Posts Tagged ‘Isolation’

Christopher Nosnibor

Here in Britain, sophomore is such a music journo word: because of the structure of our education system, it simply doesn’t occur in any other context. The fact the same is true in Australia perhaps makes it an odd choice of name for an Australian band, but one suspects there’s a degree of knowingness around this, paired with the fact that the band is essentially a second project for noisy alt-rock duo Mannequin Death Squad, which sees Elly and Dan joined by Vanessa and Shelly in a quest to pursue a slightly more indie / pop direction.

‘Social Distancing’ is, as you might expect, another in a blizzard of recordings inspired by current events – or, indeed, non-events, as the days melt into one another – but does stand out as being particularly good. Maybe I’m biased; maybe it just resonates: it’s not the virus that’s putting me in a psychological spin, but news and social media, through which the landscape changes by the hour.

‘I can’t breathe / with all this information thrown at me’, are the opening lines, and it pretty much encapsulates the experience a connected digital society in which everyone has an opinion and data overload is more of a syndrome than something theoretical. I feel that communication with even me closest friends is becoming increasingly difficult as we all become zombified by bewilderment.

From a quiet, picked guitar intro, in classic grunge style, it breaks into a big, guitar-driven chorus, but the guitars chime rather than drive, and the vocal harmonies are so sweet as they advise ‘don’t listen to the radio /don’t listen to those TV shows’. I’ve been feeling the pain of government disinformation a lot lately, and much as keeping informed is useful, I’m beginning to question the validity of the exercise. But the real crux comes near the midpoint on the refrain ‘and the lonely get lonelier’ and it lands hard. Because it’s true. We all feel isolated to varying degrees, because we are, literally, in isolation – but some are more isolated than others.

Stuck indoors with your family may be tense and torturous, and only having text or Skype or similar may be a woefully weak substitute for human contact, but what about those without any of these things? The sentiment is touching, and it’s also a belting tune, that ultimately lands like The Pixies doing anthemic.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Paul K first came to my attention with the release of Glitch Code’s debut album, Gifted_Damaged, a real standout release for 2016 in the sphere of dark electronic pop. Omertà saw Paul venture out as a solo artist last year, and revealed a very different musical aspect: instrumental, dramatic, and in places a bit proggy, it found him explore some expansive sonic territories with impressive results.

The Fermi Paradox sees Kirkpatrick expand on this – immensely. And expand is the word: this is expansive both conceptually and sonically, and he explained that ‘the album is about the theme of isolation, exploring our place in the universe and questions “are we alone?” to the perspective of social isolation through social media… It looks at the space race and the billions spent on wondering if we are alone in the universe vs. the juxtaposition of so many lonely people on our own planet.’

As such, The Fermi Paradox ranges from the macro to the micro, casting an eye to the farthest reaches to the most inner of anxieties. So while in terms of what it delivers, The Fermi Paradox isn’t a million miles from its predecessor, in terms of intent and focus, it’s a very different beast from Omertà.

Such isolation is something that’s immensely relatable: I’ve found myself in discussions with a surprising number of people, many with anxiety issues, conflicted over social media. It’s a different kind of paradox from the question of alien lifeforms the title refers to, but nevertheless, it’s a paradox. The dependence on the endless stream of posts and comments is countered by the despondency the belief that your own life is no match for others’, the sense that other people breeze through life, happy and carefree while your own life is fucked. Any sense of connection feels flimsy, secondary to a sense of disconnection and inadequacy. And what happens when, just for five r ten minutes, your phone goes silent: no texts, no notifications? The silence you’ve been craving is a howling void of emptiness.

It’s with ponderous piano and soothing strings that ‘Anomaly’ opens the album, and it’s mellow but twistedly poignant. It’s clear that Kirkpatrick knows how to tug at the emotions without words. The motif that runs through ‘Sagan’ makes me think of ‘Forever Autumn’ from ‘The War of the Worlds’ – surely one of the most heartbreaking songs ever committed to tape. Or maybe I’m just a sap. Nevertheless, regardless of whether this is about the music itself or my response to it based on, its drift into lilting piano and achingly sad strings is simply beautiful.

It’s on ‘Ecce Homo’ that Paul reaches into expansive territory, a cinematic, layered progressive-style piece with soaring chorals and supple rhythms, it drives, but also meanders. At times, as on the opening of ‘Exegesis’, Kirkpatrick slides into near-ambient territory, but for the most part, it’s about sedate, spacious soundscapes, defined by rolling, soft-edged bass. As the album progresses, the song titles suggest a shift from the more inward-looking to gazing out into the cosmos.

Are we alone? Always. Intensely. But with The Fermi Paradox, Paul K has produced a magnificently-crafted soundtrack to play into the void.

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