Pharmakon Contact

[Sacred Bones; 2017]

Styles: sympathetic industrial, assaultive empathy, compassion as capital
Others: The Body, Jenny Hval, Wolf Eyes

The man in the skin bag has leaned some organs on the table top in front of me and is lipping some words my way. We’re sitting in the coffee shop, and it’s pretty quiet, but I can’t understand a single word from this big man.

He is a big man. He is broader than me in shoulder and timbre, and you can see the brain veins on his scalp under the clipper-kissed lines of fuzzed black buzz. His haircut is good and probably bi-weekly. His skin is darker than mine, his lips are fuller, his cuticles more attended to than my asymmetrically-manicured dirt mines.

They (see: Buzzfeed, emails from Aunt Judy who drinks Frangelico and cokes, Aunt Judy’s Google search history) tell me about what that grainy smudge under my fingernails really is. Your nails may be harboring germs that can make you sick! horks an email chain, and I look down at my curling finger things and I think my nails may be harboring germs that can make you sick! I think I should tell Sarah about my nail germs; maybe now is the time for dual doctor’s appointments to iron out our collective unwellnesses (Doctor: “I’m sorry Mr. Falisi, ugh. Guys’ nails may be germier than gals’!” Me: “Ugh.” Sarah: “UGH.”)

The skin bag slaps me upside the temples, spreading his nail germs all over my face space.

Hey! I think to myself, guys’ nails may be germier than gals’!

Hey! he thinks to himself, empathy! EMPATHY, NOW!

Hey! I think to myself, you’re bigger/ germier than me! Also I’m writing a music review.

HEY! he thinks to himself, what good does a music review that’s 1 MONTH PLUS late do for this world!

HEY! I think to myself, that hurts.

So we shake our braincases in three unison nods and decide to empathize, now. So we grab two plastic knives from the table between us and begin to cut our faces off. This is (not that any email chain or doctor will tell you) much more difficult and gruesome than you’d think to yourself.

That’s the point, I think, the not to yourself part. The only way to understand someone else is to get out of ourselves. You could call it trance or zen, and you could call it love, but it’s Contact, really, and real contact requires empathy, feeds on heat. And empathy has to be cutting our faces off, has to get the bodies moving away from the only thing they’ve ever known to get into each other. No ugh: we strip off the costume stuff covering our selves with these dumbing teeth of plastic cutlery, me and this man I don’t understand, and the chunks of me-face flapping into open coffee cups makes a racket, but I’m not surprised. Because Contact is noisy, the lazaretto phasing of synth as blister and the drum as sternum shaking out the same vibrations beat out from one heart pressed on another.

Contact is aggregated purge and celebration past the self, flesh seared back and stomp soldered to somnambulism. It’s feedback as dialogue, the sit and simmer of biology in a quiet past noisenessness. Contact is sympathy for clang, the sustained and the sustaining, and the voice in its vertebrae is female and clarion and it bites and shakes and sucks out the venom. Shrieks seeks truths, and they get there because they pierce the stuff we put up as guards. Guarded unto ourselves, we can’t contact an empathy; in the gnarls of the Pharmakon is a voice like love. Past noise is the place like trance, but we only get there by absorbing the matter that revolts. We only get there together, bleeding, faces finally off and words finally clear.

“My name is Islam. But everyone calls me Izzy. I moved to this country in 2001 and told everyone that I was Izzy; you try being Islam in America, 2001. I was born in Egypt. My father is wealthy and old-fashioned, and my mother is too quiet most of the time. I have four brothers, which is why it’s important to stay strong, to look capable. I married a woman when I was 19, and she was 18 and I have a baby now. I know I’m good at making coffee, which is why I still work at this café, even though I’m going to school for computer programming. Some days I’m really scared, and instead of breathing weird, I over-offer to buy everyone food after shifts. It makes them feel strange, but it’s something like loving. Most days I’m scared, actually, and sad. My son, Max, makes me smile.”

“Me too.”

These words are (“1 MONTH PLUS”) late. But the world still turns in sickness, and Contact is as vital to me and Izzy as it ever was and will be to everyone in this café, bleeding, yearning. It is not too late for these dripping bodies dropping remedies and poisons to get to something like peace. Scapegoats leave us all bleeding out. Healthcare isn’t just a thing for letters; it’s two words about bodies, the method by which we measure lives and grow histories. Confronted with un-truths and movable facts, noise is our best avenue to sincerity, believability, the thing to lean our species on. The emptiness of rhetoric is sympathy: sympathy imagines where empathy feels. Compassion is compelling. Contact is compassion, an act, an activist, a salve.


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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