“Still Intact”: dark, danceable, discerning

HEELE’s cinematic approach to electronic-industrial-rock fusion always makes me rethink my preconceptions about how human relations work. He captures, with a twenty-first century feel, the enticing enigmatic quality of Joy Division. Self-discovery is a journey through subterranean emotional corridors, lit alternately by gleams of insight and the glowing static of television monitors.

“Still Intact” (Bandcamp) opens with a menacing dance beat that doubles as a heartbeat. The fascinating contrast, for me, in the first verse is that the tone feels like a villain monologue, yet the content is so vulnerable. What grabs me and punches me in the gut with the verses is the swift, unpredictable switches between light and dark: memories point in odd directions, blooming is in a forgotten garden, and “a spoonful of medicine helps the sugar come out.”

The chorus’ black-screen metaphor is weirdly, deeply resonant for 2021. With the time we’ve all spent with screens this past 18 months, they’ve become connection, reflection, information, and performance all at once. We’ve collectively lived through so many related changes folding in on themselves that feeling “disguised but still intact” as the screen goes black could equally well apply to surviving the pandemic, ending a relationship, recreating oneself, or staggering to the close of a Zoom meeting.

I’m on about my hundredth listening to the shifts of instrumental mood from verse to verse to chorus, as each one sits the listener in a distinct moment of reflection or justification. Or I could just be obsessed with the bridge. Get it on Bandcamp, and you, too, can obsess about the bridge and about whether “disguised but still intact” fits your experience of this brave new world.

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