Music Reviews
Computer Decay

Infinity Frequencies Computer Decay

(self-released) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Nothing is spectacular about the music of bygone soap operas, videomercials, and C-grade, school-district approved science documentaries. The music, largely composed in studios by a slew of unnameable, forgotten musicians, is mostly incidental, structured to enhance the emotions of the the viewers, encouraging them to be scared, to cry, to be angry, to think more critically, or to be surprised, depending on the situation and the video. It's frightening to know that musicians got money for this, and maybe, enjoyed recording it. It's frightening and also exhilarating, especially because Vaporwave music, and specifically the music of Infinity Frequencies, reappropriates these old-fangled genres. Now that it's 2014 – and some music critics have long waged a war on Vaporwave, calling forth (and predicting) its death – these sounds, like cheese, have gone through a cultural fermentation process. Their cheesiness (pun intentional) has aged, and they've become Detroit-esque relics of the Muzak industry that produced them, as well as sonic representations of a culture completely absorbed within the abyss of capitalism. While listening to the short, free-downloadable EP, called Computer Decay, it's clear that capitalism has a musical aesthetic, and that we, now with the tools and the gigabytes to preserve and archive everything, haven't forgotten about all of the sonic detritus from the '80s and '90s, though we may have forgotten about the context from which the music was originally intended to be listened to. (And that forgetting, especially for Infinity Frequencies, is important, functioning like a musical weapon of sorts.)

Listening to Computer Decay is bi-fold: we listen to the music now, thinking about digital congestion, the hot topic of today, while also listening (very magically) to the non-musical aspects foreign to the music itself, (thinking to ourselves: where did this music come from? what was its original utilitarian purpose? was this for a soap opera? was this for a commercial? is so, what product was this for?), thus redefining the purpose of what the music once was. The names of the musicians that made the music are gone. Really gone. Not even Infinity Frequencies probably knows who they are, or were. But what's most important is that searching through the digital dustbins of YouTube, using archive.org, or going through floppy disks and transferring older data forms into mp3s, is a peculiar form of cultural resurrection. This complicates consciousness, especially our sense of linear time, and the idea of music as a historical process. If we treat Computer Decay as sound occurring now, in 2014, then the music is that fresh. But when we start to think about the culture behind his resources – those pixelated, television-heavy years, full of processed foods and a proliferation of logos, toys, and corporations surrounding our everyday lives and impacting our everyday decisions – then we surround the music in a larger context, a context dominated by a troubled postmodern culture struggling with media, object-fetishism, soap operas, the inventions of new genres, money, food anxieties, and the outsourcing of almost everything we do, besides our one specialized office job.

Now then, is that big word music journalists like to butcher: nostalgia. Simon Reynold's book Retromania has taken on this topic most recently, with him asserting that the main difference between the 20th century and the 21st century is that in the latter, genres can never be invented anymore – there will be, from now on, only rehashed forms of older genres, including unforeseen mixtures (think rap-metal, or ska bands covering Sinatra.) What makes Vaporwave fascinating, based on this proposition, is that its nostalgia isn't always about mixing well-known genres, or about the shock of something completely new that paves the way for futuristic thinking. "Vaporwave is not itself muzak, in other words, it is about muzak," James Parker and Nicholas Croggon, two writers for Tiny Mix Tapes, wrote recently in an online feature titled "The Trouble with Contemporary Music Criticism." That means that Infinity Frequencies is a project largely about self-referentiality, artifice, virtuality and textuality; it's music that if put on in a coffee shop, no one would take notice, but played in an art museum, would draw attention because of how it questions our sense of nostalgia, transforms absence into presence, and isn't a rehashing of an older form, but is an older form. It's music, originally, to shop along to: one of the goals of Muzak, after all, is to manipulate your buying habits. Fast music makes you react quickly; they play it in McDonald's so that people order faster, no doubt keeping with the theme of their food also being made fast, (and killing their customers faster, too). And listening to music in an elevator is an activity for businessmen and businesswomen to mindlessly engage in to reduce the awkwardness and slight claustrophobia induced during the situation.

When Parker and Croggon talk about the prevalence for music writers to engage music on a historically significant level rather than a critical one, Infinity Frequencies can be a vexing project, more so because of how much we want to think about the emergence of elevator music during the last thirty years, and the physical spaces where that music was experienced (all of those elevators, bedrooms, public restrooms, teahouses, train stations, newsrooms, and malls) and how those spaces are different now.

