Feb 2021 03

Album CovercEvin Key
Album: Resonance
Category: Experimental / Industrial / Ambient
Label: Artoffact Records
Release Date: 2021-02-19


 

It’s fitting that cEvin Key’s fifth solo album feels from the first listen like potentially one of the greatest driving records of all time because the length of road it explores is an expansive, daunting, and harrowing one. It needs music to make it something we can take in, something we can experience and remember without turning off, tuning out. Let’s step into the car.

The album starts with “Thirteen,” urgently evolving from a skeletal beat with pinpricks of electronic noises blinking close to the surface into a floating synthetic atmosphere held aloft by ever-changing minimalist funk passages. This is for the trip out of our familiar neighborhood, punctuated by continual sixteenth-note percussive energy. We don’t need to look at the road; this is territory we know and love. As the light draws low, we pull over and let The Legendary Pink Dots’ Edward Ka-Spel slide into the backseat, accidentally in rhythm with the floorboard pulse of some self-aware heartbeat in “Night Flower.” It’s a beautiful song, hypnotic and expressive, and it takes us to the edge of town into the molasses-like ring of dark that surrounds what we know.

We look in the mirror and IAMX sits in the backseat, hologram stuttering like bad CGI, but sounding perfectly resonant in “Anger is an Acid,” the living waterfall of piano notes filling the car with some impossibly blue slow motion liquid, washing away the detritus of your trip. As the lights arrayed across the road speed to an electrical blur, “Orange Dragonfly” carries us through the Koyaanisqatsi montage of living settlements splayed out across the road. This is a reminder that life is everywhere, that everybody lives somewhere; songs like this pull us together through the album, showing how easy it is for someone with Key’s skill to pantomime life with synthetic instrumentation.

“Thunderbird” picks up with a rhythm that draws out the military dead from passing grass pastures, like a modern sibling response to the Massive Attack tack “Teardrop” as it invokes wounded shapes just beyond the pale glass shell of the car. We press the locks down, lean back into our seats, and “Dark Trail” invites us to whistle in the dark and sing along in the dark again with IAMX while it avoids the easy shape of a song, falling apart near the end when the black swallows the procession of dead. “Tomahawk” picks up on the nervous 808 spinal rhythm just barely keeping in check the kinetic Traz Damji’s fantasia of sound; it’s energetic and powerful, but still deeply sad and full of a kind of physical remorse, unafraid to soar as in the next track, “Kullakan,” a electro trip taking flight with Tuvan throat singer Soriah and keeping our bodies firmly in our seats while our spirits fly high above us, taking heed of every unfamiliar note.

The uneasy clockwork mechanism of “Watching You” conjures up the jerky new-robot-body fluidity of Front 242’s “U-Men” with Edward Ka-Spel’s magicianlike showmanship rendering every step human. And the exuberant rhythmic story of “Sorry, I’m Going to Think Positive” represents the last youthful innocence on an album we knew was headed inevitably toward a final adjunctive moment of awareness. “Third Eye,” with breakcore artist Otto von Schirach, is jarring and dreamlike and vies to steal our attention away from the revelation we feel at the end of the album, the slow and careful exposure of the truth we hear at the end of “Resonance.” There isn’t anywhere to go after this. This is a dead end. And it seems to call for a buffer of silence even before you stand up.

In another universe, one where Kraftwerk birthed the world, this album was released as a classical record – put out, listened to, and performed for rooms full of blackcoats and starched white shirts in the rarified space of ballrooms and amphitheater mezzanines, orchestras shaped by the relentless sweaty flail of interminably old conductors to fill every space in the room with expressive staccato code plotting some just end to the monarchy, deftly hidden in washes of brilliant, beautiful surges and sweeps that placate kings and queens and lull them to sleep. It’s a subversion of a comfortable pop record, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t elegant or lovely, for even taken out of context, even minus the intent, the content of that delay-washed sixteenth note underground code, it stands as an eloquent and listenable record – technically as good as it is stylistically.

But once we start to dive into the path of that road trip, read the signs, translate the code, it becomes an important record. And we owe this album more than to just waste time talking about its title. White culture has allowed itself to evolve to become impossibly cruel, and it’s done it in increments – each privilege bought by atrocity has been used to change and control the narrative, shearing away accountability and responsibility, paving the way for the next atrocity. And because no one expects us to tell stories where we are the bad guy, we, as the monolith of mainstream North American culture, get to sing and dance and wave our hands in the air as though we’ve done nothing wrong… like we literally just don’t care. This record becomes bigger telling the Vancouver-born story of Key’s childhood awakening into the reality that one of his favorite places, Stanley Park, a place of joy and friendship for him, was the ghost home of a 3,000 year old First Nations culture, targeted, attacked, and finally erased from the world through the negligent cruelty of white culture’s pen.

This story brings a dictionary on its back, providing a key to the language of ineffable sadness that permeates the entire thing. The shock of it isn’t a grown man’s stunted performative anger, emotion number one to be used in all circumstances. You can feel in this record the deep, first time pit built by the real horror of Key’s childhood realization. This is him as a child, trying to understand how this place he felt he belonged could be just the time-riddled resonance of a horror that he couldn’t even wrap his head around. This is a child’s first exposure to the fact that we do this to each other. We have infinity to play with, but we’re still left wanting more, and despite the lyrical expressions of blame and loss throughout, recounting that record of cruelty, it’s the music that does the heavy lifting. In a lot of ways, this is why we make music – so, we can express and explore things too big for words. And that is certainly the case here, for Resonance (X̱wáýx̱way).

A driving record in more ways than one.
 
Track list:

  1. Thirteen
  2. Night Flower
  3. Anger is an Acid
  4. Orange Dragonfly
  5. Thunderbird
  6. Dark Trail
  7. Tomahawk
  8. Kullakan
  9. Watching You
  10. Sorry, I’m Going to Think Positive
  11. Third Eye
  12. Resonance

 
cEvin Key/Subconscious Studios
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube
Artoffact Records
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube
 
Jim Marcus (Mutilato)

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