Funny dealings are afoot in the US. Is there something in the water?
Wave after wave of analog synthesized music is being beamed to us from across the pond at the moment, delivered with an enthusiasm that suggests either our protagonists missed the craze the first time around or have caught onto something we haven’t that’s worth salvaging. Is there some sort of time lapse going on, or is it possible there’s something a little savvier going on here?
Roladex are a case in point. Watching their video for ‘Cathode Rays’ below, it’s hard to tell what touchstones have been more influential – Elite (1984), Tron (1982), or Google Maps (2005). But perhaps we’re in the wrong genre altogether. It’s possible that this newly discovered infatuation with twinkling machine music is more akin to Gang of Four than Gary Numan, more J.G. Ballard’s Crash than Flight of the Navigator.
Before The Matrix popularized the blue pill / red pill dilemma, Total Recall featured a similar device. The lead character is given the option of taking a red pill which will return him to reality, and as such most of the film hinges around the ambiguity of whether events are real or just a dream. Before that, the concept has been mulled over by countless philosophers of ages past. In Scarlett Thomas’ The End of Mr. Y, we’re told of Samuel Butler, a nineteenth century thinker who posed questions around the nature of consciousness – what’s so special about organic matter, anyway? Is it not possible that machines could develop self-awareness too? After all, we’re all made of carbon.
Perhaps the duo behind Roladex have posed similar questions behind their mirrored glasses and bank of modular synthesizers, perhaps not… The beauty of subjectivity is you get to make your own mind up. But after reading their submission below, it’s doubtful they remain ignorant of such questions – or at least, have a passing appreciation of science fiction.
Either way, the duo seem to have found their niche – compulsively danceable arpeggios, infectious beats, and droll, near-satirical lyricism that makes one think there’s more to this than retro for retro’s sake.
Here’s Roladex’s submission:
THOUGHTS CAUGHT ON “VIDEOTAPE”
So glad you’ve come to us. We’ve been through it all ourselves, you see. Your reality is already half video hallucination. If you’re not careful, it will become total hallucination. We all have to learn to live in a very strange new world… it is more than the relatively simple issue of morality, like the ways in which television does alter us physically. It’s what Marshall McLuhan was talking about — TV as an extension of our nervous systems and our senses.
Looking at the world, at the stars, at the cosmos, imagine seeing the tiny earth sitting in the middle of the fusion of billions and billions of stellar objects. Now look closer, past the skyscrapers, through the leaves of trees, pass-through yourself, beyond the cells that build you. Protons and neutrons swirling towards quarks and gluons- an electric liquid television cloud with a RGB thunderbolt that looks like the feedback of a spiraling nebula.
Reality is a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. Countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply data. The pulsating rhythm of the molecules of ourselves, of other people, of everything around us, were all manufactured in those ancient stars above. The sky is the color of a television tuned to dead channel.
People have always created a metaphorical window to their most intimate inner experiences through their work, maybe in some sort of way we can share an otherwise completely personal experience.
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”– Carl Sagan
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Intro by Wes Freeman-Smith