Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke. Photo by Alex Lake

I am a target market

New tracks by Daphni and Karen Gwyer, a lost (until now) Radiohead song, a review of Fly Pan Am’s latest gig and more!

Fly Pan Am with Lungbutter, La Sala Rossa, June 15

Fly Pan Am and Lungbutter are very different bands. One is a reformed quartet that conjures elaborate post-rock with electronic flourishes; one is a power trio that kicks out long-form punk stomps. Although their energies are distinctive, together on one bill they give new meaning to the phrase “let’s blow the roof off the dump.”

Dean Hurley, “Philosophy of Beyond: An Introduction (Documentary),” Anthology Resource Vol. II: Philosophy of Beyond (Sacred Bones)

It’s really true that my first word as a child was “clock.” Long before I ever uttered “mom” or “dad,” I pointed at that abstract time-keeping apparatus on the wall and called it by its most common English name. I’ve been fascinated with the notion of time ever since.

Daphni featuring Paradise, “Sizzling,” Sizzling EP (Jiaolong)

We have made progress as a dance music culture when Dan Snaith features Paradise, the obscure Bermudian band, as co-author on this masterful remix under his Daphni moniker. Paradise recorded “Sizzlin’ Hot” in 1981 for an album of the same name, but it received little attention beyond Bermuda’s borders. New York’s Frederiksberg Records reissued it in 2017, and the liner notes’ introductory quote from DJ John Gómez speaks volumes: “Relentless disco from Bermuda that’s finally been recovered from the triangle.” The assumption here is that indigenous musics don’t exist until they’ve been “recovered” for a wider audience — usually by some white guy in the western world. Snaith’s gesture to credit Paradise rightly acknowledges and challenges these culturally hegemonic assumptions.

In that spirit, let’s re-credit some other classic electronic tunes: there’s “Music Sounds Better With You,” by Stardust featuring Chaka Khan; Daft Punk featuring Eddie Johns’ “One More Time;” and of course “Natural Blues” by Vera Hall featuring Moby.

Karen Gwyer, “Faces on Ankles,” Man on Mountain (Don’t Be Afraid)

“If we are given the general form of the way in which a proposition is constructed, then thereby we are also given the general form of the way in which by an operation out of one proposition another can be created.” Wittgenstein: Tractatus: 6.002, quoted in Music by Computers (1969), Heinz von Foerster and James W. Beauchamp, editors.

Radiohead, “MD122,” MINIDISCS [HACKED] (self-released)

A funny thing happened a few weeks ago as I was trying to order take-out. I placed the order online from my usual spot, but as I was finalizing the payment, my card was declined. Now, I may be broke, but I know my credit is good, so I called up the restaurant to find out what happened. They tried to run it through again, but again it was declined. Affronted and hungry, I attempted ordering from somewhere else, thinking that maybe it was a problem with their machine, not my card. Never my card! The pop-up screen on the second restaurant’s webpage, though, confirmed it: “contact your financial institution,” it instructed.

It’s safe to say that few of us enjoy contacting our financial institutions. The touchtone menu, which they always insist on informing us has changed, the higher than normal call volume, no matter what time of day or night, the waiting on hold for an indeterminate length of time, the forever wretched on-hold music, the inevitably tired and snippy person you eventually reach, the 17 highly personal security questions they ask to confirm your identity — it’s not fun. When I finally cleared my way through the dense and thorny brush of MasterCard’s call centre quagmire, I wanted to know precisely why they had cut off my regularly paid-up credit card. After reviewing a list of my recent transactions, the human agent informed me that the purchase, which had triggered their systems, was the album of Radiohead Minidisc recordings from Bandcamp. Had I indeed bought this, he asked?

Like many of us, when I read that a hacker had stolen hours worth of OK Computer-era demos, and that the band subsequently released them legitimately to benefit Extinction Rebellion, I ponied up and paid the price. It’s not like it was an exceptionally big-ticket buy. It wasn’t an 82-inch television; it wasn’t a first-class ticket to Tahiti. It was a $30 transaction. And it wasn’t particularly out of character for me, as a writer about music, and frequent consumer of music and music-like things. It was a Radiohead download on Bandcamp. To someone like me, it was a reflexive, almost obligatory reaction to click on the Buy Now button.

There are two obvious possibilities for what happened: either an automated algorithm flagged the transaction as suspicious, or a person did. Credit card companies, I would imagine, have developed highly sophisticated protocols for detecting the possibility of fraudulent purchases and identity theft by hacking. My question was, what about my $30 Radiohead download would have appeared suspicious? And to whom? Was it suspicious to a series of discrete computer processes, or did it pique a person’s scepticism in some vast MasterCard warehouse somewhere? Did someone actually scroll through a list of my latest commercial activities and, upon seeing Radiohead, think, “Hey, that doesn’t look right”?

The upshot of this is that my routine downloading of a Radiohead record prompted a very Radiohead-esque chain of events to unfurl — the sudden interruption of capital; the violent reminder of how fragile and precarious our economic agency can be; the dehumanising processes of giant credit card companies; how easily Radiohead can effectively ring their bell and take my money; how easily MasterCard can, in turn, freeze it; and the cold, calculated yet uncalculated nature of it all. It reminded me of just how Radiohead-esque things have generally become over the past 20 years, almost as if Radiohead had, through simple imagination, somehow manifested their own deepest digital dystopias.

We’re not scaremongering. This is really happening.