methyr – Digital Autopsy
methyr is Mitchell Hopkins of Brighton, England. Digital Autopsy is his third overall full-length. Hopkins is not an artist who is content to stay within genre lines. Over the past year and a half, his music has touched all sorts of areas of cyberpunk culture such as vaporwave, glitch music, IDM, and dreampunk. He released a classical music album as Te Amo! for Question Records, and he was a part of the (literally) genre-defining Hardvapour. compilation released on Antifur in March 2016. All this and more is present on Digital Autopsy, a six-track album that was the maiden voyage of Dublin-based label Smirk Sounds.1
Leading off is “Violin Concerto”, a brief (for Hopkins) three-and-a-half minute modern classical piece that gives way to tribal-sounding percussion at the halfway mark. On its own, it’s similar to “Andro” from Replica by Oneohtrix Point Never in that both tracks have slow builds that give way to helter-skelter percussion before suddenly segueing into downtempo and less foreboding tracks. The classical side shows up again on closer track “Bury Me”, nine minutes of gentle piano music with cello and electronic effects. Throughout the entire song, the left-hand key on the piano gently repeat simple chords in a way akin to the walking bass lines of early cool jazz, except with a distinct melancholy that only a piano and cello can evoke. Mirroring the album’s start, a percussive break appears at the halfway mark with some additional flourishes before dissolving back into the piano and cello.
Digital Autopsy is strange even for the standards of Smirk Sounds, which prides itself as a home for “the smuggest experimental and vapour releases”. By no means is this a negative. Digital Autopsy is one of those select few albums whose eccentricities totally work in context of each other and as individual tracks. Each song has an underlying theme of controlled chaos whereby Hopkins is carefully manipulating each sound to make songs seem discursive on purpose without any pretense. It’s a similar tool used by Miles Davis on Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way – if that isn’t too lofty of a comparison to make. “Greaseproof” is a succinct example of Hopkins’ compositional (dis)structure at work, starting off with an awkwardly-syncopated drumbeat that pauses and gives way to a MIDI melodic lead that weaves in and out of the drumlines. It’s so obviously digitized in a way that calls attention to its inception on MIDI, and damn if it doesn’t work in a way that Hunter Hunt-Hendrix tried so hard to master on The Ark Work with Liturgy.
For some, the word “unique” may be a euphemism for “messy” or “bad”. Not so with Digital Autopsy. It is certainly one of the most unique albums within cyberpunk music with its splendid jumble of classical music, IDM, glitch, and MIDI music. It’s also pretty successful in evoking a “digital autopsy” as each sound and influence is opened and explored with little hint as to what will come next, like poking around in the anthropomorphized remains of a music producer’s recycle bin. Digital Autopsy heavily rewards repeated listens, as there is simply so much going on some tracks (such as on mega-standout “Autopsy”) that several listens might be required to absorb all that occurs. It also does not have the esotericism that the phrase “rewards repeated listens” may imply; songs suit easy listens as well as focused ones. “Post-Internet” indeed; Digital Autopsy is for those who can’t help but press “next” after a minute and need something that can stymie that inclination toward music-ADD. Check it out.
1. Violin Concerto – (3:26)
2. Rattlesnake – (6:43)
3. Autopsy – (6:58)
4. Androgen – (4:58)
5. Greaseproof – (2:38)
6. Bury Me – (9:06)
1It was re-released on & Options in February 2017.