Had it materialised as intended in 1999, ‘Foreign Matter, Nor Frequency Carrier’ would have been the second irr. app. (ext.) record. That being said, the provenance of the first three records is not entirely straightforward, as all of them had been assembled (with the exception of a few finishing bells and whistles) before any of them had been released.
Back in the early 90s, when I had no recording equipment of my own and only the vaguest glimmer of a faint hope of a distant dream of acquiring any technical or musical skill, there were only two options available to me if I wanted to create any audio material, and both of them presented their own set of problems. As an occasional student at De Anza Community College, one option was to try to schedule time in the school’s electronic music studio, which gave me access to a prehistoric computer with a troublesome MIDI set-up, some decent sampling software, and a few questionable keyboards (like the dubious DX7); my inclination was more towards exploring the possibilities presented by the sampler, and, after a few indifferent ventures at getting something useful out of the keyboards, I ended up using it exclusively for the pieces I created in there. My other option was to borrow home-recording gear from my incredibly patient and indulgent friend Richard Faulhaber (hi Richard), which was much simpler to arrange and free from the strict time constraints involved in using the school studio, but somewhat limited in terms of audio quality and capacity.
By 1996 I had amassed an archive of recordings using both of these resources. In the De Anza studio I had created a collection of (most often) long, sprawling, sample-manipulation-based pieces with titles like ‘The Unconscious Passenger’, ‘Nihl Corpus’, ‘The Circular Memory’, and ‘The Carnival Of Disease’ (‘Nihl Corpus’ and a couple of the shorter ones have been released as ‘Second Stage Archive Selections, Volume 1’). The sampler allowed me to exploit an essentially unlimited range of sound sources, and MIDI sequencing (on the occasions that it was functioning properly) meant I could layer an easy dozen of these sources together without any loss of quality or added hiss. The drawback was that it could be difficult to make the sounds seem organic and less obviously sample-ish. Using Richard’s Tascam cassette 4-track – and Richard’s multi-effects unit, and Richard’s microphone, and Richard’s cables (hi Richard) – I’d generated a distinct set of pieces that were undeniably, perhaps even indecently, organic in their nature, most often being unstructured improvisations created with clumsily-wielded musical instruments, or with a variety of non-musical objects, or sometimes with clumsily-wielded musical instruments being used as if they were non-musical objects. One piece, at the time called ‘Harpsichord-A-Go-Go’ and later chosen to be the opening track on ‘An Uncertain Animal’, made the inevitable leap of combining the two techniques together: the foundation of the piece was built on the school computer, transferred in stereo to the cassette 4-track, and then embellished with two tracks of home-recorded elements to offset the excessively sample-sounding quality I was trying to avoid.
So when I decided to attempt to release a record in 1996, I turned to this pre-existing inventory. Selecting my favourite bits from both categories, I continued the method adopted for ‘H-A-G-G’ and blended the most interesting of the sampler-constructed and home-recorded sources together. These concoctions were then sorted into three groups that were determined by three general themes: voice manipulation and/or mechanical-sounding pieces were gathered for ‘An Uncertain Animal’, the more cinematic/atmospheric pieces formed the core of ‘Their Little Bones’, and layering/texture/drone-oriented experiments were grouped together as ‘Foreign Matter, Nor Frequency Carrier’. The most successful of these combinations, in my opinion, was ‘Their Little Bones’. The least successful was ‘Foreign Matter’.
There were particular issues that troubled the heart of the ‘Matter’. The dense, layered textures that provided the link for collecting those tracks together also provided corresponding technical problems that I lacked the skill to manage effectively. I’d assumed that by layering multiple instances of a sound – radio broadcasts or bowed strings or nighttime cricket recordings – I would create a gigantic, powerful, heroically-magnified version of that sound. The actual result was most often an ugly mess, the unwanted elements multiplying more readily than the desirable ones. I didn’t know squat about frequency accretion, phase cancellation or effective EQ – and, even if I had, there wasn’t much I could have done about it with that equipment: there wasn’t any means of adjusting EQ on the computer’s input at all, while only the extremely generalised ‘Hi’ ‘Mid’ and ‘Lo’ controls were available on the 4-track, and my feeble grasp of how to use those was mostly limited to turning down the ‘Hi’ knob in an effort to reduce the accumulating tape hiss; by doing this, the mixes certainly contained less hiss, but also ended up being unpleasantly murky-sounding. This points to another major issue with the material, which was that many of the sources I was hoping to fuse together into a devastating audio tempest were somewhat lacking in quality at the outset. Some were extracted from hissy cassette recordings I had made of shortwave & AM broadcasts (occasionally made using Richard’s (hi Richard) shortwave radio); or from hissy cassette recordings I had made of environmental sounds; or were layering experiments made by bouncing multiple tracks of different hissy cassette recordings onto other hissy cassettes that contained yet more hissy cassette recordings, repeatedly.
