Meyers - 'Struggle Artist' LP

Regular price $35.00

Struggle Artist is the new album from Justin C. Meyers, the Minneapolis-based composer, artist, and head of the Sympathy Ltd. label.
Meyers is a unique, underappreciated talent in contemporary electronic music. His greatest strengths are twofold: his compositions have a meticulous structural logic, revealing a hermetic and austere formalism; concurrently, his compositions have a deep, introspective narrativity grounded in his lived experience, evoked with a mature clarity. Together, they make Meyers one of the most interesting electronic musicians working with cutting-edge sonics today, unlocking their latent powers of metaphor and figuration. His previous album, 2016’s Negative Space (1981–2014), deals with the onset of chronic illness and near-death experience. Its careful, anechoic meditations on the failing body are a resounding achievement, and the album remains a high watermark of acousmatic music in the 21st century.

Struggle Artist portrays Meyers’ expectations and disappointments arising from making art in his free time. Created initially during lunch breaks and in hospital waiting rooms, and finished after being laid off from his job, it catalogues the despondency of the precarious life. If Negative Space was about the fallible body, Struggle Artist is its violent collision with late capitalism.

Meyers’ formal language employs the barest of ingredients: scintillating digital synthesis, evacuated field recordings, impossibly crisp transients and an elegiac harmonic sensibility. On Struggle Artist, he sets up scenarios that anticipate some musical event or flourish, only to renege on them with stark about-faces or resolutions into dissonance. These rhetorical figures reproduce the difficulty of maintaining artistic integrity and motivation while working a day job and dealing with chronic illness. Tracks like “Self Portrait” evoke the trauma of reconfiguring and rewriting one’s own identity to (unsuccessfully) appease indifferent funding sources like grants and fellowships, which Meyers wryly calls “Granular Opportunities.” Stability is not conceded until the stunning eponymous final sequence, that ambiguously signals either the willed discontinuation or reaffirmation of Meyers’ musical career.

The impression is not entirely bleak. Meyers’ sound design is buoyant and luxurious with its clean edges and lush tonalities, such as in “Draw Distance” or the “Expectations” diptych. This is Meyers’ most playful record, albeit always gesturing towards its melancholic narrative. This guarded, dark humour is alluded to in his sleeve art and track titles.

In an environment where most record releases don’t break even and the artist usually shoulders the financial burden, Struggle Artist explores what the psychological burdens are. It laments the incompatibility of neoliberalism and non-commercial artistic practice, increasingly accessible only to the inherited rich. For the rest of us, second jobs are the only option, which in theory liberates us from the pressure to commoditise our art, but in reality leaves us exhausted and broken. Struggle Artist is a refreshingly honest and transfixing metanarrative on how we interiorise the conditions of making art.

Mastered and cut by Rashad Becker at D+M 140g record housed in metalic bronze printed outer and innersleeve.
 


released May 11, 2018

Music: Justin Meyers
Artwork: Justin Meyers
Design: Bartolomé Sanson
Mastering: Rashad Becker at D+M

license

all rights reserved

rousay builds a fluid landscape around the acoustic contributions of Alex Cunningham (violin), Mari Maurice (electronics and violin), Marilu Donovan (harp), and Theodore Cale Schafer (piano), whose respective melodies weave gently in and out, sometimes steady, sometimes aching, sometimes receding altogether in deference to less overtly musical sounds. That is, percussive texture in the form of unvarnished samples and field recordings: the rattle and rustle and the stops and starts of life unfurling, voices sharing memories nearly out of reach, doors closing, wind against a microphone. Everything comes from somewhere in particular, possessing the veneer of the diaristic, but sound’s provenance is secondary here and so these details become tangled and fused. On this release I hear such details not as individual ornaments or stories but the collective architecture of the greater composition. It’s an architecture that is not quite formed and thus full of openings out to the world unfolding.

“The world unfolding,” that’s a kind way of saying change, movement, loss, transformation. Things rousay here indexes, not without shards of desire or pain, still somehow what I hear is coarse peace in the in-between. These two pieces sweep you away and then bring you to earth, but which is which, anyway? Where am I now? What is different outside of me? What is different inside of me? Um. I think. everything is perfect is already here, like the answers to these questions, is loose and beautiful in surprising ways.

The music guides a certain experience of the world around. In claire’s music there is this marriage—not just a pairing or juxtaposition but an interrelationship, an eventual confusion—of song/texture, narrative/abstraction, figure/ground. Everything comes from somewhere in particular but not just the voices, the field recordings, the what is being said or meant, what matters is “the where you are now.” There are so many ways of anchoring oneself in the present, some have to do with fantasy or storytelling and some with accepting what is.

These two compositions find peace between these modes. They sweep you away and then bring you to earth, but which is which, anyway? Their mode of feeling is inquisitive. Where am I now? What has changed outside of me? What has changed inside of me? The music, like the answers to these questions, is loose and beautiful in surprising ways.
 

released April 22, 2022