Sometimes you listen to things and you think ‘I’ve only really had one idea in my life, and I’ve just been doing it in a hundred different ways ever since…’ that’s a sort of slightly depressing thought, but then you can remind yourself that that was also true of Samuel Beckett, and Miles Davis, and a ‘few’ other people.

 – Brian Eno

Hollis’ work has been a fairly constant feature of my creative life. The Colour Of Spring contributed hugely to ending my misguided moratorium on pop music (and the glossy aesthetic legacy of the 80s), and the subsequent records would become central to my perspective on the trajectory of rock and guitar music in the 21st century. While minimalism was already well integrated into my constitutive lines of flight via such obvious figures as Reich, Glass, Sakamoto, and others, it was Hollis that really made me understand how important the judicious application of silence is to the entire foundation of musicality, whatever the context. The delicate, restrained beauty of so many of Talk Talk’s more defining moments (the beginning of Spirit springs immediately to mind) were revelatory.

He has been dead for weeks now and I still can’t listen to his music without coming undone. Hopefully that will give way to a more sublime and constructive kind of sadness soon, but I can at least write about that music, offer a brief elegy.

Hollis was a master of arrangement, but he was a creature ahead of his time in that he recognized that to take music further we would have to become more granular with our creativity, shift our focus from the compositional context to the primarily timbral. It wasn’t about arranging songs, verses, choruses any longer, we had done that to death. What Hollis did was he arranged texture, he arranged sound, delicate, alien, underscored by the weight of silence.

Of course on top of this emphasis on texture and sound-for-itself (which premeditated the course that electronic music would take over the following decades) he was a poet, a singular vocalist, and a dynamic composer. The axiomatic aspects of his aesthetic project are present throughout each of these features of his work – by the time Spirit had come around, for example, the textual content of his songs had been pruned and compounded into sparse, translucent lyricism.

Oh yeah, the world’s turned upside down…

While Spirit and Laughing Stock are often championed as harbingers of what would unfold within the underground rock world over the subsequent decades (which they very much are) it’s The Colour of Spring that really speaks to what Hollis was able to do, a bridge between the straightforward synth pop of It’s My Life and the leftfield art rock that would follow. The intimate nature of the production is on full display from the get-go, with the stripped down drums drawing attention to the syncopated ornamentation throughout Happiness Is Easy. The snare is still engaged on the snare drum here (by Spirit it will be almost entirely absent) but it’s already dry as a bone relative to the enormous gated reverbs that characterize 80s production orthodoxy. The stilted fills and choked cymbals set the stage for the sparse, clear acoustic guitar and double-bass flourishes. This track also features the first of the many decidedly unusual solos that are such defining features of the record, manifest here as an off-kilter synth, an alien horn from an uncanny valley.

These leftfield solos are central to what made this record so appealing to me back when I was a creatively ambitious guitarist confronting the artistic bankruptcy of contemporary rock music, they display an incredibly original approach to sound design that is present across the album, coexisting with the pop music structures and stylings of each song. It’s there at the very outset of I Don’t Believe In You, one of the tracks that pulled me in early on with its dramatic intro, a single discordant synth stab that sounds like an ethereal car peeling out juxtaposed over delicate nylon guitar. The second and perhaps best of the solos makes its appearance here too – where Happiness included a synth masquerading as a trumpet, here we have a guitar sounding decidedly like a synth. The early strains of Hollis’ full-throated desire to reconstruct the dogma of rock n’ roll as futurist sound art are on full display. This carries on in Life’s What You Make It, with its soaring guitar leads. Give It Up features another blistering guitar solo, one that sounds even more like an excerpt from a noise album. These solos are categorically unlike those you find on a Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd album, derived not from ego but from Otherness. Give It Up is probably the track that most catalyzed my entire love affair with this band, a relatively straightforward, brilliantly catchy affair that benefits so much from the space that Hollis’ had begun to apply to such great effect in his compositions, each chorus collapsing into gentle, detailed ambience floating over punchy drums. A sublime emptiness seething behind the hooks and bombast.

All of this foreshadowed what Spirit would accomplish. It opens with the familiar gentle strings, a muted trumpet, incidental music for a film that dissolves into environmental field recordings and meandering melodies that deteriorate further into unsettling, droning destitution and then – a guitar. This is it, no moment, in my mind, speaks more to the heart of what it was Hollis was doing than that first guitar chord, framed against nothing, loaded with more sonic power than Tchaikovsky could ever have managed with all the artillery in the world. This moment gives way to an utterly gut-wrenching harp solo, a climactic point of Hollis’ experiments using instruments as proxies for other instruments, in this case a harmonica aping a synth, convincingly. The beginning of this record is legendary and rightly so, one of those wonderful instances of an artist truly managing to communicate the heart–or should I say, Spirit–of what they are trying to do.

