It’s a culture industry. It’s a digital wasteland. From its inception to the present, the discourse of mass consumerism wages on. With the oversaturation of replica content, covert advertising by influencers, and economy of likes, Marx’s conception of the “opium of the people” changes meanings. This multi-faceted mask of consumerism has inspired a plethora of electronic artists to satirize or unveil its effects—to name a few, there are Holly Herndon, James Ferraro, Amnesia Scanner, and most of the PC Music crew. After all, it is a natural fascination for the electronic musicians who owe their existence to technology.
To continue the discourse of consumerism in electronic music, Lee Gamble uses a different lens from most others. He thinks about the infrastructures that hold the result: the city and the internet. On his latest EP In a Paraventral Scale, he begins the “triptych sonic documentary” series Flush Real Pharynx, a three-part audiovisual exploration into the sensory blitz that comes from urban and virtual spaces.
In a Paraventral Scale uses an array of contemporary sounds to create malleable, interrelated commentaries. The EP intimates urban and virtual life as an interconnected existence. Semioblitz, as Gamble defines, is “the aggressive onslaught of visual and sonic stimuli of contemporary cities and virtual spaces”. This lens interlocks the two planes to examine the city and the internet as one omnipresent form of stimuli. So, car rev samples are not exclusive to city life, and futurist synths are not exclusive to virtual binges. City soundscapes and digital affectations work together as the inner workings of semioblitz, and in turn, they become an indiscernible, undetachable duo.
The opener “Fata Morgana” gets its name from the optical effect. The fata morgana is a superior mirage that manifests as a thin band atop the horizon. The complex illusion compresses the distant image, thricely distorting and inverting reality into a semblance of digital static. Accordingly, the opening track composes the fata morgana as a symbol of the URL-IRL intersection. The horizon of blaring sirens drone atop the soft digital waves, glitching the organic and synthetic until they are one and the same.
Gamble’s experimental compositions continue to build on urban and virtual tropes. “Folding” and “Moscow” arpeggiate glimmering beeps that evoke the nostalgia of booting up a Macintosh or Windows 95. “BMW Shuanghuan X5” imagines a bustling cityscape or the highways that lead to them. Engine revs are deconstructed and scattered throughout, while the trailing sounds of speeding cars whistle disharmonic tones. The throttling motors are an obvious sound for this conceptual work, yet Gamble’s treatment of them is captivating.
The motors drive straight into the many voices of “Chant”. The indiscernible voices talk and skitter into the ether. The words exist as abrupt ideas, swarmed by multiple successors just like them. Appropriately, “In the Wreck Room” performs a heightened anxiety thereafter. The muddled ideas disperse into a frenzy of dizzying breakbeats, creating one of the more erratic and exciting beats of the EP.
However, while the EP develops the image of an overloaded urban and virtual space, it closes with a deceptive quietude. The closing track “Many Gods, Many Angels” begins and ends with the sounds of distant, passing cars. Their movements capture the wind to hum a calm song. While the unsettling drones persist beneath it all, sanity is sought after and somewhat found. In the end, all the noise simply becomes a selective soundtrack to the trained city dweller. No matter the helicopter rotors that spin above or the busses that rumble below, the desensitized eyes and ears can ignore it all, especially with a blaring screen.
Many electronic artists have explored the sensory barrage of our urban and virtual existences by mirroring the culprits, such as satirizing corporate campaigns or sampling commercial sounds. Certainly, In a Paraventral Scale partakes in such commentary, but also, it delves deeper into the more unnoticed forms of our contemporary exhaustion. The compositions are not mere reflections of the city noises that bombard our ears or the many ads that flash our eyes. Rather, Gamble sonically forms the structures that poke out of city horizons; the stacks of lonely rooms filled with UV lights; the virtual mirages that bleed into empty gazes. Indeed, In a Paraventral Scale warrants much excitement for the forthcoming two chapters of Flush Real Pharynx.