While aging is often portrayed through the rose-tinted lens of group trips to Cuba, cushy retirement funds and finally getting away from the anxiety-attack provoking stress of the workplace, there’s a lot of terror in growing old. Michael Haneke’s 2012 film Amour touched on the helplessness and powerlessness that accompanies the onset of dementia and Alzheimers, and new studies come out constantly linking depression, substance abuse and suicidal feelings to aging in isolation. It’s even on Drake’s mind, as he raps “My mother is 66 and her favorite line to hit me with is / “who the f**k wants to be 70 and alone?” on 2013’s Nothing Was The Same.
Enter Lily’s Memory Jacket, the anonymity-veiled producer’s latest statement on Don’t Be Afraid Dubs after a hot streak including 2013’s Trumpets at Dawn on Idle Hands and the grubby, groundbreaking regime of unpolished house music and more on the Modern Malaise cassette. Memory Jacket further cements Lily’s ability to merge complexity with functionality, with a fuzzed out house number that feels both recognizable and unintelligible, familiar and strange, poppy and dissonant. It feels like a perfect analogy for the frightening parts of aging; it’s all about a decomposing object struggling fiercely to hold itself together.
Commencing in a manner similar to Modern Malaise, the opening moments of “Memory Jacket” sound like an elaborate rig of analogue hardware rumbling in the corner of a basement room; an overworked power generator burning gasoline trying to keep things running. While this writer has no idea whether the cooing vocal sample that slices itself through the rest of the track is Lily’s own voice or not, it’s arguably the only piece of the work that’s present in crystalline cleanliness – everything else, from the bludgeoning phased kickdrum, the revving truck engine noises and periodic seismic rumbles feel like they’ve been pulled from a marsh, soaking in algae and rust.
Aside from the clacking metallic percussion that sounds as if it’s chipping away at some deeply fortified buried minerals (while also sounding like a cousin to the Isolee remix of Recloose’s fantastic “Cardiology”), much of the track’s allure comes from how much chaos the vocal sample can endure while put through the ringer – clinging to the quickly fraying edges of the vocal sample’s almost-pop aesthetic as if it’s holding on for dear life. If there is a pop sensibility burrowed under the surface of “Memory Jacket”, the Queens-dwelling Italian Madteo all but buries its existence under a thick layer of dust, fog and forgetfulness. Reading interviews with Matteo Ruzzon lately, and he seems to be fully embracing the life of an agoraphobic archiver – painstakingly spending weekends ripping flea-market-bought LPs to his hard drive, a process that can take between twenty to forty hours a week.
Madteo’s interpretation of “Memory Jacket” feels like an articulation of this obsessive habit, sounding like the fraying fabric of a once-sporty article of clothing, or the unsettling signals of early stage dementia setting in – something’s definitely off. After all, before any beat kicks in, the first minute of the track is essentially distracted muttering, as if Ruzzon accidentally left a microphone on and captured the resuls. Sharp intakes of breath and alternating mumbles of “why” and “I mean” give the impression that uncertainty and confusion reign supreme here. But slowly and gloriously, a wrenching house beat rises up in the background – the only problem is that it’s covered over by an intentional distortion-laden screech of feedback – meaning that one can never completely immerse themselves in the alluring surge of the background beat. Instead, it exists as a perfect foil to itself; settling for hearing your favourite song through the scrambled channel of a half-broken radio.
Then again, the idea of stretching the recognizable to the point at which it fractures and shatters seems to be one of the primary goals behind “Memory Jacket”. As a dance floor tool, Lily’s original version offers the greatest potential, but as a neat little conceptual statement about loss of memory, Madteo’s work is equally immersive. Whether you read them as commentary on the degenerative process of aging or not is your call, but listening to Ruzzon’s nonsensical whispering is creepy enough to make sure you appreciate your youth while it’s here.
A1. Memory Jacket
B1. Memory Jacket (Madteo’s Tutto Nero Remix)