DJ Healer Lost Lovesongs / Lostsongs Vol. 2

[Planet Uterus; 2019]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: broken hearts / hearts break / break beats
Others: reunion

From Lost to Loosing: Lost Lovesongs

How to describe the mystery of the doorway, the threshold, the dawn that sleeplessly arrives? How to describe the mystery of the exit that is somehow both an entrance and their blurring togetherness? How to describe the downcast euphoria of those tracks — whether by the trinity of The Prince of Denmark, Traumprinz and DJ Metatron, or by The Prime Minister of Doom, or by this latest divine name, DJ Healer — that carry this mystery within them, that shine with a light that comes from farther than their sound?

Tracks like “Someday,” “2 Bad (Metatron’s What If Madness Is Our Only Relief Mix),” “We Are Going Nowhere,” “Come Closer,” or now this nearest heavenly “Lost” exude a triumphant sadness, as if the sounds that reach you in their sheer bareness, in sparseness and in severity, carry with them the catastrophe, the struggle of their creation. A single ray of light, a last, a lost light, a glimmer, that with it conveys the entire weight of darkness, a light that can carry nothing, alights, at last.

This is the sound of leaving the club at dawn, stumbling through the trash-adorned concrete that is the only remembrance of last night’s ecstasy. But leaving isn’t the right word, for your ears still ring and your bones reverberate with shivering thrill. You have become the medium for your memory. And you will become its loss that will throw you into the day. And this is the sound of a whole generation’s long comedown after the high, no longer nursed on E now anesthetized on the vague, grey emotions of antidepressants, asphalt, and convalescent gloom.

And this is the sound of a world leaving behind those lost sounds of dance music flung bounding into the future and its dazzling night sky. The crystallization of a memory collapsing into the open expanse of the new. And this is the sound of this memory repeating, replete with an echo, a beat. In your ears and in your bones. Resounding, reverberating. Re-sounding, re-verberating. Not the repetition that veils its loss, the anxiety that is the refusal to look fear in its face or face what is lost in its loss. It is a repetition that cleanses, cures, that clarifies, reducing a memory to the utmost purity of its loss.

And this is the sound of love.

And this is the sound of.

And this is the sound.

Love has been lost between the release of DJ Healer’s latest two mixes, Lost Lovesongs and Lostsongs Vol 2. Only loss remains. And songs, of course. But sparse songs: lostsongs. Even though their ecstasy is not as grand as the sprawling Planet Lonely mix or as self-contained in their sincerity as how Nothing 2 Loose cleansed its listener upon first listen, these two mixes appear as a perfect culmination of DJ Healer’s sound, there at its lowest, its least.

Not a culmination, but a contraction, a reduction to a most perfect purity. A purity that is only a desolate need. Or rather, it is especially because of their sparse sound, their near and nearing nothingness, their holding loss close, that these mixes become a monument (less tombstone, more the glimmer of light through a spiderweb’s wind-gathered dew) of this Healer to their Grace.

Love has been lost. This is all our prayers have ever asked: to be lost, to bring loss into being. This is all our prayers have ever asked: that love, lost love, may accomplish this. For we have lost loss. And the power to lose. For loss is the power that loses us. That is, having lost loss, it is we who are lost. Without passing away. Lost, without past or passage. We are lost. With nothing to lose. What is lost lingers, appears on some faraway shore. We do not pass away though; we are lost and lose ceaselessly our loss. To be lost is a prayer, and we pray to pass away.

From the Grave to Grace: Lostsongs Vol. 2

Burial did this from the grave, and now DJ Healer accomplishes the resurrection. Which is also an insurrection.

And if I were to write this re-view, which is only the resounding of this memory that itself is a re-sounding, I’d only be transposing Mark Fisher’s embrace of Burial into another time, another place. Which is precisely Fisher’s point. If I were to write this, I’d only be repeating the loss of a past that can no more imagine the future than we can, instead repeating loss until one point of negativity condenses as the fragmentation of — isn’t it blissful? — the loss and loosing of — a present that opens to futurity from its grave. At least that’s the hope, and only hope can pierce the present.

For Fisher, Burial epitomized the hauntological relation between music and its future, which is the future, our future. The corollary to we have lost loss is all futures are lost. If there’s no future to which to turn, then the present becomes a ghost that can neither be excised nor exorcised, a loss that can’t be lost. Yet in Burial’s self-titled remembrances of 90s rave and jungle, and Untrue’s dissolution of 90s garage and 2-step, Fisher hears broken glass. He hears MDMA flashbacks and muted air horns. What he hears haunting the undead beats is “what once was, what could have been, and — most keeningly — what could still happen.”

