There are many reasons artists avoid delving into previously discarded tracks. Perhaps they are self conscious – terrified of opening a window that would shed light on what they perceive to be a less talented/developed version of their musical selves. Or maybe they are afraid that the perspectives they explored so long ago may grossly contradict the one they currently employ.
The question that eventually arises is: why do artists keep their unused creations at all? What’s the point?
Of course, the answer will differ with each artist. When it comes to Jordan Reyes – owner of Chicago labels American Dream Records and American Damage Records – it seems that he found his own answer through self-reflection in mandatory quarantine.
“I was visiting family in Florida when Chicago’s shelter in place happened, and I’m going on 4 weeks down here…Like many, I cannot do a lot of the work I was planning to do. I do, however, have my laptop and an old external hard drive. While putzing around for some old files, I discovered that I had about two hours of unreleased material, some of which came the sessions when I made my first album Close…To my surprise, I actually wanted to share a handful of them …This became Closer.”
Both Close and Closer are minimal, intense modular synth albums. While Close was released in June of 2019, the followup Closer – consisting of the aforementioned previously discarded tracks – has just recently been released digitally and on CD.
The knob twisting and experimentation is reserved (these tracks date back to the beginning of Reyes’ plunge into the world of modular composition), but the overall presentation is adversely bold. The single oscillators that pulse in the sonic void are huge in effect – hypnotic to the point of completely losing interest in whatever you happen to be doing at the time of listening (I do a lot of my deep listening while at work – so my productivity surely suffered for the duration of this album). Subtle fluctuations in sound and design – such as the slight shift of an envelope or filter – forge an organic entity that speaks in sine waves; there is no doubt that Reyes’ budding modular voice is audible in these tracks.
Beneath the fact that Reyes is able to achieve such depth with a minimal setup, I feel that even greater depth can be perceived by acknowledging where music comes from – if such information is made available by the artist. According to the liner notes for Close, Reyes has been sober for years – and his creative vision is surely effected by the lifestyle choice:
“Making music on the synthesizer is an activity of erasure for me. I’ve been sober for over 5 years at this point, but I think a lot about addiction still, and how that impulse, habit, biochemistry has warped since I quit drinking and drugging. I frequently ask myself why did I bring myself so close to oblivion? Well, to forget the pain of being alive. I don’t feel the pain quite so constantly these days, but I do have a fixation on bringing myself to the brink of waking unconsciousness. I get there with long distance running, for instance. Running has been a constant companion in my recovery. It’s when I do my clearest thinking and my clearest unthinking. At some point, my self just seems to slip away. And that’s kind of what happens when I have my consciousness buried in my synthesizer – I’m not mentally there anymore. I’m wading waist deep in patch cords, searching and searching. At any rate, Close is about that.”
Being someone who has also sought out sobriety in incremental forms over the years, the music of Close and Closer really speaks to me. It’s a little difficult to describe to people who have been lucky enough to have not dealt with substance abuse problems, but I’ll try: When you remove said substances from your life, the time in a day takes on new meaning; there is so much more of it, and the immensity and clarity of it all can be daunting. Whether you are afraid of facing your true self or merely bored beyond description, it is quite the initial task to fill the minutes with something other than anxious daydreams and pointless fiddling.
Considering this perspective, I hear an intense yearning for feeling, for unbridled connection to reality in Reyes’ music. What’s most interesting, of course, is how he attempts to rekindle his communion with real life via such abstract means (often enough, it doesn’t get more abstract than modular synth music). Such devotion to the marriage of sober meditation and music is rare in this particular realm of sound, and it’s truly something to be celebrated.