Tiny Mix Tapes Review: Upcoming Events

The image on the cover of Dan Burke and Thomas Dimuzio’s Upcoming Events depicts a group of police in riot gear, standing menacingly in front of Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden, the digital marquee behind them bearing the album’s title. The photo, I would guess, was taken during the 2004 Republican National Convention, when swarms of cops patrolled the streets of NYC. Although not on par with the demonstrations that took place in the ’60s, the protests that met the Republicans in ’04 were still massive, and before the convention’s end, hundreds of protesters would be scooped up in the streets in plastic fencing and siphoned onto a bus. The kidnapped protesters were then taken to the asbestos-filled Port Authority bus terminal, where some would spend up to 57 hours in this American gulag, which came to be known as "Guantanamo on the Hudson." Of course, in post-9/11 America, we are told that the world, and our country especially, has changed. Many accept these new authoritarian measures in the face of fear, convinced that this is all meant to keep us safe. Meanwhile, conspiracy theorists attempt to piece together bits of the puzzle, drawing parallels between the burgeoning American police state and its possibly darker, more frightening agenda. Stories of government-sanctioned torture, tazer-related deaths, and strange asphyxiations in airport holding facilities are daily occurrences. So much of what has changed in our country in the past seven years was deemed necessary in the face of 9/11 and global terrorism fears. Now, in 2008, faced with an unparalleled financial disaster, our country stands on the brink of economic collapse. For Dan Burke, this is all standard fare. His noise project Illusion of Safety has been dealing with conspiratorial issues for nearly 25 years. A look back at IOS’s discography shows a real penchant for the political and a keen awareness of hidden agendas untouched in mainstream media. His Illusion of Safety moniker itself explores a particular political trope — i.e., the prison without bars, the idea that we are instilled from birth with the belief that we are free, yet succumb so easily to the slavery of adapting to societal norms. On Upcoming Events, Burke is joined by the lesser-known Thomas Dimuzio, and despite his relative anonymity, his resumé is nonetheless impressive. As a sound engineer, he has worked with the likes of Isis and Psychic TV, and when he’s not recording and producing, Dimuzio is an expert electronics dude. From the crackling electronics and menacing sine waves that inhabit Upcoming Events, it’s clear that the two are tuned in to how eerily terrifying the political climate is. Through the machinations of their detached robotic sounds, Dimuzio and Burke are furthering the Illusion of Safety agenda by tapping into this climate of fear that pervades modern society. Opener "Deregulation" (which alludes to the overall push for the government to undo restrictions on businesses in order to create more capital flow, and is a large part of the economic problem we face today) crescendos softly into an incongruent series of blips and tense metallic scrapings, slowly snowballing into something entirely massive, a hulking corporate behemoth that self-capitulates like grey goo, not satisfied until it has taken over everything. (Mussolini, who coined the term fascism, often said it might be better called corporatism.) On "Closed Circuit," the duo dives into the private television feed we are increasingly being surveilled upon in this burgeoning panopticon, and its anxious swirls of sound funneled into a spiraling vortex are the perfect soundtrack for awaiting the all-seeing eye to finally descend upon the capstone. "Leave Here Right Now" takes a field recording of a police confrontation, where a reporter is arrested for refusing to leave a public area, and mashes it together with dark ambient creepiness, its disembodied voice of authority rising from a steaming pile of industrial wreckage while revealing an essential loss of liberty and sending out a clear message: your freedoms are being eroded. Upcoming Events: the title alone, evokes such an array of possibilities that one is overcome by dread and uncertainty; what are these upcoming events that Burke and Dimuzio are referring to? Martial law? More terror? Tyranny? Totalitarianism? More loss of liberty? Further degradation of the Constitution? War with Iran? Russia? Pakistan? Economic crash? While nearly all of these things would’ve once been considered a paranoid’s wet dream, right now, they all seem entirely plausible. With the lines between paranoia and reality becoming intermingled, Upcoming Events plays not like a delusional fantasy, but more like an audio verité document of this singular and extremely frightening point in history. —Mangoon