Feel Strangely Nostalgic as You Hear Classic Songs Reworked to Sound as If They’re Playing in an Empty Shopping Mall: David Bowie, Toto, Ah-ha & More

“…if he went away, as he had once upon a time, oth­er voic­es, oth­er rooms, voic­es lost and cloud­ed, strummed his dreams.” — Tru­man Capote, Oth­er Voic­es, Oth­er Rooms

Is there a word for the emo­tion­al flood­tide that wells up when a song from the past catch­es us alone and unawares?

The sen­sa­tion is too pri­vate to be writ­ten off as mere nos­tal­gia.

What­ev­er chem­i­cal phe­nom­e­non explains it, “Cecil Robert,” a 20-year-old from Kaukau­na, Wis­con­sin, has tapped into it in a big way, by mess­ing with the fre­quen­cies of pop songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s, until they sound like some­thing play­ing on the neighbor’s side of the wall, or the echo cham­ber of an emp­ty shop­ping mall.

The New Yorker’s Jia Tolenti­no wrote that his far­away remix of Toto’s ear­ly 80s soft rock hit, “Africa,” above, sound­ed like “long­ing and con­so­la­tion togeth­er, extend­ed into empti­ness, a shot of warmth com­ing out of a void.”

Fun­ny. That pret­ty much sums up how I feel lis­ten­ing to Cecil Robert’s take on Nena’s “99 Luft­bal­lons”

It was released in 1983, the year that I grad­u­at­ed high school and in which “Africa”—which I con­fess leaves me cold—hit Num­ber One on Billboard’s Hot 100 list.

Were it a mat­ter of sheer gen­er­a­tional nos­tal­gia, Tolenti­no (one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for 2017) should be laid flat by Mac DeMarco’s “My Kind of Woman” “play­ing slow­ly from anoth­er room.”

And I’d be get­ting all gooey over “Africa.”

It doesn’t work that way.

But it def­i­nite­ly works, as evi­denced by the pletho­ra of com­ments that greet every new Cecil Robert upload:

This is what plays when I’m cry­ing in a bath­room of a par­ty and my crush comes in and com­forts me…

This is the song you lis­ten to dur­ing the after­math of a par­ty while every­one is passed out and some­one left the music play­ing…

This real­ly evokes the feel­ing of slow­ly bleed­ing out alone on the kitchen floor & all your sens­es slow­ly blur­ring togeth­er under the glare of the flu­o­res­cent light over­head set to the tune of the muf­fled music com­ing from the record play­er in the next room…

Such a deep con­nec­tion begs that requests be tak­en, and Cecil Roberts does his best to oblige, pri­or­i­tiz­ing those who make a mod­est dona­tion on his Patre­on page:

I need “Hotel Cal­i­for­nia” play­ing at an air­port restau­rant bar late at night…

I need U2—“Beautiful Day”  play­ing in a din­er while it’s rain­ing in the after­noon…

I need “Com­ing of Age” by Fos­ter the Peo­ple being played in a din­er while I eat a hot­dog and wait for my car to get out of the shop across the street…

(For the record, Tolenti­no asked for an anoth­er-room edit of Jai Paul’s dreamy 2011 elec­tro-soul hit “BTSTU.”)

Some of Cecil Robert’s source mate­r­i­al—Julee Cruise’s Twin Peaks theme, “Falling,” for instance—is so ethe­re­al that plac­ing it at the oth­er end of the son­ic tele­scope almost feels like overkill.

On the oth­er hand, it could add a wel­come lay­er for fans sub­con­scious­ly pin­ing for that lost sense of anticipation—for ear­ly 90s girls in 50s sad­dle shoes and pen­cil skirts, for episodes doled out one week at a time…

Get in a weird mood on Cecil Robert’s YouTube chan­nel.

Fast track a request for $2 on his Patre­on page.

Lis­ten to his orig­i­nal ambi­ent com­po­si­tions on Sound­cloud.

via The New York­er

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” Shift­ed from Minor to Major Key, and Radiohead’s “Creep” Moved from Major to Minor

The Orig­i­nal Noise Artist: Hear the Strange Exper­i­men­tal Sounds & Instru­ments of Ital­ian Futur­ist, Lui­gi Rus­so­lo (1913)

Down­load 10,000 of the First Record­ings of Music Ever Made, Thanks to the UCSB Cylin­der Audio Archive

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this Tues­day, March 20 for the sec­ond install­ment of Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain at The Tank. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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