Caroline Park – Live Your Best Factory Life

Caroline Park - Live Your Best Factory Life.

Now here’s something quite curious. Caroline Park describes her album “Live Your Best Factory Life” as being about “tensions that persist: physical frictions, muscles trying, and the body that continues to labour to survive… all of this invisible labour of various stresses, anxieties, and pain, [that] are not at all seen from the outside.” So we’re talking about something affective, then, about patterns and influences that make some kind of physical or physiological change to the body or to the psyche. The first track ‘imagining entering (but will leave you to it)’ exemplifies this notion of hidden tensions and pressures through the use of extremely low volume: a very faint clicking or scrunching begins hesitantly, before growing more and more vigorous, a trickle becoming a very quiet torrent. Later this is replaced by a very deep, almost inaudible growling or thrumming, shifting from cyclical to continuous with the slightest hint of gleam. There’s very much the sense of something substantial submerged almost fully below the threshold of perception, the barest tip of an iceberg peeking above the surface.

‘the structures that are set in place’ introduces a glassy, breathy sound that swirls around the listener. To begin with it’s somewhat soothing in its regularity and softness, but different breathy pitches enter, often at much louder volumes, adding dissonance and roughness. Final piece ‘braiding and unbraiding repeatedly day after day’ is very different and comes as something of a surprise: a full, faux-strings harmony, shifting between two chords in a stately yet surging manner, lush but also purposeful and perhaps a little hopeful. Occasionally different tonal layers are added and removed, but the overall effect is one of an endless stasis or repetition befitting of the title; the hope is therefore a little ambiguous. This repetition continues for roughly 25 minutes before fading away, a brief deep foghorn-like sound breaking the closing silence before the album finally draws to a close.

To suggest that “Live Your Best Factory Life” is a difficult album to parse perhaps implies a certain way of thinking about and listening to music. Certainly, those parts of the listening brain that find pleasure in tracing the arc of a hummable melody or sussing out an intricate logical structure are likely to find little joy here, but as far as I can tell that was never the intention in the first place. Instead, there is a heaviness or dullness that is not so much heard as felt; listening feels exhausting, especially in the case of the marathon final piece. As an attempt to convey the laborious effort that the composer in her description of the album associates with the act of living, “Live Your Best Factory Life” is therefore convincing. If you’ve ever felt the daily routine of work and self-maintenance like a concrete weight around your neck, you may find some solace in having that experience so effectively recognised and acknowledged by this music.

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