Erstlaub :: Marconi’s Shipwreck DVD (Broken20)

Marconi’s Shipwreck emerges a tour de force of drone-scape shape-shift that defies possible imputations of longform legginess and single-take unkemptness to convince of its compositional integrity. Erstlaub’s audio webs draw us into their particulate detail, marshalling fizzing forces in service of his caustic campaign—a protest music de nos jours.

Erstlaub ‘Marconi’s Shipwreck’

[Release page] Radio pioneer Marconi mused that soundwaves, once generated, never die; they may fade away, but radiate still through the universe. Dave Fyans invokes this radio-age space junk conceit as a kind of metaphor to which to hitch his latest Erstlaub project. Marconi’s Shipwreck is a kind of multimodal polemic, trailed by a commentary railing against a signal-to-noise ratio out of control, of isolationism-bound screen-staring ‘where noise reigns over content, the illusion of social interaction brought about by the proliferation of Facebook where information is posted to be seen rather than to open dialogue, the pretence of connections and communication,’ and ‘relationships have become, in many cases, little more than the pressing of a button, people becoming so entrenched in the technology that their every move is a capturable, saleable, marketable commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.’ (Reference). Fyans’ Grumpy Old Man fulminations are, of course, nothing new. Declarations of the kind ‘humankind’s ship has been cast adrift in a sea of technology, waves of information crashing against our hull’ recall the cultural commentaries of Baudrillard, documenting a late-20th century lived in an increasingly global simulation where dominance of media-forms engenders, homogenizes, and hallucinates communications via a rigidly methodical interactive network; a so-called hyper-reality of simulation, driven by production of images and information, rather than material goods, the private sphere of human intimacy exteriorized, made categorical and thus diaphanous, described as an instrument of obscenity, transparency and ecstasy (see The Ecstasy of Communication).

Nothing ground-breaking ideationally, then, but what IS compelling here is the visual and musical poesis. Getting with the programme, Fyans brings to bear his signature visual style, developed through his work as art director of of Broken20, the TVO Glasgow imprint. He deploys an old TV set, a projector and a video camera set up to generate visual analogue noise in recursive feedback systems, screen noise captured and reprojected into itself, reeling out auto-pilot; filmed films form a frame-flicker flow of revenant screen-spewed info-entropy, visually brokering brokenness. Sound to this vision is a 72-minute sprawl-squall of analogue drone-drift veiled in white noise mist assembled from smaller discrete micro-movements – modular synthetic building blocks intended as ‘small, self portraits based on mental states arising from dissatisfaction with the subverted 21st century ideas of connection and interaction.’ Adrift in a non-narrative babble/Babel of sound and vision, the listener listing, unmoored, then diving for pearls from the interstitial. Sonically it draws on the tropes of previous releases (see esp. The Last Few Seconds Before Sleep) with a weightier, depth-charged dynamic from meandering chthonic bass-prod, soiled sheets of grainy ambient fuzz, through which some frayed melody periodically pokes, romanticism bleeding through the most etiolated of textures. Traces of previous navigators’ coordinates are visible through the fog: flecks of Jeck and Hecker, a swish of English, a kernel of Köner, Vlad delay spray, all steeped in Chain Reaction dub hiss-tory.

Marconi’s Shipwreck emerges a tour de force of drone-scape shape-shift that defies possible imputations of longform legginess and single-take unkemptness to convince of its compositional integrity. Erstlaub’s audio webs draw us into their particulate detail, marshalling fizzing forces in service of his caustic campaign—a protest music de nos jours. Sprawling swathes of musicized spume and flotsam, singing the body(less) digi-electric, signalling the moronic inferno, the cretinous blather of digital info-overload, ever-expanding only to consume itself. Fyans brings, anti-hymns, the noise in all its useless beauty—as distraction, invasion, redundancy, as ecstasy, excess, disconnect in seeming connect. At once dyspeptic and romantic. The sun never shines on this TV.

Marconi’s Shipwreck is out now on Broken20. [Release page]

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