RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

World's End Girlfriend: Seven Idiots

img  Tobias Fischer

To some, the world is an oyster. To Katsuhiko Maeda, it's a symphony. His oeuvre under the moniker of World's End Girlfriend seems deeply rooted in the notion of cosmic harmony, first suggested by the Pythagoreans and scientifically recycled by Johannes Kepler in the 17th century - as part of which everything in this galaxy is not just intricately connected but serves a benevolent whole. Just like Kepler would suspect the same principles of tonal relations in planetary motion, Maeda applies demiurgic patterns to the erection of his acoustic solar systems: His records appear to grow from a single big bang of creativity and according to logical, yet nonetheless occasionally bewildering rules. His work treads a trajectory of constant refinement and relentless progress and Seven Idiots marks the inevitable conclusion of this process, a point to which his entire discography up until now has aspired: An eighty minute über-album incorporating stylistic quotes from and eloquent contributions to electronica, jazz, breakcore, pop, rock, indie, classical music, contemporary composition, folk and ambient, it fuses the computerised precision of the genre with the acmes of human inventivity. In a way, one could go as far as to claim that it marks the evolutionary end stage of EDM: Whatever follows this effort will either constitute a step back or delineate a new territory altogether.

To mark the occasion, Maeda has drawn from philosophy, poetry and centuries of musical history. Track titles refer to Dante Alighieri („The Divine Comedy Reverse“), James Joyce and Greek philosophy („ULYSSES GAZER“), David Bowie („TEEN AGE ZIGGY“), Arvo Pärt („Der Spiegel im Spiegel im Spiegel“) and, last but not least, cinema („Les Enfants du Paradis“ - probably a tribute to the homonymous movie by Marcel Carné - as well as „The Offering Inferno“, a thinly disguised allusion to a classic Paul Newman- and Steve McQueen-flic). With its mind-blowing cross-connectivity as well as its conflation of the popular and the serious, Seven Idiots is a quintessential third millennium piece of art: Eclectic, ambitious, multidimensional, boundless and all-embracing, unrestrained by limiting dogmas or external expectations, driven by a singular vision and the possibilities of realising it without the involvement of money-consuming corporate apparatuses. The result of a deconstructivist composition process - for which Maeda first conceptualised and arranged his tracks as almost-traditional songs with refrains, choruses and bridges, only to then remove all vocals and stretch the material far beyond the borders of a radio-friendly single - the album has turned out something of a trip through the convoluted labyrinth of his mind, where red-hot synapses fire confounding messages in Morse code and chemical transmitters are negotiating between brain stem and cerebral cortex within fractions of a second.

This simultaneity of the rational and unconscious, of the private and universal is essential for Seven Idiots. It is an album which begs to be treated as metaphorical, yet seems all but impossible to decode. Of course, there are clues and hints as well as a slew of Leitmotifs and tiny side-themes, which create a strong sense of cohesion from a multitude of global disruptions and local singularities. Sometimes, a single piano note will bind subsequent tracks into a small, interrelated cycle. At other times, ties will be more demonstrative, most obviously so on the three movements of „Bohemian Purgatory“, which, covering myriads of stylistic transformations and at well over twenty minutes' length in total, make up a cohesive suite of its own right at the very core of the album, and which not only pass on musical material from one part to the next, but also take in melodies from previous pieces. And yet, the motivation behind these techniques, which will soon have you digging for even more hidden links, does not seem to lie in any „concept“ or programmatics. Rather, they are efforts of translating visual stimuli into the realms of sound. Asked how to describe his 2005-full-length The Lie Lay Land in an interview with French webzine Autres Directions, Maeda described a vision of myriads of moths creating a gate leading into a world confusingly different from the one we seem to inhabit. Perhaps it would be best to think of sound not as a means in its own right, but as a key, opening up the audience to experiences beyond the sensory and of sharing impressions which words can not express.

Inspired by these propositions, Maeda is constantly juggling the parameters of each song like the slightly eccentric cyber-twin of Paganini, layering idea upon idea and note upon note until, at times, there seem to be two or three tracks playing at the same time. Sounds are panning from left to right, samplers are running amok, entire compositions are stuttering and staggering and Kubrick's HAL 9000 is joining the festivities with its circuits and boards still fuming and boiling. Virtuosity, not so much in the sense of musicianship but the development and bending of the motives and arrangements, is vital here, the overwhelming sensation of things going beyond what was once considered possible, feasible or both. It isn't just a nice gimmick that these tracks were written as regular songs in the first place, but a seminal aspect of its impact: There is always the suggestion that, as a listener, you are following something perfectly natural but that things are never quite real nonetheless. Some may feel there is no longer any method at work here, but it in reality, things are merely organised in a dimension far more evolved than ours – Hyper-realism is the overarching principle of this stylistic roller coaster ride and unlike some of the more academic contributions to this philosophy, Seven Idiots manages to make it sound like fun.

The reason for this impression is that it isn't just speed, mutability and complexity that are taken to their extreme here, but also beauty and stillness. When, after „The Offering Inferno's“ nine-minute, nerve-depleting barrage of noise and distortion, closer „unfinished finale shed“ opens with heartbreaking piano chords and fragile guitar-licks, then it is becoming hard to not just feel relieved but hold back the tears.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: World's End Girlfriend
Homepage: Erased Tapes Records

Related articles

Interview with Robert Miles
Sometimes, setbacks can turn out ...
Astralasia: A Coloured In Dream
Defying the curse of the ...
Alva Noto: "For 2"
Not through with explaining: A ...
Concert Report/ Transmediale 2010
Live at the Haus der ...
William Basinski: "92982"
Painfully worthwhile: Basinski has come ...
Giuseppe Ieleasi: "(another) Stunt"
Energy and humour: The aspects ...

Partner sites