Words: James Frostick
Today we’re debuting the new tape from minimalist synth-wave duo Activities of Daily Living. This is a collection of songs that imbues the cold steel of synthetic repetition with the warm bite of sharp social critique.
The thing I love most about minimalism is that more often than not the luxury to cloud concepts and thematic intent with artifice isn’t possible. Musicians are forced to say as much as they can with little, and although most write in obtuse parables there isn’t much fatty excess to chew through – you can punch right through to the marrow. This is not to say that there’s any less substance to it than other genres, but to be able to create beauty and impact with a concise palette of tools is impressive to me. The work of minimalist synth-wave duo Activities of Daily Living is an example of this. With a new tape on the precipice of launch, the band has graciously allowed me an early listen – a chance to greedily plunge my hands into the viscous murk of the tape’s four tracks and describe the treasures I pluck from within.
The term synth-wave undoubtedly conjures up some preconceived ideas of sound, but Activities of Daily Living dodge expectations with a composed and hypnotic take. Bursts of steam, buzzing alerts, ominous glitches, pistons firing tirelessly, bass that quivers in the gut, clattering from cavernous abysses below – there’s a lot to pick up once you lose yourself in it. That being said, the synthetic progression is unhurried, dwelling on loops and repetition that act as a flotation device for considered mantras and mesmerising incantations.
It is these evocations and utterings that form some of the sharpest and most engaging aspects of Activities of Daily Living and its tape. Over pulsating and foreboding sonic meditations, the duo staunchly declares its independence, fervently proclaiming ownership of the self and condemning the insidious horde of faceless conservative, prejudiced, sexist and trans-phobic individuals that form the rotten core of our society. Through ominous vocalisms – modulated and haunting – Activities of Daily Living reveal their inherent beauty, eschewing all labels except that of ‘human’, revelling in their own being and pushing back against those seeking to impose limitations or restrictions on their body and soul.
Across four tracks, Activities of Daily Living touch on an array of topics. From society’s fixation on anatomy and gender dichotomy in ‘None Of Your Business’ (“Between my legs and on my chest / none of your business”) to body ownership in ‘Get Off’’ (“My body is mine and no one else’s / I have control of what’s within”, “You have no say over what I’m wearing”) and the furious anger at our country’s inability to change for the better in ‘Thicker Than Water’ (“I’m seeing red / its not in my head / thicker than water / emotions running high / take a walk outside / thicker than water / waiting for change …”), Activities of Daily living succinctly pinpoint several of our generation’s frustrations and catalogue the emotional strife of numerous groups perpetually confined to the fringes.
Despite the cold determination of the sound, life pulses through every beat of this tape. Activities of Daily Living convey so much with their chosen tools, breathing life into what is generally seen as impenetrable. There’s warmth under the steel, but with warmth comes fury, and if there’s another thing that this tape uncovers, it’s that Activities of Daily Living will always be vocal about the injustices of the system.