James Squeaky is an artist who always leaves you guessing, and more importantly, thinking. I've had the privilege of being able to listen to a handful of tracks from his upcoming cassette release, Nightmarcher, and as usual, I am blown away by his forward-thinking originality. From what I know about him, Squeaky is a man who is determined to live a life focused on creating and collaborating in order to tap into the deepest black vein of modern music.
Lately, I've been reading the essays of Federico Garcia Lorca, who discusses the Spanish concept of duende. Duende is the dark passion or the mystic heartbeat of death that is found in every form of art. Lorca says of duende, "With idea, sound, or gesture, the duende enjoys fighting the creator on the very edge of the well. Angel and muse escape with violin and compass; the duende wounds. In the healing of that wound, which never closes, lies the invented, strange qualities of a man's work." I believe that this quote perfectly sums up the newest work of James Squeaky—these are the sound experiments of a wounded man struggling with his creation.
One of my favorite tracks begins with what sounds like church bells layered with a sort of watery, bubbly distortion. On top of that is a warped and twisted melody, as if you've taken an old cassette tape, pulled it and stretched it, and then tried to play it in your deck. The next layer is like the waves of the ocean washing over you, complete with seagulls, and the vocals call out, an anguished song from an electronic, watery grave. Fade into bubbles and a soothing mumbling, but then crickets (or is it birds?) and crackling and James Squeaky forcibly baying and growling through it all. The piece ends in minimalism, shards of feedback, and whispers.
Abstract? Absolutely. Squeaky's work is similar to the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books that we read when we were kids. Every time you listen, the multilayered sound-text sends you down another dark alley, slightly frightened, but thrilled at not knowing what might be ahead. James Squeaky's Argumentix is never stagnant—the duende challenges Squeaky to what Lorca calls a "radical change in form." Sometimes improvisation, sometimes composition, this music is a metamorphosis of progressive electronic noise. Radical passion is needed to infuse lifeblood into the world of Portland's avant-garde—as always, Argumentix answers the call.