The Hardy Tree – Common Grounds

Serene and subtly haunting, the latest from The Hardy Tree takes a twilight stroll through empty streets and abandoned shops, capturing a portrait of a neighbourhood in the midst of the pandemic. Castle, the force behind the excellent Clay Pipe Records as well as an acclaimed illustrator and musician, would spend her days walking the mostly empty streets and her evenings writing and recording the music that would become Common Grounds. The draft recordings would become the soundtrack to the next walk, which would inspire the next round of composition, an ongoing dialogue of place, sound, and movement.

Ambient-leaning music can sometimes feel academic, lost in its own head. That’s not the case here. The conversational approach to Common Grounds‘ composition has lead to an album that feels embodied, anchored in movement and place. The songs have the leisurely pace of an aimless walk, open-minded and observant. The mellotron and synth textures are comforting but uneasy, expertly capturing the eerie beauty of spaces that are empty by circumstance rather than choice. That ambiguity disappears for album closer “Up on the Hill,” its triumphant strings and swelling drums seemingly a sign of life returning to the world—a grand way to end an album that’s otherwise defined by smaller moments.

Music from the First Half of 2022 p.4: Jazz & Experimental

Favourites from the first half of 2022

Part One: Electronic

Part Two: Folk, Pop, & Pop Adjacent

Part Three: Rock & Psych

Part Four: Jazz & Experimental

The final part of Wander Lines’ half-year review collects another 11 albums from the realms of jazz, neo-classical, and experimental music. Diverse as the selections are, there are common threads that run through many of them—a connection to nature, a commitment to introspection, an emphasis on repetition and minimalism. With a couple of exceptions, these are albums for inward journies, using the power of unorthodox structures and unusual instrumentation to capture what it is to try to stay rooted in a period of extended uncertainty and ambiguity.

Akusmi – Fleeting Future

A strong start for new label Tonal Union, and a gorgeous debut from French-born, London-based composer and musician Pascal Bideau. Fleeting Future’s blend of gamelan scales, multilayered Reichian loops, and spiraling cosmic jazz comes across equally cerebral and spiritual, and song titles like “Cogito” and “Divine Moments of Truth” gesture towards that intermingling of philosophical inquiry and questing for transcendence. It’s as if each tightly wound composition is a sort of clockwork mechanism for understanding the universe, a musical reflection of those early sci-fi visions where the right assemblage of gears and pendulums seemed destined to summon utopia.

Alabaster DePlume – Gold – Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love

Alabaster DePlume embraces the healing power of jazz and spoken-word poetry to an extent that would verge on parody if it wasn’t so utterly convincing. “Don’t Forget You’re Precious,” Gold’s second track, doubles as its statement of purpose, a self-help mantra transformed into a profound assurance through sheer force of conviction. Musically, Gold is mercurial, rooted in spiritual jazz but embracing afrobeat strut, reassuring girl-group harmonies, even a Leonard Cohen-ish ballad on “I’m Gonna Say Seven”. But even as he flutters between musical modes, DePlume is never just playing dress-up. Each song feels rooted in a moment and an idea, fully embodied and chosen with purpose, another path for DePlume’s musical pursuit of love and care.

Amanda Whiting – Lost in Abstraction

Despite a handful of prominent practitioners, the harp has rarely played a central role in jazz—which makes it hard to talk about Welsh harpist Amanda Whiting without involking Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane. While there’s certainly a spiritual component to her songwriting, Whiting’s compositions are much more indebted to the former, focused on groove and melody, using the angelic quality of the harp as a counterpoint to Aiden Thorne and Jon Reynolds’ tastefully grounded rhythm section. Chip Wickham’s flute complements the core trio beautifully, adding an airiness to Lost in Abstraction’s mid-century lounge.

Carcáscara – 2

Recorded in 2014 but only now seeing a release on Texas’ Aural Canyon and London’s Basque-focused Hegoa Records, Carcáscara’s second album is an unfussed, unhurried collection of minimal acoustic guitar. While other instrumentation adds colour throughout (the liner notes list harmonium, bells, marimba, ukeleles, flutes, synths and field recordings), they’re like specks of life in a desert landscape, moments of contrast to heighten the sepia-toned beauty of the whole.

Esmerine – Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More

It’s almost impossible to keep up with the array musical projects in the general orbit of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Esmerine has apparently been one of my blind spots. That’s changed with Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More. Taking its title from a history of the end of the Soviet empire, the album is immersed in uncertainty. Piano plays a dominant role in many of the compositions, lending a comforting melancholy to interludes like the shimmering “Fractals for Any Tonality” and the sombre “Wakesleep.” “Imaginary Pasts” gives the album its most optimistic moment, though the title could be read a few different ways—is it about escaping into false nostalgia, or finding freedom in new narratives? “Number Stations” ends the album on a similarly ambiguous note, a minor-key guitar melody, warm upright bass and mystical glockenspeil leaving off on an unresolved note, less a conclusion than a promise of more to come, a reminder like the album’s title that not even endings are eternal.

Felbm – Elements of Nature

As Felbm, Eelco Topper makes music that is all soft edges and rounded tones, moss-covered instrumentals that you don’t so much hear as sink into. Elements of Nature expands on the musical serenity of the four-part Tape series, bringing more conceptual depth to Felbm’s already welcoming aesthetic. Compositions seem to emerge organically, inspired by the processes of nature, bursting into life on “Florissant,” seeking sustenance in “Root,” finding quiet reassurance on “Rise.” Closing with “Decay” may seem morbid, but Topper sees the beauty in the process through which everything returns to the earth, life and death cycling as naturally as breath.

Forgiveness – Next Time Could Be Your Last Time

Tempting as it is to draw distinctions between the organic and the synthetic, they aren’t always opposed. After all, even electricity is a force of nature, no matter how convinced we are that we’ve domesticated it. Forgiveness blends those two worlds seamlessly, analog synths and warm woodwinds intertwining until you forget which elements are supposed to be natural and which are technological. As s they describe it themselves, Forgiveness makes music that is “not really jazz, not really new age, not really ambient or electronica” but all those things at once. Ambient washes and arpeggiated keyboards drift along with flickers of flute and saxophone, a rich ecosystem of sounds where rhythms drip like condensation from leaves, and melodies emerge like rainforest creatures half-glimpsed between the trees.

Golden Brown – Luminous

Where last year’s Gems and Minerals used a variety of instruments to flesh out its geologically inspired sounds, Luminous finds Golden Brown’s Stefan Beck working solely with a guitar to create his Americana-influenced kosmische. The limitation suits him well; in fact, it barely feels like a limitation, given the fluidity of Beck’s musical approach. Built around daily improvisations, the compositions on Luminous radiate outwards from short loops and gentle meanderings, prefering slow evolution to dramatic arrangement. The results are restful and restless, centred and moving, a walking meditation disguised as an album of acoustic ambiance.

Joyfultalk – Familiar Science

One lesson to take from Jay Crocker’s musical output? There’s no use trying to pin him down. Even for a project that’s meant to channel his experimental impulses (as opposed to his not-insubstantial pop instincts) Joyfultalk has covered a dizzying amount of ground, from handcrafted electroacoustics to dark-synth explorations to experiments in new forms of musical notation. Though it isn’t his first foray into avant-jazz, Familiar Science is new ground for Joyfultalk, and is alternately farther out and more melodic than anything he’s done in this space before. While the bulk of the album leans towards the former, it’s the latter that gives Familiar Science its most transcendent moment — the buoyant “Blissed for a Minute,” providing exactly what the title promises.

