Radio Quarantine -ORGUE NOUVEAU / M.I.A. – O Tempora, O Mores (Tryphon Productions + Neons Publishing) 2021

This one, from ORGUE NOUVEAU in Nantes, France, could easily come with a trigger warning. There is enough dissonance, both sonic and cognitive, to easily turn people off and shut them down, but it’s bound to capture a few as it did me. It’s described as ambient and yes it is in the broader definition of the term but it’s not what we usually associate with the word. It’s not spacious and peaceful. It’s not New Age. It’s not easy-listening. Let me revisit the New Age bit. It could be New Age, but that’s going to depend on what you imagine the New Age to be. The future here is not pretty. It’s the sound of a world that’s come apart at the seams and fallen into grinding chaos.

So of course I love it.

It seems to be a split LP, between Orgone and M.I.A. (not the Sri Lankan M.I.A.) but it’s not really explained on the Bandcamp site. Perhaps it’s two different projects from the same people? Hard call. I came upon it accidentally while sifting through the clicks, and it hit home. Orgue Nouveau of course translates from French as New Organ. Again, there is no real clarity on that. Is it a musical organ or an internal organ? I’ll shrug to that one. It may not matter. I just don’t know.

They could add the hashtag Dystopian to the Bandcamp page. That could be a word that I overuse. Let’s leave that thought there. Again, when you think of ambient music it’s often in the context of a more sweeping, open Utopian space. This is not Utopian. But is Dystopian accurate or would it just be Realism at this point? The industrial grinding of the first half of the album does slow into synth keys and strings, but that’s not to say that it becomes more akin to traditional ambient. Quite the opposite, it’s filled with anxiety and dread. It’s kind of like the dust has settled but you’re still left with an uninhabitable space. Long pause… Maybe that’s all that needs to be said about the music.

I’m tapping about on some thoughts this morning about the crisis of meaning and how it plays out. I’ve been having an ongoing text exchange with a friend, circling around the crisis. I’m far from the first person to dally about with the idea that in the absence of struggle life ceases to have meaning, or rather it’s difficult to find meaning. When you’re not working hard towards something, even if it’s just day to day survival, simple basic aspects of life become entirely abstract. There is a tendency to invent definitions and guidebooks/manuals for what hardship and danger and existential threats are. Or conversely what happiness is. What will bring happiness? What will bring security? We are creatures biologically designed with a fight or flight instinct that in the larger part of Western World have no practical application. In the absence of threat and hardship and pain, we stretch the definitions and invent it. We shape our identities around mythology and ghosts. It’s an elaborate cosplay in a way except that we’ve lost sight of the fact that it’s play. Our bodies react to the ghosts and the shadow demons as if our lives depended on fight or flight. It’s a phenomenon that runs parallel perhaps to how young men and women raised in violence and oppression are radicalized, but the difference is that none of it is real. Perceived threat isn’t the same as threat.

Of course it plays out in more innocuous ways. We adopt identities we’ve experienced from entertainment and pop culture. We slip into the costumes to match the abstract or hologram we’ve constructed around us… etc. We’re all doing cosplay to a certain extent. Where there is no common struggle to bind people as a group we invent a struggle and then insert ourselves as characters into it. Or we do so as much as our financial limitations allow.

Or we sit on the outside, only just awake and aware enough to know that everything as false. Those of us sitting just outside the circles may mutter amongst ourselves or to ourselves about ideas like authenticity, or whatever that may be. Every so often, as need determines, we do have to insert ourselves into the tribal circles to work, or engage a sexual partner or whatnot. That latter part can become more difficult as waking time is extended. It requires the energy for smalltalk.

Again, these are ideas I’m tapping about the edges of this morning. Having engaged in the cosplay, it’s weird being outside the planning committees. It’s weird to be the only person not in costume or even worse, wearing the wrong costume. If everyone is dressed in Marvel comics gear and you’re in anime gear, you’re going to stand out, right?

Just some thoughts.

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