Employee#6817 – Eulogy
Eulogy‘s connection to the vaporwave scene is tenuous as best – one that is due more to the circumstances of its release and glitch-aesthetic than any large connection to the scene. It’s the first album by Jonathan Burgess of the New Jersey label Scolex Recordings under the thoroughly big-business moniker “Employee#6817,” the sterility of which is unsettling. Now hold that thought in your head: “unsettling” is basically Burgess’ modus operandi, and it’s a good one.
The album starts off innocuously enough, or so it seems: a muzak sample that repeats every few seconds, nothing too different from the score of other producers out there. But that same sample is gently overtaken by a mechanical clicking and whirring, one that only gets louder and more oppressive throughout the entire nine-minute opener. This is noise music, but not harsh noise; the droning, musique concrète kind, like Machinefabriek. Tracks are typically long, but they’re impressive interpretations of the slow burn rather than mere punishment of the senses. The clacks of “Dance Part Two” grate on the brain, but they’re not annoying – they’re oddly rhythmic, and serve as a nice underpin to the feedback glitches in the background.
This is a maddening album; not in the sense of it being frustrating or anything of the sort, but in that it is the soundtrack to insanity. The vaguely religious imagery (e.g. the album title, “Burning Our Sins”) gives off a vague Postal-esque vibe, notably in the original game’s industrial soundtrack.1 The feedback screw on “The Abyss” sounds like the calls of some demented creature – and they’re incredibly effective2 at that, being one of the more genuinely disturbing songs in noise music and vaporwave.3 There’s nebulous-yet-very-much-present corporate vibe in sample choices and presentation – for example, the pre-recorded phone line on “Discontinue Use” – and there’s also certainly a bit of influence from space music both in the utilization of clear tones and the entirety of the track “Space is the Place.”
The centerpiece is the forty-one-minute long “Burning Our Sins,” and it’s a doozy.4 Media announcements reverberate through the first and third quarters of the track, with topics ranging among a police chase, the stock exchange, and a weather report; all while Burgess’ omnipresent pitching and industrial effects wreak havoc in the background. It’s like getting a peak at the slowly-losing-it mental state of a menial 9-5 office employee who just doesn’t feel like taking it anymore after twenty years in the workforce without so much as a bonus. The rest is an amalgamation of the tone-shifting and digital-mechanical sound effects that make up the rest of the album. It even ends as semi-innocuously as it began: with an easy listening/new age sample that shifts in and out of Burgess’ sonic manipulation.
Eulogy is a tough listen; not for any lack of musicality, but in the menacing atmosphere that it so successfully imparts. That being said, it’s definitely a rewarding one.
1. Nexus – (9:18)
2. Discontinue Use – (7:43)
3. January – (3:28)
4. Dance Part Two – (6:24)
5. Space is the Place – (15:35)
6. Breathing – (2:43)
7. The Abyss – (8:32)
8. Burning Our Sins – (40:56)
1Have you ever played this game? It’s fucked up. I mean, I like games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, but one can argue that there’s legitimate satire and narrative in them – especially in the more recent installments (who didn’t feel bad for Niko?). Postal, on the other hand, is just… well, it’s literally a murder simulator, with incredibly disturbing imagery.
2… and affective!
3After your first listen to “Frankie Teardrop,” there just isn’t much that gets you anymore.
4OpenOffice didn’t recognize “doozy” as a legitimate English word. Well, I fixed that nonsense.