ATM Xerox

[1080p; 2014]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: knackered house, bedroom techno, rhizomatic pop
Others: Perfume Advert, M/M, Beatrice Dillon, Actress, Madalyn Merkey

Scan. Copy. Scan. Copy. Scan. Copy. Repeat.

If you take an image and Xerox it repeatedly, scanning it and reprinting it, the image becomes grainy, bearing an indelible stamp of the process in the loss of image quality. But it also of course gains a curious sort of texture, the original having been transformed into something new, despite still containing some resemblance to copy number zero. What is, after all, electronic music in 2014, except copies of copies of copies, artists recycling samples and reference points from others who did the same?

Xerox, the full-length collaboration between producers Perfume Advert and M/M (both having previously released music on 1080p), suggests a similar process of decay and erosion, albeit intentional; the record plays out as a collection of screwed and dissolved techno tracks, which serve as the deliciously fuzzy, lo-fi soup for an intriguing collection of pitched vocal samples and assorted sounds of unknown origin, some clearly synthetic but others so buried in the mix as to be almost completely indiscernible.

Certain reference points for the tunes are inescapable: the molasses-thick atmosphere and stuttering vocal samples suggest Andy Stott and similar material from Miles and G.H. on Modern Love, while the hazy, diffracted quality of the sounds is reminiscent of Lee Gamble’s more upbeat material, sometimes pulling in the New Age ambience of Madalyn Merkey and perhaps even referencing M83 or Mount Kimbie with the looped yelps of “Air Traffic.” However, the best reference point for what’s going on here is Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased De Kooning Drawing. What better way to get at the essence of a thing via its absence? “You only know what you have when it’s gone,” etc., but with the added caveat that you never knew what you had in the first place — the melancholic sense of distant recognition is only bolstered as your attempts at recognition are refused. Actress’ music offers the same paradox: samples are supposed to serve as signifiers of the music being sampled, point to the inimitable soul of a gospel song, or act as the representation of the pop music that the artist is subverting and decontextualizing. But what are listeners supposed to do with a sample of which the origin is unknown or degraded to the point of unintelligibility?

The diaspora of today is “where to now?,” into the diffusion and dispersion of genre, into the uncertainty and fog of what exactly constitutes “forward-thinking” music. Rockist narrative, avant-garde dialectics, and now even the Futurist contours of electronic music have been shattered and fragmented into an endlessly self-referencing map of possibilities, references, and perspective points; microgenres appear and disappear in the blink of an eye, and labels spring up out of seemingly nowhere to propagate aesthetics and subcultures you never knew existed until now. The global musical ecology has been accelerated to the point where there is little to distinguish it from the actual ecology; understanding the way in which culture develops in the post-internet world and expecting an album to mean something is like understanding evolution and expecting a horse to mean something. All Xerox asks you to do is pull your head out of your existential asshole, bob your head, and enjoy the ride.

Links: ATM - 1080p

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