Rules and regulations rarely apply to music, and that surely must be considered a good thing. Yet, within our shuffling existence, our stealthy approach towards the inevitable, we are constrained. Constrained by rules which we did not invent. Their existence pre-dates anything we can remember. They are unseen but felt at every turn. The rules of being. You live, you die. Yet surrounding that micro-drama the bigger picture creates unease – the rules might be there, but how did they get there? Why are they there? Who put them there?
Perhaps Plainview would have an answer. He’d certainly have an opinion. The London based electronic performer appears to spend a lot of time considering the intricacies of being. His music, he openly admits is tainted by his current reading matter. We can surmise that a good deal he reads must concern itself with notions of the universal. From ‘Quietwork’: “The very fundamental part of my soul is to doubt and to ask, and when you doubt and ask it gets a little harder to believe.”
Before we implode with reverential navel gazing, it’s worth pointing out that away from the sobriety of the human condition, Plainview is able to focus on more immediate, though no less dramatic matters. Morphing basslines, piano rhythms working in synchronicity with clockwork electronica, impellent percussion and unforeseen melodic tangents unite to create an exotic collection of remixes including Zombie Nation, Etienne de Crecy and Azealia Banks. He’s no less able in crafting original pieces.
We tracked Plainview down to a cafe in the dark arches, where over an espresso he was re-reading ‘L’Étranger’ and imagining a suitable electronic interpretation. When we asked him to take part on our ‘Write Feature’, it came as little surprise that the response was in story form. A short story by a good friend. This is an absolute gem.
Plainview submission: Marc Kemp – Rubric
He killed me then, a single thrust of the trident to the gut. A jab, where I expected a feint. The shock of entry was a glorious cacophony of outrage. Pain would follow, but for now I stumbled back to the floor, blood staining the sand, gladius falling from numb fingers. I fell to one side, unable to rise, watched my panting breath in the cold air.
It was so unfair.
I had fought valiantly, my form music given life, every movement flowing water, coalesced mist. I was untouchable. I was an epitome, the zenith of the warrior art. I was unbound by the limitations of life and conscience, and it still was not enough. How could it be? How could one fight perfection? No matter how I moved, my speed, my strength, he was always ahead of me, always perfectly out of reach, beside my thrusts, under my cuts, inside my parries.
So here we are, yet again. He stood watching me for a moment, motionless, marbled statuary. I took the opportunity to die a little faster, grunting and tearing my innards as I shifted my weight, fell onto my back. I stared at the sky, enjoying this brief respite, feeling the coarse black sand beneath my bare skin shift as I coughed up blood. My legs were numb. I took this as a good sign. The thrust had pierced my stomach and pancreas, narrowly missing my liver, a fact for which I’m sure it was grateful. My spine was intact, though it was within his power to have severed it completely. Then again, the ability to destroy me had always been his. But there was one more part to our little charade.
A shadow fell across me, blotting out the light. Of course it wasn’t the sun! The light. Not the light. Just a. I didn’t want to look at him. I never did in those moments. But of course, I could never deny him anything, just as he would never deny me. Even to me, he is perfect.
Our eyes met.
I win again
Infinite fucking sadness. Never any pride.
These contests had been going since time immemorial. No, that’s a lie. Time has no meaning to us. It’s purely a construct, did you know that? Time doesn’t exist. Of course, it exists in a manner more real than, say, authority, but what you label time is an illusion, a way for your imperfect minds to understand the reality around you. This thing follows that thing follows that other. Don’t misunderstand me, it isn’t as if we experience the whole of time at once. The rush of real reality would fry even our minds. No, time simply has no meaning for us in the way the physical embodiment of a square root would for you. Or the underlying morality of a Sumerian marketplace. Or phlogiston.
Still, the point remains, and we battle in one form or another.
I sat across the table from him. The pieces were arranged before us, distributed liberally across the field. His move was over, and as ever, it was perfection. An aesthete would have wept to see him carefully – no, not carefully, carefully implies caring – he simply moved, and it was perfect – as he placed his pieces, as he measured his distances, as he surrounded my territory. I had already lost, but I had given him a hard fight of it. I always did. But as the pieces were moved, as the lights winked out of existence, as I heard the pieces scream their last, I couldn’t help but admire the strategy. As the currents rose, as the pain wracked my body, as my teeth were bared in a rictus grin, I admired the perfection. Despite the skill with which I had played. With which I always played. But it was never enough.
My jaw clenched and I felt some of my teeth snap under the pressure. My body was no longer under my control, jerked and whipped about, and I could smell – no, feel – myself burning from the inside.
As ever, against my better judgement and the experience of eternity, my eyes met his.
I win again
Yes, I wonder why I fight, sometimes. Can perfection be beaten? For me it isn’t idle philosophy to be indulged in when the fancy, or the cognac, takes me. It is my reality, my existence. Existence is struggle, has nobody told you that yet?
Can I win? I have fought with sword, with rifle, with economics, with cards, with air, with nuance. I have fought tooth, nail, possibility, negation, rhetoric. It has never mattered.
Perhaps it is simply the contest I crave. It may be the only way we can communicate, now. Pitting myself against inevitability must pass the time, surely? But then, how would I know?
I stood with the remnants of my forces. Ichor streamed down my face, irritating my many eyes, and I dashed at them angrily. My sword was held in a weary – hand? claw? – limb and my helmet was long gone, lost somewhere on a battlefield that exists solely for this purpose. A silly thing to say. Everything exists solely for a purpose, of course, but in this case it was even more true than normal. Did that make sense? Was this reality more real than that one? Can reality be measured?
