On September 27th, Sheffield-based experimental veterans 65daysofstatic release their new album replicr, 2019 via Superball music. A claustrophobic, relentless soundtrack of numb acceleration that confronts the abyssal futures of late capitalism and refuses to blink. Forty-two minutes of nerve-grating, time-distorting dread. Black Mirror made aurally manifest.
Blazing a trail through a myriad of genres – techno, math rock, drone, IDM, drum‘n’bass, breakcore – each trying, unsuccessfully, to claim them as their own, 65 continue to creep along their own branch of evolution. Their previous project, ‘’Decomposition Theory’’, was constructed from their own procedural musical systems and custom synths, making use of live coding to churn out infinite possibilities; an asymmetrical dialogue between machine and man. replicr, 2019 emerges from the jagged, smouldering debris of entropic algorithms, but represents the opposite approach. Focussed rather than chaotic, carefully intentional and painfully urgent.
Rewinding further, in 2016 the band released their critically acclaimed soundtrack for ‘No Man’s Sky’, the most anticipated game in the world at the time. Infinite, expansive, and experienced uniquely by millions of players, it generates an intoxicating atmosphere of awe and apprehension to accompany your expeditions into the unknown.
Replicr, 2019, however, encapsulates an entirely different sensation. Here, there are no frontiers left to explore. No lost worlds of mysterious origin left beyond our homogenous interconnected collective, but instead only the realisation, without being aware of when it happened, that the unknown element is now us.
Opener Pretext immediately weaves a tapestry of apprehension with spiralling worn out tape static and a piercing War of the Worlds-esk wail, the mournful distress beacon of a rusted hulk trapped in a decaying orbit. A forlorn pulse into the unforgiving void of space.
Stillstellung then violently pierces the haze with a frantic tempo, symptomatic of a drug induced brain running at double speed, but being unable to think. Like being forcefully filled to the gills with amphetamine and locked in a sensory deprivation tank, deafened by silence while your heart goes full Xenomorph and attempts to burst from your chest. Trapped in a frozen moment as time piles up around you.
Taken from Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History’, Stillstellung describes a fixed slice of history in which an understanding of what came before can emerge. Having ‘2019’ in the album title is clearly a deliberate choice then, pinning the record down in time and space as a prophetic signpost in the hurricane of blind progress.
More relevant to the album’s overall message is Benjamin’s ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. An essay of cultural criticism which proposes that the ‘aura’ of a work of art is devalued through reproduction because the unique aesthetic authority of an artwork, it’s cultural context, is absent from the copy. An effect compounded exponentially in the digital age. By removing the cultural context from what we consume and how we construct our identities, replicr 2019 implies that we have lost our sense of authenticity. Disconnected, disillusioned, and disingenuous in our expression, the only thing left to satiate us is ‘more’.
As drummer Rob Jones explains:
‘’History is moving but it’s got nowhere to go. It’s pilling up all around us. That’s what this record is about. This atemporality is an illusion, it’s the cultural logic of late capitalism, consuming everything faster and faster, each artefact a more diluted replica of the last’’
The total record conjures the image of J.G. Ballard’s Concentration City. An infinite metropolis of brutalist concrete and invasive advertisements seen through rain-dashed windowpanes, where no one even remembers the idea of free, open air. With no landscape left outside the vast conurbation; no resources to fuel the fires of progress, the city begins to eat itself like the Midgard Serpent, and any semblance of humanity along with it.
Album closer Trackerplatz opens with a plaintive 16bit sine wave and a heavy haze of distortion, but gone is the fatiguing acceleration. A subtle shift in perspective, not in content but in form; a new sense of clarity. A rare instance of standing outside oneself, looking inward at the truths usually obscured by the momentum of history and the ordinary assumptions of waking consciousness. The track’s sparse, angular form ascends, bastardized guitars seemingly building toward a melancholic crescendo that’d make Vennart proud, before abruptly fading away.
There is no triumphal emergence from the valley of shadow, but nor are we swallowed by oblivion. Time only marches onward, inexorably, and though we haven’t yet found a way to escape the isolation born of inauthentic replication, at least we’re looking.
Words: Alasdair Glen