Sometimes, just to add a little variety, the problems were the consequence of poorly-contrived home recording techniques. The primary source underlying ‘Cognitive Disorder 3’, for example, was an improvisation using an upright acoustic bass belonging to my then-bandmate Michael De La Cuesta (I was still an active member of Vacuum Tree Head during this period); I’d chosen to record my performance by attaching a crappy little clip-on microphone to the instrument’s bridge, thinking that this method would pick up more thrilling little subtleties than using a room mic. The outcome was decidedly flawed. In the end, most of the nuances I’d been hoping to capture got lost in my efforts to eliminate all the ugly gunk lurking amongst the scenery. As with the mass layering approach, I made the misguided assumption that these flaws would somehow be smoothed over when the individual recordings were combined together, or after generously lathering them up with effects. Instead, the flaws usually came to dominate the proceedings with many of the good elements being buried somewhere underneath.
For reasons that are now inexplicable to me, in 1999 the Plate Lunch label in Germany agreed to release this extremely deficient original version of ‘Foreign Matter’ on CD.
A year earlier, the arrival of the first irr. album ‘An Uncertain Animal’ had been greeted with enthusiastic disinterest by the world, apart from a few quite funny and entirely uncomplimentary reviews that surfaced in the independent music press. General apathy notwithstanding, a scattering of opportunities from a few different directions did follow. The release of the original ‘Dust Pincher Appliances’ EP as a vinyl 10” by Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson’s Something Weird label was a satisfying follow-up; an invitation to submit an article & audio contribution to Bananafish magazine seemed promising; and a request by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to use some of ‘Uncertain’ as the soundtrack for a radio documentary about Georges Bataille made me start to think I might actually have some kind of future making records.
It had been brought to my attention (I can’t remember by whom) that the Plate Lunch website had included ‘An Uncertain Animal’ on a list of their favourite recent releases; I was always happy to find any interest in what I was doing and so I contacted the label. An active correspondence with PL overlord Norbert Schilling followed for the next year and a half. In our very first exchange, Norbert expressed his enthusiasm for ‘Uncertain’ and agreed to release the next irr. album: it was very exciting in those early days to get an offer from a label, but especially from a label that wasn’t run by someone I knew or/and that hadn’t actually released anything yet, and even more especially from a label that was based in Europe. The discussion continued over the next several months, and in August I sent him a CDR mock-up of ‘Foreign Matter’ along with a copy of ‘Their Little Bones’, which had just been completed. Norbert liked ‘Bones’ but expressed reservations about ‘Matter’: it seemed “darker” to him than the other irr. material he’d heard, and “too crowded”; ‘Cognitive Disorder #5’ in particular he found “disturbing”, and felt the track sequence would work better without it. Eventually, he changed his opinion and claimed it as his favourite of my albums, but I suspect this was said out of diplomacy since he had already agreed to release it. I was a bit discouraged by his initial lack of enthusiasm, but the truth was that Norbert’s criticisms were mild considering the glaring technical flaws that existed – and he did seem to have a genuine fondness for my music, being that in his next message he requested an audio contribution and a cover image for the first installment of the Plate Lunch ‘Sound Snack’: his idea for a split 7-inch series that was going to be sent as a yearly gift to the label’s supporters. Although it was already late October and he needed to receive all the materials by mid-November to be sure the pressing would be finished in time for year-end distribution – and despite my tendency to struggle to get things done at pace – I accepted the request, dutifully completed my track, and delivered both it and the artwork two weeks later. The track was ‘Whittling Little Crosses For A Half-Sleeping Heresiarch’: a snappy little number I was rather pleased with at the time despite the rush involved in getting it ready. It definitely suffered from the same technical shortcomings that all of my recordings did back then, but I felt it had some appealing qualities that sparkled through the murk. Apparently so did Norbert, who received my offering with enthusiasm. A cleaned-up & remastered version of it is now a bonus track included with the 2018 remaster of ‘Their Little Bones’.
