Think tank play recent

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Think tank

Fresh tracks and timely insight.

Marie Davidson & L’Œil Nu, “Lead Sister” Tim Hecker Remix (Ninja Tune)

Marie Davidson & L’Œil Nu, “Lead Sister” Tim Hecker Remix

The first time I ever failed a test was in Grade 5. My parents were called in for a conference with the teacher, Mrs. Ward, to discuss my poor performance. At the beginning of that year, I was pulled out of my regular classes and sent to a school for gifted children. Suddenly, I wasn’t the smartest kid in the room anymore. Everyone was smart. Some of them were even smarter than I was. They all knew each other, too, like a gang of bully brainiacs. It was intimidating, being the new smart kid on the block. And I suppose that being around other smart kids made me feel both incredibly intelligent and like an idiot all at once. So, I threw a test under the bus. I still remember the topic of the exam: the Olympics. And even though it was a test — something I knew I had to study for and pass to excel in life — I distinctly remember thinking as a precocious Grade 5-er: “Who gives a flying fuck about the goddamned Olympics?”

Sport is for morons.

Jeremiah Cymerman, “For As Long As Grass Grows (for Tony Scott),” Citadels & Sanctuaries (5049)

Jeremiah Cymerman, “For As Long As Grass Grows (for Tony Scott),” Citadels & Sanctuaries (5049)

In 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote a book that nobody read called The Limits of Control. The title was borrowed from an essay by William S. Burroughs in which he writes about sundry topics such as the Mayan calendar, the U.S. military, and other assorted means and mechanisms of mass social control. In the essay, Burroughs describes a hypothetical scenario in which a Drill Sergeant might issue a series of completely contradictory commands: for instance, “TENSHUN!” and “AT EASE!” Now, imagine the Sergeant is somehow capable of ordering the commands at the same time, one from the left side of his mouth, and the other from the right. Which command is the soldier supposed to follow? After too long, he or she or they or it will short-circuit and fall into a simpering mess on the floor. With all the various governments around the world at present commanding some form of “TENSHUN!” and/or “AT EASE!” — often simultaneously — we are rapidly reaching the limits of control. As Burroughs astutely noted, no controller can handle complete control for long.

Hiro Kone, “Nomad” (ft. travis), Silvercoat the Throng (Dais)

Hiro Kone, “Nomad” (ft. travis), Silvercoat the Throng

Everyone has a private joke — something they say to themselves or a select group of friends. Maybe it’s an inside anecdote, maybe it’s something completely made up, maybe it’s a line from a movie or TV show. For me, one of many private jokes is a snatch of dialogue from a late-series episode of Cheers. I don’t remember the context exactly. But Woody, the towheaded Indianan, is running for public office of some kind. Frasier, the arrogant psychiatrist, is charged with helping him write his campaign speech. Woody is practising at the bar, and his closing line — a politician’s cliché — is about “making change.” Ever the pedant, Frasier corrects Woody: “No, ‘making change’ is something you do here in the bar, Woody. As a politician, you want to make ‘A’ change.” And thus, Frasier instructs Woody to “change ‘make change’ to ‘make a change’”. Of course, Woody is lost in Frasier’s barrage of wordplay and hilarity ensues. But I imagine similar screwball antics right now in the corridors of power the globe over. Clueless leaders being coached to change something — anything! — just so long as it appears to be different. Whether or not it’s the change that makes a change is as ever subject for debate.

Dawn to Dawn, “Care” (self-released)

Dawn to Dawn, “Care”

When we were kids, we used to spin a globe and point an index finger at the exact spot where it stopped and imagine going there forever. Usually, I would end up in the middle of the ocean, considering that most of the Earth’s surface is water. But sometimes I’d land on a tropical island or somewhere else exotic — somewhere where there were no people, just the wind, the sun, the rain, the birds, the trees. As I get older, and the world gets smaller, I wonder in my private moments if that place still exists, and how to get there. I genuinely wish at times that I could simply disappear. I guess that’s why billionaires want to go to space. It’s truly the final frontier.

Miki Sawada & Brendon Randall-Myers, “Cascade,” A Kind of Mirror (Slashsound)

Miki Sawada & Brendon Randall-Myers, “Cascade”

I recently had a conversation with a clown. It’s not something I recommend as a regular practice, but sometimes it’s unavoidable: all of a sudden, you find yourself embroiled in empty chatter with someone who clearly doesn’t even possess the dim glint of two brain cells rubbing together. This particular clown, on this particular occasion, was amidst a diatribe about COVID and science and conspiracy theory. But this particular clown wasn’t espousing any theory over the other. His central point was to do with the questioning itself. People in general have “too much freedom.” “People think too much,” he told me flatly. This is a sure sign that the contradictory Sergeants of the world are winning. Someone can be led to believe that scientific knowledge — generally arrived at by thinking too much in a free society — is paramount, but also that people think too much in a free society. Well, while I’m still free to do so, I’m going to overthink as much as possible. If you think what I thought before was overthinking, you’d better think again! ■

This column originally appeared in the August issue of Cult MTL. 

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