Thoughts on Object-Relations
and the decision to re-release it
after 11 years.
by Wyatt Keusch
and the decision to re-release it
after 11 years.
by Wyatt Keusch
Object-Relations is my first proper album - it came out on the Mille Plateaux label back in 2010, and as my contract with them finally expired back in February of 2021, I’ve decided to add it to my Bandcamp. It’s on Spotify, iTunes, etc. already, since Mille Plateaux put it there 11 years ago, but they uploaded the wrong file for the last track. I know neither “how” nor “why”, but that’s what happened. They’ve been fully MIA since...2013?...so at the very least I can offer the correct files on my end. There’s a lot that could be said about my experience with that label, but I’m going to restrain the instinct to gossip and stick to talking about the music I made, rather than the label that released it.
I’ve got very mixed feelings about this album. I hate the title, and mostly feel sad when I think back to being the person who made this music. I’m hardly suggesting I’m currently free of neurosis, but when I think back to 20 year old Wyatt making this...sheesh...I’m sorry, buddy.
On the other hand, when I began working on this album back in 2007, I’d just started hanging out regularly with a dude who would go on to, both directly and indirectly, shape the course of my whole life. That dude would be, for the uninitiated, Ethan Braun, and without suggesting that his role in my life can be reduced to being the first domino in a series of cascading relationships, it was through him that I met Sam Jones, with whom I’ve gone on to make an enormous amount of music I like a whole lot more than the album I’m discussing here. Ethan also introduced me to Daniel Blum, who, a couple years later, would introduce me to Annelise Baer, who, a few more years later, I would marry. Being friends with Sam and Ethan convinced me to stay at CalArts when I was on the fence about that, many years ago, which led to a whole other tree of friends and connections (Emma Rundle, Will Kreppel, Matt Hettich, Jasmin Blasco, Sean Price, Tony Cantor, Scott Cazan, Raphael Arar, Casey Anderson, James Lake, Riley Reasor, Jinku Kim, David Paha, it goes on and on). Beyond that, Adam Ratner, Vikram Devasthali, Ang Wilson, Brian Griffith, Trevor Blake, and a whole host of wonderful people factor into this great chain of being as well, but...please, I have to try to stay on topic somehow.
So...this album reminds me of being a miserable and insecure 20 year old, but it also reminds me of all the people I met back then, who’ve all helped me be at least a slightly-less-miserable-and-insecure 34 year old. It takes me back to a time when I still thought there was new music worth hearing, when I thought this was all “going somewhere”, when I believed in progress. It reminds me of a time when the prospect of a new Autechre album was more exciting than exhausting, a time when everything didn’t reveal itself as advertisting quite so quickly as it does now. It takes me back to a time when I felt my depression was a hole I could climb my way out of, a time when I somehow thought “being good at making IDM tracks” was the best way I could do that climbing.
I remember a conversation at the end of the summer of 2006, after I’d graduated from high school, weeks-if-not-days before my friends and I went off to college. Those of us headed to music schools were asking each other what event would let you know you’d “made it”, and where you’d need to be by the then-far-off age of 25, to know you hadn’t blown it all on a pipe dream. I remember listening to the other guys’ answers, and without wishing to call hubris on anyone else, when my turn came I said, “I just want to have a CD at Amoeba, one that I didn’t have to sneak onto the shelf myself”. In 2010, thanks to Mille Plateaux, that became a reality - I remember being 23 years old and standing at the new releases shelf in the “electronica” section, thinking to myself, “huh, I guess I did it”, before looking around and realizing that the world was exactly the same as it was before I’d seen my name on that disc. I’d “made it”, by my own teenage notion of what that would be, and now the question was...well, what did I make?
I have no answer to that question that would make teenage me feel any better about anything.
Listening back to Object-Relations at 34, I suppose I’m proud of the material achievement of having gone from a guitar-fixated luddite to a dude ripping off Autechre capably enough to get on the same label as Alva Noto...or something? Mostly I think of all the pretending I felt I had to do at the time, and the unrelenting self-judgment I felt, every step of the way. When I first started studying at CalArts, back in 2006, my favorite music was John Frusciante, The Smiths, Radiohead, Yes...by the end of that year I’d banished all those CDs from my collection for being “too normal”.
“Bros like Radiohead, so if I want to feel special, I’ve gotta get big into Autechre, and Aphex Twin, the stuff that inspired Kid A and Amnesiac, the stuff that’s too weird for bros to like...”
Boy, have I got a surprise for you, teenage Wyatt, and you’re not going to like it...
Soon enough Autechre, Squarepusher, Venetian Snares, Boards of Canada, etc. all became, themselves, “too normal”, too “able-to-be-liked-by-bros”, so it was off to Pita, Fennesz, Oren Ambarchi, all the true weirdos out in Mego land.
“Bros like things with discernible rhythm, so if you avoid that stuff you can make it really clear how special and different you are. Bros don’t like continental Europe, just stick to German artists and you’ll be special forever.”
As night follows day and day follows night, the Fennesz CD in my Nissan Altima’s changer was replaced with Merzbow, then Merzbow with Florian Hecker, Hecker with OPN, OPN with Peter Brötzmann, on and on and on and on until one day I looked around and discovered that I’d spent all this time consuming music I didn’t like, and had boxed myself into an identity corner I wasn’t sure how to escape. It finally occurred to me that, maybe I really do like Tool more than Arthur Russell, maybe I really am more moved by Johnny Marr’s playing than by Derek Bailey’s, and maybe if that means I’m a fool then so fucking be it. I’m a fool, I’m basic, I’m a loser, I’m a failure, I’m a coward - call me any name you like if it means I can finally LET GO.
Put me to sleep with your kind boots. Pull me apart like soft bread. Punch me in the...tits. Destroy me.
So...this is the stuff Object-Relations makes me think of. It reminds me of the unhelpful therapist who only added to my self-loathing. It reminds me of people I’m not friends with anymore. It reminds me of all the sleep I’ve lost over whether or not my music has any value, and since I’d decided music was my whole identity, that question was really if I had any value.
It also reminds me of that indescribable feeling I’d get, driving around the San Fernando Valley, alone at 1am, checking over the mixes of the tracks for this album. My own version of the 1979 video, I suppose - go watch that and you’ll probably feel something like what I’m talking about.
It reminds me of the shows we played at the CIA in North Hollywood, the nights of sneaking underage beers from the bar, smoking cigarettes in alleys, the shit-talking at Aroma Cafe after the gig. It reminds me that somewhere, no matter how deep down it may be hiding, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, there really is something “to” all this nonsense. That underneath all the self-promotion, the so-clever-you-don’t-see-it-right-away advertising, the personal branding, the snark, the nihilism, the memes, the NFTs, the gatekeeper bullshit, the narcissism...there is something else. Something that survives even our most ham-fisted attempts to turn everything into a commodity, to find ever more baroque ways to convince ourselves we’ve got to make a profit, no matter the cost. I think my album is bad and that I have failed, but for both of those things, as for all the rest of it, I am glad.
Like I said, it’s a real mixed bag.