“What about the future?” thinks the time traveler. Could binaural beats be of use, as the Monroe Institute claimed? The narrator has cassettes of theirs in his basement, and could be cajoled into playing them for the time traveler as the latter reclines on a futon at Dada’s House on the night of a full moon.
“The Monroe people seem sort of creepy, though,” warns the narrator. They allege that their “Gateway Experience” enables escape from space and time. CIA thought the technique had some degree of merit, didn’t they? Enough, certainly, to warrant an investigation. The results of that investigation have been declassified and are available now through the CIA website. Thobey Campion reviewed the agency’s findings about the Institute several months ago in a piece for Vice.
On the floor of the hallway is a disco ball. At the end of the hall is a mirror. And the disco ball is not a disco ball; it’s a light projector. In the evening we dance. After the dance party, I retreat to the basement and listen to The Modern Folk’s Primitive Future / Lyran Group, a tape released last month from Eiderdown Records.
A track in and I remove the tape and replace it with Herbie Hancock’s Sound-System. When, a few tracks in, the latter album shifts frequencies and goes smooth jazz, I intervene again as DJ and swap in Healing Sounds by Dr. Christopher Hills & the University of the Trees Choir. As José David Saldívar argues in Border Matters, nation-states can be reimagined. Or as Raffi sings, “The more we get together / Together, together / The more we get together / The happier we’ll be.” It is with Raffi in mind that I attend an event: a series of “microtalks” hosted by a friend. Passcode to enter and we’re there. One participant asks “Can AI detect a new designer at Prada?” and shares his findings. Companies like Heuritec apply algorithms to “predict” new fashions. The Jacquard Loom is a kind of computer: a difference engine. Big data comes to fashion and biology. Properties and classes. “Zen koans for robo-cars.” Fluidity and nonbinarism allow for evasion of the predictors. The Ones Who Are Driven By Data. Expert Systems for the Design of Decisions. Blur the categories; Drive AI Crazy. Next up, a discussion of “Alchemical Chess.” The mysteries of the game’s origin in 6th century India. Chaturanga becomes Shatranj in 7th century Persia. The speaker wonders, though, what came before, like the ancient Greek game Petteia, mentioned by Plato, who claimed it came from Egypt, or the “Han Cosmic Board,” as described by Donald J. Harper. Think about the Lo Shu “magic square,” and the SATOR square, and the yantras. The latter means “machine” or “contraption.”
We can heal ourselves by placing ourselves in the presence of beautiful aesthetic objects like the new Dire Wolves cassette, Shootout at the Dildo Factory.
Or even better, given our mood at the moment, how about the new cassette from Lake Mary & Talk West on Cabin Floor Esoterica? Lo-fi improvised folk by a midwestern American guitar duo.
What I settle on, however, in my restlessness, in my hunger for uplift, is The Magicians Saw by Alex Meets Sand.
I see sand, fuzz, whiskers, sliced grapefruit, etchings of a state from memory. Bars of sunlight atop a grey carpet. While listening, I begin to eye Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as an American adaptation of Plato’s allegory of the cave. McMurphy shows up, a new Admission to the cave, with pants and shirt from the Pendleton Work Farm “sunned out till they’re the color of watered milk” (12). Dude’s been out in the SUN. The Cave has been updated; it’s far more brutal than it was for the philosophers of ancient Athens. They’ve added a “brain-murdering” room called the “Shock Shop.” And the freed individual, the one who ascends and returns — he, too, has changed. Where once he was a philosopher-king, now he’s a psychopathic “fights too much and fucks too much” capitalist. The men in the cave, we’re told, are like sleepwalkers “wandering round in a simple, happy dream” (16). From the moment of arrival onward, however, McMurphy charms them and helps them wake.
Larry Wish mines 90s videogame soundtracks and stretched-taffy jewelry box melodies on his new tape, How More Can You Need?
Where once I imagined the emergent complexity of the New Sentence, now I hear only an artfully arranged confetti. Siring forth, wavering, slurring. Give me the equivalent of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” demands the philistine, or I want my money back. Pain short-circuits the philistine’s ability to reason. He suffers back pain, he self-medicates, that stuff packs a punch, he imagines himself not just as a body but as an indwelling spirit, lives happily ever after. The rest of us know, though, “for a certainty,” as Lem says toward the end of His Master’s Voice, “that when the first emissaries of Earth went walking among the planets, Earth’s other sons would be dreaming not about such expeditions but about a piece of bread” (178). Let me clarify, then: I object to the Larry Wish tape neither because I think oppressed creatures like myself undeserving of fantasy, nor because I prefer more sighs and halos, but because, like Marx, I’d rather “throw off the chain and pluck the living flower.”
Slow, given to loops and routines, I lay down on a couch, as in a therapist’s office, and allow Jesse Fleming and Electric Sound Bath’s Ataraxia Series #1: Heart and Insight Meditations, a tape released last year on Crash Symbols, guide me to a place of self-questioning.