So why this resurgence in nostalgia? Some writers think it's because we now have the ability to be nostalgic more efficiently than ever before. (Efficiently, as if there's some sort of calibration involved). Put in a different way: the internet has made us become better equipped to be nostalgic. And there's a lot to be nostalgic about. Old cars? Daytime television? Plastic covered couches? Processed breakfast cereal, Super Nintendo, plastic tricycles? We talk about the '80s and '90s as if they're still happening. We want to go back to a slower life. There is an allure to slowness. International movements like Slow Food advocate an escape from the technology that's accelerating us, and the fast food that's killing us. What would life be without the internet, on the farm, back in the country, where the only thing you have time to concentrate on are the chickens, cows, fields, barns, and vegetables? (Would the world be listening to all of this electronic music?) Enter the Vaporwave paradox: a music that's largely about an era dominated by old technology (VCRs, overhead projectors, radio, television), occurring today largely because of the ease of new technologies like the internet and digital audio workstations, many which can be easily pirated. Maybe we're not so much as nostalgic about the past as we our about the future of our lives, and how to live them accordingly to traditional principals that are well-known and succeed, such as the ones that are embedded in the past. Or maybe nostalgia is the wrong word here, maybe that's just how living is: the past intersecting the present at the speed of our Wifi connections, temporally phasing itself, and undulating while we sample and spread viscosity over everything: a void that floats in front of things. A void filled by capitalist consumerism, moth-eaten by echo and haze.

"When computers sleep, they dream." - Infinity Frequencies.

How could music decay, or relate to decay? Through language. Through ecology.

A computer is born, in China. The Foxconn factory, often referred to as "iPod city," where three hundred and fifty thousand employees turn out millions of Apple products each year, has been criticized due to its many recent suicides; management has installed protective netting around several of the buildings. Despite this controversy, the products, assembled by human hands, are packaged and shipped to the US and sold in Apple Stores throughout the country. In theory, there's a small chance that your iPod was manufactured by someone who committed suicide. But that doesn't disturb your daily computer usage, and how much you enjoy your computer and the things you do on it.

Two years pass, three years pass, four. It's time for your computer to die. As an honest consumer and recycler, you take your old computer to the electronic store and give it to them to recycle. In the back warehouse, they throw the computer into a massive dump full of other electronic gadgets: phones, radios, laptops, televisions. It waits. It decays, but very slowly. Seagulls, swerving overhead, don't bother it. Pigeons sniff it, uninterested. Rats move on, disengaged.

This is, of course, part of an electronic life cycle that we leave to others to deal with: it's the same with plumbing: we don't want to know that our feces gets dumped into the Pacific ocean, or that it gets treated in a Wastewater Treatment Plant, only to become tap water. Unlike our water, we don't have a system to turn a computer into other things. Half of what's inside of it, the plastics, and the chemicals, have half-lives that will outlast humans. Think of styrofoam and plastic. These materials will outlast us. The plastic bag you brought your new computer in will survive longer than the last human to live on earth. Think of plutonium and uranium. These chemicals – chemicals that we've manufactured – will be present when the sun incinerates the earth during its ascension into a red giant.

Computer Death, Computer Decay. On Computer Decay's first track, "Forever," the computer spurts out the word "forever," which is the last word off the last track of Computer Death, "Majesty," track featuring a New Age monologue, which goes like this:

"I am made of blue sky, and golden light. And I am made of blue sky, and golden light. And I am made of blue sky, and golden light. And I am made of blue sky, and golden light. And I am made of blue sky, and golden light. And I will feel this way forever. And I will feel this way forever. And I will feel this way forever."

The albums succeed each other. Computer Decay begins as a glitch: a chicken walking around the farm with its head cut off; a Hiroshima victim, walking around hopelessly, breathing heavily. Language, in these instances, is regarded as a kind of afterthought or additive. The word decay comes from the French decair: to fall of, or from. But within this world, surrounded by gravity, radiation, and the abstraction of money, it's hard to fall away from anything. A computer can't decay completely. New Age ideals can't cure anxiety, new genres can't solve industrialization. The ambience (the Latin ambo means on both sides) of the ghostly withdrawals of gamma ray exposure makes our feelings towards capitalism shaky. We are realizing, by listening, that capitalism is a hyperobject, beyond our control, infecting our consciousness, and that this infection is viscous, sticky and ugly and obese in weight, old in years, and maintaining a strict diet from a plethora of pills and food "designed" by food scientists.

What do we do in this world of plastic ambience? In 2011, the Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory, a program offered to Yale students, published a paper called "Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Endophytic Fungi." The students discovered Pestalotiopsis microsopra, the first fungi anyone has found to survive on a steady diet of polyurethane alone, and do this in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment that is close to the condition at the bottom of a landfill. This discovery can effect music, language, capitalism, computers, and a vast ecosystem of relational aesthetics. Money, the shadow behind Computer Decay, could also be effected. Think of the companies who could profit. Think of the proliferation of plastic, of the landfills in China full of poor people breaking down parts for a few cents. Think of a computer slowly being ingested. Think of mushrooms sprouting on the computer, or compostable spoons and cups with the advisory: "made from biodegradable computer parts." Think of Vaporwave as a looking-glass to celebrate the poetics of decay.

The cycle begins again. The discrete audiovisual shells beneath which the music shines with hazy beauty, leads to vertigo or even hypnosis. A piano, a MIDI string ensemble, a foggy synth chord, the name of a Japanese company spoken by a voice actor. When computers sleep, they dream: this is a dream of life again, of music, as music, critiquing not only itself, but a third object, a more abstract object, such as consumerism, digital reliance, and the abstraction of craftsmanship. If Reynolds thinks that the 21st century is about recycling, then he should brace himself for the future of electronic music: a heightening of our sense of virtuality and abstraction, disturbing our sense of narrativity.