Another six month update, here we are.
My name is Jake Thomas Shaw. Not that one, or the other, I’m this one. Made from the variety of thoughts and experiences that have carried me here. Not like another you could reach back 4 years and find.
I’ve been 3d-printing, photographing (for my employer, at least it’s SOMEthing, still would rather just do more photoshoots), and making videos all over the place. I highly recommend you take a look at my Chill Films playlist on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEJAcC3Do0a8pqK_bC_pFVwrLdjP7YjUx. This is ostensibly a new niche I’ve been attempting to get into. I found that I’m pretty okay at gauging the cinematic quality of a shot in aerochrome and leveraging that for use as a ‘chill’ film. Various lo-fi artists’ music and vaporwave stuff will be used, and the latest one I’ve actually just shot yesterday that will use an Album by Digital Forest, very good for the thoughtful soundscapes. I intended it to be a cafe-type music playlist that has a simple accompanying visual, and so far it’s been satisfying enough to keep going.
My intro paragraph is a reassurance that I am still fundamentally me, and that nothing can change that. Been hard to hang onto during the pandemic, when I don’t have much will to do anything other than doomscroll. But now I feel as if I’m finally starting to rise out of this muck, this awful time that has been the opening shot of the 2020’s.
I’ve been thinking in languages of design that I haven’t in a while, and been able to watch movies and read books the same way I was before lockdown happened. Starting to remember the thought processes that drive me doing weird/dumb experimental things.
– THE ABOVE PORTION WAS WRITTEN ON 5/11/22 –
It’s funny to me because as you follow these blogs it’s like a bunch of snapshots of my life as it gets slightly less creative, but that’s not the case. Every new update there is all kinds of new stuff happening, I’m just not finding the time to share. It’s a tricky thing where for 6 months I’m dead silent out here on the airwaves but in my studio I’m working on melting bismuth and turning it into crystal clusters. Which I have, and it’s been very fun. What will happen with that next? Defocused filter artifacts or wire sculptures? Who knows!
I’ve been crawling out of the pandemic on hands and knees just trying my best, and I think most people have been. I usually start/stop these posts these days because of that. I used to bang out a blog post in minutes but now it takes days for me to collect my thoughts in a way that isn’t overwhelming. Enough waffling, let’s actually get into it.
I’m a very jack-of-all-trades artist, if I were to call myself a master of one it’d be poetry, which surprises people who have more recently met me. I can’t blame them, because poetry is such a core part of me that I don’t really express it as that art form anymore. It’s always on mind when I’m thinking about design but it takes a lot of willpower to put the camera down anymore.
When I had started writing poetry, I was straddling the point between my life in California and my life here in Washington, still completely unaware of art in general. So imagine my impressionable young mind when I discovered an artist that transcended being “music” to me for the first time. That artist was Xilent, an EDM producer. I say “EDM”, and lots of people have their own labels for it, but it was electronic music that hooked me first, and it was his that got me. His song “Gravity”, specifically, was a revelation for what could be done with art. It made a soundscape that sucked me in with a great beat and atmosphere.
When I first began exploring form in poetry, I used to think in terms of “can I mimic any patterns found in a Xilent song?” Which was the complete wrong attitude, I’ve found. In some poems I was literally writing syllable counts to the beat of his songs. Higher BPM meant better, and each bar was an attempt at finding the rhythm in stressed/unstressed syllables as they could be put to the beat (meter). Led me down some strange patterns of thought, none of which panned out artistically. But it was my first hint that I could latch onto the strangest things and try to draw them across multimedia.
In school at the time, I was embroiled in endless design classes. Even at the high school level, I’d start and end my days in the same room, for first period and last. Doing design work ranging from sound design to sculptures to poems to paint to stencil to pencil. For 4 years. Always taught along the way that strategy and intention are the mental tools required to make art. Strategy being the weakest link in my chain.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that transliterating a song from Xilent requires more than just mimicking beat patterns as meter in a poem, but it requires a grasp of intention on part of Xilent, and a strategy to evoke the atmosphere and narrative of the music rather than just trying to write lyrics, essentially. And as a result, some poems I’ve more recently written to his music, like “Assemble“, come out much more hopeless and nightmarish than they used to (poem is at the bottom of this post, as I’m not giving it its own post). His music has also gotten much darker in the last 6 years since We Are Virtual has come out.
That kind of scene used to quite repulse me, and my first impression of the EDM people was at a place called Studio 7 in Seattle, where I was actually going to see Xilent. I got so uncomfortable with the locals that I left almost immediately after showing up, and the venue wasn’t the best: like an apartment with no interior walls, people packed like sardines. Showbox Market would have been much better, at the very least, or the Neptune. I had liked the music for so long that I was really disappointed with myself when I couldn’t let go and enjoy the scene, chalked it up to a simple disagreement between my senses and what I was seeing. – A MASSIVE regret now that Xilent is pretty much on hiatus, who knows when he’ll be back around.
