Blood Karaoke

James Krivchenia is drawn to projects with a wide-eyed view of the world and a hopeful interest in the interconnectedness of all things. It’s true of the nature-worshipping music he makes as part of Big Thief and Mega Bog, and it’s also true of his work with Taylor Swift, in whose hands a scarf or cardigan can take on cosmic significance. His new solo album Blood Karaoke presents the same unknowable vastness of existence through the lens of a computer screen, but this time, the overload of information it shoots through the listener’s brain feels claustrophobic, airless, humid, and chemical. Listening to this information-age nightmare next to the rootsy, utopian sprawl of Big Thief’s Krivchenia-produced Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is a great argument for logging off and touching grass.

What Krivchenia has done here is sample dozens of YouTube videos with zero views and mash them together into overstimulating collages. He’s not the first experimental musician to dip into YouTube detritus. The Range’s 2016 album Potential airlifted the video-hosting site’s aspiring singers and rappers into sky-scraping bangers that suggested anyone could be a star. On the Soft Pink Truth’s Why Pay More?, Drew Daniel pulled from the back pages of specific search queries to evaluate his own relationship with a site capable of hosting both fuzzy-animal videos and footage of senseless violence. Blood Karaoke is more interested in the sheer wealth of information available at the click of a button, and in its sonic density we get a glimpse of how immense the internet really is: a world within a world that both mirrors and skews reality.

Krivchenia’s default style on Blood Karaoke is a sort of deconstructed take on rave, with popping sequencers and blocky synth chords building to nothing. There’s a lot going on at high volume, each track barreling into the next with minimal interruption, and the longest reprieve comprises two minutes of droning strings on “Wall Facer,” just before the album ends. It’s not hard to connect this harsh and overwhelming torrent of information to the daily ordeal of scrolling social media, with mindless clickbait adjacent to global horror. Blood Karaoke is no less exhausting an experience, albeit far less addictive, and though the sheer volume of content makes it a consistently interesting listen, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with a hangover, a predilection for panic attacks, or an interest in doing anything besides frying the frayed nerve ends of their brain.