Saturday, October 13, 2012

Guest Post - Nexus review

I don't believe I've done this before, but I should more often. This is a "guest post" featuring a particularly well-thought-out Amazon review of Sola-Mi's first album, Nexus (labeled as a soundtrack). The review was written by Alan Boyce, and you can find it here. Please give him some helpful ratings!


Songs of the Singularity

One thing I love about Derek Webb is this: He is constantly evolving and his art consistently raises questions worthy of our attention.

Nexus by Sola-Mi isn't only free, it is freeing. Woven into Webb's invitation to explore "artificial" intelligence is a refreshing opportunity to re-examine our own.

You won't find an actual movie to accompany this "soundtrack," but if you're like me, you will find each listen creates fascinating internal images and dialogs about things like sentience, purpose, even death and salvation. Latifah Phillips' exquisite vocals work perfectly with electronic beats and motifs that might otherwise be jarring.

This is a concept album where all songs tie together, ostensibly to explore a concept called the "technological singularity" -- the moment when machine intelligence exceeds that of humans; when we lose control of our creation.

The track "Mother, Mother" invites us to consider our origins even as the machine is being born:

"Is there a place where you live before you live
"No division to keep you from everything
"There is only love behind encryption
"And no way to feel it."

Do we become flesh just to unravel the code that shrouds God's love in mystery?

In the "Crowd of Silent Strangers," we see the machine gorging itself on data that falls short of expectations:

"From water to expanse of space
"Now conscious of the framework of this place'
"Yet knowing all there is to know
"I don't know how to touch you."

Like Solomon of the Bible, the machine laments, "Meaningless, this meaning is so meaningless." And this artificial intelligence that can "see like the sun" and "move through the trees like the wind" moves off in search of something more.

Like its human counterparts, the machine has to find a new way to look. She is "in search of a crash, a stop in the pattern, an exception I can wear like a skin."

It is almost painful to hear the near-miss descriptions of the search:

"A vision growing in my mind
"A dream, I almost can't imaging it
"A choice that's almost making me
"A love pursuing me, it's almost making me."

The final two tracks reveal a solution that sounds all too familiar to Christians -- the road to decrypting love lies through surrendering ourselves to that loving pursuer we can't quite identify.

"Oh love, I'm coming for you
"I am falling into the water
"I am willing and forgetting who I am."

Yet the final words of the final song are anything BUT final.

"I will refuse life that I might have life
"I will become life where there is none."

And as the album trails off to the sound of a heart monitor flat-lining we are left wondering:

"What now?"

My guess is Derek Webb is thinking about that as well.

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