A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Label: Opal Tapes
Release Date: 11.12
RIYL: Suzanne Ciani, Boards Of Canada, Ambient Aphex Twin, Pye Corner Audio, melted hypnosis tapes
High Tech High Life sounds like a private press New Age record that’s been left on your dashboard in the sun. Occasionally the paradisiacal synth arpeggios bend and warp, like the tape’s being eaten, reminding you that yr listening to a tape (or perhaps the re-issue on vinyl). The medium is the message on this inaugural transmission from this young Swedish upstart.
The thing with Hauntology is that it makes you come to terms with the past, reminding you to see and look at what has come before in a new light. But where Ghost Box Records are creating alternate history, 1991’s first record stands in the infinite now. It’s dated, scuzzed and moldering yet still sounds entirely fresh, in the present tense. It’s an ace introduction into a whole world of plastic, cinematic futurism, a good way to introduce the uninitiated what these kids with their synth sense are up to.
The main thing that seperates 1991 from the slew of bedroom tweakers is a strong sense of melody, and whatever synths the producer are using sound effing sublime, gloriously rendered and recording, sounding great laid on tape (and wax, no doubt). Most of the record is comprised of beatless ambiance, warm Newage trance, that is only occasionally interspersed with the rhythm boxes. But those tracks with the drums are most likely what’ll hook most people; ‘High Tech Slow Life’ sounds like a dancefloor in slow motion, or a steampunk rave in cloud city. The following track, ‘Regulate’, with a slowed, slurred voice spouting data theory beneath clouds of noise, lets you know that there is a theoretical underpinning to this transmission. The producer is trying to get shit out there; he has something to say, and it makes you wonder why he is trying to say it.
The thing of it is that a lot of the amateur, lo-fi synth records out there are legitimately GOOD MUSIC. They have strong melodies, harmonies, structure; it’s like classical music on a budget. A hasty listener may discard the sounds as dated, based solely on the materials with which they were created. And that is to write off a whole musical era, the late ’70s and early ’80s. High Tech High Life makes us fall in love, again, with Futurism (even if it is of the retro variety).
There are two handfuls of musical movements and genres we follow with close interest, here at Forestpunk. We are trying to come to terms with the sounds, to seperate the wheat the chaff, to find the rarified essence, and discover the Zeitgeist in the process. Listening to HTHL for the past six months has instilled a renewed wonder for early ambient music, and paves the way to understand the VaporWave style that is emerging. We are calling back to futurism, to optimism, before the crushing hopelessness of the ’00s. In these machines, there is the ghost of the future that we wanted, that we dreamed of at late-night raves and beaches at dawn. The spirit of HOPE is not easily snuffed out.
The basic premise is to find a sliver, an aesthetic, and expound upon it, drown in it, surround one’s self in it, until it becomes instinctual. This is the way to train yr ears, to learn how to integrate new, alien sounds, and find a way to relate to artist’s on their terms. There’s a billion genres out there, and as many compulsions to make them. The human soul stands at the intersection, and in this way, the futuristic nostalgia of 1991 meets chanting and drum circles. Magick, emotions, intuition… all vague specters, difficult to quantify.
High Tech High Life will delight lovers of old library music and adventurous club DJs alike. It goes to show that Opal Tapes are a label to watch, to see what is truly going on with the electronic underground, and makes me hungry to see what this young producer will cough up next.
I’m going to watch old Atari commercials now…