Imagine it: you’re wandering through the Appalachian forests, or maybe the Mohave desert or the ruins of an East Coast metropolis, or wherever the post-apocalypse collapse of the United States has taken you, and you turn on your Pip Boy to listen in to whatever radio frequencies still work. Amid the static and the garbled transmissions broadcast over the spectrum, you find a lone guitar, gently strumming through some folk chords, not really playing anything intentional, but more for the sake of drawing a peaceful mood amid all the chaos. That’s exactly what god|screaming|breathing and their newest offering 19-1-2019 is.
While not *strictly* influenced by the Fallout series, the description of 19-1-2019 references the video game series, and the parallels are undeniable at first listen. An eclectic mix of noise, interference, field recordings, phone conversations, television and radio broadcasts and gentle Appalachian folk, it sounds like the exact thing you would get if you were making your way through a post-apocalypse America and scanning through the various intentional and accidental broadcasts looking for signs of life or hope or comfort or just something to pass the time and get lost in. It also serves as something of a window into the past, as the title implies. Two years ago seems like, well, a lot longer than two years, and to think that these recordings have been sitting around waiting until now to see the light of day lends them an air of importance, even if it’s not readily apparent why. In fact, a lot of this record and this project is shrouded in mystery. This is usually the part where I give some background on who god|screaming|breathing is/are, but the enigma is so thick that, outside of the fact that they hail from West Virginia, I can’t really find anything else about them. However, they reside on Philip K. Disc’s roster, the home of the legendary and inimitable Domestikwom, so you know that it’s going to be quality.
19-1-2019 opens with an almost ten-minute noise opus, setting the stage with lots of radio chatter and interference, the whir and hum of old machinery, and seems to pick up the echoey, garbled remnants of what sounds to me like a pleasant phone call between two people. There is something a little unsettling about the juxtaposition between the conversation, jovial tone of voice of the people talking and the harshness of the machinery whining and phasing around in the background, but in the end, it fits in the context of the “story” the album tells. Overall, this EP made me really rethink what I thought “field recordings” are. I assumed that they would be mostly nature sounds: crickets, wind, rain and the like. Instead, what we get is the sound of people, of commotion and communication. “ii” seems like it was recorded ambiently at a party, while “v” sounds like all the channels on TV turned on at once, fading into a fire-and-brimstone-type sermon to close everything out. And amid it all is a lone guitar, gently playing nothing to no one, just sitting back and taking it all in. It works wonderfully to break the tension and the mood, and it effectively contrasts the mechanical nature of the background with something wholly organic, something grounded in the present as opposed to feeling like an echo of the past. Admittedly, there are parts where I just don’t feel like I really “get” it, but I am all the same very glad that this exists. It is truly a unique experience, no radiation poisoning required.
If 19-1-2019 sounds at all up your alley, act fast. PKD is issuing a limited run of only 20 tapes (which feels like the most appropriate format for listening to this EP), featuring J-card art by god|screaming|breathing and hand-drawn art on the tape by PKD’s founder Jeremy himself. It’s a perfect way to get lost, and if you happen to be playing Fallout while you’re doing so, so much the better.