2019 is for me a search for ways to re-engage lovingly with reality. I need to shake off and step out from under the frozen pose of feeling crushed by it. Let go, relax, get loose. Dive into Light In The Attic’s new compilation Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990. These tracks of ethereal, gossamer-fine wisps of furniture music from a corporate future-past sometimes resonate with human-sized sadness as on Hiroshi Yoshimura’s “Blink.”
Empire of Signs, the label that reissued Yoshimura’s Music for Nine Post Cards, knows how to weave around this “recovery” a good account of the work’s origins amid the bubble economy if 1980s Japan. Simon Reynolds calls it the “Fourth World Japan moment.” If only I could re-conceive myself as young, free, and driven. I would cook myself chestnuts. The picture would be big enough, robust enough. Life would feed me its signs, crows would speak to me, we’d crack jokes about malls and grocery stores. I wouldn’t just sit around all day surrounded by books.
I light up and contemplate Gaussian Curve’s The Distance, a version of contemporary ambient that I want to like but can’t. Too clean, too relaxed, too untroubled in its appreciation of the Muzak-oriented end of the Windham Hill catalog. Painfully aware of the modularity of my sonic environment, I discontinue The Distance and replace it with Shirase by Bonie Jash.
Without further warning, I receive ‘Ken Burns’-style slow zoom montage sequences: associative chains within a cavernous virtual environment. Each of us possesses a language-shaped map of the totality. Purple core memory units rotate around axes as virtual cameras race across space. As localized points of awareness, we drift without external points of reference, voices buzzing, chattering, asking, “Is this you?” Do I wish to imagine myself in the likeness of Nick Bottom? Are we all just minds awaiting absorption in tales told by imaginary tellers, metanarrative actants of our own desire? Bottom faced the dilemma faced by psychonauts. He had “a most rare vision…a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 4.1: 202-203). If these dreams are past wit of man to say, what then of these trance-scripts? Can a spirit search a dream that hath no bottom?