As one half of post-internet duo Collarbones, Marcus Whale looks outward. To contemporary celebrity and the online mythos in visuals and music. And to desire and romance, the barbed and spined ties that bind, in lyrics. His solo work as Scissor Lock has always been more introspective, as well as allowing Whale to explore less linear territory. On Churn, these tendencies are sublimely realised in a cohesive suite of tracks concerned with the smearing of identity, as it takes and loses form in the eyes of ourselves and others.
Cop the EP’s cover image: almost instantly recognisable from the water park handicam madness of Justin Bieber’s ‘Beauty and a Beat’ film clip. But Whale has taken a screen cap right as a splash of water obscures Bieber’s face. Here, Whale’s longstanding obsession with The Biebz and rituals of celebrity (Collarbones covered ‘One Time’ on their 2011 Tiger Beats EP) turns from a question of how we form imaginative ties to stars to how these ‘heavenly bodies’ might help or hinder us in the way they mirror an interiority we struggle to find of our own accord.
This later theme is fleshed out through the EP’s treatment of voice. A few lines, even a just handful of words, are sung or sampled for each track, and warped and stretched to within breaking point. The way these mantras are messed with suggests a disintegration of identity, reaching its most disturbing limit on the cybernetic melt of ‘None’. But the methodical way in which they are slowed down and stretched out also suggests a kind of horizon of selfhood – a point at which the voice as a guarantee of the individual either becomes unrecognisable or crosses the human threshold, passing into a more cosmic or universal being.
Processed vocals remain the key to Scissor Lock’s aesthetic. For them Whale crafts keening soundscapes, which take on a sense of grandeur and grace through the gradual and delicate teasing out of synth washes, sine waves and liquified beats, a perfect backdrop to the alien voices. Woven together, these elements make of Churn a cathedral for the fragmented self. Step inside. Get lost.
by Lawson Fletcher