Sean Schuster-Craig is a visual and sound artist who, when recording under the name Jib Kidder creates infectious little nibbles of songs using turntables and samples. Listening to his latest work, Music For Hypnotized Minds released on Sufjan Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty label as part of their experimental Library Catalog Series, feels like an extension of the cut and paste fun that the Art of Noise used to have in their earliest days.
There are beats, for sure, but they are slippery, a little wobbly, and often disappear just when you’re getting the hang of them. And when he matches these sounds up with visuals, the result is, well, hypnotic.
My first memory of being immersed in sound (perhaps my oldest memory of all, even) is, like all memories, really a memory of a memory of a memory of a memory and in this case, in all likelihood, a memory of a memory of a memory of a memory of a dream. I’m in my front yard. So is my refrigerator, which is open. Standard sorts of fruit (apples, bananas, oranges) are flying out its opened door in slow, floating motion. Mummies walk like zombies to the pace of my beating heart, the sound of which is being broadcast at high volume throughout the neighborhood. I used to recall this event every time I would get an ear infection, in which case I would be immersed, once again and without choice, in the music of my beating heart.
My parents are musicians. When I was young, my mom sang opera. My dad was a professor of musicology. There was music all around me. I remember hearing, very early on, these things: Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, the endless off-key practice arpeggios of private lesson vocal students, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”, “Blue Rondo à la Turk”, every showtune ever written, the Catholic devotional “On Eagles Wings”…
But there was never pop music playing in our home. Which is why it was so strange that one day, when I was six, I was sitting on a bale of hay in the barn of my aunt’s farm, and my dad rolled up in whatever little manual hatchback he drove then that smelled like spilt Listerine and sneezes and may or may not have had a hole in the floor through which you could see the ground, and he hands me, without explanation, a cassette tape copy of U2’s October.
It was opaque white, “Full Program on Both Sides,” square LP art lazily shift-drag transform-reformatted for rectangle cassette (or those weird long boxes younger readers will not know or believe CDs used to come in).
And I already had the tech I needed to play the thing, an all primary-colored My First Sony, like the Easy-Bake Oven of Walkmen, headband earphones with puffy blue padding. I put those puffy blue pads on and took them off a decade later. I may or may not have had an honest conversation with a living, breathing human being in between.
I remember going to the bathroom during first grade when I was in Catholic school, where the toilet was just off in the corner of the classroom so everyone could hear you – I’d turn the Walkman on and the faucet on at the same time and then use a small cup to simulate urination while I listened to a full song off October. I’d like to think I was famous for my long pees, feared. I didn’t take the headphones off for dinner, or visits from relatives, or trips to the dermatologist. I would take them off to be tucked in, but then put them back on after feigning sleep.
A little bit later I discovered how you could combine the Walkman with the bicycle, a sort of children’s speed-ball that left me one day bleeding from the ears and fingers, wandering around my suburb, wondering if I was actually me and if it could have been possible that we ate chicken breasts with melted cheese on top for dinner, and if this isn’t me and that wasn’t chicken then what the hell is going on here.
The way I’ve always used recordings is as a means of withdrawing from the outside world in order to focus more closely on certain aspects of inner experience – sensation, memory, fantasy, etc. I remember one day, back when I was six, standing out front of school, waiting to be picked up, kind of tightrope walking the curb and then and there I realized or discovered for the first time that I had this inner monologue going on, that it never stopped for long and that no one else could hear it.
My First Sony encouraged exactly what one’s complicated, smart telephone discourages – illuminating, immersive experience. It was like my heartbeat was broadcast throughout the world, except no one noticed besides me, so they didn’t bother me as I sat down, watched mummies, ate fruit.