What’s going on inside all those disc drives, cellphones and computers? We’ve grown accustomed to obvious sounds: the whirr of a burning disc, the start-ups and shut-downs, the overheating hum of internal fans. But what about all the data stored, trashed and seemingly lost? Detectives are able to recover data from hard drives, and even the Internet seems to keep a copy, as those who have tried to delete incriminating emails have discovered. Digital footprints are nearly impervious to destruction, as Markus Mehr demonstrates via sharp amplification. His induction microphones ferret out the hidden and over-written, exposing – and perhaps indicting – humanity’s newest enduring mark.
What is the sum of all these Netflix binges, G.P.S. searches and impulsive texts, these memos and photos and hacks? A big, unsorted tangle of sonic debris, not the Cloud but the precipitation from the Cloud. And that’s what this release sounds like: the malfunctioning of fax machines, connective failures, and spinning color wheels, but also regret, shame, and a creeping soullessness. If a nuclear bomb seems to explode in “Re-Directed 2,” the ensuing sound of a Xerox machine destroys all context. Then a digital swarm descends, followed by a mangled church bell. It’s beautiful, it’s ugly, it’s all in the ear of the beholder. Re-Directed is the strangest sort of soundscape, a field recording for the digital generation. As screens become our dominant visual attraction, mechanized noises – audible and inaudible – become our dominant aural input.
There are sociopolitical implication to this release, underlined by the video work of Stefanie Sixt. Might patterns become our new preference, displacing images of flora and fauna? Is the random hypnotic preferable to the messy unpredictability of human life? By embedding “real” snippets of music (stuttered piano and occasional beats), Mehr makes “Re-Directed 4” a choice between two worlds, one of which can be obliterated with an electromagnetic pulse. Yet he undercuts his dire message – perhaps deliberately – by making his music so alluring. It’s not until the orchestration breaks through the static in the final piece, echoing a Hawai’ian luau, that a sense of awakening develops. Here at last is the soul we once lost, strangled in the brambles. (Richard Allen)