Even there, where the future loses its “libidinal charge” for electronic music, as Simon Reynolds put it in conversation with Fisher, turning intensive instead, going inwards, displaying the tenderness of tears and loss, malaise and broken breakbeats — even there, there is still the sense of “what could still happen.

Though, re-reading through the new k-punk book and Ghosts of My Life, it struck me while writing this that Fisher never considered Burial’s name, he who was so intimate with ghosts, graves, and the gothic. Burial not only reaches into the past to what is lost with what Fisher hears as a yearning that knows that and what its missing instead of merely missing, but he also consigns that past to its grave in a hazy burial.

Elsewhere, Fisher directly addresses this impossible nostalgia. “Precisely because Burial deals with nostalgic longings,” he writes, “his music does not belong to the nostalgia mode. What you hear in Burial’s two LPs is a craving for a past which nevertheless appears irretrievably lost, veiled behind a relentless drizzle of crackle.” Listening to these records, “it is as if you were hearing double: hearing the current dereliction and the former collective ecstasy.”

But, as a book beside me titled Burial says, “Only nature is so lonely to quarantine a casket underground.” As Eisenstein puts it in his “Notes for a Film of ‘Capital’” (based on the libretto by Marx), “in America even cemeteries are private.” Graves keep, preserved, reserved. Perhaps Burial imagines no future. Perhaps he buries, bereaved.

With DJ Healer, however, not only is this irretrievably lost past heard in its loss, veiled behind its own sound, it is also purged, it is also cleansed, it is also healed, while with Burial it slowly dissolves into the crackle of its sound, its irreparable loss, its grave. Where Burial wasn’t content merely to be nostalgic or to be lost but made this nostalgia or this loss audible, DJ Healer not only makes this loss audible but also fashions the sound into its own loss and in the process looses it from its loss. To resurrect is to let what’s dead die.

“To see, open the casket.”

“If this disenchants the living, let the living be.”

From Burial to Resurrection

Compare their treatment of vocals:

Burial’s “looped fragments of longing,” pitch-shifted in a collage of abandoned love letters, feel like a whisper in the wind, the last and lost cry of angels and ghosts. Instead of other dub-influenced music that excludes the voice and amplifies the echo, Burial, like other old jungle, d&b, and garage singles (Intense’s “Only You” comes to mind, or Teebee’s “Let Go” that in an interview with Fisher Burial cites as one of the killer tracks with moody vocals he so loves) puts the voice under erasure, numbs it until impossible longing slips thick and murky on the tongue. In the voice of the beloved “Archangel,” — “holding you / loving you / kissing you” — the ‘you’ is so viscous that it not only signifies ‘you,’ it envelops you, it holds you, loving you, kissing you. Like a “night cry, an angel animal,” the voice is a breath or a scream — above or below meaning — through which the body escapes, slipping into substance, saturated.

DJ Healer’s vocal samples on the contrary are clear, crisp, enunciated. Sometimes there is a voice that recites a prayer in whispers or naïve histrionics. Sometimes there’s a vocoded platitude. But most often there’s one word or phrase that, in repetition, not only becomes erased, but condenses its meaning into a single core of essence, no lighter than light, that’s blown from an empty hand like petals. Usually, a word repeated over and over again becomes meaningless. It becomes simply a sound that tastes flat to the tongue. Simply a sound that instead of summoning signification, merely conjures its own eerie connotation of nothing but itself. Its own enunciation, having sown its annunciation in a seed.

Though, is that right?

Everything becomes meaningless,” repeats a voice with the distaste and disgust of Herzog in tone. Yet as the words repeat themselves over the drifting ambient washes that trace the errant wandering of loss, one hears a lilting admiration, as if these sounds could know that they are more than sound, a lilting affirmation as if the repetition of meaninglessness might mean more than meaning could dissolve. On the next song, “Lost,” something glorious occurs. This is the point in the mix where my eyes roll to heaven, where I don’t know if I’m praying or crying, or maybe the world itself is awash with a watery veil of tears. A voice — again, nothing more than a voice — repeats over Dilla beats the word “lost” over and over and over until it becomes so full of the things we lack that loss itself is lost, swathing us with a satiety of light, like a lost lover.