The first warning sign appeared when, regardless of having successfully completed & delivered the track to Germany in the required time frame, ‘Sound Snack #1’ did not appear at the end of 1999 as scheduled. I received a few more messages from Norbert and was told that the pressing sounded great and that I would receive my copies soon. The second warning sign was being told that a plain black cover was going to be used instead of the artwork I had hurried to deliver. The final confirmation that things were not going to turn out well was when I stopped hearing anything at all from the label. I discovered later that ‘Sound Snack #1’ did in fact get released sometime in June 2000, but I was never informed and never received any copies.
The only communication I received from Plate Lunch after that was in the summer of 2001, when I was notified by one of his relatives (a brother, I think) that Norbert had died suddenly. The circumstances were unclear. During the long silence before that, I had already given up hope of ‘Matter’ being released – or figured, if it did, I would probably never see a copy of it. After learning that Plate Lunch had dissolved, I approached Kevin Spencer of Robot Records to see if he might have some interest in releasing the album; he accepted the copy and told me he’d give it a listen, but I never heard anything more. I think this is fair enough: the version that existed back then sounded absolutely appalling. I sent out a handful more of the CDRs as gifts & promos over the next few years, and I think I sold a few through my website for a short while, but immediately stopped all of that after listening to it again and being confronted with how completely unsatisfactory it was. As with ‘Inception & Silence Undivided’, I preferred to leave it undisturbed in the archives indefinitely since I couldn’t abide the thought of releasing it in its terminally-flawed form, but also could not see any way of sufficiently improving on it.
It wasn’t until late 2015, after countless hours and days and months and years of audio restoration practice, that I felt confident to attempt a full reconstruction the album. I even posted the revised version of ‘Cognitive Disorder #1’ to my Soundcloud page in early 2016 as a teaser. All too typical of me, I only managed to get as far as ‘Cognitive Disorder #4’ before dropping the ball. Fortunately, while the 2015/2016 attempt needed a little improvement, it was good enough to spare me from having to start entirely from scratch this time around. I’ve definitely taken a more ‘proactive’ approach to reconstructing this album than I have with the reissues of other early material: the problems, in my view, extending beyond just poor sound quality and into the realm of incomplete compositional ideas. With any of the embellishments I have added, however, I have limited myself to sources that were recorded contemporaneously, and most often ones that were intended for inclusion in the original versions but either had to be left out due to technical limitations or were simply lost in the murk.
With the release of this reconstructed version of ‘Foreign Matter, Nor Frequency Carrier’, I have now managed to rescue 2 of the 5 ‘lost’ irr. albums from permanent oblivion. Only 3 more to go. ‘Radiant Black Future’ is next in line.
Some notes on the tracks:
‘Cognitive Disorder #1’ was/is my favourite of the selections on this album; I suppose that, by putting it first, I was hoping it would somehow offset the shortcomings of many of the tracks that follow. The track was mostly built from direct-to-4-track or archived environmental & broadcast recordings, with only a few subtle extracts from the sampler pieces. Several of the sources used for this one fit in with my conception at the time of working with sounds that had some personal context, rather than just being neutral audio content. This doesn’t make the material any more interesting for other listeners, but it does make it a lot more relevant to me by integrating particular places & times from my life into the pieces, thereby turning them into a kind of impressionistic audio diary (which has increasing resonance for me as the passing time accumulates).
‘Cognitive Disorder #2’ has been an absolute pain in my backside since I first tried to assemble it. The intention was to construct an enormous, bone-rattling drone using the variety of sounds made by an air compressor that I shared a workspace with for (far too many!) years. This barrage would then transition into an atmospheric strata of field recordings made through the window of the apartment I used to share with Richard (hi Richard) Faulhaber: there was a corrugated metal wall on the neighbouring building that squeaked and shuddered in a way that, in its counterpoint to the wash of background traffic, I always found very pleasant. The second part came together relatively easily, but trying to layer those pneumatic drones turned out to be like trying to build a lattice out of thick, oozing mud. As I mentioned before, the ability to use EQ to properly mesh the frequencies of different audio layers was something that took me many years to develop. This new version is my best (and, in any event, last) attempt.
