Have I become an advocate not of one particular fantasy but of fantasy in general? Out of the libraries and into Cloud Cuckoo Land? For music played in non-countercultural public spaces (stores, restaurants and the like), my preferences skew toward the rock-classical: Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Radio fodder from the time of my birth. Along my walks each day, I notice certain changes. The daffodils of several weeks ago, for instance, are gone without a trace, but for the remains of a choice few. Sarah speaks to me of hormones surging, cells dividing. So unfolds the dialectic of difference and repetition, tears and ruptures allowing for the assimilation of novelty into the always-already of an eternal present.
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.”
Dreams are among the most important of a person’s practices. Telephasic moons play tricks with neurochemistry, intervening in dominant narratives through production of new fantasies. Yet the information we receive when we dream somehow in its happening immediately degrades, undergoes loss. Think of it as a kind of Worm Ouroboros. Upon contact with consciousness, the message partially self-destructs. We’re left hovering indecisively at the interstices between worlds. Evacuated of truth-claims, unable to strive, gather, uncertain of vocation, I allow Jed Speare’s “At The Falls” to disconnect me and disperse me.
As the track proceeds, I somehow suture myself back together again as a cursor on a screen. Capitalism deprives even its intellectuals of the labor-time needed to analyze situations correctly, as these trance-scripts do hereby testify. We work most of our daytime hours just to reproduce ourselves, leaving the business of consciousness evolution to ghoulish popular-science types, neoliberal trend-humpers, preening careerists. News cycles update at rates we can’t afford.
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.
Neoliberalism sheds much of Fordism/Keynesianism’s reliance on “myth” or “popular narrative” to win consent, as it realizes it can rule more effectively now through simple economic coercion — behavior regulated by wages, prices, and debts. Combined, of course, with the ever-present use of state violence, or the threat thereof. I imagine appareling myself in wizard’s robes, sleeves hanging low off of upraised arms. There I am, standing before the class enemy, waving a wooden wand. “They neglect to invent new stories,” I complain. Blades of grass quiver gently beneath a breeze as sunlight warms my face. Seated later at a table topped with irises, I sample two upcoming tapes from Eiderdown Records, followed by KBOO’s program “Music and Poetry of the Kesh.”
‘Tis a day and night of gluttonous consumption. Pull My Daisy (1959) pulls my daisy. Jack Kerouac yaks out a rickrack storyline atop black-and-white footage of the Beats, shot by Robert Frank. Mind is a breath that rides shotgun alongside being.
Drums played aloud outdoors in a land officiated by bells and chimes becomes for the allegorical imagination shorthand for assertion of religious difference, assertion of an alternative path to ekstasis or peak-experience. Language is already present in nature’s abstraction of itself through song. Rhythm and bass evoke embodiment, as melody and tone evoke transcendence. Neon flashes hover as after-images against the backs of my eyelids. Overhead I spy a woodpecker — a Northern Flicker, perhaps. Moments later, a plane with red wings. The Deep Listening Band adds to, overlays atop the experience a work recorded in Oregon’s Fort Warden Cistern called “The Ready Made Boomerang.”
The sound’s vastness inevitably suggests mystery. Remind others of this. Echo it. Alter aural perspective. Induce awe through cavernous resonance.
I wish I could pull it all together, assemble the pieces of an intellectual history of the psychedelic revolution. The history I have in mind extends far beyond the figures and materials covered in recent books like Jesse Jarnow’s Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America. Jarnow’s book uses the Dead as its connective thread, whereas I’m more interested in telling the stories of head culture’s organic intellectuals: those “technicians of the sacred” who attempted to interpret and make sense of psychedelic experience. A bee zooms into view — and alone remains, when all is through, the day’s iconic residue. In the meantime, a glimpse of the moon: