The digital landscape of 'Classical Curves' is one filled with dread, loneliness, and some unmistakable bangers, says Selim Bulut.
There was something about ‘Classical Curves’ that kept me going back to it. It was a feeling that was incommunicable, but something I’d been feeling for a long time. A sense of loneliness was the closest I could come to describing it at first, but it was more than that.
The first time I’d had this feeling was when I was a kid. I can remember playing PC and PS1 demo disks that came free with magazines, and occasionally it would be possible to exploit design flaws in the game and break free from the developer-imposed constraints on the environment. Here, I’d find myself free to move across a vast digital landscape, but as nothing had been programmed beyond the demo, it was more often than not an incredibly desolate, lonely place. Years down the line, a weird pastime that I picked up would involve clicking almost any link that I saw online. I’d quickly find myself falling further and further down the rabbit hole, stumbling across Youtube videos that had all of about 30 views and browsing increasingly niche interest message boards that hadn’t had a new post for weeks. There was nothing sordid about any of the content here, but it was the sadness of it all that struck me, the fact that these were real people making these videos and writing these posts, these fragments of information trapped forever in the recesses of this electronic wasteland.
The use of field recordings and found sounds throughout the album, instead of injecting a dose of humanity, create an uncanny, cyborg sound that feels neither robotic nor organic.
I’ve since learnt that I wasn’t alone in this pastime, and that this technology-related emptiness has been explored in the music of artists including Oneohtrix Point Never, James Ferraro and Clams Casino. These artists, alongside Jam City, evoke this feeling in me. In Jam City’s case, this is achieved mostly through his sound design, an impeccably clean, almost sanitary style that revels in its artificiality, digital post-production removing any blemishes and imperfections in the music. The use of field recordings and found sounds throughout the album, instead of injecting a dose of humanity, create an uncanny, cyborg sound that feels neither robotic nor organic. Of course, Jam City’s subject matter isn’t as deliberately post-internet as the previously mentioned artists, and there’s just as much about body horror and corporate vacuity that runs throughout ‘Classical Curves’ as there is about the digital dystopia.
Jam City – The Courts
‘Classical Curves’ fills me with a sense of dread, and yet I often found myself returning to it since its release, drawn to it through dual feelings of attraction and revulsion. This dichotomy existed on every track: The Courts might be one of the most inventive club cuts I’ve heard this year, but there’s something about the sneakers-on-a squeaking-floor percussion that sets my hair on end. There’s something deeply unsettling about B.A.D., its title and slap bass sample signifying funk, but really spelling something altogether more sinister. The sample plays sporadically and in isolation against a growling synth, one which lets off a tape hiss as if it’s broken. There’s also something lonely and distant about Club Thanz, adopting the four-to-the-floor hi-hats of house music but lacking totally in the communion and togetherness that the genre preaches.
Jam City – How We Relate to the Body
On top of how conceptually whole ‘Classical Curves’ is, some of the tracks on it are total bangers.
The reason that Jam City grabs me me more than someone like James Ferraro does is because of the way that he supplants this feeling of dread onto very familiar strands of UK dance music, rather than expressing it through entirely abstract forms. It’s a good job, too, because on top of how conceptually whole ‘Classical Curves’ is, some of the tracks on it are total bangers. The conveyer-belt thump of Her and How We Relate To The Body can set a dancefloor alight, yet use samples and sounds so meticulously constructed that they sound almost like no human could have ever been behind them, whilst Strawberries and Her demonstrate an ear for melody that could have easily gone towards producing something a lot more digestible – but, thankfully, didn’t.
As 2012 draws to a close, I can’t think of another album released this year that has drawn me into its world as much as ‘Classical Curves’ has. Everything about it is executed with perfection, right down to its artwork, the disgusting beauty of the corporate lobby, the disarray and the uncanny hyperreality of its design all coming together to form what is perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces of album art that I’ve ever laid eyes upon. I can’t find a single fault with this record.