Conversation Sur Lettres Mortes is a project by Jesse Osborne-Lanthier and Grischa Lichtenberger first realized for Mutek / Elektra 2014 at the MAC in Montréal, QC Canada. The music on this record was generated using various cathode ray televisions sets and VHS units. The conversation is an unfinished reflection of misplaced and discarded artefacts.
The Cathode Ray Television Tube is disappearing from its ancestral site in the living room of our homes. Due to the increasingly frequent submergence of technological novelties, this phenomenon takes place nearly unnoticed. Therein, there is no room or discourse to deal with the emotional traces we are left with – the intimate connection to this artefact of our childhoods.
It seems that within every piece of technology is injected some sort of latency; as if inside any device, a ghostly voice whispers to its holder about a detachment which needs to be overcome. Detachment, in this case, refers to the distance between the individual and everything else; the incapacity to connect and the tension (la folie) that comes with it. It is this detachment which creates the problem of possessing the object, but also arguably, is the force that creates the desire to possess the thing in the first place. The fulfillment which is sought through the possession of things is, from the start, infected by an overwhelming demand to restore lost experiences of the past. Technology is not only what it promises to be (to hold progress in one’s hands), but is also a conservation of the memory of the emergence of the necessity to possess. When an object finally loses its functional capacity (becomes obsolete in its usefulness), it sediments into an artefact within which still lies the hope inscribed by its production, and finally, these whispers become haunting and audible.
Technological ubiquity denies our recognition of the phenomenon; we tumble along, ever to fulfill the demands of the tempting and elusive future, losing grip on the weight of our own biographies and, within all the noise, missing the whispers of despair emitted by everyday objects. Meaningless production, in this respect, is one of the greatest dangers of modernity. Between meeting the overwhelming economic and social demands, these ghosts of our past narrations might haunt us; might push us to whisper back ourselves; might insight us to opt for a less detached and destructive production.
The relation between tradition (the weighted force of past) and trade (the powerful mechanism of economic relations) can be traced back to the dichotomy between the private and the public, or further, between the individual and the outside world. The child, in this case, learns about the outside world by playing with objects that come directly from it; objects dotted by the unfulfilled wishes of grown-ups, objects which are merely meant to perform a function. But despite their inventors’ intentions, they can re-communicate the potential of their possibility. In the relationship between a child to an object, the greatest difference (as opposed to between an adult and an object) is that the child can find novelty where the adult cannot. The play-thing becomes a symbol of whatever the child wants it to be (the ghostly whisper inserted), and whatever symbol it represents is canonized within it forever. In this is a relief of the latency inside the produced object. However, by this playing, the child also inevitably learns the laws of trade. The connection the child develops to things turned over to it is, from the start, distorted by a possibility of possession, with the child inscribing in the object both possibilities: the potential to possess the thing as freeing empowerment, and the possession of the thing as a fetishism (the haunted, damned unreliability of the thing).
''Conversation Sur Lettres Mortes is a physically affective conceptual album revolving around the relationship between Berlin’s Jesse Osborne Lanthier & Grischa Lichtenberger and the archaic apparatus of old cathode ray televisions and VHS units. It was first conceived as a live project for the Mutek/Elektra festival 2014 at the MAC in Montréal, QC Canada, and now lands heavy on Cosmo Rhythmatic - the label curated by Shapednoise with his buddies D. Carbone and Ascion.
The project should surely resonate with anyone who grew up in a household with at least one of those old beasts - you know the ones; monolithic black boxes that would own a corner of your living room or wherever, heck you may even still own one. Based on a series of conversations (excerpted in the liner notes) discussing the sets’ obsolete status and the schism between tradition and trade, the A-side holds six cranky, skudgy and rhythm-driven creations framed by that familiar, ghostly, whining timbre of the cathode ray tube that would persist behind anything that was playing, or which would become distorted when you had to “tune” your set using baffling arrays of fiddly knobs like some modular boffin, when all you wanted was to watch some garbage without “snow” or streaking lines across the monitor.
However, a few samples of dialogue aside, it’s not a mere exercise in nostalgia; rather Osborne-Lanthier and Lichtenberger find strange, synaesthetic life in these old and somewhat magical analogue machines, working their spectral resonance and crankiness into creaking, contorted and deconstructed patterns that evoke a more contemporary sense of temporal dislocation.
The remixers all seem to relish messing with the material, too; Low Jack offering a screen-scrambling flux of hellish sound-imagery ruffed-up with footwork rhythms and harpy and a Cronenbergian sort of body horror, whilst Gabor Lázár’s patented streaking filaments recall the sound of a set rapidly flicked on and off, marking one of his strongest, layered solo pieces, and Rabit really pushes the envelope with a hyper, tumultuous stunner seemingly emulating an Einstürzende Neubauten live show processed by Autechre.''
released August 18, 2016
All tracks written, produced and mixed by Jesse Osborne-Lanthier & Grischa Lichtenberger. Track B1 remixed by Philippe Hallais, track B2 remixed by G bor L z r, track B3 remixed by Eric Burton. Artwork and design by Jesse Osborne-Lanthier & Grischa Lichtenberger. Mastered and cut by Matt Colton @ Alchemy Mastering.