‘Cognitive Disorder #3’ is one of those tracks I’ve done that thoroughly appealed to me while also standing out as something that seemed very unlikely to appeal to anyone else. I’ve already described how this was constructed over an improvisation with a bowed acoustic upright bass; in the 90s I was exploring the work of a lot of contemporary ‘avant-garde’ composers – Iannis Xenakis, Helmut Lachenmann, Tan Dun – and this was some of those influences soaking in… although polluted with a tincture of Nurse With Wound and Organum. The industrious bee, added in an early 00s revision, was recorded in the window of Steve Stapleton’s enchanted green caravan where I slept during my first visit to Cooloorta in November 2000.
‘Cognitive Disorder #4’, like #2, was an experiment in creating a dense, textural mass of sound. This one was less dense (particularly in the problematic low frequencies) and the sources used were more organic, so it was easier to get to a vaguely satisfactory result. Unlike the other tracks on the album, this one is mostly constructed from De Anza sampler-studio materials – primarily using a couple of sections from the ‘Nihl Corpus’ track, but also some unattached rattle clusters that hadn’t found their place during those DA studio sessions. The central ingredient of the crickets was culled from a cassette of field recordings I‘d made in Cupertino in 1995 (fairly early f.r. days for me: this one being amongst the first few I ever attempted). Blended into the middle is a wire eggslicer symphony that had previously been a self-contained 4-track experiment. It seemed to fit in nicely with the cricket chirps and rattles.
‘Cognitive Disorder #5’ is the one that disturbed Norbert Schilling so much; even setting aside the possibility that he had some kind of phobia about yodeling, it is certainly (and deliberately) an abrasive and relentless piece. For a brief moment in 1993 or 1994 I had a duo project with Vacuum Tree Head guitarist Mike De La Cuesta which he named ‘Stutzbearscats’, and using Richard F’s (hi Richard) now-legendary cassette 4-track we created a very primitive but also unique-sounding EP of material together. There was never any plan of releasing it, so eventually I scavenged some of the raw material for my own projects. Two of those sources were used on this track: the chance-encountered-and-manipulated-on-the-fly yodeling broadcast extracted from a portable radio through effects pedals, and my double-tracked Chapman Stick bumblement recorded to accompany it (certainly a candidate for “most non-musical application of a Chapman Stick in a studio setting”). I left this track for last when tackling the reconstruction of this album. What can be done with it? It’s an ugly mess, so I just let it be a slightly better EQ’d ugly mess. Some high spirits grabbed from Werner Herzog’s ‘Even Dwarfs Started Small’ peek through here and there.
The second bonus track I’ve included on this collection is a full-length isolation of the aforementioned Stick bumbling rescued from under the piles of radio interference. Why?
‘Cognitive Disorder #6’ was another track that was guided by the context in which the recorded sources were created, but this time in a different way. Instead of layering together recordings I had made at separate times in very particular but completely separate locations, I decided to survey one specific time and location in sequential layers. Again, not really important to the outcome in regards to anyone else listening to it, just interesting for me. To lend a bit more specificity to the location, the windows of the apartment I was sharing with long-suffering Mister Faulhaber (hi Richard) were opened once more to allow the ambience of passing traffic on West San Carlos Street, San Jose, California in mid-1993 to drift through and meander around the room during the session. Using his metronome and 4-track I recorded nine successive eight-minute sections of that tiny strand of the space-time continuum, with the metronome ‘subdividing’ each one at various tempos; four recordings were bounced to one track of a new cassette, three more were bounced to another track, and then two more were added to the remaining tracks on the destination cassette. This final group was then mixed together with some of them being put through effects. It was interesting to discover the almost conversation-like patterns created as the mostly random tempos of the metronome interacted with one another.
‘Cognitive Disorder #7’ was a short interlude meant as a kind of joke, the implication of it supposed to be that the real track had been either accidentally or deliberately recorded over with a noisy field recording of an angry chipmunk. The lead-up to the ‘omission’ changed several times, always consisting of arbitrary musical collages, but I was never satisfied with my choices. For this final version, I think I’ve chosen something more appropriate: it’s one of the first things I made in the De Anza music studio, which was a ‘piano’ piece performed using the dreadful DX7 and its unconvincing piano preset.
