Past the halfway mark...
#12 Ford and Lopatin - Channel Pressure
this is easily my favourite album cover of 2011
We'd connect the Megadrive to a telly in the front room, pulling the curtains to remove daylight (that notorious enemy of gamers), before playing straight through until Sunday morning, getting minimal sleep, minimal food, and the odd toilet break. By Sunday we'd resemble nothing less than a pair of twitching meth heads. Our eyes would be out on stalks and bloodshot, our legs jumpy and, most noticeably, we'd be in a strange mental state close to hypnosis; a state brought on by the tight repeating elements of 16 bit platform games or beat-em-ups, their graphics, their melodies, and the grinding tasks we had to complete. We had spent the night, two nights in fact, with games, and had emerged altered. Sleep would be delayed by flaring after-traces of the sensual assault of the gaming experience, phantom melodies, images, kinetic jerks. Perhaps this was a faint projection of actual psychosis?
There were other nights too that came later on when I was in secondary school. I'd find myself sleepless, troubled by something at school, and would sit up to watch Aertel or Ceefax until dawn, watching the blinking primitive graphics repeat themselves over and over as midi muzak ran through its own loops. I'd later walk to school red-eyed, slightly nauseous, and feeling the slightest magnetic drag of the TV screen on my thoughts until past break-time.
Ford and Lopatin's Channel Pressure operates within its own version of such strange zones, and explores their limits. It raises fascinating questions about broadcast technology and the mind, particularly the notion of the TV as an influencing machine which is borrowed from observations of people with schizophrenia. The album's underlying concept relates to a character 'Joe' whose mind experiences disorientating pressure from the TV to which his body passively exposes it. He begins to lose his marbles, hears voices, and is hospitalized (there is a later aspect to the story about the machinations of the music industry, but to me this is less interesting). So far, so humdrum, you might say. But the extremely fascinating thing about Channel Pressure is how Ford and Lopatin flesh their dystopic concept out musically.
The album contains elements that don't sit easily together. It is a melange of bewildering swirls of hyper stylized 80s synth pop (fretless bass and keytar shit), midi orchestration and, thanks to Joel Ford, pop hues of heartbreaking purity. What this gorgeous pop does is imply something seductive about the state that Joe finds himself in. By extrapolation it says something complex about all of us too, and how we consume entertainment. These are some of the themes that you will find reoccurring in the work of Daniel Lopatin.
We'll say goodbye to him now, but expect to see him in this list again.
MP3: Ford and Lopatin-Channel Pressure