It felt like quite a singular gesture, coming from the art assemblage when i realised about the name of Thom Yorke’s alternate band ‘Atoms for peace’ as a kind of repositioning of the atom in state-power terms from its symbol and locus as science-militarism’s apogee of destructive scale. To now be speaking (as it were) towards the idea of a collectivity of atoms, eschewing war and the practise of being split in the name of both a power and a horror. Even if this is to do with abstraction only (whatever that might mean) it still feels like a statement with meaning (and even if this is only considered in the context of the conversation human beings are having with themselves, rather than say an unknown field of tapped and untapped motivations, masquerading in different forms, with often neglected but discoverable relations of intent).
Its worth catching up with this live version of Default with Flea taking the role of a relatively anodyne sounding synth on the recorded version, the whole rendition fizzes and pops with energy. I always felt that the lyrics have a slightly haunted quality, bordering a certain horror ‘its eating me alive’ but it dawns that this is a song that also touches upon the momentary perspective of a freedom inspired lucidity.
‘it slipped my mind, and for a time, i felt completely free’
At this point, feeling free, a moment / position / occurrence of release and from that release a realisation of its counterpart, a kind of waking that brings new dimensions to our world while affirming the brutal limitations associated with our normality-in-world, when we and our relationships with life, objects, ideas are in a low setting of awareness and intensity, the appearance of a deadness of the life of life or of its unlife, of-the-inane-and-the-banal. In a way its starkest warning is that of its title ‘Default’ with its suggestion that this is our default – cut off first from the awareness that there are differentials in intensity whose mapping needs to take place in a different space from the intensity itself. At a remove in the abstraction, whose occurrence also necessitates the understanding of the mode and position of that understanding as part of a process of developing manoeuvres towards freedom. Actions and their idea that have become synonymous with lightening one’s being, slowing down, becoming mindful, or a Daoist emptying of being – are also learnings to remove from being, those interpolations which act to remove us from our awareness of the aliveness of being alive, leaving us to be repeatedly trapped in the forming of our selves.
‘i guess that’s it, i’ve made my bed and i’ll lie in it’ Thom repeatedly intones, but with its end coda that asks the question ‘If i get free of all my snares and my nets?’
It seems we don’t get to hear what’s beyond these things, except that brief early tell
‘I felt completely free’
Its the storyteller recounting, it is not a collectivised telling, except in how we may also hear it, so it is kind of atomic, facing the past, asking a question of the present ‘if I get free of…?’
Understanding that being free of the forces that damage ourselves in damaging others, that blind ourselves in containing others, that imprisons ourselves in capturing others (their direction, their presence) is also the process of recognising these things in others and in and on ourselves, not judging them when they arrive, but fighting off their deleterious actions and understanding how such a thing is also a part of the process of yielding as method, returning as direction, emptying as completing… and finding fictions and their dimensions to be as alive to potential as everything else…
It seems to me that I am walking about in my sleep, as though fiction and life were blended
~ August Strindberg (via Fiction as Method)
The rustic synthiness and popping rhythmics and percussion are a real propulsive area, drawing on some inspirational micro-rhtyhmic tableau that reminds of things like Airto Moreira, while drawing on the emotional pull of distended, wobbling warm, analogue electronic tones. Its evident here in this live version of Harrowdown Hill from Yorke’s solo Eraser album (2005).
A song that incidentally has an excellent video, featuring a bird of prey flying through a changing scatterzoic of human clashes and gatherings, all the while, collage hands reach out and touch it and position it. while we move from the country to the city and to clashes with state forces. Its a very beautiful rendering in part, the sense being of how it is necessary to animate and create the presence of a kind of a wildness, or of the poise of the bird, on the wind, a contactable, alive, entity image for a space of animal contacts and becomings. Our vanishing neighbour entities, still extant despite ballooning mega-cult(ure) deveopments of progress and its engorging assembly lines of consumption and refuse.
For me the other standout from the first Atoms for Peace album in 2013 was Ingenue, a lovely and curious tune, made of double synth lines and leaky tap percussion. Its video a singular exposition of how a (female) dancer is a world of movements whose form and their arrival is suffused with a kind of power and poise besides which even a good and musical dancer like erstwhile Yorke is rendered like a playful child hippo, geriatric syntho-monkey. Good, but like, yes, this is dancing, this is the world of dancing and its worlds.
This remains a world too of bodies in motion in spaces and amid the psycho-destitute restructuring effects of human living, to become the dance of a song, even a song about how an innocence can be like a magnet for the collection of attentions of fools and jackals, is to enter into the spirit of transforming the world in the direction of its most ardent fluencies and becomings. And then again, if he gets free of…?
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