Rainbows in Curved Air

The analog pleasures of Radiohead's digital revolution

Love. My friend Paul B. Davis, part of the art collective Beige, has posited that the relationship between humans and data is evolving, and that real-world emotions now figure into once-clinical computer interactions. He calls this movement Post-Data, and its aesthetic goal, he writes, is "gaining suffrage for microprocessors . . . data, in its cold and inherently meaningless incarnation, is over. Post-Data is all about feelings, and unconditional love for the bits. The Post-Data artist has an emotional attachment to the data process so strong that it's not right to just call it 'data' anymore . . . Post-Data gives you the faith to sit down, take a look at your computer, and say, 'I love you.' "

Against all odds, we’re still not fucking sick of them.
photo: John Spinks
Against all odds, we’re still not fucking sick of them.

Maybe that's what In Rainbows made us feel—a rush of unexplainable emotion, a digital crush, a confirmation that things aren't like they used to be, that 2007 was a watershed that'd been building for the past decade but had yet to manifest itself fully. It felt to me like what Sam Phillips captured so eloquently in the first of Peter Guralnick's Elvis Presley biographies, Last Train to Memphis: "I was shooting for that damn row that hadn't been plowed," he explained of his quest for the King. Radiohead's 2007 felt like a similar shot: some sort of convergence that you just knew was coming, but exactly how it would arrive was still fuzzy. Now, some semblance of clarity has emerged—right?—and hearing the bundle sing from trunk-lid speakers, my head filled to the brim with Yorke's "Videotape" benediction ("No matter what happens now/You shouldn't be afraid/Because I know today has been the most perfect day I've ever seen") while a campfire spread analog warmth on my analog face, the future felt remarkably like the past: intense, full of mystery and meaning, thrilling, lovely.

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