Review: Human Heads – In the Afternoon (Fractal Meat Cuts, Mar 20)

humintheafterIn the Afternoon is one of those rare releases that I have to really talk myself into actually writing about because they seem to reside beyond what even the most well-arranged and curated words can convey, and certainly beyond what mine can. But in terms of Human Heads’ specific brand of slipperiness, this tape, unlike past documents on Singing Knives (The Beauticinist) and tanzprocesz (Triggers), gives me a useful foothold: I’m kind of in love with it. I’ve never fully glommed onto the strangely synthetic dissection of pop music and poetry that longtime crackerjack collaborators Ben Knight and Hannah Ellul delicately arrange for this duo project (though I was and am all about the various ventures related to their Psykick Dance Hall imprint, especially the now-defunct avant-garde musicology publication Dancehall), but In the Afternoon grabbed hold of my ears—gently, but with thin, frigid fingers made of silicone and metal—and yanked my head to the proper angle for the full Gestalt switch. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard something so surreal and whimsical yet so bleak. Little is left unturned by the artists’ assimilating gazes, Knight reading off scrawled bathroom-door manifestos and mundane journal entries and memories at a stumbling tiptoe while Ellul loudly does the dishes or sweeps her microphone right up next to a bird’s nest or halfhearted pop culture conversation; especially with the unmistakable style of formant shifting used in “FDfsdfas” one can’t help but think of GLaDOS’s cold blue eye raking over facsimiles of domesticity and civilization in general. Yes, there’s a disconcertingly scientific atmosphere at work here, and that’s part of what makes In the Afternoon so unforgettable. No one else could use a default iPhone alarm tone as a motif and get away with it.

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