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Front cover of ENANTIODROMIA by garbageface, edited by Evan Robins. Original photography by Hannah Grace, artwork layout by garbageface.

In Love With the Paradox: A Review of ENANTIODROMIA by garbageface

Written by
Evan Robins
and
and
December 3, 2023

ENANTIODROMIA (/əˌnan(t)ēəˈdrōmēə/): the tendency of things to change into their opposites, especially as a supposed governing principle of natural cycles and of psychological development. Similar to the principle of equilibrium in the natural world, in that any extreme is opposed by the system in order to restore balance.

In Love With the Paradox: A Review of ENANTIODROMIA by garbageface
Front cover of ENANTIODROMIA by garbageface, edited by Evan Robins. Original photography by Hannah Grace, artwork layout by garbageface.

With Spotify Wrapped come and passed, and November slipping surely into December as university classes—and the year along with them—come to a close, most people surely turn their tastes to Christmas music. 

December 1st is, after all, the day which social consensus deems more or less universally acceptable to crack out the Christmas tunes, even though many have been doing so long before this admittedly arbitrary deadline. If not Christmas music, then maybe at least something a little more down tempo, introspective, and twee, if for no reason other than to reflect the inherent melancholy of the season. 

I am not one of those people. 

Though my colleagues have been spinning any number of female folk singer-songwriters for the past several weeks, pull out my earbuds at any point in the Arthur work day and you’re far more likely to find me listening to something loud and abrasive. The most “seasonal” my taste truly gets this time of the year are the imposing, oppressive tones of sludge metal and doom. 

It’s lucky, then, that for the past week I’ve been enjoying the company of the newest release from a doom artist with a twist. 

Most people probably don’t associate hip-hop with the Canadian wintertime, nor—if pressed—do I imagine they could explain what exactly constitutes “doom rap,” though I think garbageface’s ENANTIODROMIA proves as good a point of entry as any.

It’s hard to imagine anyone occupying space in the venn diagram which encircles Arthur not knowing about garbageface, though should that prove the case I’m honoured to be preaching the gospel. 

garbageface is rather a fixture, I figure, of whatever we might generously term the “scene” here in Peterborough. He’s one of the acts I follow who is most consistent in playing shows in the downtown—always drawing a good crowd—runs the best monthly newsletter to which I’m subscribed, and has a large and fascinating back catalogue for those with the time and interest in exploring it.

Now, he has a new album out, and I’m exercising my strong editorial privileges to talk about it.

After all, I’m listening to ENANTIODROMIA three weeks before its December 21st release date not because I’m an especially respected or revered journalist—certainly not because my opinion should be held in higher consideration than any other—but simply because I gave garbageface sixty-six bucks at the beginning of this year. 

I’m hardly what one might call a “detached observer.”

You see, I know garbageface not just as “garbageface,” but also as “karol,” and he knows me from my Close Friends story on Instagram. My experience of this record is coloured, as well bears admission, by the fact of our both having office space in Sadleir House—a co-operative on whose Board of Directors we both equally serve, by the virtue of our bumping into one another at the vending machine, on the street, or at The Only Cafe.

I wanted to love this album before I even knew its name. I wanted to love it from the second I knew he was working on it. I’ll contend that I do love it sincerely, though in the spirit of candor and transparency such disclosures remain worth making.

I spent a lot of time in my high school years hanging out with people involved in the Ottawa DIY and Hardcore scenes. Despite my own musical background being in playing saxophones in middle school jazz bands, I gravitated towards the punk scene as a social sanctum. 

Upon my moving to Peterborough I was extremely socially isolated by virtue of the pandemic. One of the first ways I actually felt connected to a city outside of my Gzowski College Annex residence room and the smoke shack immediately outside it was through joining the Sadleir House board of directors. It gave my life structure, definition (at least for one night a month) and helped forge connections with extremely cool people who I still hold in high esteem.