I could ramble ad nauseam on this topic, but really I should let Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock speak for themselves. Their magnificent secrets should be able to better make the point I’ve been trying to make here. If it’s not obvious at first, keep listening. If we are to continue to express ourselves meaningfully we must learn how to use old words in new ways, learn how to frame them such that their decrepit character is rendered anew. As Brian Eno pointed out, many of history’s greatest artists were obsessed with a specific idea, were channeling an abstraction of a single aspect, a discrete facet of the goddess that is creation. Those ideas, impossible to articulate with the languages of the embodied, are embedded in their artifacts and accomplishments. Go listen.

Rage on omnipotent


Deconstruction 2

She lay

She peered

She thought

she saw (reds and yellows)

She detached

She took (one last deep pull)

She arrived

She could

And she so wanted

She struck

She set the things down

She let out a small sigh

She closed her eyes (for a quick moment)

|+| – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

She dreamt

And she turns away

She is unencumbered as

she reaches (for her absent bag)

She heads (into the ethereal jungle)

She can make (out the red filaments)

She feels warmth (in her fingertips, in her teeth and nails, reds and yellows)

she hadn’t fully realized

She notices

She smiles and winks

She gets the impression, briefly, of wings

Sustain |+| Release 2018

In the foothills of the Catskills there exists a quaint little summer camp, which spends the vast majority of its time providing a venue for children to make friends, experience nature, and have a good time. Once a year however it receives a colorful host of rather older, weirder children and is transformed into a debauched paradise filled with sound, light, and laughter.

Camp Kennybrook is perhaps the best venue I have experienced for a “festival” of any kind. I use scare quotes because comparing this event to the much larger, more bustling and commercial dance music festivals that are now so commonplace across the world would be doing it an enormous disservice. Sustain-Release channels the aesthetic, energy, and romance of the forest raves and renegade parties that shaped so much of modern dance music culture, yet it does so in a way that is effortless–you don’t get the sense that it is trying to be anything other than itself. In an era when nostalgia is one of the hottest commodities around, S-R is a beautiful reminder that the now is full to bursting with promise and potential.

Masterminded by Brooklyn maestro Aurora Halal, S-R has been running for five years now, and that history is apparent in the refinement of the event down to the tiniest details. The shuttle buses that ferry eager dancers to and from Brooklyn keep their schedules to the minute, the venue’s capacity handles the number of attendees–enough to get lost in, few enough that every face feels familiar by the end–with room to spare. The food is great (though there were slightly less options available by Sunday morning) and the bartenders are on point, you never have to wait long to wet your whistle. For a decidedly DIY festival, albeit an experienced one, the professionalism and graceful execution is impressive. Aurora and co. run a tight ship.

The main stage is set up in the immense gymnasium that sits approximately in the center of the campground, the water of the lake that separates campsite from festival grounds laps just beyond its walls. The spectacle delivered is comparable to any overwrought, multi-million dollar dance music festival, and far, far better in context, with pristine sound from the Funktion Ones, intense lights, and hearty helpings of fog. The mood was thick as Friday night started to gain momentum, with secondnature DJs Archivist and Fugal delivering a pristine and ultra-sophisticated set that ran the gamut of agile, textural techno. One of the few minor nitpicks I have is with the frenzied light programming at the main stage, which was often, combined with the fog, extreme to the point of discomfort. I had to step out a few times during Shyboi’s absurdly destructive set, as the strobes and colored floodlights became overwhelming. Obviously this is a very subjective criticism, but it was a complaint I heard echoed. Things settled down nicely to a set of moody red lasers when DJ Stingray stepped behind the decks.

Among the cabins across a hill lies Bossa, the second of the three stages, which comes complete with a bouncy wooden floor that is an absolute pleasure underfoot, especially after sixteen-plus hours of non-stop dancing. Bossa provides a wider palette than the slamming peak-time techno and electro of the main stage, with highlights including Galcher Lustwerk’s variegated set, much of which eschewed dance music orthodoxy, as well as breaks and classic rave sounds from Simo Cell and Eris Drew. The former even managed to slip in the Get Ya Freak On instrumental. I started off Saturday evening here, having my insides very thoroughly rearranged by Juliana Huxtable, with a set that was as savagely noisy as it was abstract, disjointed, and utterly brilliant. This dancefloor also provides a final haven for the festival’s stalwarts (so, pretty much everyone) as it continues on well after the main stage shuts down on Sunday morning. Following up on her somewhat legendary pool party set last year, Josey Rebelle took this opportunity to play whatever the fuck she wanted (meaning just about everything under the sun) for a seven hour set that culminated in a handful of much-adored slow jams, unclenching jaws and exhausted grins all around. At one point during her marathon I found myself sprinting full-tilt into the sweaty room from the nearby tennis courts, having caught the strains of Cybotron’s Clear carrying on the air.

