“Culture has always dictated where to draw the line separating one thing from another. These lines are arbitrary, but once learned and internalized they are treated as real.”
– Edward T. Hall
Demdike Stare have always been preoccupied with culture and the “weight of it.” Culture is an over-soul, a groove for them, and this idea is extracted even further on Miles Whittaker’s debut album. Rather than speaking to culture through the abrasive manipulation of samples like in Demdike Stare, Whittaker refers instead to the spaces in between, employing a more “stripped down” aesthetic
Like the Hall quote insinuates, culture is only real so long as a group participates in it. Whittaker attacks this point through the labeling of songs, giving them titles that refer to sociology (the opening track, “Lebensform,” references a theory created by Ludwig Wittgenstein) or a stance that assumes distance from the subject (“Status Narcissism”). The notion of the innerworkings of human interaction is explored through math and the mapping of the space, including the amount of depth in the stereo field — that is, a lot of panning, diverting sounds anchored to an axis, both present and implied (usually through the listener’s qualitative experience and associations).
In this sense, Faint Hearted feels very infra, like a sociological study. It breaks the commodity of consciousness down to its roots. Through mathematic calculation — i.e., the use of the stereo field and the time in which that notion is presented — consciousness becomes a precious and “findable” artifact of consciousness.
“Syncing, tempo, and rhythm are all related. But most people are unaware when these are happening. When they become aware, they are unable to pay attention to anything else. Also, paying attention to one’s own unconscious behavior will usually disrupt that behavior.”
– Edward T. Hall
Referring back to Wittgenstein, Whittaker is concerned with the rhythm of banal human migration and the lack of justification for it. Reality and time from the start was a vessel of abstract, metaphysical contents by virtue of our own consciousness, which we don’t consciously bind ourselves to. The Othering of it, as Whittaker does with Faint Hearted, is both the purpose of language and art as language, the reaching of meta-text and, ultimately, our own context: self-awareness.
A priori Wittgenstein-esque history supersedes Western values, but they do take the place of it as signifiers in the minds of those with smart phones. Basically, the number of people engaging with meta-textual planes doesn’t lower or denounce its influence. We assume that communication is meant to solely transfer ideas from one place to another rather than ideas being put into a space where it can be picked up by various people. We assume that our physical context is ultimate context. It is all about frequency here. A conversation is not solely for the people involved. The sound waves from our voices, tonality and such, participates with frequencies that exist beyond and pre-exist us; and ideas are all a priori, or at least come from a supposed a priori. That being said, the purpose of communication is more so getting the ideas, the abstract out into the open so it can be made physical. Ideas become frequency, which links consciousness and body. Thus, with “Status Narcissim,” the notion of an elevated status is presented with sounds revolving around a single repetition, the fleshy, mind-numbing kick. The track proceeds with a sense of perfect symmetry: the kick pounds the ears, and the track digresses à la Plastikman. Human social standing, religiosity (or lack thereof) is explicated in the same manner. They are presented as experiences, as an Other.
To speak is to bring the abstract into the real. The difference is the visibility, the “knowability.” Communication is only frequency, melody, etc. swallowed in experience and kept in the abstract pool of consciousness. Conversation of any kind forces us to face an opposing consciousness (tonal dissonance or harmony can emerge): this is the inherent musical violence of language. The problem is that we have spent so much time in supposed narratives and self-evident truths that come along with Western values that we’ve forgotten that we are only numbers and signals firing at a given time (which is what Whittaker is examining). Conversation is Other because it builds outside of ourselves, made up of frequencies and abstract constructs. And this knowledge is not for the faint hearted.