London Odense Ensemble – Jaiyede Sessions, Vol. 1

UK jazz meets Danish psychedelia in the latest project from El Paraiso records, and the results are as heady as you’d expect. Two-part opener “Jaiyede Suite” opens the album at its jammiest, 17 minutes of freewheeling electric keyboard and saxophone over a driving psych-rock rhythm section. With that out of their system, the ensemble takes a turn for the atmospheric. “Enter Momentum” wears its jazz influence most openly, expertly building and releasing tension over its 15-minute span, but it’s the two shortest tracks that prove most compelling. Soaring flute and rolling toms evoke a desert landscape on “Sojourner,” while “Celestial Navigation” closes the album on a spacious note, the players effortlessly interweaving, glistening like the Milky Way on a clear night.

Shabaka – Afrikan Culture

Stepping away from the bombast of The Comet Is Coming and the collaborative questing of Sons of Kemet, Shabaka Hutchings has created something quieter and more contemplative for his first solo EP. Afrikan Culture sees the multi-instrumentalist putting his saxophone aside in favour of an assortment of flutes, performing with minimal accompaniment in a way that places the emphasis on squarely on air and breath. The feeling is one of intimacy, especially in arrangements this sparse, where the listener is already leaning in to discern the melody. Listening to Afrikan Culture almost feels like an intrusion, but it’s better taken as an invitation—to turn that intimacy inward, inhaling Shabaka’s melodies as fuel for your own introspection.

Music from the First Half of 2022 p.3: Rock & Psych

Favourites from the first half of 2022

Part One: Electronic

Part Two: Folk, Pop, & Pop Adjacent

Part Three: Rock & Psych

Part Four: Jazz & Experimental

Continuing on from the electronic and pop-adjacent selections of the first two posts, these 10 albums and EPs run the gamut from wiry post-punk to ocean-breeze dream-pop, with an emphasis on reverb, echo, and lysergic tendencies. Most of the artists here have found a way to balance nostalgic tendencies with forward-thinking restlessness, carving new niches in old sounds and proving there’s still plenty of mileage to be wrung from six strings and a distortion pedal.

Cola – Deep in View

Post-punk from two of the folks who brought you Ought, and Cola definitely sips from the same mug of angular post-punk guitars, elliptical lyrics, and caffeinated rhythms that fueled that earlier project. Tim Darcy’s songwriting is more concise here, and his melodies are more fleshed out, but the songs still have that blend of urgency and inscrutability that has always made him such a fascinating voice.

Congotronics International – Where’s the One?

Overkill in every sense, but if you approach this maximalist intercontinental collaboration in the right frame of mind, be ready to be overwhelmed by sheer joy. A decade in the making and recorded via fragments traded between 19 musicians across four continents (including members of Konono No. 1, Deerhoof, Juana Molina, and more), the songs are understandably eclectic, with distorted likembé rave-ups, indie-rock stompers, live fragments, and call-and-response anthems bubbling up for a minute or two, jamming on a theme, and moving on to the next idea. It’s all a bit much, but you rarely find music this freewheeling.

Exek – Advertise Here

Fusing elements of dub, post-punk, and psychedelic pop, Melbourne’s Exek make music that feels perpetually off-kilter, teetering on the brink of accessibility but always ready to wobble into realms of high weirdness. Picture pre-ambient Brian Eno fronting PiL and you wouldn’t be worlds way from the sound of Advertise Here; dispassionate vocals and deadpan grooves, woozy synths and motorik beats, this is serious strangeness delivered with a wink and a barely visible smile.

gerry – gerry EP

Four stoned krautrock jams that throb with consciousness-expanding joy. The gnarled synths on “Grimpy” are what initially caught my ear, but each of the four instrumentals is a gem in its own right, from the rollicking opener “Tune2” to the big-beat bliss of “Bloody” and the end-credit crawl of mid-tempo closer “Low Prophie.” Here’s hoping this project amounts to more than just a one-off EP.

Ghostkeeper – Multidimensional Culture

After the synth-heavy atmospherics of 2017’s Sheer Blouse Buffalo Knocks, it’s tempting to call Multidimensional Culture a return to form, but that doesn’t give credit to the last album’s quality, or to the new one’s adventurousness. Still, as a long-time fan of Shane Ghostkeeper’s corkscrew solos and occasional Beefheartian skronk, it’s nice to hear him returning to the guitar. Multidimensional Culture finds the band embracing a rich sense of melody, with string arrangements, choral backings, and gospel energy enriching Shane’s usual singsong-spoken delivery—his growth as a singer is startling. It’s the sentimental moments that really stun here, though, the gorgeous “This is How I Know You” and psychedelic ballad “Summer Child” showing a sweetness that suits the band surprisingly well.

Kikagaku Moyo – Kumoyo Island

There’s something to be said for going out on a high note, but it still seems slightly unfair that Kikagaku Moyo would choose their swan song to release their most focused, infectious, exhuberant album. In a way it’s almost an antithesis to last year’s Ryley Walker collaboration Deep Fried Grandeur, trading in that album’s two side-long jams for some of the catchiest tunes the band has put to wax. Things still get plenty spacy—”Meu Mar” is vintage Moyo in that regard—but the sitar hook and wah-wah guitar on “Monaka” and the woozy groove of “Dancing Blue” open the album with a pop flourish that they’ve only hinted at before. Clearly the band felt the project has run its course, but there’s no sign of creative fatigue on Kumoyo Island.

Large Plants – The Carrier

The artists on Ghost Box recordings are frequently steeped in nostalgia, but they usually lean towards haunted synths and radiophonic sound effects to conjure their vintage atmospheres. Wolf People’s Jack Sharp takes a different approach for his debut as Large Plants, channeling a strain of fuzzed-out folk-psych that sounds like it was summened straight from the 1960s via an acid-tinged ritual. Still, it’s not hard to see why The Carrier ended up on the Ghost Box roster. Listen to the library-funk groove on “How Far” or the mournful melody of “Hold Onto,” and you’ll find that this is every bit as haunted as anything from the Advisory Circle or Belbury Poly—just with distorted guitars and the occasional cowbell.

Modern Nature – Island of Noise

This one’s here on a technicality, as it was officially released in 2021 as a vinyl box set, but the digital release didn’t come until January, 2022. That scarcity was certainly part of the album’s initial appeal, but Island of Noise isn’t one of the year’s best albums because of a marketing approach. Jack Cooper’s post-Ultimate Painting project shares his former band’s impeccable taste, but nothing in that catalogue foreshadowed the nuanced arrangement and improvisatory feel that have come to define Modern Nature. Loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Island’s songs feel timeless, even elemental. The music more an ecosystem than a collection of songs, themes decaying and re-emerging, new patterns growing like wildflowers in fields, comforting and unpredictable all at once.

Persica 3 – Tangerine

A too-brief collection of lush dream-pop released on France’s always-reliable Hidden Bay Records. There’s a distinctly coastal feel to this mini-LP despite its Parisian origins, a modern extrapolation of the Beach Boys’ proto-dream pop in its sun-soaked synths and reverb-heavy harmonies, refreshing as an ocean breeze. Album closers “Elliot” and “Unflattering / Untitled” end Tangerine on a melancholy note, but the impression the album leaves you with isn’t of sadness or even bittersweet; it’s the lighter-than-air feeling of a pleasant memory, distant in time but alive in the mind and ready to be recalled again.

