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Weird Sunday; Thought Gang

I was listening to Thelonious Monk earlier, engaged in a kind of Jazz haze of the kind typical of a Sunday morning when a small reminder crossed my computer screen somewhere that an album had come out by “Thought Gang”. I was vaguely aware of this, Thought Gang being this name under which a few collaborative tracks had been recorded between David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, cropping up on the soundtrack to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and the recent third season of Peaks as a few slices of bizarro-world jazz one might expect from a Lynch-infused project. Here was a fully realised album of material under the name, one that apparently had been made a long time ago, but languished unreleased until now, fulfilling the prerequisites of what we might call a “lost” album, though in truth this is a bit of a misnomer.

Lynch has released two albums of music under his name by this point, both being highly atmospheric affairs and engaging in exactly the kind of sound-play one might expect from the man knowing his other work. This thought gang album, though, is a different kettle of fish. A couple of tracks on it have been heard before, prominently “A Real Indication” and “The Black Dog Runs at Night” from the FWWM soundtrack, the former, when I first heard it coming across distinctly like some long lost Tom Waits song, but a good deal of the material here is seeing the light of day for the first time, and boy is it worth it. 

Far from the dreamy atmospherics of Lynch’s solo work, Thought Gang delivers some truly strange excursions through avant-jazz, electronic manipulation, noise infused ambient soundscapes, even at a certain moment becoming reminiscent of the rhythmic stabs of early Swans. The formal deconstructions of jazz meld with sinister atmospherics to produce a marvellously disconcerting collage of fractured sounds culminating in two drawn out pieces probably the most reminiscent of Badalamenti’s later soundtrack work. The Lynchian usually entails a deep structural confusion, solidity dissolves into a psychedelic folding of reality, and this Thought Gang album is suffused with that essential deformation, careening in a subconscious fashion from sound to sound and coalescing into something that works excellently as its own piece of surreal jazz experimentation. Perfect for your inter-dimensional nightmarish Sunday excursions.

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Echoes of a Fractured Hologram

There’s been a curious development in modern music characterised by the offset retro leanings of vaporwave and its multiple offshoots. A very specific sense of wistful melancholy is distilled into a particular musical form, a single line from a piece of 80s Musak slowed down, distorted and repeated until it forms something redolent of a suspended, repeated mutation of the past. You might find yourself wandering into a computer generated representation of an 80s shopping mall, or what we imagine such a place would be like, empty and inhuman save for the same line of cheesy pop music repeating itself infinitely, digitally enshrined, protected from degradation but degrading through the very act of repetition into an audible rhythm indistinguishable from your own heartbeat. It is the music of a suspended degraded future, where the spectres of gothic fiction are replaced by flickering holograms, and, in the words of David Byrne, nothing ever happens.

Clarence Clarity’s music explores similar territory, insomuch as he re-appropriates the sounds of pop, R&B, soul, electronic music and everything in between and repeats it, fractures it and builds it into a digital cathedral of maximalism and broken down realities. His last album, No Now encapsulated this fever dream of images appropriated again and again before being twisted and distorted, a portrait of the postmodern condition as a sense that there is No Now. The multilayered production and strange glitched mutations of pop music found there presented however a distinctly futurist statement amid a time where the mainstream places all its bets on the industry of nostalgia and recreation. The version of pop music found here was a thrillingly unique and bold fusing of multiplicities that pushed beyond the hologram, fracturing it and hacking the mall systems to play all music at the same time. 

On Think:Peace , his new album, CC runs further with this while at the same time distilling the maximalist ambitions down to a series of often more contained pop tunes. The climax of the album in many ways is a piece called Same?. If through the course of the album we find ourselves wandering through the empty shopping mall, finding it breaking apar around us, trying to reach somewhere beyond a sense of digitised ironic detachment, this track ties directly into an earlier one, titled Naysayer, Magick Obeyer, on which notably he sings “make me feel like you feel good” [the implications of this, that the reality of the situation no longer matter, the illusion is more important, a line about the maintaining of illusion in lieu of the resignation of searching for real experience]. This exploration of the importance of illusion returns on Same? a mind-bending piece of music that starts in a different place but quickly morphs over its run-time to become a repeat of the earlier song, the album becoming a circular repetition of appeals to illusion.

Think:Peace is one of the most current, cutting-edge and thought-provoking pop albums from one of its most unique underground voices. It is no longer a digital cathedral, but the fractured memories of a hologram compiled into a new form, something that rather than simply repeating the sounds of he past creates a hyper-realised image of them and mutates them into new forms, echoes from the shopping mall of the past gathering into a symphony of mechanised harmony, warped, spiralling into an uncertain future. This is a journey into the tenuous links between illusions, a demonstration that pop music can be anything but shallow, indeed can be an exploration of shallowness in the most interesting way possible.