Every day, we get further from our past. That distance traveled on a daily basis is also constantly increasing, by the way.
Let me explain. There are two formulas – Moore’s Law and Wright’s Law – that state that technological progress moves with a velocity that accelerates at a neat clip. Moore said that the number of transistors in a computer chip will double every 18 months and others have since taken this principle and applied it to other forms of technology in a broader and more general sense: that the rate of improvement in technology will increase exponentially over time. Wright’s Law, on the other hand, states that progress increases with experience in a fixed progression. Different fields of study advance at different rates, but their speed of advance remains a constant, steady increase.
It’s not too much of a stretch to say that as our technology advances, so does our culture and our way of life.
Which brings me to the root of this musing. I was glancing out of the widow of subway car as the Q Train crossed over the Manhattan Bridge. A soft rain had settled on New York City earlier that day and in the sheen of the early evening, I caught a glimpse of what I thought the city once looked like. Headlights reflecting against the concrete of FDR Drive, steam and smoke pouring out of the roofs of the buildings abutting the parkway. I closed my eyes and was left with only the sound of the train running over the tracks and my imagination, thinking to where I might be if it was twenty or thirty years earlier.
I’m not dumb. That’s not a period in this city’s history that I would want to live through. For those who mistake urban decay for grit and a desperate urban situation for authenticity, it’s a forgivable sin. For those who look at the state of the five boroughs now and see a lack of soul, it’s the nearest point of reference for something different.
Fortunately there are tracks like Snakes Crawl (East Village Mix) that can take a listener back to that time. I’m not sure where the various contributions of Phil Kieran, Burglar Tom, and Bush Tetras all begin and end. But I have to thank them all for putting together this slice of chilled out sonic time travel. First off, the singer for Bush Tetras, Cynthia Sley, is just too cool for you. Period. Don’t even bother trying man, she’s just gonna break your heart. And that groove! The common time drum beat and a three note bass line don’t sound like much on paper but in practice they’re hypnotic. The occasional guitar squall adds a bit of texture and color, but it never breaks the spell. What more can I say? Between the gentle throb of the bass, the bone dry production, the disaffection with a suggestion of menace lurking underneath, it’s all so… untouchably… cool. Cool in a way that intersects with my memories of a New York City to which I have never been and will never go.
So enjoy this as an idealized stand in for that time. Days go by; as they get smaller in the rearview, their image becomes distorted and compressed. But thanks to the internet, we don’t have to worry about this song disappearing into history.