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File under: AbstractMeditative

James Hoff

Shadows Lifted from Invisible Hands (LP)

Label: Shelter Press

Format: LP

Genre: Sound Art

In stock


Tip! Shadows Lifted from Invisible Hands is an autobiographical record, comprised of four songs that James Hoff refers to as ambient media. Each track is composed from sources drawn from his own involuntary aural landscape, specifically musical earworms and tinnitus frequencies. Neither sound nor a daydream, the earworm (or stuck song) emblematizes music as a commercial form—immediate, ubiquitous, and persistent. Likewise, tinnitus is inaudible and unscrupulous, manifesting across a spectrum of frequencies at will. The cognitive swirling of these phenomena provides an ambivalent, internal soundtrack that scores a person’s movement through the world.

Those suffering from tinnitus or those who have grown accustomed to the “Tinnitus Effect” in movies will likely recognize the buzzing pitches on the record, but will likely not recognize the songs. Distorted and distilled, Shadows Lifted from Invisible Hands features altered versions of four commercial pop songs: Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Madonna’s “Into the Groove,” and Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”

Having been haunted by these songs on and off for years, Hoff tweaks the tracks, transposing and recomposing them for orchestral instrumentation. Speaking back to these involuntary echoes, these tracks go to great lengths to obfuscate their sources; to be sure not to simply re-introduce each earworm, as though they were samples. Otherwise, what’s the point? No one needs another stream. Besides, earworms are not music, although we perceive them as such. They are non-cochlear and exist as an affective force that is neither subjective nor objective, which is to say they are an invasive—and alien—phenomenon. Like tinnitus, they are aggravated by economic, social, and environmental forces as well as emotional states, mental health, and aging. Hoff doesn’t underplay his own struggles with mental health in discussing the record—noting a long history of depression and its acuteness over the last few years, which serve as the backdrop to the composition of this record.

Scratch any pop song hard enough and you’ll find sadness underneath it. Subdermal, the songs on this record evoke a type of ephemeral weariness and despair. By recasting the original songs through their shadowy doubles, Hoff provides a window into the dark core of pop music. At the center of which lies capitalism’s desperate attempt to replicate itself through a cheap high built on echoing refrains. Just below the surface the listener finds a hangover of shadows dancing through the mind.


File under: AbstractMeditative
Cat. number: Shelter 151
Year: 2024