An instrumental experience of a pandemic-ridden world
Descending into heavy electronic decay, John Vanderslice aims to sonically depict all of the anxieties that have occurred in the past year in his latest EP, John, i can’t believe civilization is still going here in 2021! Congratulations to all of us, Love, DCB. From late-night panic attacks to the relationship with technology, Vanderslice aims to create comfort in the experience of the unthinkable. In depicting deepest anxieties, one begins to think they are not alone in their own experiences in the past year.
“uncommon love,” the opening track, is reminiscent of French musician Gesaffelstein, with its trembling bass and distortion. A simple chord progression is intertwined with pulsing beats of electronic beeps to create a sense of chaos. With the title, one can’t help but wonder if it is a reference to the relationship with technology, especially after the tumult of the previous year and a half. It is a strong opener, despite it being instrumental.
Similarly, “Late Life Realization” sounds like a virtual anxiety spiral. With many different instrumentals overlapping and collapsing into one another, the track has no true rhythm. Constantly changing keys and time signatures, the song acts as a way to conceptualize the ruminations that have become all too normal.
“i get a strange kind of pleasure from just hanging on” is a much more lively tune, despite its dark subject matter. Autotune gives a more familiar feeling, almost as if it were a pop song. The reiteration of “hanging by a thread” feels almost comforting as if it is showing that the pain that one faces is shared by a large group of people. It encourages to hang on, despite all that has progressed over the past year, with a melody that seems much more soothing than the opening part of the record.
Perhaps the most encapsulating song of the album is “the world we had,” which takes simplistic notes and creates intricate complexity. With a house-inspired underlying melody, Vanderslice creates a medley of harmonic basslines and chaotic overtones. It is a true testament of a year in which people had both remarkable hope and unfathomable despair. It is obvious how electronic music is one of the few places that can be an outlet for expressing such experiences.
The closing track, “White chalk,” has a hope to it. With more melodic beats, there is an instrumental progression compared to the opening track. Using more organic sounds such as strings, there is a sense of hope past the upheaval. Taking the rest of the EP into account, there is a powerful statement in depicting mental health struggles. With the pandemic taking all that we hold dear, this project reminds people why music is so important. At its heart, it acts as a testament that one is not alone.