“When did I start behaving like a jerk?” I wonder quietly, as if for the first time. “Ages 5-10?” Cousins, neighbors, video games. “Why was I sometimes cruel to others?” I was bullied. Just in minor, ordinary ways: small attacks, acts of aggression. But certainly with enough frequency to embitter me. To this day, for instance, I find it hard to forgive some kid who, before gym class one day, pegged me in the face with a basketball, unprovoked, without forewarning, breaking my glasses, blackening my eye. But forgive I must, I suppose, if I’m ever to forgive myself. Ages 10-15. Fears about measuring up, fitting what was expected of me because of body type, gender. Ages 15-20. “I was a nice person at times,” I blubber. Fleming’s words unearth points of pain, but he advises well. Under his direction, I allow myself to ask for forgiveness for the harms that I’ve caused, knowingly or unknowingly, through my thoughts, words, and deeds. Thus we advance toward the extinction of suffering.
Study takes me on psychogeographical walks each day in the company of my partner, my coworker, my beloved comrade. Working together, playing together, we improvise our speculative collective practice. Others organize themselves into tribes, teams, and crews, where the many act as appendages of a director-subject’s creative process. A friend over dinner describes his willingness to invent himself anew each morning: “no mistakes yet,” he says of each day’s promise. Dreamers float atop a calm, reflective surface. Companions along a journey embody resistance to tyranny as they pass through gossamer veils. Succumbing to hunger, however, the couple lands in a local fast-food restaurant. The walls of the place bombard them with Christofascist propaganda: a father lecturing his daughters about Jesus, bible-themed Jeopardy!, “The Message” beamed at captives via satellite. To cleanse myself, I retire to a pinewood room, bathe myself in soft pink light, and listen to Concrete Beach by Toasted Focus, one of four new cassettes received by mail yesterday from Baked Tapes.
Next thing I know, I’m watching a goofy 80s horror film called Brain Damage. A growling creature curls a cesta-shaped tentacle around my head. Vaporwave cinema avant la lettre, the film, released at the height of the AIDS epidemic, invents from an alien parasite narrative a gritty post-punk psychedelic grotesque. The film’s “Elmer” parasite, as destructive as a dirty needle, turns its protagonist into a sociopath every bit as repulsive as American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Neither here nor there, the film plays in the space between.
Writing while high is a bit like trying to describe a sense beyond words. One would need formal devices — spinning Hypno Disks, entrancing patterns and rhythms. One could soundtrack one’s walk beside a curved, moss-covered wall with Equal, a cassette-sized aggregate of “electro-acoustic clicks, knocks and bumps” by Ecto Mist, released this past summer on Genot Centre.
Ecstatic, transcendental and magickal bliss. Or one can feel real awe tinged with fear by walking outdoors listening to Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka. Defy western culture’s ban on new ontologies. Fashion for oneself a homemade version of Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville’s Dreamachine. For more on this device, see John Geiger’s book Chapel of Extreme Experience.
No sense of self, no consciousness of time. Rapt, attentive, hypnotic. “Take notes,” I tell myself. “The one you woo is you.” Synthesized sound effects. Others in this society see that I’m struggling, see that I’m caged, yet none lift a finger to free me. I long for the day when this country is wiped from the face of the earth. Where are the activities and environments that used to give me joy? What became of happier times of yore? Kyle Landstra’s new tape Within/Without from Muzan Editions helps to calm me, abstracts me from matters that don’t matter.
The universe is only as accessible and as comprehensible as we allow it to be. Music can seem made by chance to arrive at one’s doorstep at the precise moment in one’s progress when one needs it. “Sometimes, when I have been high,” writes William Novak, “I have felt like a visitor to another land, a land both familiar and new at the same time, only inches and moments away from the land I normally inhabit, but also remote — and uncharted on any map I have consulted” (High Culture, p. xii). He describes wanting to take notes and send postcards back to the world he normally occupies, thus counteracting the head’s tendency to forget certain parts of the experience upon reentry. So, too, these trance-scripts.
This place is a kind of test, present only inasmuch as the “rat,” the possessor of consciousness, is aware of it. Occupants of the test say, “Please don’t forget us.” Consciousness knits itself over its time gaps and appears to itself as an unbroken continuity, a single being. I reassemble into a self, calling together into formation as Multitude my pharmacologically-enhanced body politic. We collect ourselves before a past life guided meditation tape: Curious Margie Meets Sunbirthed at the House.
Plastic cups dance before my eyes. I cross a bridge; I enter a house. But when coaxed to enter a doorway and recall a past life, my awareness dips and takes leave and I merely fall asleep.
The mind, invested in a sound or a state, pursues a path, awakening afterwards free of memory. Ash & Herb refer to this process, and in doing so give it shape, on tracks like “Root Awakening.”
Ash Brooks & ML Wah take heads even further into the beyond on their brilliant slow jam, “Deeper Than the Sea”: a long pan along an ever-evolving plot of concrete. Sarah strides beside me wearing her new backpack, reminding me for a moment of Tasslehoff Burrfoot, a character from a series of fantasy novels I read as a kid. Night-walking reveals a different kind of city, one to which I’m more amenable. A space of mystery. Whereas by day, I’m performing ganzfeld experiments, trying to separate psychic signals from mental noise. Suddenly Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia blooms into consciousness, mapping an otherwise invisible community of mind-opened peers.