Recent literature on neuroscience might be summarized:
Even in the healthiest of brains, there is not one unanimous will, there are several. Some urges are louder and more persuasive, while others are hopelessly outgunned. Certain impulses are too quick to notice, and we act on them before we realize it. Others are much slower. Even others, elemental. But in short, the gray matter is soaked by numbers of conflicting neurotransmitters, and therefore by numbers of conflicting wills. To the point that the terms id, ego and superego need a dozen new counterparts. Yet for most of us, it all comes together as a cohesive whole.
Like no other album we can name, Silent Land Time Machine’s June 6 EP I am no longer alone sounds exactly like result of that, like the balance struck between the multitude of wills. In this case, of aesthetic wills. This is a place of acoustic lushness, AM radio distance, electronic trickery, vocal horseplay, groovy dissonance, and a USB cable plugged into Renoise at one end and the psyche at the other. Case in point, the full title: I am no longer alone with myself and can only artificially recall the scary and beautiful feeling of solitude.
Nowhere is the balance more evident than with the angular carnival waltz “an own to one’s room.” A muffled, processed piano opens the track, joined after a measure or two by wobbly vowels, the sound of the human voice reprocessed into a kazoo. (You’d be just in mistaking this for an instrumental album at first, but no, that’s a voice, with verse and chorus and all.) To this point the intent of the song seems pretty clear: Beckett-inspired absurdism for its own sake. Yet now an unadorned piano bit appears at the mid-span, alongside pangs of viola. But still there are no easy answers: the clouds of whimsy do not part for a lovely finish. Instead, the thesis and antithesis braid together for a heady and complex synthesis. Mental.
The tension isn’t always so high. “remembering names” and album closer “dealing w/ doubt” are simply beautiful, without some new compositional firework setting off every few measures. For example the former allows a stark viola loop to rise from and sink back into gentle, ambiguous oscillations (however tempting it might have been, there is no quick-fix piano/noise dialectic to be had). Other songs tend more toward the quirky, say “automata” or opener “even floating islands fall,” which is the closest stop to the artist’s hometown of Austin, Texas we will find; let’s agree on “animated Kentucky” just to keep the discussion moving. Scant tuned percussion, banjo, and the same exaggerated vocals from “an own to one’s room” set the pins up, while the busy scratching of viola and a noisy, syncopated rhythm knocks them down. But the album highlight is “dealing w/ doubt,” which layers whispers of strings over two-way radio electronics and a gradual blanket of static.
With the vinyl debut coinciding with the anniversary of Carl Jung’s death, I am no longer alone takes its title from the final pages of Jung’s journals. So the album’s last surprise is that our first impressions were true: this is the sound of the fragmented self, with all of the humor, terror, absurdity and beauty that it implies.