As we continue our march into the 21st century, it becomes more difficult to qualify the traits necessary to call something extreme. Is extremity playing loud and fast and screaming at the top of your lungs? No—it’s been done for decades. Is extremity a live show with fake sacrifices and blood and dead animals? It might get you some coverage on the local news, but GWAR was getting banned for performing alien abortions back in the 20th century. No, extremity in 2018 requires a higher level of ingenuity than subversive imagery and branding, the willingness to go beyond antisocial catchphrases.
Tristan Shone of Author & Punisher has an idea of what 21st-century extremity looks like. The former mechanical engineer has (temporarily) fused machine parts to his body to create music that is part man and part machine. His music is as much a philosophical riddle as it is a collection of songs, an ongoing investigation in contemplating the increasingly blurred line between consciousness and computer.
On his sixth album Beastland, Shone continues to explore the unholy marriage of digital and flesh and in doing so remind us of our shortcomings as people. Shone says the new album is in part a reflection on the fact that humans now have the tools and knowledge to make more compassionate choices and still treat others with contempt. Beastland is exceptionally dark as a result; it is as best appreciated more as ambient sound than a traditional album. If there is any shortcoming to any of Shone’s work, it’s that to understand what he is trying to do it’s essential to watch him manipulate sound like a puppeteer. An album is just a prelude. So, jump into the dark tones on this record—but get the full experience to appreciate the audacity of his ambition.