A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Huerco S. reaches for the stars, exploring pre-Colombian architecture, the nature of Memory, and artefacts on this early work for Opal Tapes.
We learned the ache of empty rooms
And that we could be no less lonely while entangled
With a hundred other spirits
With the noise of a thousand voices
We could be alone in crowded rooms
So we reinvented
But never escaped our own design
The past won’t pass
It renames itself
It renames us
But our old names had voices
And voices have echoes
In enclosed spaces
in open air
We are altered garments
The same notes in new rhythms
The same fear of the dark
Of what’s known and unknown
and forgotten with intention
Kelly Hayes, “When The Past Won’t Pass“
Technology’s done some funny things to Memory. “Time is out of joint,” to quote Hamlet. On one hand, we are living in a timeless present, where the sun never sets, the businesses never close, and there’s always some new flashy thing vying for our attention. On the other, the past has never been closer, with so much of our lives being so heavily documented, uploaded, and stored for later consumption. This results, for some, in a kind of “nostalgia for forgetting.”
For how much we’re supposed to live in the moment, to Be Here Now or some other trite platitude (which is, nonetheless, good advice), our pasts can be notoriously hard to forget, as illustrated in the quote from queer poet Kelly Hayes. Our pasts and former selves are always threatening to pull us under, waiting and watching like some demonic shadow doppelganger.
Sometimes forgetting can be a kindness. On the other hand, living in eternity offers unprecedented opportunities for growth and evolution, the likes of which Humanity has never seen.
Untitled, one of the earliest EPs from the enigmatic producer Huerco S. showcases what can happen when memories are allowed to grow and spread. Despite the ominous intro, Huerco S.’ sounds don’t succumb to the shadows. Huerco S. is an optimist, a bona fide futurist it seems, judging from the upbeat tone of Untitled.
Untitled kicks off with an A-side of glowing, gorgeous New Age ambient music. A simple 5-note melody repeats ad infinitum, running throughout most of the A-Side’s 3 songs. Rather than deteriorating with each repetition, as it would if it were analog delay or tape, the melody never disintegrates. Instead, it’s able to grow, strengthen, and evolve, slowly and imperceptibly lengthening. It’s more like watching a petri dish than losing yr shit on a dancefloor. And Huerco S. is most likely okay with that.
The elusive Kansas-city born, NYC-based producer is notoriously enigmatic, preferring to let the music speak for itself rather than be coloured by their personality. It is known that they come from a background in playing punk rock and grindcore, and sought out electronic music in a bid for freedom and lack of restrictions. Rather than the usual name-dropping, hero-worshipping emulation that serves as a lot of modern musicians’ motivations for making music, Huerco S. cites much more abstract inspirations for their productions. These include pre-Colombian architecture and the mound builders of the Midwest.
How does ambient music sound like a burial mound, exactly? That’s a good question, and we’re glad you ask. It strikes right at the heart of some of our principle investigations here at Forestpunk.
Huerco S. talked about these influences to Juno back in 2013. “Each song is something along the lines of a building. With the allotted space and time I’ve got, I’m trying to create something massive… looking at the waveforms as already existing, I just have to carve out what I want.”
Rather than dancefloor bangers, Huerco S. is carving psychic spaces out of thin air, shaping sine waves into rippling, rolling landscapes, surrounded by crystalline stars beaming down celestial wisdom. It’s a testament to what can be done when we stop worrying about time, when we learn to embrace The Angel Of History rather than fighting him tooth and bloody claw.
Don’t worry, though. Untitled isn’t just a head-nodding, trance-out soundtrack for Hot Yoga and buying shoes. Untitled‘s B-Side, also “Untitled,” is the loose-knit, sprawling, foam-encrusted dancefloor revelation DJs are looking for. It’s long, at a monolithic 19:10 seconds, and we’d hesitate to call it “House Music” which Huerco S. is so often saddled with. There’s definitely a steady 4/4 beat, however, even if it sounds like a rubber mallet trying to defibrillate some giant’s heart. There’s smatterings of synth, albeit much more sickly than your average Balearic trance house piano.
“Untitled” is also evidence of the artefacts so inspirational to Huerco S.’ work. They’ll let a loop play for an hour, immersing themselves in previously unseen/unheard details. It’s a testament to how powerful digital memory can be, but also a reminder how infrequently we take advantage of its potential.
This is one of the glories of vinyl records, ironically enough. With so much music and media vying for our attention at any given moment, it’s nigh-on impossible to keep track of what’s out there, let alone be moved enough by a work of art to have a legitimately transformative experience. By printing these digital aesthetics onto an analog medium, we are invited to drag this infinity back into our daily lives, to do with as we wish.
The Medium is a new series that will be investigating the world of analog media. Vinyl, cassette tapes, CDs; VHS, DVDs, Blu-Ray, and film; Print books, magazines, and comics; art prints and graphic design; and theoretical musings about it all!
Because Analog still matters!
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