Speaking of pool parties, the one at Sustain-Release is a uniquely wonderful experience, providing a perfect contrast to the gritty nighttime vibes. The Honcho and Honey Soundsystem DJs came together to cover an enormous amount of musical ground throughout the course of the day, eschewing the boundaries of genre and creating an ideal space to come and go as whimsy dictated. This event is unmistakably queer, without going out of its way to be, and this adds hugely to the sense of freedom and comfort. The many-colored spread of humanity attending is itself inspiring, all shapes, sizes, and identities demonstrably welcome. The commitment to decency and respect among all comers is powerful, I witnessed not a single untoward interaction. This pervades everything about the festival, and is possibly its greatest boon. The dreams and ideals of dance music history, of America’s queer underground, are tangible at Sustain-Release–you can taste them in the sweaty tang of the dancefloors and see them in the uncompromising approach to freedom, fashion, and art among the revelers. Another distinct takeaway for me was the sense that each of the artists performing were as enamored with the festival as the attendees. The sets were, without exception, aspirational, exciting, and creative, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with a dancefloor full of deeply invested merrymakers is simply par for the course. The blandness that so often invades the dance music we love is anathema at Sustain-Release.

Finally it would be unthinkable not to mention the third stage, which is nestled in the forest across a floating bridge that bisects a narrow part of the lake. This area is dedicated to calm, solace, and ambient sounds, and the visual setup is fantastic. Trees flicker with light from the floating fence of powerful, programmable strips that circle the DJ booth, languid patterns and colors blending into each other. The light programming is agile and organic, a perfect counterpart to the brain-bending textures and timbres seeping out of the speakers. Patrick Russell’s set in particular was an absolute masterclass in extraterrestrial sounds, transforming the grove into a psychedelic womb.

This long weekend in the Catskills is a unique experience. It is intimate, joyous, and the commitment to respect and acceptance is as deep as you will find anywhere. This festival accomplishes something really incredible, it manages to gracefully walk the line between the modern, commercial dance music festival, and the messy illegal rave, mating the best of both worlds into a bacchanal that is intense yet welcoming, bohemian without being clichéd, and profoundly free-spirited while remaining, safe, organized, and focused.

Not long after Mama Snake’s explosive set–probably the sweatiest of the weekend–I sat alone by the edge of the lake, cooling down and attempting to collect myself, watching fog billow across its surface as the night sky started to lighten, the sounds of DJ Nobu taking the main stage through its paces clattering and thrumming over the buildings of the camp like muted artillery. It’s a particularly sublime memory that I suspect I will keep forever. One of many. I cannot wait to return.

📷 Credits: Pegah Payandeh & Kayla Waldorf


It starts with money, of course. A little trading, my grain for your sheep, start a ledger, use that forebrain. Language, mathematics, code. Codify, formalize, annotate, organize. This happened early, it’s our nature, what makes us unique, perhaps the only thing. Numbers, inventories, resources, assets. Conquer, kill, subjugate, steal.

We didn’t do it to survive. Our forebears survived just fine–survived too well, if the mass extinctions are anything to go by–and it’s looking an awful lot like their run will be far, far longer than ours. Tens of millennia of homo erectus and then we have to go and invent banks.

Indexes, funds, a mutated leviathan of bureaucracy, categorizing, archiving, storing, logging, psychosis, denial, the curdling primordium of the monkey-computers, flesh, blood, numbers, mathematics.

Why would the creativity survive, what would be the point, we didn’t do it for Darwin, we did it because it’s what we are.

Compile, upload, register. Serial codification, do you really think you need a name?


Is it the Outside coming in or the Inside coming out?

Chrome, black fuel, machine ichor pumping, orgasm, organism, organs. How many processors can you fit inside that thing? Open up the ribcage, make a little room, bones snap when you tug on them.

Cranium sparks, spines slithering out of spent casings.

Scream anathema all you want, it’s the 21st century, you’re not even talking to the void anymore, you’re talking to yourself, Iblis grins with your cheekbones, your teeth.