‘Cognitive Disorder #8’ took the same Burroughs-ish random-media-extraction procedure that supplied ‘Cognitive Disorder #5’ with its joyful yodeling and brought it into mass-layer-texture territory. As with the yodeling, the “So Helpless” phrase was caught (off the TV, I think) entirely by chance and looped on the spot. Other random TV, AM & shortwave sources were layered on and usually manipulated through my meagre inventory of effects. This engendered another misshapen, static-oozing cluster like #5, but some interesting juxtapositions can be found tumbling beneath the froth.
‘6 Victims Of 5 Ecstatic Appliances’ is a bonus track that has never been released before, and it pre-dates most of the non-sampler-derived sources that were culled to assemble the first trio of albums (probably having been recorded in early 1993 – my memory isn’t solid on this point). Unlikely as it may seem, creating ‘Victims’ was important for me since it was my first venture using the approach that led to some of the most successful material on both this album and ‘Their Little Bones’. I’d wanted to find a way to free myself from the hassle of trying to schedule enough time in the De Anza studio, as well as escaping the stylistic limitations inherent in the sampler set-up, and that meant finding ways to make better use of the cassette 4-track. Instead of trying to inflict my unrealistic pre-conceived ideas onto rudimentary equipment, on this occasion I was finding what worked best within the limitations of that equipment – which meant not trying to squeeze a 20-track concept onto a 4-track machine, not grafting so many elements from other (generally poor-quality) cassette sources, and not trying to apply the microphones I was using to things they couldn’t really handle. This piece was built in a fairly simple and organic way, gathering sounds from objects around the apartment that a standard dynamic microphone was able to capture properly (the exception to this being my strange notion to use the purely-electric Chapman Stick as an acoustic instrument: a runner-up for “most non-musical application of a Chapman Stick in a studio setting”) and recording them without any bouncing or layering to each virgin track of the master cassette. This was the easiest track for me to reconstruct, simply because it didn’t contain multiple generations of tape hiss that needed to be scoured away. I remember being especially pleased with the results when I was finished: it didn’t make much sense stylistically, but that was exciting. I also remember playing it to someone else for the first time, a friend who was the drummer for Vacuum Tree Head back in those days. I was a little taken aback when he responded with distaste and disapproval. He genuinely seemed to feel I was pulling some kind of dumb prank, trying to trick people into regarding a bunch of meaningless sounds as actual music.
As much as I liked the track, I never used it on a release. I have an old cassette labelled as ‘1st album mock up’, which was my first crack at assembling some material into a coherent plan: while most of the tracks on it are ones that actually ended up on the ‘An Uncertain Animal’ album, ‘Victims’ and ‘Cognitive Disorder #6’ are also in the mix – a fact I’d entirely forgotten until I examined the tape again recently. I think one of the reasons ‘Victims’ was ultimately left out was that I felt it was a bit too sparse: I get uneasy when simple things go on for too long without changing much. Another reason was that the beginning seemed too obvious of a… let’s not call it a ‘rip off’, let’s call it an ‘homage’ to ‘I Cannot Feel You As The Dogs Are Laughing And I Am Blind’, the opening track on Nurse With Wound’s ‘Homotopy To Marie’. Anyhow, it’s nice to finally include it here where it seems to belong.
A few of the promo/mock-up CDR versions of ‘Foreign Matter’ that were handed out in the early 00s also included a track called ‘The Unconscious Passenger’: this was the last of the long sampler-constructed pieces that I made in the De Anza studio. Stylistically it didn’t really fit in this collection, so I’ve not included it this time. It’ll surface again in the forthcoming volume two of ‘Second Stage Archive Selections’.
ORIGINAL ALBUM TEXT
The human cognitive mechanism has gradually been superceded by the haphazard architecture of manufactured information. Hypothetical and obscenely generalised situations have come to be regarded as more genuine (and thus are elevated above) mere ‘ordinary’ experience. The condition of an excess of manufactured information – "excess" being understood here in its unique application to the domain of intangibles such as also belongs "information" (however inextricably caught in the subjective light of considerations of content and quality this understanding might seem to be) – is one that propagates itself quickly and easily in the current stifled cognitive atmosphere, much the same as bacteria will rapidly propagate themselves upon a sweaty backside.
