A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Featureless white plastic columns in an Ionic style;
“a stunningly bleak, uncharted landscape of man-made cement and artificial foliage.”
the air smells of soap and perfume.
A soundtrack for architectural digests and app installation.
Body Complex, the second full-length for electronic powerhouse Ghostly International, from Polish-born Brooklyn producer Jakub Alexander under the name Heathered Pearls, is a soundtrack for abandoned shopping malls and virtual plazas. Body Complex is in the vaporwave continuum, but Alexander has machined the harsh digital edges to a smooth, organic shape that hints at a possible peace with our potential overlords.
Late capitalism is a funny thing. On one hand, the simulacrum is spreading to invade every aspect of our life. Soon enough, if left unchecked, every atom of our daily lives will be digitized, rendered into data and analyzed for marketing clues. In one potential future, our apps will know we are hungry before we do, and might even go so far as to order food for us. Every available surface will be rendered with sloganeering copy, like a corporate stadium taken to its ultimate, hideous conclusion.
On the other hand, the interstices of the internet has made timeless art, exceptional taste, and powerful tools of creation available to even the most meager laptop user. In a certain sense, we are all graphic designers now, all critics. We have spent the last 10 years gazing down the barrel of iconic Swiss design, salivating over typeset, arguing the finer points of lost music from the 20th century and before. We are inundated with good taste, surrounded by it. This is a good thing, surely?
If Burial’s Untrue is the sound of a somnolent walk through deserted cityscapes, Body Complex is the sound of the spa-like interior of a latter day Arcade, suffused with natural light and soft music. This would be the sound of the Arboria Institute, if Dr. Arboria’s vision hadn’t been compromised.
For those familiar with the Ghostly International sound, you will feel comfortable wandering through the columns and grooves of Body Complex. GI’s trademarked burnt edge ambiance – like a slackjawed, pupil-dilated Boards Of Canada having a religious experience – is in full effect. In fact, two of Ghostly International’s cinematic drifters, Shigeto and The Sight Below (who also mixed and mastered BC), guest star on the record. But the warm and fuzzy warbles are melded to a bedrock of rigid, plasticine, knackered house beats, along the lines of latter-day Caribou, Ital, Fort Romeau (also on Ghostly International), even a bit of Factory Floor, if you were to strip off the post-industrial menace.
“Cast In Lemon & Sand” kicks things off in a mournful, introspective, being the most ambient and beatless construction, coming on like a crimson sunset. This ethereal shopping complex is stained in long, languid shadows, which suddenly erupts in a sense of adventure and possibility in “Sunken Living Area”, one of the strongest tracks on Body Complex. A simple and sedate pulsing bassline meets mechanical high hats and cottony kick drums, while sci-fi whippoorwills chirp and chime in the distance. It’s elegant and refined, full and complex while never becoming bloated or overbusy, that speaks to Alexander’s lifelong interest in design.
It is this architectural structure that is one of the most striking aspects of Heathered Pearl’s output. “You can almost envision the sounds as columns and plateaus protruding from a dusk-lit valley,” as the ISO50 blog put it. This dancing about architecture places Body Complex in the fine tradition of Detroit Techno, like Carl Craig, who used to drive around the Motor City, taking inspiration from columns and railings as much as FM waves, and then rushing home to replicate them with 303s and 808s.
Detroit Techno was one of the main inspirations for Body Complex. Alexander wanted to pay homage and incorporate influences from the likes of Terence Dixon and Lawrence, deep soulful technoid house that Alexander employs while DJing. Jakub Alexander was born in Poland, but grew up in the outskirts of Detroit before moving to his current home in New York. You can sense the minimal elegiac holiness of Alexander’s Eastern bloc roots mingling with the machine soul of Detroit, producing fabulous and imaginative results.
“Interior Architecture Software” has some of the most single breakout potential, while sounding the most like things that have come before. “IAS” has the same abstracted, polygonal ripped apart Rhodes shapes as Oneohtrix Point Never, which may be one of the most relevant touchstones for Heathered Pearls. But for all his love affair with late-’90s kitsch, one can’t help get the feeling that Daniel Lopatin harbors a secret suspicion of the machines. There’s some militant nostalgia in his stoned out eccojamming.
Jakub Alexander, however, is embracing the new and the now. He’s smoothing the barbed edges of digital overload, creating an airpad to glide above daily life.
Body Complex speaks to me, on a personal level. Being someone interested (some may say obsessed) with all things hauntological, i spend much of my time surrounded by other people’s nostalgia. I genuinely envy British folk and their inherent love of the weird and whimsical pastoral folk horrors of their childhood cathode ray surfing.
Truth be told, my own roots lie somewhere between hick and the cultural nullity of suburbia. I both completely loathe where i come from while simultaneously having a longing for sprawling, endless shopping complexes, full of possibilities and lots of glass.
I also both abhor the triumph of late capitalism and appreciate the opportunities it affords us. As a frustrated music maker for a decade, the availability of chleap machines and recording software have realized my lifelong dreams of making weird experimental music (not to mention the ability to hear everybody else’s). To be completely honest, especially when taken in conjunction with the presence of my ladylove and our cute-and-oh-so-evil black cat, every day is perfection for me. I am living in contentment, even though i am sometimes starving to death.
That is the fulcrum of Body Complex. This is not satire or political commentary. This is music for drifting through yr day, to make buying groceries and car maintenance more colorful and imaginative. It’s the sound of a genuine love for clean, clear, strong designs – strong lines, organic curls, culled from the circuitry of rudimentary machines.
Another glorious release from Ghostly International!
Heathered Pearls – Body Complex