The last of my forces stood by me, ready for the bitter end. I always could inspire loyalty in those that chose me. They recognise something of me in them, I feel, and my arguments were always true. For a given value of truth. Swaying them to my cause was little more than voicing their own darkest thoughts, their desires, their grievances. Of course, that mattered little now, save that I would have company in death. That made a nice change. It had been a long time since someone joined me in defeat. We really must do this more often.
Much of his army lay in tatters, that flank routed, this one barely holding. But the gleaming van had carried the battle. In the early days of the war, I had sacked his cities, ravaged the lands, wielded fear and despair as much as sword and fire. All to no avail. Is hatred an aspect of perfection? Can hate be perfect, itself? I felt it from them, their hate strong enough to cut me. It must be perfect to use it. And they hated me, and my creatures, and charged, and routed. They fled around me, cut down by the snarling righteous. It was butchery. Is butchery perfect? Maybe in the right circumstances. Is perfection circumstantial?
I fought on, alone, until I could no more. My hand was cut from me. My plate was torn from my body, and I was left naked. He came to me then, his army no more than a backdrop to his triumph. A truce would be agreed, a treaty proposed. My forces would withdraw to the ancient boundaries agreed by the First Peoples, and his would be free to grow and multiply without fear of the night. Upon the skeins of possibility I saw them dwarf my creatures in number, forcing them from their homes, firing their nests and slaughtering the broodlings as they played and feasted. Me and mine would be driven to the Wastelands, easy prey for the carnivores of time, hunger, disease and extinction, the ultimate predator. All this I saw as he approached. Our eyes met, against all reason and counsel.
I win again
Do you know what it is like to be built to fail? A stupid question. Of course you do, in your own minuscule way. You are built to fail. This organ flawed, that brain malfunctioning. The parts wither and die and eventually you lose all interest in holding it together. So you understand where I’m coming from, yes? You get me. You always did.
But can you understand, just for a fraction of ‘time’, just what it is like to be built to lose in any and every conceivable way? Realities are constructed and physics invented simply to give me context for my inadequacies. I am not even the canvas upon which he proves my follies, I am the inspiration that cannot be realised. As ever the reality fails to match the anticipation.
Once we had a staring contest. It was amusing for far longer than it had any right to be, and went on for longer than your reality has been in existence. Sort of. Again: time, meaning, none of which. But we sat, and we stared, and I lost. But it was an amusement for me. Still, as I blinked aeons from my eyes and he radiated compassion from his, our gaze locked once more, as ever, as always.
I win again
Is the point that I eventually win? Did you just ask that? How am I supposed to know? Does everything need a reason? Well, yes, I know I said everything has a purpose. That is not the same thing. Having a purpose and a reason are two very distinct things.
I have no idea. I’m sure he does.
He spoke a word which cut towards my eye. I deflected it with a sigh, and breathed a soliloquy which would carve intimacy from him. He caught it in his tongue and rephrased it, spoke it with subtle emphasis there and here before casting it back at me. In desperation I disproved it, losing a fragment of myself in the retelling, as I must, as I always must. I sang my weakness, turning my imperfection into a strength with which I could strike at him. I wasn’t sure where I aimed. It may have been at his empathy, or his serendipity. Regardless, he simply let it pass him by, refusing to pause for my words. Then I realised my mistake. I had ignored rumour. It was always easy to, at the start, but they build and surround and tear and smother. It drowned me out. Then he spoke a simple refrain, one I had heard a thousand, a million times. But this time it was as if he had condensed every meaning and none, with fresh emphasis and without. I was undone and I unravelled in a breeze of my own making, forming a single sentence almost, but not quite, against my will.
I win again
Even I cannot say how many times we have fought. I cannot tell you in what manner, what forms we have taken. We have toyed with the notion of swapping roles, I know that. Well, I have. Will I win if I am him? Would it be a victory for me, or for him? Surely, if we had swapped, then I would be him, and he me, so nothing and everything would have changed. Would that be a victory in and of itself? I’m not sure.
I win again
I’m not sure who came up with the idea. That is a lie. Of course it was me. It’s always me. I know he thinks of it first, he always does. But we agreed long ago that was not a victory or we would never get started. In the beginning that’s how we fought, him and I, and how I lost and he won. With the potential for possibility. But it was a self-defeating way of life and I abandoned it. I asked him to force himself to stop it too. I think it was as unsatisfying for him as it was for me.
Now, this idea was original, to me. I approached him with it and his brow creased, ever so slightly. His interest was piqued, as I knew it would be. Perhaps he had been waiting for me to arrive at this idea, this notion he had long ago forged in the realms of potential.
Do you know of what you ask? I do, I replied.
And you know what it will entail? I do, I replied.
His brow creased more – is concern an aspect of perfection? Should it be? – and a hand was waved. Not really. We don’t have hands to wave. The quintessence of a hand was potentially moved in a quantum manner, which of course meant I didn’t know if it had been moved at all. He did, of course.
I win again
Can I continue?
A hand was waved. I think he was as surprised as I was. This was intriguing. This is the manner in which we fight, I said. We will contest over them, inspire them, craft and guide them to our own ends, to our own realms, to our own realities. Despite Himself, I could see interest in my idea. Forever winning must be as stultifying as perpetual failure.
You can even set the boundaries, said I. Create the rules, shape the reality, give it structure, limits. Simply give them the chance to measure it. Allow them the opportunity to measure their tomb, their prison. It is all I ask.
That is all you ask? Said He. Nothing more? Said He.
Nothing more, said I.
Very well. Said He.
And He spoke the Word, and the Word was good.
But not perfect.
Plainview remix and release news can be found here.