Yoo Doo Right – A Murmur, Boundless to the East

Clocking in at nearly 45 minutes over the course of just five songs, it’s fair to say Yoo Doo Right approach their songwriting with a fair bit of ambition. Refining their heady blend of krautrock, shoegaze and Montreal post-rock, A Murmur, Boundless to the East is a more subdued patient record than last year’s Don’t Think You Can Escape Your Purpose, and more patient, too. The Morricone-in-space atmspherics of “The Failure of Stiff, Tired Friends” (just over six minutes long and still the album’s shortest track) makes for a solid entry point, but the closer “Feet Together, Face Up on the Front Lawn” is the album’s highpoint, showing off everything Yoo Doo Right do right. With apocalyptic strings courtesy of Jessica Moss, pounding motorik drums, and car-crash guitar, it’s up there with the peaks of Constellation’s dystopian post-rock, cacophany and catharsis doled out over 16 thundering minutes.

Music from the First Half of 2022 p.2: Folk, Pop & Pop-Adjacent

Favourites from the first half of 2022

Part One: Electronic

Part Two: Folk, Pop, & Pop Adjacent

Part Three: Rock & Psych

Part Four: Jazz & Experimental

If calling the last batch of albums “electronic” felt a bit arbitrary, tagging these as “pop” is even more reductive. The artists below are pulling from a wide range of influences, some accessible, others obscure, and the collection of futuristic soul, nostalgia-minded exotica, orchestral folk and other indescribable sounds don’t comfortably fit under a single banner. The label is just there for convenience sake, so take it with a grain of salt, and enjoy these albums on their own plentiful merits.

Cate le Bon – Pompeii

A half-dozen albums into her 13 year career, Cate Le Bon still sounds as distinctive as ever. There’s a clear throughline from her 2009 debut to Pompeii’s otherworldly pop, but her sound has gotten more oblique even as it’s become more familiar. Pompeii’s songs are crystaline: polished and multifaceted, composed of hard angles and reflective surfaces, and the inescapable feeling that if you look deeply enough, you just might discover a truth about the universe.

Dana Gavanski – When It Comes

The upbeat “Indigo Highway” is the most immediately appealing track on Gavanski’s sophomore album, but if the remainder of the album takes a little more effort, it’s all the richer for its subtlety. Sharply written and impeccably produced, it’s an album of intricate details, soft flourishes, and warm countermelodies, ornate but never overblown. Add Gavanski’s detatched but affecting vocals, and you have an album perfectly crafted for inward-focused escapism.

Daniel Ögren – Laponia III

Pop probably isn’t the right classifier for this one, but then, it’s hard to say what is. Ögren has explored jazz, funk, library music, and easy listening in projects like Sven Wunder and Dina Ögon, and while Laponia III has elements of all those genres, it’s both more hushed and more expansive (with a few exceptions, like the bouncy “Midnattsol”). This seems like music inspired by mountaintop views and sun-dappled vistas, where the air is thin and magic lurks under each stone.

Fresh Pepper – Fresh Pepper

Building on the gentle brilliance of last year’s Further Up Island, songwriter Andre Ethier has recruited a veritable supergroup of Toronto avant-pop artists for his latest project, with members of Bernice, Beverly Glenn Copeland, and more contributing to an album that’s equal parts smooth jazz, indie rock and the Food Network. The arrangements are uniformly sophisticated, threading a needle between avant-garde and easy listening, but Ethier’s plainspoken confidence is the real standout here. World-weary, wistful, and brimming with humour, it’s a fantastic next step for a songwriter who never ceases to surprise.

Jenny Hval – Classic Objects

Is there a better lyricist out there right now than Jenny Hval? Setting aside the music itself, rich and multidimensional as it is, I don’t think there’s anyone else who channels the full spectrum of modern anxiety quite like Hval does. Classic Objects opens with the Norwegian singer trying to make sense of her new marriage in light of her anti-institutional feelings, and it closes with her questioning the relationship between art and copyright. In between she wonders about identity and control, quotes Gilles Deleuze while making fun of “irrelevant quotes from French philosophers,” and blurs the line between diary, confessional, and pop song.

Maylee Todd – Maloo

Maylee Todd’s hushed future r&b is a long ways removed from the indie pop she first cut her teeth on in groups like Henri Faberge and the Adorables, or the hearty disco-funk of her last solo album nearly a decade ago. That album proved that Todd can belt ’em out with the best of them, but on Maloo she keeps her performance to a breathy croon, letting the drama come from the jazzy chords and unpredictable melodies. The album is named for her digital avatar, an oddly proportioned, slightly unsettling CG creation that appears in videos for Maloo. That persona keeps the album at a conceptual remove, but restraint suits Todd well, lending a mysterious edge to her already polished songwriting.

Medusa Phase – Negative Space

Synth-led Tallahassee trio Medusa Phase provide a mostly summery complement to the vintage dream pop sounds of Young Marble Giants and the Cocteau Twins. Not the smoke-choked heatwave of the last few summers, mind you—Negative Space channels dew-dampened fields and early morning mist, refreshing and full of promise. The album’s wonky keyboards and chintzy drums give the whole affair a surreal quality, like you’re hearing the jukebox at a half-remembered, half-daydreamed lounge on a forgotten Florida highway.

L.T. Leif and APB – Newfangled Objects of Our Desires

I should declare my bias here—I worked for several years with L.T. Leif and have a hard time staying objective about their work. But even with that qualifier, I’m sure I would have fallen for the charming concept and offbeat folk-pop of Newfangled Objects of Our Desires (NOOODS) no matter who made it. A follow-up to a 2010 cassette collaboration, NOOODS once again finds the duo of Laura Leif and Amber Phelps Bondaroff paying tribute to inanimate objects and the people who own them in a collection of lo-fi pop tunes. The doo-wop refrain of “Hewmidoo” is the EP at its most charming, but every song is brimming with the tender joy of creativity and collaboration.

Sessa – Estrela Acesa

Lovely, mellow Brazillian pop, recalling the glory days of tropicalia in its subtly psychedelic production and orchestral flourishes. Nylon-stringed and gently swaying rhythms evoke beachside hammocks and languid days, and while the lyrics delve into angstier territory, you wouldn’t know it from Sessa’s laid-back delivery—at least, not without a solid working knowledge of Portuguese. For the rest of us, those darker themes are a subtle undercurrent, adding shade to an otherwise breezy and balmy day.

Shintaro Sakamoto – Like a Fable

Shintaro Sakamoto’s lounge and surf-influenced sound doesn’t shy away from kitsch, but that doesn’t mean it’s a joke. The grimly funny cover of 2014’s Let’s Dance Raw is still maybe the best distillation of his approach — self-described “post-apocalyptic exotica” that’s at once nostalgic and entirely unexpected. Like a Fable expands the sonic palette of Sakamoto’s first few solo releases, and wisely downplays the vocal effects that made 2017’s Love If Possible a little harder to fall for. Trombone solos, surf guitar, disco beats and tropical grooves all find a natural home on the album, but behind it all there’s still an underlying dissonance, a subtle feeling that as bright as things may be, we might just be dancing to the end of the world.

