disparate moods battle for space. Notes land crookedly like a handful of chopsticks dropped on a table, with some landing in lovely parallels by pure chance. It also acknowledges our power to abandon the path of standard chronology, as so regularly instigated by the forces of sleep, memory, drugs, meditation, dreaming…this flickering, seemingly chaotic cut-up piano is in fact a celebration of causation as 90% artifice and curated retrospect.
And then there are the densely-wound coils of repetition, which drag me through the same three-second event again and again, goading me to consume it afresh. The title track is haunted by a rhythmic loop that whirrs in and out of life, like a wind-up toy released and failing immediately, falling flat with a comical thud. Upon its initial entry it meets the flickering piano, acting as a lurching cyclical power supply for those spurts of keys; when it returns later in the piece, it’s trudging through the strewn waste of interference and abandoned samples. Also – there’s a syncopated drum loop on “Lifestyle 1” that features an agonising little cassette pop, the sensation of which is like someone flicking my temple with their fingernail. The more I hear it, the more I loathe it. Then I start to love it. For reasons I’m doubtful I can articulate, there’s something about the insistent insertion of the old into the now that leaves me ecstatic. Perhaps it’s the stubborn assertion that the music knows better than I do; the proclamation that there’s always more for me to comprehend given the eternal transience of context, and that with each recurrence, one section shrinks into the shadow and another emerges into the light.
Today I came across this lovely interview with Me, Claudius on the excellent We Need No Swords. The part that sticks out concerns her approach to gathering samples, which are all recorded from the output of car stereos, shopping mall speakers etc – essentially, captured as field recordings rather than taken directly from the source. And so each comes shrouded in circumstance, wedged amidst the smearing of distance, microphone interference, background noise…like someone wanting to pluck out a particularly beautiful petal on a flower, and having no time to be delicate in the extraction. Thus, the whole plant is wrenched up from its roots, and each sample is caked in the mud and foliage of living. I’m reminded of the times that that a catchy song gets stuck in my head, with the same three bars of chorus burrowing into the back of my thoughts. Yet it’s not just the song that stays with me, but the moment of hearing it: the smell of the supermarket aisle, the crinkled text on a can of kidney beans. I’m not permitted the luxury of curating the interconnections of sensory memory. There’s a beeping that plagues large portions of “Lifestyle 1” and “Lifestyle 2”, like a microwave announcing the end of its heating time, winking in the background behind the slurred slapping of metal chassis and wobbles of bass frequency. Perhaps this was the object that Me, Claudius wanted to capture, or perhaps just some extraneous debris trapped in the net alongside the intended focal point. Either way, I’m stuck with its irregular rhythm and stubborn high pitch. The beeping of a microwave perhaps, or maybe the alarm reminding me that my own little soundworld remains subservient to the irregular whims of the clamorous world at large, and that all the memories I treasure come bundled with the infringement of colours and noises I never asked for. A rather apt notion for Christmas Eve.
Five minutes into the title track, the samples start falling in the form of ugly great plops. Splash. Splash-splash. Thick, globular raindrops of cymbal and keys and other such etceterous mess, rhythmically unknowable, too fleeting and ungraciously shaped for any of the instruments to be properly identified. I love these flurries of frantic behaviour, evoking the image of an toy factory assembly line cranked to an unworkable speed; in place of the uniform output of one object after another, there’s a conveyor-belt-blur of half-mangled plastic and crooked colour, each raggedly unique, divorced from intended design and fated to exist as a lump of error. For every moment of composer-instigated nuisance – prodding the button over and over again, restarting the sample as soon as it stops – there’s another moment when the composition starts to make a nuisance of itself, seemingly wriggling out of the artist’s hands.