August 53rd: a soundtrack to a futuristic post-industrial society in decay

Fossil Aerosol Mining Project, August 53rd, The Helen Scarsdale Agency, LP HMS043 (2018)

Amazing what can be done with old tapes going back decades and found sounds and spoken voice recordings from the recent past – on this album, these materials have been assembled into a series of collages, either set in the present and proposing how society in the future will evolve, or rather devolve into a post-industrial world cannibalising its own history and reworking it into myth, the foundations of which will be purposely obscured (so that the masses won’t ever discover the reality); or set in the future and detailing that gradual decline into a ghost culture. Snippets of melody from unidentifiable sources, lost voices, unexpected and unknown rhythms, all heard through a misty invisible plasma patina that blunts the edges of sounds and renders them slightly blurred or warm in tone, perhaps in a state of mildewy decay, pass through briefly, never to be heard again.

The soundscapes revealed in each and every track are often beautiful and gorgeous in their rich tone and in what they might suggest to each individual listener: they might suggest an alternative America that didn’t squander its wealth on fighting useless wars around the globe just for the sake of being No 1, but used it to create a happy and secure if not super-rich society for all its people; they might also suggest an endless 1970s-era of beach parties and kids riding in open-top Cadillacs on highways across prairie and desert landscapes without end. In each track, a new aspect of this world opens up matter-of-factly but also unobtrusively; there is no deliberate in-yer-face provocation from the Fossil Aerosol Mining Project folks here. Listeners take whatever message they find in this album, be it a positive one or a discomforting one.

With such evocative pieces, I hesitate to nominate favourite tracks since these will depend on what listeners bring to their listening experience. “Aestas Anatis” is quite an intimate piece with seductive voices and the track that follows, “Retail Retrospect”, is eerie and dark in a way that recalls early David Lynch films. All seven tracks on the album show much care and thought in their composition.

If ever you find yourself in a shack on top of a hill, looking down on a city and seeing, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, that city’s lights slowly turn down and cut off, its noises and traffic gradually wind down, its utilities finally cut off, and the citizens flee, leaving the streets and buildings completely derelict, this recording would be an ideal accompanying soundtrack.