Torn Hawk Let’s Cry And Do Pushups At The Same Time

[Mexican Summer; 2014]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: YouTube poetics, reverse-whistleblower tactics, “musclewave”
Others: Joe Satriani

Might as well be 1992, right? Not necessarily. The music of Torn Hawk, a.k.a. Luke Wyatt, summons to the musical surface a vast array of objects — cars, muscles, crummy VHS graphics; cigarettes, motorcycles, movie theaters. But let’s think about that big, abstract word again that comes looming outwards: nostalgia, and moreover, the big question: Is this music nostalgic? Yes, and no, but mostly no, and I’ll explain why. Somewhere in the 80s and 90s are cultural treasure chests, locked away and hidden, and Wyatt’s propagated them, dusting them off and giving them a new breath like a scientist in Jurassic Park. In his musical project, the TV (as an object) is prominent, and anything from bad sci-fi to sun-drenched porno is okay, basically. (Wyatt’s work as a video artist — both for himself and other musicians — is also in this hypnogogic tradition.) It’s not so much as adoring the past, thinking that times were better back then (the main forward thrust of nostalgia): it’s learning from the past, seriously, and recycling what you want to as you go. As in, learning how documentary music worked back then, or how a song in a movie or video game is structured, or how a flanger works, or how to saturate an electric guitar properly, or how to create the idea of emotion, even if it’s blatantly melodramatic and plundered to its very last depths. And it’s also about those bleach-blonde high school days when thinking about life in other places was a secret joy of the day, a useful part of daydreaming and growing. One is it, or in it, but what is it?

Nostalgia, no, I won’t write that word again. Favoring the outdated over the vogue, the analog over the digital: it’s a worn-in practice, and the past compels us to it because we want to preserve, and are preserved (digitally), and capitalism might as well be the economics of preserving cultural detritus and making what’s money-worthy last a lifetime. The hits of the 70s, 80s, and 90s: they last forever. Elton John is immortal, in an electromagnetic sense: the satellites in space know of him. The past frightens us so much we want it to be part of our future, which it can’t be. Let’s Cry And Do Pushups At The Same Time works because it’s emotional and pins us down somewhere between the computer and life, where we want to be. It makes us want to cry or workout or take a lonesome drive amidst Douglas firs or palm trees, in cold or rain or hot weather, like in southern Florida, in Miami, or somewhere in the ouroboros of Texas. It at least compels us to think about respecting the material reality of VHS. It at least compels us to think about the infinity of broadcasting and of archival transcendence.

Wyatt questions authorship (did he just sample a Don Henley record?) as much as he questions masculinity and musicianship. He unsettles as much as he unroots us, but he also places us in a place, sometimes in multiple places, in the car, or in the woods, or at Dawson’s Creek, or inside a home, in a fake bedroom, on a fake mattress, listening to a fake phone conversation amidst fake books. His music just gestures at things, these things, these embedded and encoded things of the past that simultaneously are and aren’t part of some of us.

But onward, toward the end of 2014, and our Tumblr feeds confound us. Mine, right now, in real-time, goes from some nudes drawn by the Austrian painter Egon Schiele, to a picture of a man riding a motorcycle in the 1950s, to updates from the New York Public Library. Culturally, we’re drawn to images, discovering them and preserving them. Today, we mix and match with a fatty, hyperreal intensity: we jump through worlds in instances, sometimes not even aware that we were fragmented. The same thing here with Torn Hawk; we might as well call Wyatt as much an archivist as a musician, because there’s a library science behind it, and he respects what already exists and translates those contexts into a form that complicates the simple truth of historical time, of A leading to B, of C coming after B, of digital equipment triumphing analog. Codex replaces scroll, Wi-fi cables replace dial-up. The machinery still remains, even if not relevant. It’s not that Wyatt wants people buying vintage equipment; he just wants to fuck with its materiality. It creates an illusion of depth, and its intervention is interesting, rather than distracting. It thickens space and imagines worlds that once were.

Links: Torn Hawk - Mexican Summer

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