In 1992, Warp Records founder Steve Beckett made the following observation: "It's not going to be long before an artist can make an album, film, CD1 and CDO in his or her own bedroom for a few thousand pounds, advertise the "product" to hundreds of thousands of people directly via the computer networks and sell directly to them. This will completely cut out the need for the usual trek around the major entertainment companies looking for finance, and could lead to things getting really interesting."
Exactly what he predicted has come true. The result, however, is that art and creativity seem more disposable than perhaps ever before. The quaint optimism of the early 90’s now lies obscured under a cloud of digital age cynicism. As the technology to make professional-grade art proliferates among the general population, a veritable deluge of media is thrust into the cyber world each and every day. Instead of democratizing creativity and ushering a new age of inspiration, both artists and their audience are drowning in a cybernetic sea of information. In the context of music, the gatekeeping done by record labels since the beginning of modernity holds almost no sway in the underground. Anyone can set up a Bandcamp profile, submit their creations to distributors, and have their music in the hands of consumers almost as soon as they finish creating it.
Undertaking the Sisyphean task of finding art with true merit and value is harder than it has ever been. Novelty has been diminished into simple recapitulation; taking generic forms and smashing them together in hopes that fusion can create newness. Art criticism contextualizes novelty as a sum of its parts, and rarely as something genuinely idiosyncratic and fresh. Digital cynicism, it seems, pervades all.
But every now and then, something truly new does come along. Even if these works are nearly impossible to find and identify, they do still exist
, giving us a ray of hope that perhaps Western culture is more than a desiccated corpse. Current Value’s Platinum Scatter
is one of those albums. Bursting forth out of seemingly nowhere (or, rather, some obscure page on Bandcamp), sound artist Tim Eliot, who has been honing his craft since the early 90’s, has put together a collection of sounds that feels genuinely, ecstatically, new.
Any music critic worth their weight in salt could explain where this album comes from. Forged in the fires of a long tradition of European electronic music, Platinum Scatter
seems, on the surface, like yet another sum of its influences. However, every community discussion regarding this album is nearly half arguments about just exactly what it is. Is it drum and bass? Is it IDM? Is it techno? No one can agree, because it feels like none of those things entirely. All of those influences converge into some sort of primal creative sludge that evokes a very specific emotional reaction:
“Wow, I’ve never heard this before.”
Tracks like the album highlight, Eternal Recurrence
, transport the listener to an internal space where you no longer think about insignificant formal properties like genre and influence; you simply feel the music, inhale it and let it spread throughout your body like a full, deep breath. The title track, another highlight, functions similarly where you no longer think, “wow, this is good techno” or “wow, this is great drum and bass”. No, this is good music
, purely and simply, throughout the entire 14 track duration.
If you are at all interested in electronic music, even tangentially, I urge you to give this album a listen. At the very least, you will emerge able to say, “today I heard something I’ve never heard before, done in a way that I never considered before this moment.” This experience is the essence of art, the impetus that drives us to continue creating and grasping for new expressions we never even thought possible. Hyperbolic, perhaps, but if we truly want to combat our cynicism, perhaps a little hyperbole isn’t such a bad thing, especially in the face of something that is genuinely, unironically good.