Saturday, 7 December 2019

Tales About Digits - Audioscramble.

Album: Audioscramble
Artist: Tales About Digits
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      Bits of Tape
     2.      Digital Filaments
     3.      Voices of Vinyl and Video

Occasionally, I come across something that, at first listen, may seem obtuseness for its own sake, and that what I am listening to has nothing to commend it. Initially I, after the first run through of Audioscramble, must admit that I came away feeling bemused and somewhat disappointed. But, rather than dismiss it outright, I decided that the best way to assess this three-track release from Tales About Digits, issued by Belgrade label Laughing Vines, was to meditate upon it, which eventually led me to take an entirely different tack and approach it from a different angle. I’ll get to that later in this review.

First, however, what’s on this release? We get three tracks of equal length, all totalling up to an hour. Each track’s title enumerates a method of sonic deconstruction, specifically the source media from which the track is made. All good so far, but here’s the catch: all tracks sound exactly the same. And what you hear is a hellish conglomeration of nuclear blast and anguished voices, a thick slab of sound culled from the very depths of Hell and the blackest of nightmares. The pace is unrelenting, never letting up for the entire length of each individual track, the only relief evident being the minute gaps between each piece. Even then, the respite is all too brief.

So, you may find yourself wondering, what does it all mean? Why record and release three tracks that sound exactly the same but just differentiate them by using different titles. Okay, this is my take, but please be aware that this is just my interpretation. Your mileage may vary.

First, I get the impression that it’s all about the ubiquity of technology, and that it’s positing a technological singularity, something which has the potential to reduce the humanity and the soul of homo sapiens entirely. Let’s face it, we’re almost downing in bits and bytes (and their multiples thereof), with hardware and computers becoming so pervasive that we’re coming to the point where we consider such devices as throwaway, if we haven’t already gone past that point. We continually upgrade and replace without, it seems, any regard to what happens to our old machines once they’ve left our hands. One scenario I can foresee is vast dumps of computer cases, motherboards, printed circuits, and other gubbins stacking up in ugly eyesore heaps, with those at the bottom of society scrabbling up them looking for recyclable materials to eke out a precarious living on. That, I believe, is covered by the hellish nature of the noise blast.

Going back to the notion of a technological singularity, I think this is where this scores highly: by essentially using the same music for all three tracks but giving them different titles, it appears to suggest that with the digital age we live in all sources and media can be used to produce exactly the same audio-visual product. In other words it doesn’t really matter where the sounds used on this album originated from, in the final analysis all those sources can be manipulated to create three different pieces but all sounding exactly alike. The blurring between technologies is increasing, so that each in effect becomes indistinguishable from the other. And that is the singularity.

This is a scenario I have often pondered upon: are we actually making our lives easier (and more productive in the process)? Or are we just paving the way for our demise, mentally and physically? To some it may be farfetched (and I will grant that it does sound that way) but as the future timeline of our species is hidden from us we cannot know where this technological path will lead us. Is it a path leading to a bright new utopia, or a Yellow Brick Road leading to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz – all flash and show but no having no substance. I believe that Audioscramble, for all its initial inscrutability and obscurity, fleshes out one possible future for a technologically-based and technologically-obsessed humanity. And from my perspective, our prospects don’t look particularly good.

Available as a CD and digital album from:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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