“Noise accompanies every manifestation of our life. Noise is familiar to us. Noise has the power to bring us back to life.”
– Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noises
The distances between noise, ambience, and music appears to be shrinking. In terms of materiality, the musician’s ability to sculpt has become nearly limitless. Past musical movements have all but distilled sound down to a withered sigh, but here with Gobby’s second full-length effort, Wakng Thrst for Seeping Banhee, one can only laugh throughout the album’s digressive pondering — that is, if there were a path to begin with. With sub-granular rubble made up of consolidated swaths of formerly familiar songs and life experiences, alongside the industrial rails of frequently missed downbeats and propulsive bursts, the record becomes a barely-listenable, haphazard refraction of musical ontology.
As an entry point, album opener “Season 1 Episode 5” begins with a sample that calls to mind the cartoon DuckTales. In it, a monologue trumpets the possible theme of the incorrigible mess of a record that follows, speaking to the uselessness of the theorization of identity and the absurdity of searching for a prime base as a means to find meaning. Gobby seems to be concerned with identification through ponderous action, not identity itself.
While you may hear impressions of melody, sometimes carried by a rhythmic sway, there are really only qualities. The record, sliding by and enveloped in itself, is a series of patches, moments that are completely irrational even when played in isolation. If music listening is normally done “vertically,” where the passing run-time is just a conveyor built for structurally-bound melodic and harmonic voices, where the search for progressions and new sounds allow for the textures to interpolate the space of the ears and the overall duration of their occurrence, then listening to Gobby is not a vertical experience; here, there is only the indiscretion of moments collapsing.
“Well, first, let’s establish that the development of language as a critical mechanism for communicating with other sentient beings was proof of the importance of the imagination (as opposed to the physical world).”
– Tao Lin (at Netzkultur in Berlin)
The depths of imagination is as digressive as Tao Lin’s quote. Imagination, despite its root word “image,” has no shape; it lives in a space that has yet to form. Moving further into this thought, the idea behind musique concrète was to tame instances of life, making the certifiably real moment a material and stretch it into the realm of the imagined. Gobby distorts this with harsh collisions of possibly personal voice messages with high-frequency screeches, oscillating in odd (non)intervals, creating something of an offshoot of concrete. What we hear is the destruction of moments and any discernible body activating this. The record is, in a way, automatic and without utility.
That said, what’s interesting is Gobby’s penchant for harmonic construction (of musical and colliding figures) and general, soaring beauty. It’s a difficult record, but we’d be remiss not to explore its genuinely fascinating and materializing aspects. In the past, elements of Gobby’s music have been attributed to his fascination and ultimate warping of AFX- or Phuture-branded acid house. But the spreading out and paring down of acidic and overdriven soundscapes in Wakng Thrst for Seeping Banhee crosses the boundary. This headphone listen is antienvironmental, antiuniversal, anticommunal; it’s exploratory in its beating down of the beaten-down. Phuture’s elicit “I Am Your Only Friend” comes to mind: the house percussion beats along at a steady groove, as the voiceover berates and seduces the listener, handing over to the subject the listener and turning the environment within which the song exists on itself. The warehouse hedonism becomes conscious of its denizens, and the denizens become conscious of their hellacious environment. Gobby does similar here. In this sense, we can then speak to an anthropogenic ecology made alive, a sort of counter-meta-consciousness: the work “works” its framed situation.
I can’t help but think that the lack of reviews, despite the relatively heavy press for Wakng Thrst, is decidedly political, an obviously determined and axiomatic “no comment.” There are no easy labels or terms or agreeable solutions for this record; it is the conclusion, the hovering disaster that music has been heading toward since recording mechanisms became feasible. This music references nothing but antithesis, nothing but a nonprocedural end to the now completely-exposed, curatorial, and congratulatory nature of the music industry. There aren’t even the remnants of discarded fetish sounds like other forward-thinking records. Wakng Thrst gives you the future as it has always been: a grand wasteland, filth and slush and the oozing boils of human’s overexertion of our environment’s materials.
For every bastardization of the collectivism of sounds (in the form of pop, in the form of righteously “bad” music), Gobby gains that much more chewed-up material, bound in the context and constraints of both listener and industry pleasure. We asked for this with every un-ironic taut of pop music as replacement for philosophical/socio-political thought — that is, for every Lorde and Lena Dunham, there is a Gobby and Harmony Korine on the other end, sucking up the lazy idealizations and using this new-found merit-less mode to spit back at the lazy half-ponderers who hide behind these pop figures and their half-truths. In other words, Wakng Thrst for Seeping Banhee is an undressed capital-realist, plasticized figure, turned more real than the original and then consuming it entirely.
Filmmaker/theorist Maya Deren’s writing in the essay “Cinema as an Art Form” sums up the phenomenon of Wakng Thrst for Seeping Banhee’s existence and the lack of conversation surrounding it quite beautifully:
In the end, the imagination does not pay. The imaginative individual is represented either as a psychic criminal who will receive his just deserts at the hands of a society determined to reestablish the sane way of life; or as a psychically diseased organism which should be restored to a normal condition.
Whether we like it or not, music has reached a point of indecipherable noise, endless flipping of worn-down modes. Gobby, in turn, using this aimless time, the decidedly agnostic stance of press and listeners to be less “Deconstruction in Art Symposium” and more “let’s treat whatever stupid shit that can be done and combined as a mode of (non)critique.” Digression is progression, aimlessness is transcendence.