“Protocol is a haunting symphony performed by a post-human orchestra”, says Channeler in the EP’s notes, “a collection of heavy, anxious breathing from partially autonomous machines, combating the notion that they are instruments of an other and not in and of themselves.” This sci-fi setting is paired with the classicality of the album art, a reproduction of a Dutch renaissance engraving that depicts the fall of Phaethon, the son of Greek sun god Helios. Phaethon’s tragic story is conventionally understood as the antipode of youthful heroism, since, wanting to drive his father’s blazing chariot through the unwieldy and dangerous paths of constellations without first growing the necessary wisdom to do so, he quickly loses control and freefalls to the earth, burning deserts into its surface. Zeus, appalled by the destruction wrought, punishes him with death, striking him down with a lightning bolt and throwing his burning body into the river Eridanos. The chariot, the machine of the sun, is something whose operation requires more than just enthusiasm or even experience, and which demands profound knowledge of all that surrounds its mechanics. What happens, then, when we dismiss the context of machines and glorify the romance of ‘disruption’ and the heroic narrative of technological advancement?
In a way, we are already falling, we are already scorching the earth. But it is no longer out of hubris – it is part of the protocol. As these machines acquire sentience, with techno beats and electronic hisses, they seek becoming in the labyrinth of a world populated by digital pulses and indeterminate noises, the warmth of appliances humming with inner lightning. As his name indicates, Channeler is just an intermediary between the fiery chariot falling and the thunder that will strike after: an incredible heat indistinguishable from the utmost chill, processors reaching 60 degrees Celsius while encased in cold. The beats are not punchy and made for dancing, even when they do match the heart, and long ambient sections function as the background droning of the mechanical not as active principle but passive, the noisy texture of thought. It sounds like creativity, but it is probably more akin to following and bending (not breaking) the rules, the turbine rhythm of “BOUNDBYSERPENTS” flowing into different states of the same crackling tone.
The track names have a mythological slant, as if indicating that machines being born might understand their surroundings not via the cold logic we usually associate with the protocol but by turning all those procedures into the very weaving of the world: relentless droning as the meaning of existence, a human with a torch at the center of the labyrinth, the ruins of cultures not a mystery but an ambient lesson of a nature reduced to laws. Protocol makes, however, no warning and no threat – it just is, it does not describe the apocalypse as a big, final rupture in the fabric of the planet, nor does it offer an expression of sheer alienation. Instead, it seeps curiosity, the limit of the human explored as the mythological foundation for the rules of the world. (David Murrieta)