Steven Lambke – Volcano, Volcano

Lambke doesn’t have what you’d call a conventionally polished voice, but the former member of the Constantines and Baby Eagle has always found a way to make it work. OnVolcano, Volcano, he uses confident arrangements to give a solid foundation, then lets his vocals sketch in the rest, more implying the melodies than fully singing them. Lead single “Every Lover Knows” epitomizes this approach, setting up a Neil Young-ish folk stomper with choral backing, then letting Lambke run ripshod through the arrangement, off-key and ebullient. It’s an approach rooted in well-deserved confidence, and one that lends unpredictabilty to an album anchored in rock-solid roots songwriting.

Yves Jarvis – The Zug

In his albums as Un Blonde and his first release as Yves Jarvis, Jean-Sebastien Audet seemed almost allergic to fleshing out ideas, preferring fragmentary melodies and momentary moods to conventional songs. The approach worked because of his seemingly endless stream of creative impulses and his obvious virtuosity, but it’s still been a pleasant surprise to see him shake a bit of that restlessness, first with 2020’s Sundry Rock Song Stock and now again with The Zug. His lyrics are still as inquisitive as ever, punctuated with Zen-like musings and personal/politicla reflection, and the extra space in his songwriting has only made room for more influences, adding Krautrock explorations and ’60s psych-folk hooks to the micro-gospel and acoustic soul of his early solo releases. If those earlier albums flowed on a river of creativity, the newer ones are drawing from a deep well of it—both are refreshing, but the sensation is different.

Music from the First Half of 2022 p.1: Electronic

Favourites from the first half of 2022

Part One: Electronic

Part Two: Folk, Pop, & Pop Adjacent

Part Three: Rock & Psych

Part Four: Jazz & Experimental

Part one of what will hopefully be a four-part look at some early favourites from the first half of the year. “Electronic” is a vague category, and even within that, there are albums here that hardly fit the descriptor, mixing live performance and organic instrumentation in with their synthesized sounds and sequencers. From minimal synths to new age visions, dystopian soundtracks and Eurorack explorations, these albums range from the accessible to the experimental, sometimes soothing and sometimes unnerving, but always engaging.

Charbonneau/Amato – Synth Works Vol. 2

Pietro Amato and Matthieu Charbonneau have been making music together at least since their late 2000s run in the vastly underappreciated Montreal chamber-pop trio Torngat, and while the synthetic sounds of their work as Charbonneau/Amato are superficially quite far removed from that project, Synth Works Vol. 2 has the same warmth and imagination that has always made their work so compelling. The duo coaxes surprising variety from this set of chirping melodies and simple rhythms, keeping the arrangements minimal without sacrificing nuance. It’s a gentle album, but one that rewards repeated listening.

Cool Maritime – Big Earth Energy

New Age-y and ambient as it may be, Sean Hellfritsch’s latest release as Cool Maritime feels positively energetic compared to the coastal transcendentalism of his earlier albums. Big Earth Energy is billed as a soundtrack to an imaginary ecological-themed video game, and its mystical pulse certainly conjures visions of ray-traced vistas and point-and-click puzzling in the glory days of CD-ROM adventures. Fans craving long-form meditations will need to adjust their expectations, but even the tighter compositions still offer plenty of opportunities to expand your mind.

Ecotype – Civil Version

Released back in February, this Calgary duo’s sophomore release was better suited to the frost-covered streets of a Canadian winter than to our current mid-summer heatwave. Give it a couple months for the air to crisp up and the leaves to fall down, and Civil Version’s Boards of Canada-evoking blend of hip hop beats and haunted synths will be back in season. Like a midnight scene lit by campfire, it’s soothing and at least a little bit sinister.

Field Works – Stations

The conceptual heft of Stations certainly helps the album feel momentous—it’s built around samples harvested from ground-recording stations and billed as a collaboration between human performers and the voice of the Earth itself—but that highly cerebral concept would be weightless without the gravity of the actual compositions. A bevvy of collaborators help Field Works mastermind Stuart Hyatt flesh out the sounds, finishing on a note of joy and good humour with Laraaji’s infectious laughter. Don’t pass up the companion remix album, either. With mixes from Deantoni Parks, Green-House, Alva Noto and more, it turns out to be just as essential as (and even more inventive than) the proper album.

Green-House – Solar Editions

A welcome EP from the spiritual successor to Mort Garson’s Plantasia (a bit of a reductive comparison, but the recurring plant and fungal themes make it inevitable). Only four songs, but as the title implies, it’s a burst of sunshine, the playful new-age melodies radiating warm, revitalizing energy. Truly blissful stuff; as with the whole Green-House catalogue, it’s hard to imagine hearing more than a few measures of Olive Ardizoni’s music without cracking a smile.

Jilk – Haunted Bedrooms

Scarcity is something you rarely run into nowadays, but the Castles in Space label has cultivated its mystique through a refusal to cater to the whims of streaming services, and through consistently brilliant curation. As consistenly impressive as their catalogue is, Jilk’s Haunted Bedrooms still stands out as a highlight, a unique musical world with a sonic ecosystem blending discordant folk, pastoral post-rock, and unpredictable electronics, and still manages to be accessible despite its eclecticism.

Moat Bells – Bones of Things

A confident sophomore release from this London, ON electronic project, but then, last year’s debut was strong enough out the gate to justify that confidence. Bones of Things is a more cohesive album than its full-length predecessor, its five tracks exploring a narrower and more distinctive sonic range, drawing from downtempo, IDM, and ambient influences. “Circles in June” breaks that mold, indulging in four minutes of chopped vocal samples and chiming, vaguely post-punk guitar, but even that welcome digression just highlights how quickly this project is refining its sound and expanding its ambition.

Pneumatic Tubes – A Letter from TreeTops

Jesse Chandler of Mercury Rev and Midlake makes his Ghost Box debut as Pneumatic Tubes, providing a pastoral American spin that labels hauntological sound. Composed in response to the death of his father, A Letter from TreeTops is understandably contemplative, but also surpringly reassuring, its rural kosmische evoking the resiliance of the upstate New York landscape where Chandler grew up and where he returned to write these tunes. Synths and vintage keyboards mingle with flute and clarinet (hence “pneumatic tubes”), and the result is organic and hypnotic, a landscape of rolling hills, dense fog, and sterling vistas.

Polypores – Hyperincandescent

Eurorack explorations spanning two 22-minute compositions, Polypores’ first album for the UK’s DiN imprint shuns conventional song structure for a more freewheeling approach. There are distinctive movements throughout Hyperincandescent, but as the title’s prefix implies, the music never rests for too long in any one place, preferring to shift between thoughts like a radio panning long-range frequencies. The second side is the more patient of the two, but both reward a slow listen, eyes closed, headphones on, adrift in the aural aether.

Sanctums – Neon Wraith

After a six-year silence, Calgary darkwave duo Sanctums return with an EP that reconciles the ambient leanings of their last full length with the IDM pulse of their earlier releases. Like 2016’s Migrant Workers, Neon Wraith is shrouded in dark clouds, but this time dystopian skies let in a little light, especially in the new wave groove of “Pattern Play” and in the breathy climax of album closer “Radiant Silver.” It’s not all sunshine — most of the tracks could still be the soundtrack to an impending apocalypse — but if this is the end at least we’re going down dancing.