With vaccinations slowly rolling out over the course of 2021, stuff started opening up in the fall. I would, for the first time since joining the Sadleir board, or being hired at Arthur be able to meet friends and colleagues I had as-of-yet only met through a computer screen. 

As shows began to re-open and crust punks emerged—no less cleanly for the months spent in lockdown—from their year-and-a-half long seclusion, the local music scene became an important place for me to run into the town’s recurring characters with whom I’d only ever interacted online. 

One of my first “proper” Peterborough shows was Dec 3rd, 2021’s “Power Reset”: Sharazi, garbageface, and Cross Dog playing the Gordon Best Theatre. It was the first time I’d heard garbageface live. That show rather ripped.

I confess, I may well not have “gotten” garbageface before hearing him perform live. The abrasive character of much of his music and affect is served one by a) being in a space which accommodates loud synth runs and screamed choruses, and b) seeing that the person screaming said choruses is a slight man dressed in black jeans and a hoodie and sporting a rooster’s crest of hair atop his otherwise close-shaven head.

It certainly forms an impression, and in that respect I proved (and prove yet) no exception. In the years—a qualifier which makes me feel more aged than I’d yet like to admit—since that show I’ve attended a number of garbageface shows. Not enough to confer me any absolute knowledge, perhaps, but I’ve gleaned a thing or two which now provides me the exact repertoire with which to discuss the record at hand.

I will say this of ENANTIODROMIA—it is most definitely the garbageface record of 2023. Standing at the end of the calendar year I can say with no small degree of confidence that this is a fitting release—if not the only one which makes sense for him this year.

This year I have glimpsed the breadth which garbageface encompasses—from intimate, multi-hour ambient and drone installations, mosh-worthy, earsplitting sets, and ones that have consisted mostly of extended spoken-word oration, and culminated in a dozen people laying in a circle on the floor.

My opinions are, however, probably inseparable from the fact that 2023 is equally the year I listened to a significant amount of industrial metal and experimental hip-hop music, but considering at a November 2022 show garbageface sampled Death Grips' “Artificial Death in the West,” No Love Deep Web might prove good “homework” for this album.

All things considered, ENANTIODROMIA manages to span these superficially disparate tendencies in garbageface’s live performances and discography in a remarkably balanced and hypnotically symmetrical record.

This is an album whose two sides mirror one another, an album whose six tracks, divided across two sides, perfectly balance each other in a runtime which feels fulsome but not encumbering. 

“ancient oscilloscope” and “pure gamma ferric oxide,” the second tracks of each side, stand out as the archetypal “singles” off this album—the former having fittingly been teased in February on my colleague’s radio show NOISEHOLE

That’s not to say they’re either the “best” tracks on the album, or even my favourites—such a distinction would be akin to selecting my “favourite” Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest unit (I don’t have children, hence why this metaphor is slightly strained).

Each of these are bookended by songs which build the cohesion of the record as a whole. “garbageface’s cool summer mixtape”’s nearly ten-minute runtime is nonetheless foundational to the record itself. It’s a warm-up, planting seeds which germinate as leitmotifs as the record progresses. 

By the third time you listen to it, you too will be whispering “attack, sustain, release, decay.”

The song’s second movement contains instructions for the album itself: “flip the tape and play it loud, motherfucker.” ENANTIODROMIA begs to be played loud, begs to occupy space. Headphones, though they might articulate the intricacy of the production which underlies this project, fail to confer the scope of the album itself.

I very much get the impression that there is a demonstrably “correct” way to listen to this album, and—if my intuition is to be believed—it is on some analog medium besides the Compact Disc. 

Play it as loud as you possibly can on your shitty Urban Outfitters record player, then buy yourself a new set of speakers and play it louder.

It's perhaps of little surprise that this album rocketed me back to my Tarot phase—specifically drawing comparison, in my mind, to the Wheel of Fortune card. Number 10 of the Major Arcana, the card suggests Destiny, fortune, success, elevation, luck, and felicity, or else increase, abundance, superfluity when reversed. Graphic by Evan Robins.

