Dataland is collaboration between Dead Sea Apes (Brett Savage, Jack Toker, Chris Hardman, Alistair Reid), Black Tempest aka Stephen Bradbury and Head Of Crom Records founder, as well as one time Shaman scribe, Adam Stone, and was created by transfering music files across the ethernet during last years lockdown. According to the promo notes the album ‘is a meditation upon the average existence of a ‘developed-world’ human in the early 21st century’. The artwork (also by Adam) reminds me of Kraftwerk’s 1974 classic Autobahn and the mundane routine of everyday life in the modern age.
Speaking of Kraftwerk, the album starts with the Kosmische Electronic rumble of Lost Hours which recalls the track Autobahn from the aforementioned album of the same name. Adam’s droning disinterested vocals highlight the sense of disconnection in the present day. Formica Desk continues the electronica but features some mournful psychedelic guitar from Brett. The lyrical themes are a reference to the sense of alienation the narrator feels in the modern corporatised world having lost his job. The sense of futility of work is something that has been highlighted by the great Aussie comedian Steve Hughes ‘why do we work, everything’s been built’, a sentiment I agree strongly with.
Time to Eat marks the halfway point of the album and is also the shortest track on Dataland. There is a funkiness present and this is combined with Dave Gilmour styled guitar soloing, though thankfully nothing like his frankly yawn inducing On An Island album.
Shop Spoiled is an interesting number with dub bass suggestive of vintage Jah Wobble of Public Image Limited. Oddly enough Adam’s vocals here take on a Joe Strummer tinge, especially from around the time of The Clash’s underrated and experimental Sandinista album, I would argue that the track wouldn’t have sounded wholly out of place on that record. It also chimed with Scritti Politti’s Skank Bloc Bologna and its sense of hopelessness, making this a fantastic track that is without doubt my favourite.
despite its bleak nature I found Dataland meditative and intriguing…
After the brief detour with dub we’re back into the world of electronic Krautrock with title track Dataland which has an industrial hypnotic quality. The track has a repeated refrain of ‘Enter in the numbers, we just need to know, Enter in the numbers, see the knowledge grow’ a commentary on the increasingly data driven society we’re living in and the corporate dystopia it creates. It’s a track that brings to mind the film Koyaanisqatsi which the director states is about how ‘we live technology. Technology has become as ubiquitous as the air we breathe’. In fact Dataland bares a resemblance to that film’s minimalist score by Philip Glass.
The album concludes with the longest track on the record, the eerie and frankly terrifying 1984-esque Empty Streets. It’s undoubtedly the darkest number on the album and this is not only reflected by the words, but also the music with an ominous guitar line feeding throughout. Just when you were hoping for a bit of optimism towards the end of the record, you’re clobbered with this. It makes for a disheartening yet effective conclusion to the record.
The album contains a range of negative emotions from boredom and alienation through to despair and resignation, simply put if you were wanting an album laden with feel good power-pop then this will probably not be for you. Personally, despite its bleak nature I found Dataland meditative and intriguing and it’s one of those releases, like say Enablers’ The Pigeon Diaries, which also combines spoken word narration and music, that you need to listen to numerous times to fully appreciate.
Scribed by: Reza Mills