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Earwicker - The All Seeing Ear

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Artist: Earwicker

Album: The All Seeing Ear

Label: Resipiscent

Review date: Jun. 9, 2006

It’s hard to draw a bead on an epoch until it’s past. Thus, much folk music (at least that which is reasonably defined as such) is, by its nature, slightly behind the times, if not a wee bit conservative at its sentimental core.

In an age characterized by information overload (something which most all denizens of the emerging post-industrial world have felt in their guts for a few minutes), the most vital folk music is that which illustrates the claustrophobic beauty of a hundred blaring, cross-fading channels battling for attention. Of course, with the rapid decline of broadcast media, that racket suddenly sounds quite different from the way it did a few years ago, to say nothing of decades. (Try rereading DeLillo’s White Noise, if you think it can stand yet another layer of irony.) Ethernet cables don’t carry the same sort of dread that AM static did. When airborne radio fades to a geeky anachronism, we will have lost a means of communication particularly haunting and compelling in its various failures.

Fortunately, just as the plates are about to shift (it’s been rescheduled a few times, but it won’t wait forever), a mysterious West Coast entity known as Earwicker documents the creepiness of bad radio reception in a brutally gorgeous fashion.

Reportedly inspired by “the incidental accuracy of AM talk radio,” among other vague concepts, The All Seeing Ear is a seemingly fruitless, profoundly haunting dial scan taken to a jarring, melancholy extreme. Snatches of conversations and incantations (“I love you” or “it makes your brain hurt”) drift long enough to be provocative but recede before finding their context. Circular patters of noise serve those brains that can find rhythm wherever they seek it, and then shift dramatically just as they’re starting to swing. The plentitude of noise only worsens the thirst for information. The concluding track is called “The Desert Is a Horrible Place to Die.”

This sort of angst will probably be, henceforth, timeless. But tomorrow’s transmitters, when they promise and deprive, will not sound like the aggressively squelchy “Throne of Blood.” So long as this record stays around, we need not mourn the old, weird confusion. And I can’t wait to hear what Earwicker and its ilk make of the emerging technologies.

By Emerson Dameron

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