Spirits in the Pillar
from the ‘Scaled-down Expectations EP’
Spirits in the Pillar examine the folly of techno-solutionism and symptoms of deep cultural malaise on their Scaled-down Expectations EP
The glistening, dreaming spires of academia meet the gritty and increasingly unkempt streets of post-Brexit, mobile phone-centred England on Scaled-down Expectations. The five-track EP sees the British quintet offer up a series of meditations on the parallels between modern society and less technologically advanced times.
Though Scaled-down Expectations is not a concept album, the tracks do contain a common thread. Vocalist and lyricist Iain Rowley describes the songs as: “An etiology of fractured social dynamics under a regime of neo-feudalism, in which capitalism’s vampiric value extraction has extended into the formation of new digital enclosures.”
The EP has been a long time in the making, with distance and the pandemic further prolonging its journey from conception to reality. It was a time that saw major paradigm shifts and perverse politics radically change the world we live in, though that has not always influenced the EP itself.
Reveals Iain, “The songs on the EP were mostly written between 2017 – 2018, before being laid down in a Bristol studio as 2021 dawned, these recordings document the intensification of a long-simmering apocalyptic mood — in that ancient sense, an uncovering of a world already ended — tracing the ills that presaged the pandemic via the personae of crank seers shamefully awake to the irony of getting high on their own invective against the ugly spirit of polarising division, which thrives amid an asphyxial infomania that disregards Nietzche’s affirmation of the ability not to react and Aurelius’ precept that you’ve the option of having no opinion.”
It’s an EP that seeks inspiration in words, ideas, and music that skirt the mainstream but have a profound effect on the band’s minds and souls. As thoughtful and considered as the lyrics may be, the songs are not confined by social constraints or faux-niceties.
“Canonical voices of philosophical pessimism rub against the literary and musical works that we’ve relied on, time again, to reach through the darkness and into the heart of things, offering an education in various ecstasies,” discloses Iain.
“I’m talking the likes of Emil Cioran, Anna Mendelssohn, Current 93, Les Rallizes Dénudés, Silver Mt. Zion here; we weren’t exactly interested in that post-Brexit spate of sprechgesang revivalists that popped up in the lengthy interval between the writing and release of this EP.
“Just say no to the paint-by-numbers cool that ensures the body’s a warm host for algorithmic microbes; there’s another cosmology hidden behind the techno-priests’ annihilative architecture, though these songs may, at best, be only a rumour.”
One of the band’s driving passions is poetry, and Scaled-down Expectations incorporates not just that, but also aspects of the individual band members’ journeys of personal growth over the last five years.
Iain explains: “On the lyrics front, Scaled-down Expectations is a continuation and evolution of the late modernist poetics that informed my 2017 poetry collection, The Undeliverable, and that also feeds into my ongoing solo electronic-experimental project: Odonian Drifts.
“For the EP, I was particularly keen to layer in a research-driven rigour befitting the various non-musical disciplines that band members have applied themselves to over the years —from nanochemistry to oceanography, political science to medical anthropology.
“In this way, it is very much a testament to our long friendships and conversations, whether these unfolded at ATP or Tuscany, Kafri Studios E8 or Pirate Studios BS5, as well as the many musical forerunners all of us share an affinity for.”
Iain views the Scaled-down Expectations EP as a precursor to live dates for the band, dispersed as they are throughout England; “We may be scattered across different regions of bad vibes isle, but we still look to the prospect of these songs cracking, straining and mutating on the live stage very soon.”
Fans of Protomartyr, Enablers, Slint, and Vincent Vocoder Voice will find the bold musical soundscapes and conceptual breadth of Scaled-down Expectations of particular interest.
Spirits in the Pillar’s Scaled-down Expectations EP will be released on the 7th of October via AnalogueTrash on all good digital download and streaming services. The EP will also be available in cassette format with an accompanying zine of lyrics, imagery and musings from the band.
Bandcamp pre-orders: https://spiritsinthepillar.bandcamp.com/album/scaled-down-expectations