“…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
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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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