The apes from the future are almost finished with their grand design. You can feel the digestive fluids even now, eroding the psyche, seeping from your screen, a project started over twelve thousand years ago. Did we mean it? Do we still want it? (Does it matter?) All we have is grim laughter and subdued hysteria.

Record, consolidate, aggregate, dissect, dissect, dissect, dissect, dissect.

Drowning in the red lake of the operating theater.



Deconstruction 1

her way

her wilted spine

her eyes

her palm resting on his cheek

her lips

her fingertips

her teeth and nails

her hand

her hand

her flesh

pierce her with light

her eye

her feet

her space

her latest attempt

her thigh

her dissipate

her feet

her years

her malign mood

her libido

her tongue

her nostrils

her pace

her throat

her frequent strolls to the sea

her eyes

her side


her blunt, repetitive questions

her glittering emerald eyes

her own bad memory

her work

her thumb

her sweet herbsmoke

her voice

her ear

her hips

her spine

her neck

her back

her mind

her impending tragedy


The Thing With Techno

The thing with techno is it characterizes so well the death-drive of our cybernetic capitalism. It is, like so much dance music, a major player in the content overload rocket-launch, the explosive bloom of color and media fueled by a rabid consumer culture, producing and reproducing itself at an increasingly incomprehensible scale. Formulaic, deconstructed music reiterating, reiterating, reiterating orthodoxy in order to fulfill a specific purpose, smelted ingots made from kickdrums. Yet while the muted ossification of deep modernity sets in this music and it’s attendant revelry provide an anarchic form, thriving in extremes and flouting social orthodoxy. It is one of many vectors of idealized deterritorialization, emerging from the kingdom that industrialization built but providing opportunities to annex new freedoms in that seething, merciless kaleidoscope.

Where then next?

It’s not something we can really think about, us creatures from history.

Music came from the sky in antiquity and continued to do so for a long time, it dripped and flowed like rain into the foundations of civilizations. We began to formalize it early on, as we do, and in doing so we stole it from the sky, kept it in reservoirs. We developed the language of it, and we made it mathematical–as we do. Classical instrumentalists formed finely honed hierarchies, top down collectives sublimating their creativity, deferring to composer and conductor to perform grand works for the aristocrats of Europe’s ugly feudalism. The rain gave way to ornate, overengineered pools, the teeming life of our musicality confined, claustrophobic, exploited, swirling itself into a frenzy. These pools began to overflow as technology accelerated its work of recontextualization, the frothing whirl of acoustic expression reaching a keening wail as it began to breach the social boundaries we imposed on it. The studio entered the bedroom, cheap cassette four-tracks evolved into digital workstations, dusty boxes of CDs became whirling hard drives bursting with data, whole musical libraries encased in plastic and silicon. It flooded forth, as we see it today, drowning its own landscape in vibrant expression, in sapient mania, specificity and segregation dismantled in the delirious monsoon of the 21st century.

It is, pardon the cliche, rhizomatic, this sonic culture. It blisters and mutates, interconnects, devours, decomposes, propagates, it sucks the nutrients from its environment as it grows and grows and grows in every direction.

And like a rhizome it penetrates the earth, this aural liquid that has rained onto us, drenched us, been shaped by us and our histories. As we disgorge the tide, the terrain of our environment begins to extend downwards, forming a crevasse, and this is the escape from the inexorable catastrophe. The mechanical overgrowth of the surface world consumes all and obliterates meaning, choking a civilization and a species that failed, is failing, to build its ark. But for those who have made an effort to mutate along with the writhing cadence of modernity we can dive, we can explore the reefs and ecology of the crevasse, make a new kingdom deep beneath the roiling maelstrom, turn our attention to new flora and fauna discovered in the depths.

I am of course describing Drexciya.

This is an artifact, lush and vivid, its legacy far reaching; it was sintered in the furnaces that have always provided kindling for the creative bonfires we light in the void. It is these myths with which we can build submersibles to survive in some recognizable fashion the annihilating flood that threatens our old creative world, the increasing vacancy of demented humanity. The digital leviathan grows and growls and flows, uncurls endless tentacles and encompasses the quaint accomplishments littering the road that brought us to this point. It squeezes and crushes them, deforms them, dilutes them, deifies them, reduces them. Solve et coagula.

We have all the resources we need to build beneath the surface of the eroding waves. It just requires a little collective effort, a coalescing of our more primordial capacities. We must nurture what makes our artifacts special to us, for we know now that nothing is special at all, and our society absorbs that unequivocal truth like a plague, poisoning itself. We must make mountains of our myths. There are no orthodoxies in the new kingdom. Just ideas building on ideas, dripping sediment forming stalagmites, sunken topographies of the future.