[Big Dada; 2018]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: weightless grime, club music, ambient, digital nostalgia
Others: Logos, Raime, Yamaneko

It’s common nowadays to think about the modern media landscape as a Ballardian horror. Hypermediated existence wears down our neural connections, tires out our cognition, brutally reworks our conception of embodiment, and forcefully disallows us to reach an honest, actual connection to what we consume and what surrounds us. Images, sounds, and videos constantly shift in front of our eyes — cut, cut, cut, cut, cut (…) — until it all merges together into the slime that is the object of our consumption.

An act of curiosity would be to go beyond this judgement and lamentation. To see if there is more to this fleetingness and transience than our becoming-junkspace. To unveil the digital nostalgia of abandoned YouTube playlists, internet archives, and sleepless nights spent digging through the unseen or forgotten cultural artifacts. These weird “temporal pauses” (as per WEN’s description), moments and objects as much belonging to our mode of endlessly distracted consumption as eerily existing outside of it. The times our constant distraction leads to moments of calm and focus, akin to looking through old, half-faded photo albums. When the endless difference becomes a part of some detached, ephemerally perceived continuum. Cognition briefly merging with the inhuman transience that is outside of time.

It would not be an easy feeling to describe through art, a medium that is still very traditionally understood in terms of practice, one that needs absolute coherence, consistence, and a dedication to a chosen path, such as an album. The artists have to present themselves as one-dimensional, to create a space for the existence of a chosen/expected affect and aesthetic. It’s an outdated notion, because there is nothing one-dimensional about any person exposed to the modern mass of various stimuli, to the daily chaotic dance between moods, to our cultural bipolar disorder. Ourselves impure, we demand purity of what we consume.

Contrary to the above difficulties, WEN’s EPHEM:ERA is a well-executed step in the other direction, toward the rethinking of our relation to the modern mediascape instead of succumbing to the easy description of it as pure horror wrecked upon our unwilling selves, away from the artificial purity of the artistic object. Its 38 minutes lead us through an entire array of genres and techniques, effortlessly moving from the hypnotic club music of “Time II Think” to the weightless ambience of “Rain” to the gossamer-like melodies of “Schoene.” The tracks themselves are also made of contrasts, such as the pretty passages of “Diverse,” which are juxtaposed with dissonant ambience and sudden moves to bass registers. One should also note the constantly appearing coexistence of the digital and the organic, most visibly present in the opening “Silhouette,” where the digital cut-up of drums and DJ scratches roam under a beautiful Alice Coltrane sample.

Most notably, the album itself never feels truly disjointed, never like a collection of random tracks thrown together. Which is exactly what is most compelling about it: that is, its ability to convey this feeling of atemporal connection between varied transient and momentary experiences, the aforementioned digital nostalgia felt for what is different and yet familiar, the somewhat sad peacefulness of aimlessly browsing YouTube on a rainy night. EPHEM:ERA cheats our trained cognition and creates a space for itself, playing with our restless thirst for difference, working itself into the gaps in our memory.

Links: WEN - Big Dada

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