Psicklops is an ambitious, multi-artist collage loosely organized in a sort of narrative form. Produced in part by the Rhode Island label Free Matter for the Blind, Psicklops claims to be a “sequel” to Franz Kafka’s dystopian manuscript “The Trial”, a goal which becomes increasingly irrelavent as one listens.
Superficially, Psicklops deals with marketing, surveillance, censorship, and a totalitarian lifestyle somewhat reminiscent of that found in George Lucas’ film THX-1138. Sometimes, the dystopian elements seem forced– a little too put together– it is the helplessness, chaos, and absurdity that makes “The Trial” so horrific; even a “helpful” voice such as the one giving occasional instructions throughout Psicklops would have been a point of light for the main character.
Nevertheless, Psicklops still manages to get the listener thinking. Are these horror elements no longer as potent due to their increasing appearance in daily life? Can we consider the nature of labels, artists, and listeners to be a totalitarian one? How about performers and composers?
Even the presentation of Psicklops is charged with meaning. Originally having made its debut in a week-long series of mostly simultaneous broadcasts and “screenings,” Psicklops listeners were encouraged to gather in silence, and listen intently. Suggestions were even made to encourage listeners to “imagine yourself somewhere bright and warm.” This is a far cry from the vaguely rebellious “PLAY LOUD!” advice one sometimes finds on the back of a record jacket.
So where does that leave you? Like the poor fellow, K, subject of the titual “trial,” maybe more than a little confused. One thing Psicklops steadfastly refuses to do is spoon-feed a listener the answers. But in an age where so many forms of art and media are unwilling (or unable!) to even ask the questions, it would be a poor choice to sentence Psicklops for the crime of not handing us our next thoughts.