Willie Reviews Macintosh Plus’s “Sick & Panic”

Willie Reviews Macintosh Plus’s “Sick & Panic”

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Macintosh Plus is back in a new, evolved form with “Sick & Panic (First Mix).” Returning to the floral shoppe feels… glitchy. Here’s RPM’s review:

Where have the alienated masses gone after vaporwave? Producer Ramona Andra Xavier, aka Vektroid, Macintosh Plus, Laserdisc Visions, New Dreams Ltd., and a few others, is a good resource, being a reliable throughline from the genre’s peak to our current moment. Since her most recent studio album Floral Shoppe in 2011, Xavier has traveled further and further away from slowed-down R&B samples, challenging and complicating her own production style. But “Sick & Panic (First Mix)” is her first return to the Macintosh Plus name since 2011, and it sounds almost entirely unlike the curious complacency of Floral Shoppe. This new twelve-minute track breaks apart a few key components of vaporwave, but more readily takes influences from glitch music and the freeform design of a DJ set. But by calling this a Macintosh Plus record, we’re forced to see it with a strangely human face. Between the hundreds of interrupted thoughts and microscopic silences, something organic is growing.

Open in Spotify

Because the track is so purposely disorienting, the first questions you’re forced to ask are of the what and why kind. What is it, and why is it? Well, it’s a patchwork collection of fragments, sometimes stuck together in a recognizable rhythm or groove, but mostly not. It’s deconstructed. The reason for this deconstruction is the reason for any project of the sort—at the end of a long creative path, there’s no more building to be done. And so the music eats itself, storming along in a backdraft or a tornado or puzzle pieces falling on the ground. As a way of testing her limits, Xavier’s sound becomes one that’s constantly morphing and stuck in a change of phase. A series of squeaking samples just before the two-minute mark lock onto a rising arpeggio cut out from a larger sample. That movement is sampled for its quality of motion, which only goes up and arrives nowhere. The second it stops, the whirling feeling goes away. Later on in the track, a wobbly sort of beat gets undercut, then quickly re-established. I was once told that humans read less effectively on digital screens because of the possibility of movement in the pixels: just knowing something could pop out is enough to set us on edge. That kind of digital danger is on display here.

All these terrifying disruptions make difficult the task of visualizing the track in its entirety. Though not impossible, it begs multiple listens and visual diagramming. This makes a lot of sense, seeing as it was created by a single person working with a computer. Every twist and wrenching pull is theoretically interpretable, but practically very abstruse. The best way I found to listen to this track was to follow along with the waveform and spectrogram. All the tiny moments of repetition and mirroring become visible to the eye. They pass quickly, but it’s fascinating to see because our instinct is to wrangle the composition so it isn’t simply unbounded noise. One important distinction is that the human ear can hardly tell the difference between residual noise from a sample and an artificial nothingness generated by a computer. Where we hear clipped static echo in our minds there is literally no such quality in the file. The other takeaway is the ludicrous waveform, compressed to all hell and thick as a log the whole way through. Any sense of dynamicness or decay is quashed by the all powerful hand of the producer. The sound is like a faucet operated by a light switch, a concept too disgusting to dwell on.

Vektroid, photo from Bandcamp

This is the sort of music nobody is really built for, but that one learns out of idle curiosity. While we may not be androids for a few more years, this compact, biting music speaks to some metaphysical data analysis we’re hardwired to be fascinated by. In a twelve-minute span, it has more than exhausted every notion and idea. It’s a tactical deployment of thoughts too scattered to fit into their own slots. Which is where it wraps around again to vaporwave, because nothing ever changes. Both versions of Macintosh Plus are tugging on their collars and sweating through their shirts. It’s enough to tire you out after a couple of minutes.

Score: It’s rumored that three businessmen would have their left shirtsleeves tailored in order to show off their shiny new hot rods.

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