Sankt Otten – Symmetrie und Wahnsinn

My original description of this one was “The spirit of Neu! lives on,” but that doesn’t seem fair to Neu! co-founder Michael Rother, who also released a quite-good album this year. But Sankt Otten’s strain of contemporary kosmische is the one I keep returning to, and Symmetrie und Wahnsinn is an impeccable collection. Opening with the pitch-perfect motorik of “Hymne der melancholischen Programmierer,” the album takes off on some moodier tangents, culminating in the 10-minute “Die Ordnung des Lärms,” but cinematic as it gets, it never loses a core of hard-won optimism.

Test Card – Patterns

Test Card is largely based out of Vancouver, but their music has always felt more of a piece with bucolic UK artists like the Hardy Tree or Ellis Island Sound than anything out of Canada. Patterns is no exception, blending folk and electronic influences into songs that seem inspired by rolling hills and old Roman roads. At its best when its acoustic and synthetic sides are given equal standing — as on the lovely and self-explanatory “(Seventeen guitars and one piano)” — it’s an excercise in low-key escapism, a sunset walk through idyllic fields.

Time Wharp – Spiro World

From chaotic future-jazz to blissful Terry Riley loops to woodwind kosmische, Kaye Loggins covers a lot of ground on Spiro World (or One Must First Become Aware Of The Body), but the result never sounds disjointed. Probably because each track is so fully realized in itself that it’s easier to let yourself get immersed than to worry about through-lines. It’s enough that the momentum of each composition pulls you into the next, making it impossible to turn away until the album dissolves in a cloud of delay.

tstewart – elysian

Travis Stewart’s first release under the seemingly more personal tstewart banner strikes a much lower-key pose than his work as Machinedrum. Inspired by a park in downtown LA, Elysian is every bit as Edenic as the title implies. Each track takes inspiration from a different nook in the park’s landscape, and between the triumphant peak of “Baxter Climb” the dulcimer shimmer of “Isle of the Blest” and the gentle meandering of “Cumulous,” Stewart has convincingly captured a slice of urban paradise.

Untrained Animals – Stranded Somewhere on the Planet Fantastic

After a five-year silence between 2016’s Obsolescent the Moment You Get It and 2021’s Good Vibes on Bad Acid remix compilation, Calgary’s Untrained Animals have seemingly been making up for lost time, with two LPs, two mixtapes, and another release due later this year. Stranded Somewhere on the Planet Fantastic is the newest of the those releases and also the strongest of the bunch — a slightly slower pace lets the melodies come into a clearer focus compared to some of the last few albums’ more manic moments. Moving from space rock to breakbeats to “beatless floaters” and acid freakouts in its 14-track run, the project’s creative restlessness can be disorienting at times, but that’s what happens when you sign up to explore the Planet Fantastic.

Videodrones – After the Fall

Released on the always essential El Paraiso Records, the third album from Danish duo Videodrones expands their synthwave sound to include live guitar and drums. The result is as lively as you’d hope. ’80s film scores and heady psychedelia are ground up and recombined into Videodrones’ new flesh, but things aren’t as grim as the band’s cinematic namesake and the album’s post-apocalyptic title may imply. In fact, the stretches of beauty and triumph outnumber the darker moments. Whatever fall humanity suffered, it’s clear from the retro-futurist tones that we’re well on our way to rebuilding.

Kindle Highlights: June, 2022

A shorter collection of excerpts this time around; starting a new job has cut down on my reading time. At some point I’m going to have to try to summarize SSOTBME and Ministry for the Future, but for now, as with all these highlights, this is for my own interest more than anything I expect to be halfway readable for others.


Can Such Things Be? (Ambrose Bierce)

  • Your Highlight on page 165 | location 2516-2517 | Added on Sunday, 5 June 2022 09:38:48

A man is like a tree: in a forest of his fellows he will grow as straight as his generic and individual nature permits; alone in the open, he yields to the deforming stresses and tortions that environ him. 


Can Such Things Be? (Ambrose Bierce)

  • Your Highlight on page 165 | location 2522-2522 | Added on Sunday, 5 June 2022 09:39:21

Anyone can tell some kind of story; narration is one of the elemental powers of the race.  But the talent for description is a gift.


Instapaper: Sunday, Jun. 5th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 156-158 | Added on Tuesday, 7 June 2022 23:01:31

To talk about “hope” is to perhaps be trying to talk about resolve. Hope is a moral necessity amongst the privileged in the developed nations to work our butts off while we can because we won’t be the ones taking the hit first if we don’t act, but, eventually, it’ll get to us too.


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 110-110 | Added on Tuesday, 14 June 2022 21:42:09

In the case of the Magician, the ultimate defence is to remember that any version of a theory which lies within your comprehension, and in particular one that can be expressed in words, is necessarily not the whole truth. So however well it fits the facts — indeed especially if it fits too many facts — it is necessary to grow out of the theory once it is no longer needed


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 123-123 | Added on Thursday, 16 June 2022 22:47:05

. Of course the idea mentioned in Chapter 7A, that we are living in a self-debugging virtual universe, provides a model for this. Drawing too much conscious attention to paranormal experience evokes the debugging software to normalise it. Surprise is a commodity that does not stretch very far, and that is the tragedy of the media.


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 131-131 | Added on Friday, 17 June 2022 23:05:20

Using the previous analogy we have an infinite series of terms 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + .. each more trivial than the last and yet all adding up towards a final unity


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 138-138 | Added on Sunday, 19 June 2022 20:59:27

But the real essence of morality in Magic is not such compromises, but rather — as I argue at greater length in my third volume of essays — that when one is stripped of all outer moral codes and injunctions, then you become fertile ground for a discovery of inner moral sense. This is what really happens during the serious pursuit of Magic


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 138-138 | Added on Sunday, 19 June 2022 21:00:13

Magicians too are blessed with the discovery that ‘anything goes’ does not actually force one to do anything.Indeed, it may only be when given such freedom that we come face to face with our own inner integrity


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 143-143 | Added on Sunday, 19 June 2022 21:13:44

The cog in the machine was an older image: in it each of us is like a cog, of no value in itself but a vital part of the machine. This is like feudal society where every person knows their place and has the comfort of knowing where they stand, but little sense of individual identity. We are now more like drops in an ocean. Unlike a mere cog, the drop of water is as valuable as the ocean itself because it is a microcosm of the whole — all the physics and chemistry of water is contained in that one drop and the ocean is no more than a giant extrapolation from it. But consider that drop as part of the ocean and it is utterly insignificant, it has no justification or sense of importance as the cog in the machine has. Science has liberated us cogs from the Religious machine and revealed our complexity. We are now shiny drops reflecting the world around us in all our individual glory. But Science, with its acceleration of communication, has also brought us to the ocean. I see myself as a drop — an individual with a vital message to give to the world — but when I try to express it I am brought face to face with the fact that I am one of millions of unwanted writers clogging up the in-trays of thousands of unwanted publishers


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 153-153 | Added on Sunday, 19 June 2022 21:32:04

Too slavish an acceptance of Religious and now Scientific authority has led us all to depend too much upon others for our ideas of truth. One expert makes an interesting observation, and we are glued to our television in order not to miss other experts’ views of his opinions. A book presenting a sensational new version of evolution appears and bec

Wild boars are invading Canada

Jana G. Pruden’s article on the ongoing wild boar invasion of Canada is the kind of piece where I can’t go more than a few sentences without quoting something to my partner. Its description of the boars is consistently fascinating and more than a little terrifying, making them seem almost supernaturally tough to control — they’re smart, vicious, mean-spirited, and shockingly fertile.