The voice — again, which is just a voice — announces only itself, like a voice in one of Beckett’s “Texts for Nothing,” where there is written only a voice stripped of all being, only a voice that voices its inability to speak and nothing more, but in the process becomes more than tongue could tell. Or elsewhere, on “Depression House,” where hovering over a tight breakbeat a voice says, “the pressure of the house,” it not only exemplifies this pressure by insisting an absent beat between “of the” and “house,” but becomes, beyond a pressure, a depression of the… house. Like on Burial’s “Archangel” (listen closely to the back of the track), where he found a vocal that doesn’t say but sounds like it’s saying “archangel,” meaning, devoid of meaning, becomes more than meaning. And like on “Archangel,” it sounds sexy as fuck.

From Love, To Love

Compare their breaks:

With Burial, there is an intense love for the lost circus of rave and the fairs and festivals of what Fisher and Reynolds call the hardcore continuum. Jungle, d&b, dubstep, garage, 2-step — even though they are lost, with Burial’s cartography of the past, embodying while also interweaving his influences, they are still intensely situated in their decrepit London, like ghosts that can’t depart from the scene of their death. The non-sequenced beats skitter, escape; as soon as you see them, they’ve gone; as soon as you say them, they’ve vanished. Only the granular roar of the train as it disappears into its fog could murmur this oblivion, not you, not this — only this insistence into mist.

DJ Healer similarly coalesces the sounds and with the sounds of influences, but here there is involved a more expansive history of the breakbeat, incorporating hip-hop experiments, R&B phrases, shoegaze tones, and the melancholy of the most minimal d&b. Yet there is little-to-no nostalgia for what is lost. Certainly, the tone is one of longing, of yearning, of mourning perhaps, but the beats themselves, unlike Burial, don’t dissolve into a haze or crackle that announces their loss. Rather, the loss is made into the flesh of the beats that become clearer, more striking, more piercing the longer they repeat. Until the percussion itself is nothing, but its loss and memory remain, for you still flow into the piercing clearing of its sound.

The Prince of Denmark’s experiments in dub techno, Traumprinz’s and DJ Metatron’s in deep house, and The Prime Minister of Doom’s in minimal techno (none of these words are right, I admit) are all situated in a lineage only in regards to the tendency they clarify while also sounding unlike anything like anything else. Similarly, DJ Healer’s voyages into ambient house, d&b, jungle, hip-hop, and confessionals not only gather a history, but grasp the futurity of their yearnings, answer their prayers by clearing the space for the possibility of their answer, piercing the present to a future thatcan answer, preserving the “yet” in “not yet,” the “stillness” in “still to come.”

Fisher and Reynolds speculated that the turn in post-dubstep dance music “towards more introspective, healing music” arises in the context of a loss of sociality. To cry on the dancefloor is to do it wrong, they think, for if people find collective catharsis in the crowd of the rave, tears then fall, useless. Yet, whereas in the 90s its context was the flight E-motionality (“from the collective high, now considered false or to have too many negative side effects”), now the flight is from E-motionality (from the electronic numbness of being enmeshed in a colossal collectivity without any real connection). Fisher and Reynolds point to the rise of the online DJ mix (of which DJ Healer et al. are exemplary here, mixes of new material having replaced albums), “which has been hyped as ‘the new rave’ but is profoundly asocial.”

But, like Burial’s bass that could be indistinguishable from the faraway rumble of a train or the reverberative memories of last night’s ecstasies, which in any case embodies the loss of a sound that can no longer create a collective euphoria, DJ Healer punctures a point of negative interiority in that sociality of fragmentation, mirrors, acerbic screens, loneliness, and numbness, there where everything is a surface, an exterior, an externality. We cannot share in togetherness, for we don’t even know how to be together. But we can share in its loss: our loss. We can share in our being lost and loosed from loss.

An immense space is cleared between the stark, insisting breaks — between amen and mourning soul — that urgently flee into the future, ambient synths that cycle their melancholy in a yearning that finds no resolution, and the voices condense this meaning into a prayer that looses from lips like light. This space is a revelation, undoing itself as it clears a space for what it desires to be. The longing for what is original is not ceaselessly circled in a feeling of loss that can never lose itself but is incorporated as a destiny. And the condensation of its clarity, its purity, opens the possibility of a future originality that will do justice to the past the moment it heals its ghosts and graves. It looses us from loss.

This is not a deconstruction, a Destruktion, or a de-structuring, but a decreation — opening up a space for the future by clarifying and condensing the past, healing ghosts, and sealing graves. There is space here, severity, clarity, and an openness to a future that will no longer be postponed, but in one condensation of reflection the present is pierced. At least that’s the hope, and only hope can pierce the present.

Or: Where did the love go?

From Lost Lovesongs to Lostsongs Vol 2.

It was already there, but in its futurity.

vol 2, 2 lov.


To love.

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