Radio Quarantine -Sophia Loizou ‎– Singulacra (2016)

My usual approach to posting music is to expound on my own very personal reaction to the piece, or what it inspired or triggered in me, and then a meditation around the vibe or mood. The notes though for Singulacra, by SOPHIA LOIZOU were interesting enough that maybe they should take precedent over my rambling. They describe themes that I’ve spent a good deal of time on in the last year and in the last six months especially:

“Bristol, England-based sound artist and producer Sophia Loizou presents Singulacra, the follow-up to her 2014 debut, Chrysalis, which is itself a staggering exploration of the conflict between nature and technology and the space between natural and synthetic sounds.

With Singulacra, Loizou builds on the framework of Chrysalis for her most ambitious offering to date. Ghostly remnants of hardcore and early jungle percolate throughout while fragments of radio transmissions seep in and out through tape-based processes and spectral processing, leaving the listener in a hauntingly beautiful landscape filled with both solidity and disintegration.

Bringing back the times of pirate radio, almost like lost transmissions from beyond the grave, this work provides a sense of intimacy and familiarity during the contemporary full-speed acceleration toward unknown futures. Exploring its audiences’ anxieties surrounding technological utopias while retaining an emphasis on nurturing human value when facing inhuman forces, Singulacra engages with the potential loss of human essence amid technological progress toward artificial intelligence.

My own questions have always leaned more into the idea that we as a whole don’t know enough of what our human essence is to ensure that it would be included in any being we create. How would we even know what was missing from the recipe or plan? We often don’t even recognize other organic humans (redundant?) as existing in the same plane of humanity as ourselves. We actively dehumanize and debase and demean… I don’t know if we’re ready when the extent of our imagination in creating AI/CYBORG/ANDROID/HUMANOID entities is largely as slaves or servants, so we can eliminate the moral questions around having servants and slaves. Some are just smart enough to have moral questions. How human does it have to be before we have to treat it as human, especially when we still have any number of rationales for treating other humans as less than? This isn’t exactly a condemnation or even an indictment. Morals and ethics evolve as our relationships with the world evolves. Even our views concerning nature and other animals have evolved in my relatively short lifetime. People are slowly recognizing a sense of stewardship over the natural world, if only after threatening its very existence with irresponsible development. Our relationships with pets and domestic animals are evolving… slowly. A dog, or example, occupies a different space in our households and hearts than it would have forty years ago.

Anyway… Maybe the above quote is just a fancy way of saying she is mixing analog and digital and blurring the lines between the two? I don’t know. The statement grabbed me and pulled me in (obviously).

I’d have to listen to Singulacra a few more times before deciding if the sort of mission statement matches the outcome. First impression is that it does indeed create a more broad landscape than the claustrophobia and enclosed anxiety of music I’ve posted in recent days. There is more of a kinesthetic thing, and an exploration of the space. The fear is there, but more low-key. It’s more a sense of the uncertainty of navigating an unfamiliar terrain than fear. It is actually where my head is at today, fueled by a desire to roam. It is, as the notes suggest, not an entirely solid space that Loisou has created. There are familiar touchstones or landmarks, but they have been removed from their usual positions and it creates a cognitive dissonance. Nothing is quite where it should be, even if it is immediately recognizable.

Maybe that’s where the notes are accurate. What happens when you are interacting with AI in any form? You find yourself stuck on human characteristics in something that is decidedly not human. Or maybe it is? Where do you go with that? This is fleshed out (no pun intended) in the music. You hear a solid jungle beat, or a snatch of it, but it doesn’t feed into a groove. It’s picked up and dropped into something alien. Human voices, samples of house music maybe, the same. There are fragments of humans in something that isn’t exactly human. Okay… maybe success then, and the mission statement isn’t all bloated bollocks. I get it.

I get it. Would I have gotten it without the notes? Maybe, without quite knowing what was making me react to the human fragments. Now see, this is why I don’t read the placards in modern art galleries or museums if they are more than simply the name of the artist and the year the piece was created. It is better to react than to be led, mostly. I’m not angry. Guideposts aren’t necessarily a bad thing. With things like this though they can depersonalize the experience. But I’m not angry. Quite the opposite, the experience of being guided through this specific piece gives me direction maybe for the next one. I’ll gladly accept that.

All this aside, Singulacra is a moving experience with or without the pre-narrative. Not sorry I clicked it open.

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