I have vague memories of hearing about boars escaping in the small town where my grandparents lived in the ’90s, and the town needing to impose a curfew to keep kids from getting gored. At the time it seemed ridiculous, its seriousness tempered by how cartoonish it all sounded to my thoroughly urban self. I never thought it would be a harbinger of a near-future plague of pigs, but here’s Canada’s paper of record publishing quotes like “There’s two types of people in the world: People that have pigs, and people that are about to have pigs.”

Guess I should do my best to enjoy the pig-free present before things go south.

Of course, the only reason the boars are here is because we imported them for farming, then set them free when profits dried up. Or worse, let them loose for game hunting because we knew they were tough and clever and resilient — and now we’re shocked that those same traits are helping them survive. Like any good horror stories, the true monster here is human shortsightedness, hubris, our complete unwillingness to think through (or care about) the consequences of our actions.

Time Wharp – Spiro World

A marvelously eclectic “full-length coming of age collection” from Brooklyn-based composer and artist Kaye Loggins, Spiro World doesn’t lend itself to easy categorization. There isn’t a clear overlap between the burbling melodies and spacious atmosphere of opener “East River Dusk,” the Brainfeeder-esque ambient jazz of “TOTP,” and “Mixo World’s” woodwind-laden kosmische, but the lack of an obvious throughline somehow doesn’t hurt. Despite the freewheeling approach, Loggins’ aesthetic judgement has the gravity to keep Spiro World from spinning off into the void.

The album’s eight-and-a-half-minute centrepiece “No Furniture/Tanagra” is also its strongest point, capturing the appeal of the album in its languid evolution. Looping guitar melodies and flittering woodwinds gradually coalesce around a pulsing bassline, sonic textures shimmering like dust in the starlight before drifting back into the void. It’s more a sculpture than a song, and while the second half of Spiro World does settle into a more consistent mood, the compositions still shy away from familiar forms. Instead, Loggins allows the elements to find their own structures, never forcing them together, drifting freely in acoustic space until the album dissipates in a cloud of delay.

Kindle Highlights: April and May, 2022

Again presented largely without commentary (and in the case of May, largely without highlights… getting married and preparing to start a new job apparently takes away a lot of your reading and writing time). The main books involved here are Jeremy Lent’s The Web of Meaning, Lionel Snell’s SSOTBME Revised, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s substantial The Ministry for the Future, the latter two of which I’m still chipping away at.

Is there a common thread between them? Probably not. Web of Meaning is an attempt to bridge traditional knowledge and current scientific understanding, while shedding the faulty scientific and cultural assumptions we’ve built up over the past few centuries. SSOTBME is a primer on magic, which is ultimately about other lenses to view the world, so somewhat compatable with Lent’s Web. Robinson’s Ministry is an outlier, a speculative near-future that acknowledges the dangers of our path while still holding onto a narrow optimism. It’s quite bleak in places, but hopeful enough to keep me reading.

These Highlight posts are more for my own reference than anything I imagine anyone else would get something out of reading.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 32 | location 489-493 | Added on Friday, 1 April 2022 23:08:02

How would you make sense of your present experiences if you were oblivious to their antecedents or future implications? Researchers have discovered that this is how the right hemisphere perceives reality. It focuses on spatial patterns between things. It readily accepts an ambiguous or incomplete situation without trying to impose coherent meaning on it. It savors fluid, indeterminate and vague conditions. It’s also more closely connected with internal bodily experience, making its perception of the world more vibrant, filled with smell, sound and sensation.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 68 | location 1037-1038 | Added on Sunday, 3 April 2022 22:07:51

‘Only in the mirror of other life can we understand our own lives. Only in the eyes of the other can we become ourselves.’


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 90 | location 1366-1371 | Added on Tuesday, 5 April 2022 02:00:09

our instincts honed us to act amicably with our in-group but to treat those who seemed different from us with suspicion. Nowadays, most of us live in cosmopolitan societies and interact daily both with intimate acquaintances and strangers. Sapolsky’s wise rule is to rely on our intuition when we’re engaging with our in-group of family and friends, but when interacting with those who appear different from us, to ‘keep intuitions as far away as possible’. Instead, he suggests, we should utilize the theory of mind that evolution bequeathed to us. ‘Think, reason, and question,’ he writes. ‘Take their perspective, try to think what they think, try to feel what they feel. Take a deep breath, and then do it all again.’


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 28-28 | Added on Tuesday, 5 April 2022 02:33:39

Magic processes data in parallel (ie as ‘sympathies’) where Science would process data in sequence (ie as ‘causes’). Thus sympathetic Magic is the core of all Magic. To invoke a god or spirit you bring together qualities, objects and actions sympathetic to that spirit. To precipitate an event you bring together gods and spirits sympathetic to that event


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 108 | location 1649-1650 | Added on Tuesday, 5 April 2022 21:06:48

‘What is the heart, but a spring,’ wrote Thomas Hobbes, ‘and the nerves but so many strings?’ Descartes boldly declared, ‘I do not recognize any difference between the machines made by craftsmen and the various bodies that nature alone composes.’


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 129 | location 1963-1966 | Added on Tuesday, 5 April 2022 22:09:39

We can trace the holarchy of life from the microscopic components of a cell to the cell itself, many of which combine to form tissues, which make up organs such as the liver or skin, which are part of an organism. Organisms combine to form populations, which in conjunction with other organisms create ecosystems. The ultimate self-organized system containing all these holons is known by biologists as the biosphere – the interconnected web of all life on Earth.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 129 | location 1970-1974 | Added on Tuesday, 5 April 2022 22:10:04

Stuart Kauffman puts it in these terms: What is the weave? No one yet knows … But the tapestry has an overall design, an architecture, a woven cadence and rhythm that reflect underlying law – principles of self-organization … We enter new territory … We are seeking a new conceptual framework that does not yet exist.53


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 133 | location 2025-2026 | Added on Tuesday, 5 April 2022 22:14:40

As another early systems theorist, Norbert Wiener, put it, ‘We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.’


Instapaper: Sunday, Apr. 3rd (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 657-659 | Added on Thursday, 7 April 2022 00:14:03

For Chambers, who didn’t ask to be labeled hopepunk but likes the term “very much,” the simple act of being kind in her writing, of imagining futures in which decency triumphs and people are allowed to cry tears of joy, qualifies as more than sufficiently rebellious in the 21st century.


Instapaper: Wednesday, Apr. 6th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 98-100 | Added on Thursday, 7 April 2022 08:48:59

In a nutshell, he has shown that it’s possible to eliminate 70 percent to 80 percent of US carbon emissions by 2035 through rapid deployment of existing electrification technologies, with little-to-no carbon capture and sequestration.


Instapaper: Wednesday, Apr. 6th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 267-270 | Added on Thursday, 7 April 2022 09:05:19

The Green New Deal made some lofty demands for rapid industrial mobilization and decarbonization. The response of its critics was often that it lacked a detailed roadmap to accomplish its goals. Griffith has provided that roadmap, with detail down to the machine level. It is possible to substantially decarbonize the US economy by 2035 — we know what to build, how fast to build it, and where to put it.


Instapaper: Wednesday, Apr. 6th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 431-433 | Added on Thursday, 7 April 2022 09:35:45

“If we stay [focused] on the coast,” he adds, “like any coastal people—out of necessity, salvaging and reusing is, [and] was, just part of life. Right? So the circular economy, if you call it that, has been going on forever.”