This condition serves as a sorry testimonial to a widespread inability to move beyond the compulsive categorical division and sub-division of the manifestations of our vulgar tangibility – and thereby to grasp a more expansive, while greatly simplified, approach to observing (and, against hope, understanding) the tireless, constantly evolving interactions of minutiae that constitute our lives within what is no more than an agitated system of near non-existence. In the place of such simplification, we are instead subjected to an avalanche of ever-growing and increasingly abstracted concepts, formulated in a desperate attempt to describe and organise the avalanche of ever-growing and increasingly abstracted concepts beneath which untainted cognition has already been buried, deeper now than our soundings can reach. It is of little surprise that the swollen, helpless carcass that the body of our communications has become provides such a tempting target for predators and parasites both – these in actuality being the predatory and parasitical aspects of ourselves. A difficult choice is presented here: to work against the tide of inclination, without approval or reward; or to succumb and gorge upon this bloated mass, thereby condemning ourselves to an existence of perpetually having to disguise disappointment beneath a pretense of being satisfied by what amounts to little more than a mouthful of dust.
Such reductions (and that which follows) of solid material – not into its actual, empty state, but rather into delusional abstractions further reduced into what inevitably become arbitrary signifiers – are carefully being kept to the forefront of our priorities; while those elements that prove insoluble are destroyed (as far as such a thing is possible), or, at the very least, pointedly avoided. However, given the essentially unavoidable nature of this insoluble material, perpetual (and perpetually changing) distractions become necessary. As any lapse will allow unwanted awareness to reassert itself, these distractions must convincingly be reinforced by a belief that they are relevant and worthwhile pursuits. A culturally-encouraged impatience to feel a sense of achievement thus replaces any desire for genuine, qualitative experience, and long-term consequence is disregarded in favour of immediate result: the most virulent contagion available is embraced.
Blissfully transported, we arrive at the remains of our predecessors, mistaking as evidence of our insight their brittle and decaying bones, horribly distended and knotted together with long braids of overstimulated nerves and atrophied brain tissue. Far from being a legacy of worthwhile human accomplishment, these relics are no more than the tangible detritus of a procession of consistent failures: failures that extend across the entirety of living and preserved memory (the shriveling span of the former which is now of frighteningly negligible proportions), yet are nowhere to be found in the at-best-biased-and-not-uncommonly-entirely-falsified annals of ‘official’ recorded history.
Despite the difficulty involved in such an undertaking, it is important that the focus of qualitative scrutiny be brought to bear upon the sum of generated information in its entirety, not merely an evaluation of the repercussions that arise from its localised intersections. We do not absorb information in isolated little packages, nor does it require our conscious attention; and so the examination of affective material in a compartmentalised manner, without taking into account how these areas modify/influence each other, will provide incomplete, if not wholly useless, results.
To pursue this idea further than might reasonably be considered prudent (and yet what worthwhile results could possibly be generated by the application of prudence in the face of such overwhelming uncertainty? As if such concepts remained as even idle spectators in this disaster-in-the-making…) we can represent it in the manner of a relationship between objects in an active (or, more to the point, inter-active) environment. In such an environment, all materials, as well as the constituent parts of these materials, are free to influence the situation to the extent that their nature empowers them to do so. There are no controls, no clearly defined categories: every part is entangled in a web of endlessly reciprocating influences, resulting in an outcome of staggering complexity. No lack of affirmations or formulae can be extrapolated from isolated aspects of the whole – but what real meaning can these retain when considered in context of an actual, living environment, and subjected to the countless forms of interference generated from the countless other aspects present? It is not unlike a navigator picking a star at random to steer by, while having no awareness of constellations or the orientation of these constellations to one another in the night sky.
In the present information epidemic, amidst the babble of countless self-aggrandising voices, what is the resultant message that is being conveyed to us? As conflicting forces cancel out and deflect each other, in what direction are we ultimately being propelled? And, just as important, within what time frame? A day? A month? A lifetime? Is anything worthwhile being accomplished here at all? Of course, all these questions would need to be considered on an individual basis, as each individual exists at a unique point in the exchange, and is possessed of an entirely unique character.
The imperatives conveyed to us through the channels of manufactured information are becoming implicit beyond our ability to perceive them, and – a condition of even greater concern – have evolved to contain a potency beyond that of any deliberate or pre-determined intent (as insidious as these intentions certainly can be). The toxic mire resulting from this accumulation of ill-conceived content forces us to now move beyond (yet not exclude) the all-too-convenient safety net of language in order to regain a clear perspective.
