This fourth Kodomo album emerged from the isolation of the early pandemic of 2020. Plenty of uninspired and unfocused creative work came out of the chaos and uncertainty of that time. But there’s a focus to these meditative slices of IDM techno. Perhaps titles like “A Meditation On Anxiety,” “Invisible Lines” and “Radio Bursts” immediately recall the era of lockdown. But the gorgeously orchestrated drifts of tone carried along on shifting/shuffling flows of percussion are transporting in a way that is hard to achieve unless your imagination is allowed to be unmoored from the demands of everyday life as we usually know it with the pressures to deliver on the most mundane tasks that a properly functioning, technological society would automate with the capacity of humans to create spontaneously and to use our emotional and intellectual capacity for more engaging and mutually nurturing purposes. Maybe Chris Child, aka Kodomo, had some time away from life the endless grind of “normal” life, the one we’ve come to expect and to which we’ve become accustomed even though it’s been eroding society from within for decades. These songs are unhurried but do not feel self-indulgent. They combine a classical music sensibility in the Twentieth Century sense of combining minimalsim, the avant-garde and modal experimentation. But nothing feels academic here. Rather, it feels spontaneous and in the moment though clearly produced and composed.
Child seems to tap into the images and emotions that struck him poignantly, the dark thoughts in the most challenging psychological spaces and channeled that into compositions that express the sublime moments taken from days when we were all forced to reconsider what kind of world we were living in and the world we wanted and could have if we had the collective will. And the days when everything felt like it could collapse and the pandemic would never end (and it has not as of the time of this writing) and if it did, what horrible new pandemics we know about lurking on the edge of civilization would burn through our institutions and lack of defenses both medically and socially and make COVID-19 seem mild by comparison. These anxieties hover at the edges of these songs intermingling with a perhaps foolish hope that we’ll get through this with minimal destruction.
What is most striking from the perspective of imagining the worlds the sounds on this album conjure in your mind. The synth sounds are like something out of one of those post-apocalyptic or post-disaster 1980s science fiction movies where most humans are gone as in The Quiet Earth or abandoned places normally forbidden access like The Zone from Tarkovsky’s Stalker. There is a sense of wandering empty streets and taking note of how the world exists minus as much of the footprint of humanity as there had been has been since lockdowns have largely been lifted. Child’s ability to recall these experiences for the creation of the sonic equivalent of that sense of mystery and wonder in familiar places that makes this album transcend something as predictable and as obvious as a “pandemic record.” His mastery of ambient drones and almost generative electronic streams of sound combines an 8-bit video game aesthetic and clear tonal lines with layers of atmospheric textures and flowing vistas of minimal melody. Science fiction is always a commentary on the the present projected into the future and Three Spheres took the mood of the time and extrapolated upon a perhaps near future when the capacity to use one’s imagination to process confusion, raging anxiety, uncertainty and isolation to survive the disasters we already know are coming down the pike as world governments still refuse to address climate change which impacts the coming of pandemics, the distribution of resources, our ability to produce food, our capacity for sourcing clean water and the effects all have on political stability crucial to having a coherent and effective response. Certainly an album isn’t going to solve those problems but it’s good to be able to imagine a future when despite challenges we can find ways to not completely collapse if we need to.