V/A ~ ShopLand World: Music for a Discovery Park of Miniature Supermarkets

The summer’s most tongue-in-cheek release is from Strategic Tape Reserve, who brings us 93 minutes of music for a proposed theme park, hoping that the EU will provide the rest of the funding.  We’re pretty sure this will never happen, though, just like Boris Johnson will never become Prime Minister.  Can you imagine!

As we’re in science fiction territory, it’s fair to mention that there are miniature supermarkets.  I once lived across the street from Dairy Barn: a tiny red building with a single employee.  Though I could walk there to purchase milk, he was “not allowed” to sell it to me.  I had to get in my car, drive across the street and pass through the pick-up window.  Not that I’m still bitter about it.  In fact, I’ve forgotten it completely.  Ha!

Anyway, it’s fun to imagine miniature supermarkets and what might be played in them.  The timbres of these 25 artists range from the expected to the out-there.  Despite emphasizing that this is not meant to be a collection for actual supermarkets, one can hear the parallels in the tracks that border on new age (especially those with Casios) or that imitate their closest cousin, elevator music.  There is probably a hell that plays a subgenre of supermarket elevator music, but let’s not go there.

One may approach this imagined theme park from different angles as well, the most obvious being the imagination.  If such a theme park were real, what would it contain?  The description includes plastic rocks pumping out this music.  If I heard a plastic rock spewing “What Penumbras” by Elizabeth Joan Kelly, I’d be intrigued; it’s like space age music performed by drunken shopping carts.  I once heard music coming from a manhole cover in Reykjavik, but no one could explain it other than to speculate that it was an installation; this has the same feel.  But then I imagine this music in Stop & Shop (an American grocery chain) and the befuddled looks it might provoke; I wouldn’t be surprised to hear someone pull a fire alarm (which might work well in duet).

Simon Garfield’s recent book In Miniature: How Small Things Illuminate the World offers a map of how such things might work, from flea circuses to doll houses to mini books and micro food, which would of course be sold in a miniature supermarket.  The cover art implies that these supermarkets would be smaller than people ~ and doesn’t that foreground lad remind you of Gorillaz’ “Feel Good Inc.”?  But we suggest thinking a little bigger.  After all, the sound of Phirnis is way too big to be contained in a miniature building without causing a panic.  (Where have you been, Kai?)

Whettman Chelmett‘s robotic “Wait Line for the Bossa Nova Aisle” implies the tedium of waiting on line next to the tabloids and candy.  The best title belongs to Robert McBeth‘s “Study into the Effects of Background Music on In-store Shopping Behaviour (See R.E. Millman, 1982)”, but the track itself is a nightmare, purposely underlining every cliche before speeding up at the end to get the hell out of there. Some of these tracks have limited replay value; but then again, one doesn’t always visit every aisle, nor does one seek to purchase mattresses at an electronics store, even though they are there.  (We’re talking to you, P.C. Richards.)  Speaking of mattresses, Dere Moans‘ “No Sleep Funnies” is exquisitely bizarre, the soundtrack to a night of insomnia so bad that one goes to a supermarket implicitly to seek tedium.  The TV music at the end suggests that the quest has been ineffective.  Continuing the theme, Marsha Fischer‘s “QVCCTV” starts with static and ends in soothing tones.  We’d bend down to look.  “A Loop for Closing” (by qualchan.) sends the listener out, shopping bags full, in anticipation of the diabetic coma about to be caused by the purchases.

Here’s hoping the project can get underway.  ShopLand World is the wheat germ of an idea, waiting for milk, a bowl and a spoon.  Every purchase brings the dream one step closer to fruition.  Walt Disney, watch your back!  (Richard Allen)

One comment

  1. Pingback: What Penumbras on A Closer Listen – Elizabeth Joan Kelly

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