This week in cyborg culture, Alice Cohen just released a new track called “Looking Glass” – a bright synth-pop ode to the illusory freedom of digital identity construction. Cohen tantalizes listeners to “step through the glass” and decide who they’re going to be with game-show exuberance (step right up! pick a card any card!), but ominous lyrical imagery about mannequins with ghostly stares and plastic hair communicate that the utopian promise of an “artificial reality” with “revolving doors of identity” is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Since the medium is the massage, the track (off of Cohen’s forthcoming album Into the Grey Salons) was released as part of a webzine/mixtape collaboration between Olde English Spelling Bee and 1080p. Titled “Starting Gate” and visually curated by Ledford and Katie Raffa (Personal Injury Records), the tape/zine is hosted by NewHive—an emerging multimedia platform used by EMA to create The Future’s Void as well as netartists such as Molly Soda. It features 22 new tracks by internet all-stars such as James Ferraro, Giant Claw, Friendly Chemist, MCFERRDOG, and Delia Gonzalez, each accompanied by unique artwork by artists such as Keith Rankin, Oomunetaka, and the “Pill Pop” collective.
From visual references to Geocities to glimmering gifs and “AIM Buddies”, Starting Gate is a giddy nostalgic grab-bag of homegrown internet cultural tropes, an altogether earnest revival of a the maximalism of early social media—a simpler time, when the discovery that you could create a MySpace page with a million clashing backgrounds and a GIF shower and a song that played immediately upon clicking meant that you WOULD create this, 56k connection be damned.