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Friday, May 27, 2016

Carbon Based Lifeforms: VLA


1) VLA.

Short for Very Large Array, apparently, a radio astronomy observatory in New Mexico, known for important observations on black holes, protoplanetary discs, and other stuff that makes great fodder for young aspiring artists of the «sci-bient» variety. There's not much to describe — it's just one hour-long track consisting of a steady hum, recurrently shifting pitch back and forth. If you listen very closely, you will hear occasional additional sounds: some distant cling-clanging, a few lines of faraway electronic pulses, faint echoes of what may or may not have been voices... basically, you will find yourself in the role of a SETI specialist desperately searching for anything that might pass for a sign of extraterrestrial life. And failing, of course.

It would be too easy to call the experiment CBL's Thursday Afternoon — no matter how mini­malistic, Eno's hour-long static panorama could still qualify as music, whereas this here is just sound, with no melodic component whatsoever. Nevertheless, both are similar in that (a) you can basically play them starting at any point and shut them off whenever you like to and (b) the parts are actually very subtly different, but the difference is purely formal unless you agree to study the data under a microscope, and who'd want that? Also, strange enough, VLA actually works as a background setting — that hum certainly isn't «emotionally rewarding» in any sense, but I have listened to it all the way through while being busy with other matters, and it never got on my nerves, which might just be the point of the album. See, the whole thing represents the Vastness of Space, and if the Vastness of Space gets on your nerves, you probably don't belong in it.

I am certainly not going to go head over heels about it and spew nonsense about how listening to this record should expand our mind and enhance our conception of space and perceive our own limited, minuscule, and totally insignificant existence in this universe as merely a random blip in the overall immanent texture. (I mean, it's all true, but why not read a good book on cosmology instead?). But if you have an hour-long important job to do and you want to get a little bit of that «me so importantly locked up in my ivory tower with a telescope and stars for companionship» feel to help you get the job done, VLA might just be the perfect recipe for such an occasion. At the very least, it will make the time pass quicker... or slower, depending on the circumstances.


  1. I have been using this recently as a soundtrack for studying both German and Julia. :)

  2. Is this really music or just the sound equivalent of a shot of NyQuil? As featureless as a quick drive through the great state of Kansas. I've got an hour to kill here so analogies... I have gotz em.

  3. For me, listening to these albums is like running my fingertips over various types of polyester fabric. Yes, polyester is derived from petroleum, and petroleum is organic, so polyester is as natural as can be, right? But c'mon! That these guys seem to be all about The Nature with these various weaves of droning digital, tripishy-hoppishy fabrics strikes me as ironic in the extreme. Like calling NyQuil organic. As for Kansas being a "great state", well... Don't get me started.