08 April 2014 (Holodeck Records)
Decay has always been the inevitable shadow of humanity. Great civilizations have grown from nothing only to fall victim to the strains of time, leaving ruins of once formidable structures to remind us of what once was. All over the world examples of long dead cultures mock the façade of false immortality that persists throughout modern society. The pyramids of Egypt, the Mayan and Incan temples, and countless ruined cave dwellings each stand as reminders to how power, no matter how great, will collapse in the end.
Such as the idea of decay has been ever prevalent to humanity, it has served as a quintessential concept in music. Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi focuses more on the titles translation “Life Out of Balance,” but deals with themes of destruction and decline as they surface in relation to the larger picture. The piece “Pruit Igoe” is juxtaposed against the demolition of a housing project in St. Louis, completely embodying the idea of decay in society and music composition simultaneously.
Christopher Royal King’s début effort as “Symbol,” Online Architecture, is built both musically and literally on the idea of decay. King pulls together a slew of instruments, which range from guitar to Tibetan singing bowls, only to disassemble and rework the sound into an undecipherable layer of ever-fading drones. The cohesive concoction of manipulated instruments takes on the feeling of a long forgotten culture. A culture that does not distinguish between sonic sources, but rather something so old that all sound seems to share roots with it. Decay is lathered across each track. As the album progresses, even the melodies seem to fade away becoming murkier and thicker until only one body of sound remains.
Decay exists deeper then the music itself, it is riddled throughout the recording process. As opposed to clean digital mixing, each song found itself being put onto old magnetic tape that had been warn and damaged by time. The concept of decay is expressed on a holistic level. Every part of the creation process is affected not only the writing of the music, but the recording and media form as well. Online Architecture was released on both a vinyl and cassette; two forms of media that feel the effects of time. This is a third level that decaying exists on, and again an organic form. The recordings life of decay did not end when it left King’s care, it continues to grow and develop with each listen. Online Architecture lends itself perfectly to the imperfect forms of media like vinyl and cassette.
King found the inspiration for Online Architecture in his travels in China and cites a detached form of “distress and isolation” as key themes to his work as Symbol. But as with Koyaanisqatsi, the idea of decay lingers apart from the more prevalent themes and exists as a rudimentary and fundamental concept. The success of Online Architecture comes from King’s blunt control over the emotions and themes he wants to convey while simultaneously tackling decay in as many different forms as possible.
Rating: Loved It