What We Can Learn From Troxum’s Big ‘Gaia Lesson’

There’s a valley surrounded by mountains where a guy often stands outside his home, staring up at the sky deep in thought.

He does it during the day, respecting the expanses of a blue sky that lately only has been slightly dusted with cloud coverage. He does it at night, taking in the various and sundry bright stars that pock the dark skies over his village.

He’s typically encompassed with a general feeling of contentedness. Not so are his friends, family, and neighbors who live fairly close to him. They’re not gazers, because they see what he cannot.

While the man takes in the heavens with a slack-jawed obliviousness, the rest of the town sees the sky ripping itself apart all around them. They hear the molecules peeling off each other in a bit-crush of binary corrosion. It looks and sounds beautiful — with an array of colors and complex melodies and harmonies shooting around them, tied together by the whims of an omnipotent composer — but the man can’t see or hear this and the villagers aren’t ready for it.

The villagers can’t explain any of it, which amplifies their fear. The man stands outside, facing the circumstance of a world crumbling around him because he doesn’t need to explain anything.

On his latest album, Gaia Lesson, Pittsburgh-based Troxum is all parties. First of all, he’s obviously the composer. He is the creator of this chaos, crafting an intricate interplay of glitchy, synthetic expressions that recall the classicism of Disasterpeace, the minimalism of Steve Reich, and the colorful experimentation of Oneohtrix Point Never.

The instrumentation, which Troxum has told me is largely his own handiwork and not merely programming, is all over the place while being intentional. It’s a paradox that he carries throughout the album, on songs like the title cut, the fascinating “Ediacarana,” and the joyous standout cut “Zemlya Mission.”

A portrait of the artist, cropped to fit the format of the page. Photo provided by Troxum.
A portrait of the artist, cropped to fit the format of the page. Photo provided by Troxum.

“I’m originally a pianist,” he says. “I play everything and record. I don’t like to quantize or program, at least for most of the songs — I wanted a more loose organic feel.”

In addition to his role as the maker of things, Troxum is also the villagers. They see everything around them falling apart. The world is ending and every one of their senses is tuned into that reality. So they hide under their roofs while they endure the outside sounds of fuzzy, swirling synths, the pitter-patter of drum machines, and the admittedly happy melodies encircling them.

But Troxum is also the man who gazes into the sky, for amid all of the controlled chaos that is happening around him he stares straight ahead in an unabashedly optimistic fashion. He sees nothing to fear in a more stable future. It’s not the end for anyone, but merely a new beginning.

Gaia Lesson is out now on California-based Telefuture, which has done a bang-up job with its releases this year. 

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