That there exists some single, overarching plot (or even several) with an aim to control or inflict harm is not what is being suggested here. The architects of our demise do not necessarily harbour towards us any ill will: it’s equally possible that this behaviour is no more than an accidental side effect of sleeping passengers awakened within our vulnerable flesh, activated from out of a non-living state to thrive within the dark interior… They cannot perceive our nature, the encompassing boundary that is ourselves, fixated as they are upon their own self-importance; and we cannot perceive their nature for identical reasons. While we search for convenience, they work tirelessly, mechanically; utilising our existence in ways we never considered; exploiting our raw material to expand their own possibilities while ours are steadily, reciprocally, narrowed. In what might upon superficial examination appear to be a contradictory phenomenon, new permutations continue to proliferate incessantly within this range of diminishing possibility. This provision of an endless selection of choices – the most captivating distraction of all – blinds us to the real effect. Yet an over-abundance of choices leads inexorably to mutual-cancellation. And neglect towards any consideration of consequence leads, ultimately, to what could arguably be described as well-deserved ruin.
Perhaps an attempt could have been made to investigate these concerns in a more objective manner. Yet, given the unstable character of even rudimentary forms of cognition – its very essence being inherently contrary to objectivity of any sort – the notion at its very core becomes a meaningless one. Language, even in its firmest and most agreeable state, is at best an easy alternative to other, more obvious forms of cowardice, providing a simple and widely-accepted method to divert accountability to (or find concealment behind) an intangible. If language is regarded in this unforgiving light, written language becomes little more than a series of careless stains made upon reason – similar in quality to the blackish smudges left behind by hard rubber soles on a floor of freshly-waxed linoleum.
A ‘historical’ view, however, would seem to provide ample evidence to refute such an ineffectual characterisation of the written word. Language in this form has repeatedly proven to be an unreservedly virulent – and voracious – agent, against which only infrequent and inadequate inoculation has been possible. In the aftermath of an outbreak of ‘received wisdom’ transmitted through text (this most exquisitely refined product of our corruptible disposition) even what might under ideal circumstances be regarded as durable logic is quickly reduced to waste, its procedures rendered into a pile of unrecognisable debris in the figurative cellar; its substance stripped away by ambiguity, self-validating arguments, acidic qualifications…
So how do we examine this situation from a potentially enlightening point of view? It seems reasonable that the tools that would need to be brought to bear should not be those of an external, intrusive origin, but rather ones that are wholly appropriate to the context by being formed out of the very materials that comprise it. In such a way we might benefit from aligning ourselves: not as observers at a remove, but as fully integrated into the environment that we wish to observe, and from the same perspective as that which is acting and being acted upon.
Recorded in fits between 1991 and 1999, primarily at the F/W Temporary Social Conglomeration in San Jose, CA. Full assembly of the original version made in 1999 at the Felton Empire Studio, Felton, CA. Partially revised around 2002/2003 to no particular consequence.
This reconstruction initiated at Rock Creek Tributary, Hillsboro, OR between late 2015 and early 2016. Re-revised and completed in May 2020.
Original graphics created in 1998, revised in 1999, revised again in 2020.
The left hand only ever found abhorrence in the acts commited by the right.
Thanks are due to:
G. Waldron (contributions to track 1)
M. De La Cuesta (contributions to track 5, technical support on track 3)
J. Scharpen, G. Scharpen, H. Forbes [OAC] (general support and skullduggery)
N. Schilling, M. McNulty (feedback, support)
W. Herzog (because even he started small)
And, as ever, special thanks to R. K. Faulhaber for his unwavering technical support and advice.
"Behind our public reaction to the Event, the outrage and Piety, what else may abide – what untouchable Residue? Small numbers of people go on telling much larger numbers what to do with precious Lives – among these Multitudes, all but a few go on allowing them to do so." -- T. Pynchon
"From symbiosis to parasitism is a short step. The word is now a virus. The flu virus may once have been a healthy lung cell. It is now a parasitic organism that invades and damages the lungs. The word may have been a healthy neural cell. It is now a parasitic organism that invades and damages the central nervous system. Modern man has lost the option of silence." -- W. S. Burroughs
"All bodies are only appearances, images of the imagination, states the mind created out of its own volition." -- R. Schwarzkogler
"I have to believe this one spot in my body which cannot deceive me, for a person must believe in at least one thing in their life if they do not wish to go mad." -- U. Zürn