In 2006, I wrote the following as an insert in the original Softl release of joy of fear: “This record couldn’t exist without the small collection of one-off ‘acetate records’ (dub plates) that I’ve been making since 1997, when I first encountered Richard Simpson and his disc-cutting lathe in Los Angeles. One aspect of making dub plates that I’ve loved over the years is that the sound that gets cut into the record—linearly, in so-called ‘real’ time, with beautiful trembling grooves that begin at the outer rim and arrive in the middle—is in an immediate and continual process of intermingling with the material of the plate itself. Another is the special clumsiness, the furniture-ness, of the record player, an instrument whose history of pleasures, public and private, I hear in conversation with the different ‘sublime’ of cello & piano…”
In 2020, these thoughts still resonate for me. The problems are still problems, I think. The record starts with the concrete gesture of putting the needle down. The operation produces an immediate doubling: vibrato as form (a mechanical wobble) and content (Casals?). Which register is the meaningful one? Later tracks use similar means to distort the clarity of versions, samples, effects and aftereffects. The graphical aspect of inscription that I am pointing to in the text, the “trembling groove,” seems manifest everywhere, making playback feel more like recording, a precise and continuous act of excavation that destroys for both pleasure and melancholy. I hear the emphasis on mechanics and process as an argument for a certain kind of repetition, for playback as an affective state, more uncanny than sublime. Music as a landscape of historical objects marooned in digital space.