Feb 10, 2017, 10:08AM

Not So Simple Machines

52 Weeks of Jason Lescalleet, Week 4: “The Loop” (7/2012).

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Literally, politically, and conceptually, machines are everywhere. They’re tiny; they’re massive. They create the products we depend upon and take for granted; we eagerly feed ourselves to them without being fully aware that we’re doing so. If industrial pop music denatures and trades upon machines as noise pollution, hard industrial and musique concrete rub our noses in creation’s original, physical fact: gears, centrifuges, grease, OSHA violation warnings, hard hats, robots swiveling and pivoting sharply on automated warehouse floors. The genre stands as a stark reminder that we as a species aren’t, and never have been, some idling hivemind deity.

I like to think of “The Loop” as a meditative micro-documentary, to hear those syncopated whirrs and crunches as a factory’s labor or an active respirator. There’s something reassuring about sonic twig heard loose, then bundled tight, then loose, then bundled tight again. It’s easy to allow yourself to drift into a lulling hypnosis, because this shuffle feels axiomatic of how our world should be, right?—orderly, regular, dependable. When “The Loop” shrugs off its industrial cloak, the diversions seem earned and of-a-piece—a field recording snapshot of a child in nature, an ambient half-measure, the industrial cloak briefly surrendered to flame.

All the parts are oiled and in place; the power’s on. All we have are relative degrees of confidence and comfort, but an automobile or a car or power is only a convenient afterthought until it’s no longer viable. Why will these machines—literal, political, and conceptual—work, and continue to work well? Why, because they always have, and always will, until a day comes when, suddenly, they won’t.


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