Can we decode the language of the ambient underground? We perceive it as an alphabet of tropes diffused through the deluge of tapes, limited-edition vinyl presses, and music videos pouring from the tap: warm synth tones, analog video manipulation, drones, kaleidoscopes, field recordings, fractals, tape hiss, rainbows, collages, bleeps, the occasional datamosh. Our familiarity with these A/V mainstays doesn’t suppress their effects. Our schemata help us zero in on new forms, digest ideas, and picture each offering as one signpost on a continuum of exploration stretched across oceans and international basements. As our memory banks fill with shapes and patterns of movement, the legible slides into abstraction, while the abstract exudes a calming effect: the comfort of the familiar unknown; the appreciation of oblivion. “This is new, but it is ancient.” “This is alien, and we are happy to witness it.”
Press [►] on the video for Symbol’s “Tracer,” premiering below, and enter a sublime state of half knowledge. You’ve seen the glyphs somewhere before, but their context here, traced by an oscilloscope manned by Symbol himself (born Christopher Royal King, also of This Will Destroy You), sketches out a new visual dialect. Green beams interlace in manic consonance, sketching out a pulsing web of waveforms synchronized to the synth arpeggios and surges of low-end escaping the speakers. A Rorschach test in motion produces rippled deltas, venus fly traps, feathers in the wind. We ID the decaying tape aesthetic and the VHS title cue haze that we’ve tagged before to Boards of Canada or Looks Realistic as Symbol propels his swirling tones into a long-form ecstasy that toys with our expectations of harmony and repetition. We turn off some lobe, some cortex, and we’re left there all like, “Oooooh,” as the baroque polygons writhe before us. With a chord change, the blots blossom, and a crew of dancing women flow into the frame. Yeah. We have reached the clouds. We have no use for an alphabet up here.
Symbol’s debut LP, Online Architecture, is available now on LP and cassette from Holodeck Records.