The latest multi-media album by Terre Thaemlitz is Deproduction (Comatonse Recordings) and it’s one of the Japan-based Midwestern-born artist’s most enticing and profound ever. Consisting of a duo of tracks that each run 42:50 in length, with three bonus tracks that run an additional 38 minutes or so. The atmosphere is intense from the start. Thaemlitz broaches the complex topic of incest with samples of muffled moans and muted arguments, while melancholic harmonies are layered with sweet bird calls and other natural field recordings. It’s not easy to listen to Names Have Been Changed with its tender vs. harsh realities play out, it severs domesticity greatly when you imagine the pluralism between the indoor drama and the great outdoors. All the while I cannot pull away from the sad strings, and the seriousness of the subject, however quieting.
Michiko was thirty when she got pregnant. She hadn’t known her boyfriend long, but felt she was already past the age of settling down, so she married him and quit her job. Her agreement to his proposal was as robotic as the proposal itself. The wedding was formulaic, containing all of the latest ceremonial trends. A pre-fabricated house was bought on loan. Sex basically stopped with the birth. The three of them shared the same bed for the first year, then he moved to a separate room to get more sleep. In many ways it was a relief to rid the nights of what little sexual tension remained, and Michiko immersed herself in child care. Now seven years had passed, their child was in school, and she found herself with more time on her hands. A boredom began to consume her. She was sure her husband had a lover, so she began to search online for one of her own. Just for play. Nothing that could ever be a threat to her family. Maybe a foreigner.
Thaemlitz, if you have kept score, is a sensitive composer who has dealt full-frontal with several variegated social topics: transexuality, feminism, religion. For anyone who has grown up in a nuclear family structure there are always unspoken things as we grow from infant to adulthood, for some many things like sex, drugs and even rock n’ roll to some degree are private “choices” and are sometimes skimmed over or avoided altogether. The whines and epithets woven into the cries and defending extended members of the family unit reverberate deep in the fluid mix here.
The album is available in an interesting 8GB Class 4 SDHC card format (I had to buy a reader to experience this) for $55USD (includes shipping). It comes with ten small business card-sized digitally manipulated printed images (220kg matte paper) with quotes on verso. I appreciate the distancing from the whole music market, allowing for additional content like PDF text files (75 pages), video content and AIFF rather than MP3 files. In those video files are depicted broken people, swirling, distorted, in censored images with people acting out scenes that are heavily edited, with text bridges. Evocative and kaleidoscopic the decoded action is sexual in nature but not quite in the NSFW sort of way, though if you did play this at work one would imagine a progressive policy manual in your desk drawer. The ‘soundtrack’ plays on as the video and music are timed to mate.
Amber, Jasmine & Corey
Amber, Jasmine and Corey were triplets resulting from fertility drugs. Their two moms always laughed,”One-third planned, two-thirds surprise!” Now aged twenty-four, the three were writing a collective master’s thesis on the social repercussions of high rates of in vitro multi-births within lesbian communities. Growing up they occasionally met kids like themselves―usually twins―but it wasn’t until college that they formally established a network with the others. Together they discovered patterns of eating disorders among the girls, and depression across genders, in one case leading to suicide. All stemming from the contradictions of lesbian endeavors to nurture individualism while relying upon a faulty fertility industry that risked multi-births for quick results. Jasmine coined a term for the ensuing crisis, “Intersectional In Vitro Homogeneity.”
Admit It’s Killing You (And Leave) approaches with what sounds like a heteronormative political speech dictating “People are very religious, then they are apparently anti-gay. Excuse me, they are very pro-traditional family, which is under attack by gay people just being around” to an encore of laughter, over which Thaemlitz lays an imposing and sparse piano riff. There’s a poker-faced duality in this comment, it’s ominous and comedic and rhetorical. Though this subdividing riff on “hate-speech” is couched in wavering layers, repeated and further muted in echo, mixed with some quirky scratchy electronics it has a kernel of wisdom unreveiled for my ears until the very end of the track. The record is bathed in subtextuality – the story you don’t hear, and that is always secondary, a social construct of fear and loathing. The distortion plays into the structure here, in a post-modern breakdown of the psyche. Deproduction is intense and unwavering.
Though the haunting themes may mask the listening nature in fleeting moments, the recording never loses its musical bearings aside from the radio-play feel and experimentation. It’s meant to be a bit of a shit-stirrer aligned more to colleagues like Negativland and Ultra-Red — those breaking with the cultural climate of age-old over produced blather that has zero urgency and grit. This exceeds those expectations by demonstrating music composition can affect social change within and on its own terms. The hovering float on this record baits the balance between no-nonsense spacial parameters with random atonal electro-twitching. At 86 minutes Thaemlitz has you rapt, though it’s not quite active listening, and not at all background music – it’s ‘other‘ in its own playing field.
The bonus tracks here include the piano solo heard on the prior piece, and two mixes by Thaemlitz’s alter-ego moniker, DJ Sprinkles. The added funky beats on Names Have Been Changed (Sprinkles’ House Arrest) are just what I needed after a long intense listen, and this marries the many previous layers with handclaps and bpms that almost seem to oppose the mood. It’s a bit of a headtrip. Finally on Admit It’s Killing You (And Leave) (Sprinkles’ Dead End) we experience what starts out as a shoulder shaker only to become greyer and more washed out in its crescendo, building into quite a bit of a kitchen sink noise anthem sans any frills whatsoever. The track is punctuated by what dawns as a stand-up comedy sample talking about families breaking apart, putting on trial a sense of how we perceive what is real and that out-of-context ‘fake news’ we hear about these days. There are two sides to every story (and coin).