There’s a degree of paradox to the oft-conflicting calls of the first track’s chorus(es), and perhaps to the album as a whole, laden with cultural references as it is despite a song called “the last phonebooth,” and one which samples a years-old screamo album—both which gesture forward whilst looking back. 

This quality of the album is perhaps the embodiment of its titular concept, the change over the course of history, the mutability of signifiers as they become poisoned by myth. This quality is perhaps not unlike my predilection for burying the lede so deep you’d need a shovel to find it, though seeing as you’ve gotten this far into the review, I’d call my project successful.

You could, as many of us do, skip through this album listening to tracks whose titles you find cool or whose runtime does not offend your more fragile sensibilities, though to do so would—I think—be a disservice to the project, and moreover to yourself. 

Frankly speaking, ENANTIODROMIA probably doesn’t care if you listen to it “properly” (I contradict my own sanctimonious declarations by having reviewed it in digital copy) but do it anyway less you not get shivers when the later parts of “still untitled” kick in.

In an age where assholes place more value than ever on the album as an art form by the virtue of it being generally disserved by the just-in-time supply chains of the Foucaultdian streaming economy, the succinctness of ENANTIODROMIA is welcome in contrast to the indulgence of people like Billy Corgan who think the only way to make art is through double albums filled with limp garbage whose masters any sane producer would have burned. 

Not just is ENANTIODROMIA an album with no skips, it’s an album which feels hard to dismember into constituent parts. While one can identify movements, refrains, and bridges within each of its songs, there’s a reason they’re not separate tracks, so if you want to hear that drop you better sit your ass down and listen. 

I love this album a lot. 

Considering I’ve mostly been listening to music of late released years before I was even born, to love an album so new, that to most people it’s not even released yet, feels refreshing. In spite of his long standing declaration that “Everyone is Doomed,” garbageface here feels alive and well, and leading us all, hands held, through a raucous excursion brimming with self-proclaimed industrial soul.

For an album which takes its name from the tendency of things to become the very things they once opposed, ENANTIODROMIA is a release which feels distinctly true to form. “The drift is the stability,” writes garbageface—even in change there is some degree of constance.

Intuitively I should know a fair bit about the notion—in binary think I’ve experienced the enantiodromia of transition from one gender to the other, female existence being, as it is, defined largely, if not purely, by its relation to masculinity. While generically I have “become,” through the holistic restructuring of my endocrine system, my generic opposite, I’m largely unchanged from the fifteen-year-old wannabe punk I describe earlier. 

I still dress in the same leather jacket I bought back then, still gravitate towards the same bands, clothes, and political beliefs. On some level I’m tempted to call myself the “same” person, though within a matter of years the wholesale replacement of my body's cells will no doubt trouble that assertion. 

I’m about as far from an essentialist as they come, though I still believe that when you break down reality into small enough pieces you’ll find some things you can’t reason around with poststructuralist word vomit. 

To me, that thing has always been entropy, the continual dispersal of energy, the tendency towards chaos. On the cosmic scale we’re just ripples in a bathtub which, over the course of several trillion years, will eventually settle. 

I am not, however, a theoretical physicist, a mathematician, a cosmologist, a philosopher, or even a music critic. If you’re still reading at this point, however, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve done my job. Trust that while I certainly don’t know what I talk about, I do love to belabour a metaphor, and this one proves as good as any.

As we all accrue entropy over the duration of our forward displacement in time, life becomes a ritual of falling apart. Through this process we cannot put ourselves back together, per se, though take it from experience that we can nonetheless transform.

You won’t be the same person you were after listening to this album. No one is the same person they were moments ago. Whether or not the person you’re becoming will be your opposite is something only you can control. In the meantime, trust the process, and enjoy the show.

ENANTIODROMIA releases December 21, 2023. You can pre-order the album at garbageface.org/enantiodromia.

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