Today’s industrial societies are approaching total technological immersion. Our words are recoverable even after they have been wiped from hard drives. Phone conversations are prone to becoming public record. Servers are subpoenaed. Burner phones are used by the guilty and the innocent alike. The words of Luke 12:3 seem prescient: “What you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” The final track contains a dialogue that begins and ends with the question, why didn’t you burn the tapes? Older listeners may remember Watergate. Younger listeners may think of Donald Trump’s warning to James B. Comey, tweeted earlier today: “You better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations.” In defense of his decision, a defendant protests, There was never a thought that one word of those tapes would be played in public.
Dyschronia means “a lack of comprehension of concepts of time.” By unmooring samples from time and blasting them with electronic waves, Markus Mehr underlines the concept, presenting a world in which all things happen at once, sans guidepost. He captures not only the sense of digital surfeit, but of digital edit and re-edit. The world gives us sound, but we prefer sound bytes. Mehr turns the idea on its head, intercepting fragments of beauty from the ether: organs and orchestras, engines and choirs. In “Dyschronia 2”, a hardhat blast stutters like a machine that won’t start or an industrial track that won’t begin, demonstrating the limitations of interrupted signals. In like fashion, the music samples hint at larger, more intriguing works. In their revised context, they are slaves rather than partners: tamed, corralled, assigned. Mehr’s only (intentional) derailment is to make his soundscapes seem so appealing as electronic-organic blends that the listener fails to question what may have been lost in translation. Perhaps this is the artist’s hidden point: that we have replaced one type of beauty with another, the soulful with the soulless, and have fooled ourselves into thinking that the two are equal. Our memories, preserved in sample and sound byte, promote a secondary nostalgia, not for time itself, but for the time when we attempted to capture time on cassette, videotape or phone. To paraphrase, our memories have become polluted by the technological medium of “preserving” our memories.
Mehr makes his point so smoothly that we may receive it blithely. Such a reaction supports his central argument, that we have been lulled into a blind and dangerous trust. If the first six tracks are sirens on an island, the seventh is the warning blast. Given what we now know, and what’s now happened, it was a disastrous thing to have done. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 16 May