[29 September 2006]
Some albums should have warning labels on them. Not in the way that bad hype and misguided views of a chaotic corruption of the American youth forced politicians—wide-eyed with fear, trying to fit their life experience and values from slower times into a world of gangsta rap, goths, and something called heavy metal, with little understanding of popular music or niche cultures and a wariness of meeting the monster up close and personal—to impose that most impeccably ineffectual requirement for all records with any hint of provocative content to be labeled with parental advisories in the mid-‘90s. It is rather time for a more soberly medical warning, much like the ones found on allergy medecines and other concoctions that numb the body into comfort. Danger: can cause drowsiness; do not operate motor vehicles or fast-spinning, sharp-toothed chainsaw while under the influence of this record.
Woe unto the all-night truck driver that happens across Ezekiel Honig’s album Scattered Practices. His next trip will be in a rolling hospital bed, and traffic on Interstate 101 will be backed up forty miles in each direction as his truck is hauled back onto its wheels and out of the way the next morning. His last memory from that fateful night will be of his own heavy eyelids absorbing the road while the soothing drone of Honig’s cotton blanket electronia suggests to some out-of-reach part of his subconscious that sleep is appropriate and welcome.
All of this is basically a colourful way of explaining that I fell asleep five times while trying to get through this album. I wouldn’t be surprised if Honig himself had been lulled to sleep by his own tones, going on 3AM in front of the laptop editing suite.
The album stretches over its 40-odd minutes like a deserted stretch of Nevada highway, where you speed towards the mountains but the damn things don’t seem to get any closer in the cold haze of early morning. Three verses of a “Going Sailing Refrain”, two “Fractures and Fissures”, and some oceans, debris, and living rooms are the signposts as reverberating tones, quietly subdued and always linear dub bumps, and the occasional rattle or glitchy click intertwine indeciferably, rarely creating even a semblance of a memorable melodic or rhythmic hook.
On occasion, a slight clickhouse sensibility is noted, but it never forces more than a cursory shrug of attention. Honig’s tapestry is an uneasy combination of being pleasant and unnerving. It certainly is relaxing. But so is euthanasia, ultimately. The tranquility is self-defeating, so lush and non-invasive that it numbs the mind and ultimately leaves the listener with little notion or recall of what he has actually heard. Ezekiel Honig’s album passes the mind with such ease that little is remembered. The only obvious upside to this would be its use as a vehicle for escape, but escape is unsettling if there is nowhere to escape to.
Scattered Practices is, in a sense, a purgatory field in electronica. Neither heaven nor hell, just the blank in between, where time is non-existent. Listening to this album, you go nowhere for forty minutes and then worry about where you’ve been. Even dedicated electronica purists intent on investigating this will need some benzedrine.