The Irrational Media Society
Whether we want to admit it or not, there’s a strong argument to be made that as listeners to music we’re living in a post-album era. While the long play format is still omnipresent, the a-la-carte music experience has become completely ingrained to the point where for most listeners actually sitting down to listen to a record back to front is the exception more than the rule.
While it’s tempting to gnash our teeth and moan about the death of albumcraft, the changing landscape has given rise and opportunity for new and interesting boutique formats. This is where Defrag’s fascinating Lost Lands EP comes in; released digitally on Bandcamp, the release is also attached to an ultra-limited vinyl release of 100 handcrafted lathe cut copies with unique artwork. While deluxe limited physical editions are nothing new, Defrag’s Jeff Dodson is playing into a much more interesting phenomenon, where what is presumably an interstitial release between last year’s excellent Drown and whatever comes next has been invested with a special cachet by virtue of format.
Of course freed from the limited physical pressing most of us will never see, the technoid-styled music on Lost Lands is still notable in and of itself. Where Drown often focused on Dodson’s high level sound design and ear for sonic detail, the music here has a much looser and more melodic feel. Indeed, the lonely piano figure that starts off opener “I Arrived Cold” would make a lovely piece all by its lonesome, although the squeaky percussion and cut up breaks that end up playing around it transform its feeling from sad and distant to tense and claustrophobic. The marimba-led “At a Harbor of Dreams” is structured similarly but plays interestingly with the contrast between the organic and near-breakcore styled percussion, creating a natural tension that resolves into a groovy four on the floor drum outro. Other numbers like string-laden closer “The Tortoise Rotting” and the brief but blisteringly complex “And We Celebrated” are equally notable for their numerous ideas, adding to the feel that this is a special release in its own right rather than a clearing house for non-album tracks.
And that’s really what I think is interesting about Lost Lands: where the digital marketplace has made it incredibly easy for artists to just dump whatever they have lying around onto Bandcamp and call it an EP or a single, Defrag is making the effort to imbue his releases with appeal that goes beyond just the quality of the music. Much like the clips from the video Dodson is current Kickstarting, the back-to-front nature of this release feels like the product of vision and hard work, actively neutralizing the inherent disposability of music in a digital age. Defrag is a talented musician no doubt, but what makes this release special is how it’s positioned with format and style intertwined.