Radio Quarantine -Arctica & DeepDark – Echoes of the Dead City (2016)

This one, by ARCTICA, a Ukrainian ambient/dark ambient act, was inspired by and composed for Pripyat, the place “where time stopped.” I think that last snippet in quotes captures the fascination for the city. It’s a place, where if not built with the best of intentions, was inhabited by young people acting in the best of intentions. It was the “Soviet dream” as the woman from Azure Dust described it. She spoke of the sense of community and positivity, the fairs and the markets and the arts. And then… well, with less than two days notice became empty. Everything was left where it was set down and then buried. The buildings remain as immense tombstones. There was another village explored in the documentary that wasn’t evacuated so quickly and the filmmakers walked through the school, opening notebooks with sentences half-finished. When the call came to leave, everything was simply left as it was.

This music captures the desolation. There isn’t much more to say about it, but that it could be the sound of gamma radiation… of poison… of what’s left of dreams when life is abandoned. It’s the sound of ghosts, and if there is truly such thing as ghosts this is where you might find many of them.

So what’s my angle on this? What’s my fascination? I think it’s complex and I’ll try to put it to words. Firstly, there is science fiction which has always been a passion. It became more of a passion when it became obvious that a lot of science fiction is only fiction until it becomes a reality. This realm of film and literature is often where the future is told. If you can conceive of it, then it can happen. That’s a wide open statement really and I don’t say it lightly. There are many things I don’t believe, but the running theme in science fiction of man trying to harness god-like powers with disastrous results has become reality many times over now by 2021. We’ve created bio-weapons and there is no telling what that could bring. Nuclear power, whether weaponized or for energy production, has created an enormous threat that we have yet to adequately address. We’re pushing forward with genetic modifications with no real knowledge of what harmful side effects there might be down the road. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it, but let’s not pretend there is no danger. All of this has been explored in science fiction for decades now. This art realm is where the future is told. Not religious texts. Not psychics. It’s been writers and filmmakers showing us where these roads might lead.

There is a philosophical angle also. We’ve (collectively) imagined futures and science itself has attempted to guide our imagination to reality with varying degrees of success. We (mankind) have tried to materialize this collective vision. We were promised flying cars, is the running meme on social media. We were promised an end to hunger, disease and any kind of hardship. We have… well, look around you. You know what we have. We have a planet in danger and nowhere to go when this one is used up. But it’s all driven my dreams of what could be. Where do dreams go to die? What do they look like when they’re dead? What are we left with, as humans, when we are driven by failure to let dreams die? Or do we just plain cease to dream?

Are we still human when we cease to dream? I think the short answer to that is from a zoological aspect, yes we are still human. From a philosophical standpoint though perhaps we should be attempting to redefine what exactly it is that makes us human. Maybe we need to dream smaller, or at least in gradual steps toward the future. I don’t know. I’m still processing this, and frankly, it’s probably already been explored in full through science fiction because that’s where the main philosophical arguments have been taking place. The writers are the first people to drill down and focus on what it is that sets us apart from the mechanical universe we’re creating to live in.

Anyway, there’s a second volume from Arctica inspired by their journey to Pripyat. It’s also worth the listen as it captures what the ghosts of the dreams might sound like if we were to listen more closely.

This is where I am this morning. How does it feel? That’s a tough question. Just thinking really, and it’s kind of sprawling and not translating well to words.

I think of some of our biggest failures in the wake of World War II when so much was destroyed and we had the opportunity to reimagine how we all live and work as a species. We were also moving quickly away from our village and agrarian lives into urbanization, industrialization and nuclearization. Our technology may have outpaced our biology. We may still be, speaking in an evolutionary sense, still an agrarian species. Maybe we we just aren’t wired to live in huge cities with massive apartment blocks and factories and concrete and steel? We weren’t meant to be sedentary in front of brightly lit machines trading in data rather than material goods to feed our true hierarchy of needs as biological entities, were we? Questions… I don’t know the answers. I just see the results.

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