Since September I’ve been starting going to live music shows, and actually missed out on one that would have been kick-ass: Rezz at Red Rocks in Colorado. I had the chance to find out what the scene was like again with an open mind and with people I was comfortable going to a show with, so I did at Rezz’s show at WAMU on friday the 13th, just a few days ago. And it was amazing.
I was party to the most outlandish outfits, the best lights, coolest stage show, and best block-rocking electronic music my organs could stand to be shaken by. I was getting a contact high by being close to like a dozen people smoking weed, jumping up and down, and letting go a little bit while I was hypnotized by Rezz’s show. Still not entirely gone, but close enough that a part of me did actually let go for like a second during HEX and Killing In The Name.
It made me rethink the broad strokes of art and expression, more so how the people around me chose to express themselves and how I did. I didn’t stand still like a statue this time like I did at Deftones (where my party and I got annihilated by the pit opening up for Gojira right where we were standing), and certainly was more energetic than I was during Royal Blood. I wore my 2814 shirt, no one mentioned it, but I didn’t care because I was representing myself. Just like everyone else. And it didn’t cross my mind once that anything I was seeing was insensible or strange. It was meant to be. Hearing Rage Against The Machine at a show like that was also reaffirming that I was in the right place.
I also think that the people at that show were simply happy to be in that space again; one of a public gathering where no one would get really fucked up or have to defend themselves by an aggressive mosh pit or people stagediving.
I woke up at about 7:30 this morning and I have been listening to Rezz pretty much all day. Chemical Bond is getting a lot of airtime.
How can you translate that atmosphere into a poem? Into a photo? Into a song? Go check out the visualizer for Menace and tell me if the design was nailed, because I think that video is a great example of intention and strategy playing out well for an artist – a video meant to be projected behind Rezz as she’s doing her thing on stage, and without a 5-piece band to be a stage presence and singer jumping up and down, the crowd is informed of energy through the bass knocks, projections, lights, and displays. If you ask me, she achieves her goal; found in most EDM tracks by the titles of the songs and what voice samples may be used. This visualizer is menacing.
So visually easy to represent, but what are you going to do with that if you want to write a poem about it? Is the intent to write lyrics? Extenuate the treble or atmosphere? Or are you going to use voice samples to install a more overt narrative? It’s a lot harder than following the bars, without even going into the actual writing of the poem.
I choose to stay away from following the meter more, instead writing more free verse or otherwise loosely-based quatrain rhyming scheme based on the atmosphere and the feeling of being there. Like the poem I might end up calling No Signal, about the two moments at that Rezz show where I let go, and couldn’t feel my own thoughts. But the meaning of those instrumental songs is only informed often by their titles, leaving you to tell your own story or imagine your own fantasies to the sound to.
There are plenty of melodic motifs found in each of these songs and you can find a lot more success in multimedia transliteration if they are heeded.
Back to Xilent, on the other hand, who in his latest and second album We Are Dust has an actual narrative as a concept record throughout the whole thing. The song titles are longer and point to the story beats while the songs themselves are paced to tell this story. It’s a journey, a warped cybernetic hell that requires knowledge outside the album and interaction with an Alternate Reality Game to understand. The last track on the album, Particles, is a masterpiece in the genres it bends and crosses to reach an uplifting, hopeful climax of what is a very grim and dark album at its core. Especially after he’s released We Are Virtual, which is a summery album with only one or two dark spots, it’s intense to see the amount of strategy and intention that has gone behind telling this story that people might not even listen to all the way once.
It’s like how throwaway from pluderphonic-y vaporwave is produced versus 2814 (who I found looking through Xilent’s spotify playlist Future Lounge), where 2814 weaves a total narrative with no words and title language I can’t read that well into consistently-themed and articulated albums. Even the single Voyage is incredible.
The EDM scene is built upon bangers, those one-off singles that dominate the airwaves and are relatively easier to produce than full albums filled with consistent narrative and meant to go together. An EP here, a single there, and even the albums released much like Spiral by Rezz are a collection of songs, but not necessarily a story altogether. Spiral is still a kickass album, but for different reasons than We Are Dust. I have a very broad idea of what the collection that is Spiral means, but each song is self-contained and opaque in relation to its place.
