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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Paper Radio sheds light on dark, dampness of an abyss

As the familiar tagline goes, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” I’m inclined to think the same is true at the bottom of an abandoned well. It’s gloomy down there, but the protagonist in Murakami’s book “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” doesn’t seem to mind.

After his wife leaves him on mysterious terms, Toru Okada’s life goes from a bit strange to completely unreal – but I won’t ruin the plot. Eventually, his wanderings lead him to spend some time at the bottom of an abandoned well. After a while, reality, dreams and the supernatural start to blend together, actually leading him to his goals.

To make a column inspired by the novel’s aesthetics, I did what any writer would do, and spent two weeks twenty feet underground to see how it felt. Just kidding.


Instead, I compiled some tracks to facilitate the setting and induce meditation. Okada needed the well for its atmosphere, which leads me to the conclusion that he was into dubstep. The genre basically is a dark, filthy, slimy hole in the ground. Trust me, I mean that as a compliment.

Of course, a couple of these tracks fill the cracks of the wall with audible sludge. Others call forth some alternate emotions springing from extended solitary confinement. The theme isn’t picturesque, but it might be cathartic. And it probably doesn’t define sanity, but neither does Murakami’s novel.

“Skip Divided” – Thom Yorke

It’s no secret that the front man of arguably the most influential band of the generation is a little on the eccentric side. Not quite a recluse, his solo music points to a dark something also prominent in much of Radiohead’s discography. That mystique shows itself in “Skip Divided,” slightly paranoid and entirely creepy.

The chilling vocals in “Skip Divided” are known to stand neck hair on end and raise goose bumps. The random plinks help the vocals there, along with a loose song structure that pushes on and on. In the right atmosphere, it becomes hard to distinguish the song’s noises from outside stimulation. This is where reality becomes subjective.

“Dance of the Pseudo Nymph” – Flying Lotus

The closest FlyLo’s frigid vocal samples come to words is a ghastly “oooh” sound, so it’s impossible to tell if the voices are even human. The bass line provides the only foundation, albeit wobbly, to tether yourself to present reality.

From Flying Lotus, you come to expect a hazy detached vibe, but in this imagined scenario, his sporadic noises share the Yorkean feeling of being downright creepy. The fact that this track flows almost seamlessly into the next certainly won’t help your perspective, but maybe it’s best to let go of reality at this point. It seemed to help Okada.

“Re: Am Ing the Light Fantastic” – Tipper

Imagine life as an earthworm. Sightless and subterranean, these creatures’ only perception of the world above is sensed through vibrations. If Murakami’s character had any notion of the above world, they must have hit him in a similar way, through deep reverberations rumbling the ground and walls surrounding him.

Experimental sub bass tones are Tipper’s forte, and at times they are more tangible than they are audible. No stranger to grimy dubstep, Tipper’s music is still lighter than that of many of his peers. However, “Re:” will still leave you feeling like an earthworm in a tunnel: Slimy, disoriented, possibly covered in dirt, but somehow right at home.

“Gemini Syringes” – The Flaming Lips

Just when you think you know a band, the Flaming Lips throw a freak-out curveball in the form of a double-disc release. When they dropped Embryonic, it wasn’t completely unexpected, but it was still a wrench in the euphoric machinery that was ever-present in their older work.

“Gemini Syringes” fits into this mix like a rollercoaster intermission. A steady, whomping bass line, once again, creates a dirt floor starting point. Meanwhile, a hopeful, yet helpless, emotion occupies the higher melodic frequencies, building up and letting you down at regular intervals. It’s enough to numb you to the fact that you’re stories below ground, but there is still that inkling of Flaming Lips sunshine, just enough to remember that something else still exists.

“Odessa” – Aesop Rock

If subterranean humanoid creatures existed, they’d probably speak like Aesop Rock and Dose One, cohorts in “Odessa.” The vocals play a huge role in keeping these rappers’ uniquely intricate wordplay a one-of-a-kind commodity.

When you need something to think about, to possibly kill (a lot of) time, try dissecting the abstract verses and nonsensical rhymes. The artists insist there is a meaning down there, buried under layers of abstractly poetic techniques, but they don’t make it easy to find.

“Silence” – Mt. Eden

Returning to a dubstep foundation, Mt. Eden carries the playlist to a twist of a finale. Even underground, it’s still quite simple to be far above sea level, if the well is on a mountain. And guess what. Your well was up there the whole time; the real world was actually below you.

Echoing a common theme here, the vocal samples in “Silence” are the voice of desperation, of looking into a bleak future while wearing a half grin. It’s a cousin to the feeling we call “bittersweet.” Release is imminent in the builds and drops that make this a fantastically cathartic track. It’s dark, dirty, and a few miles west of sane, sort of like our protagonist. But aren’t we all a little crazy? It’s the music that keeps us sane.

Joe Nistler ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in Italian and journalism.

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