Jen Kutler – The Ways We Wait

11.14.19 by Ryan Masteller

Now THIS is a concept. Jen Kutler’s on the cutting edge of electronic experimentalism in a way that intersects sexuality and humanity in the center of a surprising Venn diagram that, quite frankly, is interesting and brave and riveting to listen to. If you’re not familiar with Kutler’s work, she has modified a vibrator (yes, that classic self-gratifier) so that it outputs data into a synthesizer and processes it into sound, all while the device is within the performer’s body.

As you might expect, the electric tremors lend themselves well to a noise/drone idiom, and the synthesis of sound and experience informs the listener’s approach to it. “The Ways We Wait” pulses with energy, suggesting that the waiting, in itself, might in fact be the EASIEST part, depending on what you’re doing while you’re waiting for … whatever it is you’re waiting for. So yeah, galaxies bloom behind closed eyelids as recording gear captures every moment, and every single pulse is translated into study-able sonics. 

Which is where the academic in me (and anyone) comes in: how does “The Ways We Wait” interact with a society increasingly aware of and focused on issues of gender and sexuality (among other things), and how can it inform the conversations that constantly swirl around these issues? As an artist, Kutler is at the vanguard of this debate, subverting the very notion of what constitutes “appropriateness” (in general) and how that and art itself relates to culture at any snapshot in time: Where do norms and mores overlap with confrontational tactics, if they do at all? What is the root of the divide? How does one viewpoint inform/clash with the other? Is the vast majority of people just being waaay too sensitive about the whole thing? Or is that the point, to poke and prod those exposed nerves until something happens?

No matter what your thoughts, this is still a great noise/drone tape from an important voice in the genre. Edition of 100 from Flag Day Recordings.*

*This exercise was ripe for parody. Honestly, if you’re reading this site, you’re coming here to laugh a little bit along with the rest of us, hoping for some levity to cut through the absurdity of daily life. But humor can be dangerous, and so I thought deeply about how to approach this. Why, I ask myself, do I immediately gravitate toward making light of something that’s attempting to instigate a necessary dialogue, especially at a time when such dialogue could actually lead toward a type of reconciliation? I mean, I love to laugh, but I’m sort of embarrassed by my first inclination here, which was to be silly and toss off a bunch of jokes. In wrestling with my own sense of humor in what I hope is a positive way, I hope to enable the discussions that Jen Kutler is suggesting that we have. Starts with me (the self). (I’m also not leading with this. This is not the reason you’re here.)