Michael Mayer’s latest EP, Brainwave Technology, comes at you purposeful, stealthy and sly. It’s a glorious left turn for the redoubtable producer, one that sees his typically lean and lithe productions buffed to a metallic, futurist sheen. There’s a gleam in the eyes of tracks like “Brainwave Technology” and “Alpha” that speaks of serious fun, of the intersection of the pleasure zone and the frontal lobe.
“Brainwave Technology” itself is informed by Mayer’s deep dive into the thorny terrain of artificial intelligence, transhumanism and posthumanism. Inspired by reading German philosopher Richard David Precht, Mayer found himself heading down the “proverbial rabbit hole,” as he describes it, “watching hours of YouTube material by self-proclaimed prophets of these ‘inevitable’ changes to come.” Never one to be taken in by the egotist’s dance, Mayer’s cynicism about the whole endeavour is tempered, a little, by the deeper questions that these figures gesture towards: “Is it really an evolutionary step that man and machine become one? Or is it rather a marketing plot by Silicon Valley billionaires?”
On “Brainwave Technology”, Mayer plays the charlatans at their own game, turning their logic against them by exposing the fruitiness of their ‘visions’. “I chose irony as my sword with which I chopped off some quotes from some of those batshit crazy prophets and self-promoters,” he explains of the drooling psychobabble he drops in the track’s lacuna. There’s a sense of humour here – how could you not laugh at these hungover egotists? – but there’s levity too, a sense that Mayer’s using sound to expose the contradictions and double-speak at the heart of these half-formed ideas. It’s a Burroughsian tactic, to slice into the heart of the voice to see what hidden truths surface.
It was Burroughs, too, who once said that “when you cut into the past, the future leaks out”; Brainwave Technology cuts into the logic of the futurologist to leak out the messiness of modern reality. On “Alpha” and “Gamma”, Mayer seems to conjure up the stark, ominous music that’d soundtrack a science fiction reinterpretation – or preinterpretation – of our modern malaise, all funereal wreaths of electronic noise and clatterboxing beats. As the EP resolves with “Device For The Young At Heart”, Mayer’s questions are piling up: “Do we want to become immortal and live on as a download? Do we really give up on Earth and put all our effort into colonising Mars?” There are no answers, of course, but plenty of imaginings-to-be. Brainwave Technology soundtracks both dystopian and utopian possibilities of what could come next.