Instapaper: Wednesday, Apr. 6th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 444-445 | Added on Thursday, 7 April 2022 09:37:12

Sci-fi often paints the future as an increasingly virtual dystopia. But a book like The Diamond Age pulses with inventive possibilities that could lead to more grounded, ecologically sound possibilities, too.


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 36-36 | Added on Thursday, 7 April 2022 23:37:00

Because we are so steeped in the idea of causality, it is correct that I should approach the Magical position from a starting point of causality, even though it is ultimately irrelevant. So in answer to the question “what does the Magician have in place of an idea of causality?”, I will answer that the Magician does not deny a connection between events, but rather assumes that every event is connected to every other. This assumption makes the search for a chain of causes ridiculous: the links are too numerous and complex for analysis.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 161 | location 2465-2467 | Added on Saturday, 9 April 2022 07:59:33

The notes aren’t competing or cooperating with each other, but the way in which their differences act upon each other creates a blended experience that is richer and more beautiful than any of them alone. Could it be that the best description of how nature works is, in fact, a harmonic meshwork of life?


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 165 | location 2527-2530 | Added on Saturday, 9 April 2022 08:04:56

Geneticist Mae-Wan Ho captures this idea with her portrayal of life as ‘quantum jazz’. She describes it as ‘an incredible hive of activity at every level of magnification in the organism … locally appearing as though completely chaotic, and yet perfectly coordinated as a whole. This exquisite music is played in endless variations subject to our changes of mood and physiology, each organism and species with its own repertoire.’


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 174 | location 2663-2664 | Added on Tuesday, 12 April 2022 22:12:05

We’re back to Weber’s First Law of Desire: ‘Everything that lives wants more of life. Organisms are beings whose own existence means something to them.’


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 181 | location 2773-2777 | Added on Tuesday, 12 April 2022 22:25:56

In this case the embryo produces a large number of neurons – vastly more than it ultimately needs – all of which are committed to destroying themselves (called apoptosis) unless they receive certain survival factor proteins, which they can only get from other neurons. As a result, neurons that connect with plenty of neighbors stay alive, whereas those that formed in the wrong place or wandered in the wrong direction eventually kill themselves, recycling their components for the cells that were more successful.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 185 | location 2828-2831 | Added on Wednesday, 13 April 2022 08:30:10

As described evocatively by embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer, living organisms – animals, plants, bacteria or fungi – can be understood as the thoughts of nature. Ever since life began, it has continually applied its thoughts for greater learning, etching its successes into the genomes of its organisms, then using those achievements as building blocks for its next adventure.41


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 190 | location 2905-2907 | Added on Wednesday, 13 April 2022 08:37:18

Leslie White, who portrayed the rise of human civilization as a series of enhancements in energy utilization. Agriculture, White explained, harnessed the negentropy of horses, cows and sheep, who spent their days consuming the sun’s energy stored in plants, and then made it available to humans in the form of work, milk, wool and meat.


Instapaper: Monday, Apr. 11th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 439-440 | Added on Wednesday, 13 April 2022 09:36:21

Unlike the Enlightenment, where progress was analytic and came from taking things apart, progress in the Age of Entanglement is synthetic and comes from putting things together.


Instapaper: Monday, Apr. 11th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 458-461 | Added on Wednesday, 13 April 2022 09:38:56

For example, it may be difficult to tell the purpose of a particular line of code in an evolved program. In fact, the very concept of it having a specific purpose is probably ill-formed. The notion of functional decomposition comes from the engineering process of arranging components to embody causes and effects, so functional intention is an artifact of the engineering process. Simulated biological processes do not understand the system in the same sense that a human designer does. Instead, they discover what works without understanding,


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 43-43 | Added on Thursday, 14 April 2022 23:15:32

. SCIENCE Truth Yes Yes Conditional Absolute MAGIC Wholeness No No Unconditional RelativeRelationship by distinction is a particularly Scientific notion of relationship. As Magical thinking relies more on spacial, pattern recognition abilities, it is more inclined to ask where Magic ‘stands relative to’ Science. This is a different approach to relationship


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 44-44 | Added on Thursday, 14 April 2022 23:17:28

concluded that, in the terms of my recent volume of essays — What I Did In My Holidays — Dawkins had evoked a demon. Like myself, he is a champion of the notion that ideas can replicate and evolve within the ecology of human culture in a manner akin to the Darwinian model. The demon he had evoked was the apparent fear that New Age ideas might now be proving fitter to survive than his own ideas. Having demoted ‘goodness’ or ‘godliness’ and replaced it with ‘fitness’ as the key determinant, he has to face the possibility that Science’s ‘Truth’ might not be enough to save it from extinction. He can thus appear as a tribal shaman dancing a devil dance to protect his mind-children from a stronger foe.


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 46-46 | Added on Thursday, 14 April 2022 23:29:21

The Magical method is to act ‘as if ’ a theory is correct until it has done its job, and only then to replace it with another theory. A theory only fails if it cannot take hold in the mind and allow one to act ‘as if ’. As long as this approach is carried out properly — with a Magician’s understanding that the theory is being accepted only because it is ‘working’, not because it is ‘true’ — then there is little danger of delusion


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 57-57 | Added on Thursday, 14 April 2022 23:58:25

Magic, in turn, inherits unconscious skepticism from Science. Just as the ‘open minded’ Scientist is deep down a total believer in material reality, so also the ‘gullible’ Magician deep down does not really believe in anything


SSOTBME 148×216 – Lionel Snell

  • Your Highlight on page 60-60 | Added on Friday, 15 April 2022 00:05:15

it strikes me that you could play with this cycle as a conversational gambit in the presence of anyone who is strongly polarised towards one of my four directions of thought. This is how you do it. If you want to irritate the speaker, question his ideas from the perspective of the previous quadrant. To offend or disturb, use the opposite quadrant. To intrigue and stimulate, use the following quadrant.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 200 | location 3066-3069 | Added on Friday, 15 April 2022 07:44:09

In the words of entomologist Lewis Thomas, a single ant is not much more than a ‘ganglion on legs’. However, ‘four ants together, or ten, encircling a dead moth on a path, begin to look more like an idea’. It’s only when you see ‘the dense mass of thousands of ants, crowded together around the Hill, blackening the ground, that you begin to see the whole beast, and now you observe it thinking, planning, calculating. It is an intelligence.’


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 212 | location 3240-3242 | Added on Friday, 15 April 2022 09:01:50

Wanderer, the road is your footsteps, nothing else; wanderer, there is no path, you lay down a path in walking.


