“We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning… but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations…”
– Roland Barthes
The Author is dead, and Anthony Child is headlining the wake. Fitting, no? For the death of the author as fountainhead, we are told, marks his reincarnation as disc-jockey. Every measure is a sample; the composition, a remix. There is nothing new to be said. So get a drink and have a good time now. Pour one out.
But what happens when the DJ remixes himself? What happens when the sample is original and the setlist reads like autobiography? The author plagiarizes himself. The trail of causation bends back upon itself. WhoSampled crashes. Welcome to paradise.
“Recorded between 1996 and 2012.” These are the liner notes of The Space Between People and Things, Anthony Child’s latest release and first for Burlington-based NNA Tapes. A staple of the British techno scene since his first EP as Surgeon in 1994, Space Between finds the Northamptonshire artist shrugging off his DJ credentials and transitioning from the dance floor to the lecture hall. Space Between is experimental noise at its most academic, and Child’s latest release earns him a place in the contemporary conceptual canon beside the likes of Chris Madak’s Bee Mask project and Daniel Lopatin’s work under Oneohtrix Point Never.
What Rifts was for Lopatin and Elegy for Beach Friday was for Madak, The Space Between People and Places is for Anthony Child. Drawing upon work from across his two-decade career, Child returns to abandoned projects, fragments of discarded noise, and recontextualizes them into two 20-minute compositions. But like the Kandinsky-esque print on the cover sleeve, each of the side-long tracks unfolds along untraceable geometry. Noises slip into and out of each other in a topology without axis or origin. Moments pulsate with muddled clarity and just as quickly subside into placid waves of drone. There are times when the claustrophobic, industrial sensibilities of Raime and Andy Stott seem to offer a point of contact, both aesthetically and through their parallel histories in the techno underground. But as in a puddle of mercury, a mirror without a focal point, these lines are continuously refracted without ever converging into a coherent reflection.
The result is not compilation, but collage. 1996 and 2012 are merely words in the liner notes, cut out with kitchen shears, pasted layer by layer, collapsed into a singular now. Chronology is confounded, and with it all signposts that might lead us back to Child. Where was he when he chose this note? Was it pre- or post-Y2K? Was he listening to Aphex Twin or Burial? Or were they listening to him? Can we say which of these sounds are decade-old prototypes and which are their descendants? Can we even hear the difference? This is a singular accomplishment. The sleeve says Anthony Child, but the artist has removed himself from the whole affair. Look for him if you like. The needle skips. The turntable keeps revolving. Anthony Child has left the building.
I’m sorry for your loss. How did you know the deceased?