framed space: meditations on two tracks

20 Sep

The saxophone sets the scene. 1950s suburbia. The kind of place I only know from television and movies. With new lawns being cut by new lawn mowers that scrape along the concrete of new curbs. The song, or couple of songs—“Protect From Light (I)” and “Protect From Light (II)”—also get their period feel from the album’s art, a hand-drawn illustration in which two dames with hairstyles circa 1955 operate the switches of what might be a spaceship. They sit precisely the way they would at a switchboard, as if they were suddenly beamed into the future, command deck controls spliced into where there had been an innocuous panel of blinking lights. Up in the corner of the pale green drawing: blink. Followed by The Architects. The first is the band, rendered always in lowercase and with that period after—a command: blink.

It’s only for a second that I feel I’m in that suburban front yard, because this isn’t really nostalgic music; it doesn’t sound like the 1950s, not after that first flutter. Instead the camera pans back and I realize the town was only a TV set, and then that even the set was just green screen. And the music, a rare blend of electronics and jazz, somehow feels old and playful and simultaneously futurey, kind of like The Jetsons.

There’s only a few melodic moments with real phrasing, which gives those moments power. Outside these is just texture. It’s interesting texture though, alien landscapes that might be what suburbia looked like back then to those poor chaps who were lucky to see anything again at all.

The songs remind me of a place that I often visit over lunch. A cast-iron structure, just past the office towers and condos of Chicago’s downtown, built over a walkway that leads into a formal garden not far from the lake. It’s not a structure so much as a four-sided gateway, a shell of what might’ve been built.

Perhaps the best way to describe it is to say that it’s not really a building in the same way that a cube drawn on paper is not really a cube. It’s simply an outline. And it frames space the way the pencil lines frame the shape. Adding to its depth, the cast-iron frame is porous, with wide ornamental gaps in its walls and roof, flooding the walk with sunlight and confusing my senses: am I inside or out? I’m aware it’s the latter, yet my body also feels contained within a finite space, completely unlike standing free on a sidewalk, or in a field, or even under a tree. That’s what this music is like. It is framed space. Architectural but without structure. Truffles of rust dotting its walls like pennies. A gateway to something more important than itself.

:: :: ::

Listen to “Protect From Light (1)” here.

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