What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

Memories of our early file-sharing ways: This is a detail from a story by comics artist Jillian Tamaki, collected in her recent book, Boundless. The story, first published in 2015, has nothing to do with random Squarepusher songs being illicitly downloaded, and instead focuses on a single MP3 that has an unfortunate effect on listeners. (The track is six hours long and titled “SexCoven.”) In a few panels, Tamaki captures a different time from ours. She casually posits the past as a beta test for the current technological present. The past isn’t foreign, just more pixelated. There’s the boxy interface, the requisite time sink (another panel shows just how burdensome dialup surfing could be), and that no longer ubiquitous wired mouse/pad combo, among other details. Kudos in particular for the varied case treatments of Squarepusher’s name, an early glimpse at the impact of metadata fluidity, and the smudge effect of “scroll scroll” in the subsequent panel (that action description was invisible to me in print, and I only noticed it after looking at this photograph of the page). The case issues with the Squarepusher titles are the visual gateway drug into how the story’s title track makes its way from an anonymous user’s computer to countless ones around the globe. This specific story might never have begun on a commercial website, or in a bricks and mortar record store for that matter. And even if the story is a fiction, a dark fantasy rendered in the artifacts of realism, the sense of a rupture in time, a shift in culture, a warping of communication, is trenchant.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.

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