You put a lot of yourself into the music you listen to. Rezz has cemented to be a special place in this moment, this Jake that is typing. I will never forget the feeling of the air moving around me, like for the first time I understood what it meant for what I breathe to be fluid. And I will never forget feeling so safe, weirdly enough. Oh, and the snakes and skulls and shit that was on screen synced up to the music. I would love to know the artistic meaning behind Spiral besides being a theme for the album (does make me think for sure that Rezz has read Junji Ito).
I also think about what I’m putting in my art a lot, generally. If you read Arcing Ark Archangel (it’s on the site but I’m not linking it because reading it is cringey), you might notice that it is overproduced like a Martin Hannet album. That’s because I combed through every single word and replaced them with much more precise versions like an absolute psychopath. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Even the use of articles was heavily scrutinized and modified if it wasn’t tonally correct. And like a moron I figured no one would be able to glean that from reading it. For 4 pages.
My point is, yeah it’s really hard to not love one of your own art pieces to death in pursuit of your goal. To literal death. I killed this poem. But I kinda figured I was while I was doing it, seeing as I refuse to look at it again. It’s like robbing a grave and finding out that you’ve just cracked the casket of a used car salesman who was buried with the bag of sand he used to put in engines to quiet down the noise his horrible products made.
I’ve killed poems so viciously that I’ve become so aware of what effect my nitpicking can have. Over a catalogue of over 1,000 poems, I doubt more than 10% are actual winners. It’s why I’ve hardly posted any since like 2018, my ego has been tempered in this way.
Just for posterity, here is a poem I wrote in December 2021, and one I visited a couple of times. The atmosphere is my focus, and my proudest part of this one.
I’ve tried to put chapbooks together only to find that nearly all of my poems pre-2020 have little strategy or intent behind them. They just kind of happened and I stopped. My poetry professor’s words haunt and echo to me, “You’re never finished with a poem”. I’ve been editing a few poems here and there, forgetting some others, refining some new and shaving the old.
So it must be scary to be someone like Rezz or Xilent, committed enough to make it known that a vision for an entire album has been realized. And I’m just out here trying to make a banger of a single that I’m proud enough to put into an EP.
Anyways, that’s a real small vertical slice of where I’ve been. I hope to revisit these thoughts sooner than last time, and I know I need to. I’m so caught up on doing that I haven’t been making time to do much reflecting.
I’m the type of person that needs to get bored before I can finally start making sense of things, which is really hard to do when doomscrolling is so easy. I need to abide my own motto.
Radio Reality City!
A ruinous effigy
Stood tall despite decay
A colossus ripped apart
Yet quote chains
A transmutation to these plains
I cross campus with a camera on my hip
Up stairs, through epic halls,
With an eye to capture this place
And contain it to a vessel
A routine, to drive in snow and rain,
Through downtown Tacoma
With the nerves to feel this place
And walk among androids
There’s a plan
There’s a class
There’s a track to stick
Nearly no day unsurprising despite it
A coffee shop across the street
The university cloaked within the city
Like a jacket as it makes a second skin
Once you learn to love it
I am a flesh automaton
Powered by neurotransmitters
I know how to endure the loop
How to enjoy every day
Waking up too early
Taking the tram with the others
A new space
Music ringing in my ears
Questions to the new experiences
A podcast to pass the time
While I walk along the pier
Sitting in class, feeling myself think,
It’s the third time today I’ve
Thought a leaf was falling
Past the window to my left
I’m a professional now
Taking pictures of the buildings
So massive they must be
It’s snowing lightly
A small whisper of wind
But I feel it all around
Walking through the ruins
Of a shattered throne’s radius
This effigy only in my mind
Gripping tight a staircase railing
As I ascend
It’s the next stage of human evolution
More than surface sensations
More than reading into things
Build the thrones
Burn the effigy
And walk through the cinders
Rip it all to pieces
Make pleasant conversation
Order a 16oz coffee to drink
Feel the androids all around
We are dust
And that’s enough
I look at my hands to make sure I’m me
Keep it together in that phantasm
I watch the muscles move and twist
As I open every door
I find myself at a courtyard
Between all the buildings
In the center of the
I stop moving for the first time that day
Look around, staring at the trees,
Sounds of the birds penetrate the
Shuffling of feet around me
Taste of pumpkin spice on my lips
The weight of forevers lifted
Echoes of a primeval civilization
Manifest all around me
Like the city in the mountains of madness
I am enamored by my own agency
And the story that follows my steps
“Robotics and cybernetics;
It’s the next stage of
One-hundred percent androids watching over us
Will make us feel safe again in the city of
So yes I trust them.
We are about to enter
A new age.”
One thought on “Dust Spirals – Journal 5/15/2022”
My god. Great post, but feeling comparatively lazy, have to admit. Good stuff Jake.