Dedicated to my best friend, infinite muse and greatest love, Devra Freelander
New Topographics is an aqueous collection of drum driven, ambient adjacent, hypnotic soundscapes that radiate from a liminal zone between the physical and the digital. Following an impulse toward percussive abstraction, Matt Evans (Tigue, Bearthoven, Man Forever) collages the sounds of writing, typing, morse code and others— swirling sonic byproducts from our communication systems— with percussive improvisations and synthesized “creatures” to trace imagined landscapes in a sea of noise. Synthetics and acoustics cross currents, unifying rubbery harmonies, wandering melodies, and incidental noises into a dreamy cybernetic ecology.
New Topographics was written and recorded in December 2018 during a month long artist residency program at Brooklyn art space, Pioneer Works. The tracks are a product of a 4 week deep dive into possible musical representations of the feeling and experience of “hyperobjects”— defined by Timothy Morton as “objects that are so massively distributed in time and space as to transcend spatiotemporal specificity, such as global warming, styrofoam, and the internet.” Matt found the absurd and transcendent feeling of this complex thought paralleled in a short poem by Richard Brautigan “All watched over by machines of loving grace,” a vaguely earnest/ironic and imaginative description of a cybernetic utopian future (see also the Adam Curtis mini series of the same name). Matt experimented with recording the sound of writing the poem by hand, re-imagining it as a musical language, later recording and layering other ambient and percussive tracks in response. This became the guiding process for nearly every track on the album; translating and sonifying the Brautigan text into foreign communication systems so as to re-interact with the text as a musical voice. Sound transcriptions include a braille translation performed as a graphic score ("Full Squid"), a translation to morse code frequencies ("An Infinite Cybernetic Meadow"), a recording of typing the text on a qwerty keyboard ("Spinning Blossoms"), and translating the text into radioteletype frequencies ("Data Fog", "Ongongos"). This sonic residue is redefined as a musical subject and takes on an extramusical quality, transcending it’s residual nature, and gaining empathetic value. With these finely tuned tracks, Matt offers a meditation on our current condition and a gateway toward a refined perspective on what we leave behind in our present age.
“For me, there’s a link between these sonic byproducts and human empathy— a gateway towards a greater conversation on what it means to live the paradox of complicitness— a guide to re-focusing how we understand the consequences of our actions by way of sound. The first step toward any significant change in our behaviour is becoming aware of the object like significance of our actions. Making this record has been a way of tuning my ears to this phenomenon. To learn the language of these object-like byproducts so as to speak the language my own way and further empathize with that which I was not previously informed. Being aware, being sensitive to that awareness, and reflecting that experience outwards. This is how we can make a shift in how we see ourselves in the world. Making this music was a way to practice understanding what I leave behind. We put up walls to function, but if we make a habit of taking them down and really looking and listening to what’s happening around us, we will have greater empathy for the people and beings we share space with. Our ability to empathize with the earth itself will grow.”
~Special thanks to everyone who’s been there for me, this year and always~
released April 17, 2020
Written, recorded and mixed by Matt Evans while in residence at Pioneer Works, December 2018
Artwork “Fluorescent Anomaly” (2014) by Devra Freelander
Additional Synths on “Jaich Maa” recorded by Elori Kramer