Instapaper: Friday, Apr. 15th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 460-463 | Added on Sunday, 17 April 2022 08:23:06

If you spend enough time with GPT-3, conjuring new prompts to explore its capabilities and its failings, you end up feeling as if you are interacting with a kind of child prodigy whose brilliance is shadowed by some obvious limitations: capable of astonishing leaps of inference; possessing deep domain expertise in a vast range of fields, but shockingly clueless about many basic facts; prone to strange, senseless digressions; unencumbered by etiquette and social norms.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 239 | location 3662-3664 | Added on Sunday, 17 April 2022 08:51:07

Becoming a fully integrated organism means not just integrating within, but also integrating fractally with community, society and the entire ecosystem. We exist in a holarchy. Just as a single cell can’t flourish in a diseased organism, so the well-being of an individual human requires a healthy society.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 286 | location 4374-4376 | Added on Tuesday, 19 April 2022 08:26:18

You ask me to plow the ground! Shall I take a knife and tear my mother’s breast? Then when I die she will not take me to her bosom to rest. You ask me to dig for stone! Shall I dig under her skin for her bones? Then when I die I cannot enter her body to be born again.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 300 | location 4592-4597 | Added on Tuesday, 19 April 2022 08:58:38

The next time you go for a hike in nature and marvel at its beauty, take a moment to realize that you are looking at a pale, shrunken wraith of what it once was. An accumulation of studies around the world measuring the declines of species and ecosystems indicates that overall we’ve lost around 90 percent of nature’s profusion. We live, MacKinnon observes, in a ‘ten percent world’. Those of us who gain sustenance from the sacred beauty of nature sometimes like to think of it as a temple. But, as MacKinnon notes, ‘a greater truth should be foremost in mind: Nature is not a temple, but a ruin. A beautiful ruin, but a ruin all the same.’


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 305 | location 4672-4674 | Added on Tuesday, 19 April 2022 09:08:57

Stories abound of Western visitors observing native people leaving some of the harvest and misunderstanding this as either laziness or inefficiency. ‘We Indians like to leave something for the one who comes after,’ explained a Native American to a Western observer in the 1930s.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 312 | location 4781-4782 | Added on Tuesday, 19 April 2022 09:20:04

Whether we call it shi, tending, or conscious symbiosis, the pivotal lesson is the same: there is an alternative to the dichotomy that views civilization as either the triumph of humans over nature or the inevitable ruination of life’s plenitude.


Instapaper: Friday, Apr. 15th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 779-781 | Added on Wednesday, 20 April 2022 22:42:43

Once social-media platforms had trained users to spend more time performing and less time connecting, the stage was set for the major transformation, which began in 2009: the intensification of viral dynamics.


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 348 | location 5335-5337 | Added on Thursday, 21 April 2022 22:58:24

‘When we embrace integration as a central drive in our lives, we cultivate meaning and connection, happiness and health … Beginning with integration within, extending integration to those you are connected with, and moving integration into our larger world: these may just be the reasons we are here … in this life.’


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 371 | location 5675-5676 | Added on Friday, 22 April 2022 09:03:15

‘Heaven and earth are my coffin, the sun and moon are my burial jades, the stars and planets are my burial jewelry. Ten thousand things make up my sacrificial feast. Is not my funeral preparation complete? What can be added upon this?’


The Web of Meaning (Jeremy Lent)

  • Your Highlight on page 407 | location 6234-6236 | Added on Saturday, 23 April 2022 09:44:31

Hope, in the resounding words of dissident statesman Václav Havel, is ‘a state of mind, not a state of the world’. It is a ‘deep orientation of the human soul that can be held at the darkest times … an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.’


Meditations (Emperor of Rome Marcus Aurelius)

  • Your Highlight on page 43 | location 600-602 | Added on Thursday, 28 April 2022 23:22:32

At what time soever thou wilt, it is in thy power to retire into thyself, and to be at rest, and free from all businesses. A man cannot any whither retire better than to his own soul; he especially who is beforehand provided of such things within, which whensoever he doth withdraw himself to look in, may presently afford unto him perfect ease and tranquillity.


Meditations (Emperor of Rome Marcus Aurelius)

  • Your Highlight on page 44 | location 625-625 | Added on Thursday, 28 April 2022 23:27:35

This world is mere change, and this life, opinion.


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 58 | location 879-886 | Added on Saturday, 30 April 2022 09:54:49

There was scientifically supported evidence to show that if the Earth’s available resources were divided up equally among all eight billion humans, everyone would be fine. They would all be at adequacy, and the scientific evidence very robustly supported the contention that people living at adequacy, and confident they would stay there (a crucial point), were healthier and thus happier than rich people. So the upshot of that equal division would be an improvement for all. Rich people would often snort at this last study, then go off and lose sleep over their bodyguards, tax lawyers, legal risks—children crazy with arrogance, love not at all fungible—over-eating and over-indulgence generally, resulting health problems, ennui and existential angst—in short, an insomniac faceplant into the realization that science was once again right, that money couldn’t buy health or love or happiness.


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 74 | location 1135-1137 | Added on Sunday, 1 May 2022 09:41:30

Also, the two billion poorest people on the planet still lack access to basics like toilets, housing, food, health care, education, and so on. This means that fully one-quarter of humanity, enough to equal the entire human population of the year 1960, is immiserated in ways that the poorest people of the feudal era or the Upper Paleolithic were not.


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 124 | location 1887-1887 | Added on Monday, 2 May 2022 23:21:21

Say the order of your time feels unjust and unsustainable and yet massively entrenched, but also falling apart before your eyes.


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 124 | location 1891-1892 | Added on Monday, 2 May 2022 23:21:57

we are all definitely always falling apart, and not massively entrenched in anything at all.


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 148 | location 2264-2264 | Added on Tuesday, 3 May 2022 23:07:18

Demonstrations are parties. People party and then go home. Nothing changes.


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 158 | location 2415-2416 | Added on Wednesday, 4 May 2022 08:43:06

Robustness and resilience are in general inefficient; but they are robust, they are resilient. And we need that by design.


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 202 | location 3092-3095 | Added on Sunday, 8 May 2022 09:24:58

These SAPs were instruments of the postwar American economic empire, which was unlike the older empires in that it did not insist on ownership of its economic colonies; it only owned their debts and their profits, no more than that. The best empire yet, in terms of efficiency, and the neoliberal order was all about efficiency, in its purest economic definition: the speed and frictionlessness with which money moved from the poor to the rich.


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 209 | location 3190-3192 | Added on Sunday, 8 May 2022 09:39:48

But what if it wasn’t a mistake? What if you had been forced, by being taken hostage, to focus for once on the reality of the other—on their desperation, which had to have been extreme to drive them to their own rash act? What if you saw that you might do the same sort of thing in the other’s shoes?


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 234 | location 3575-3576 | Added on Monday, 9 May 2022 22:31:27

Simply talking was the strongest social media of all of course, it was obvious once we rediscovered it, but those posters made the city itself our text, as it had been more than once before.


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 276 | location 4220-4222 | Added on Wednesday, 18 May 2022 08:47:40

Shorting civilization and imagining living on in some fortress island of the mind was another fantasy of escape, one of many that rich people entertained, as ridiculous as retreating to Mars. Money was worthless if there was no civilization to back


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 278 | location 4260-4262 | Added on Wednesday, 18 May 2022 08:51:36

On the other hand, all central banks were undemocratic technocracies, not that dissimilar to China’s top-down system. They were run by financial elites who did what they felt was best without consulting even their own legislatures, much less the citizens of their countries.


The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson)

  • Your Highlight on page 283 | location 4333-4337 | Added on Wednesday, 18 May 2022 09:00:48

They were only really doing things to try to ameliorate the situation they were falling into after it was too late for those things to succeed. They kept closing the barn door after the horses were out, or after the barn had burned down. At that point their actions, which a few years or decades earlier might have been quite effective, weren’t enough. Maybe even close to useless. Over and again it was a case of too little too late, with nothing stronger anyone could think of to apply to the worsening situation.


Instapaper: Thursday, May. 19th (Instapaper)

  • Your Highlight at location 44-44 | Added on Sunday, 22 May 2022 22:16:59

The correct response to uncertainty is mythmaking.