We’ve written about Digits a fair bit over the years, and we’re about to do so again. His glacial-RnB — and occasionally synth-pop bothering — feels like it’s tape traded, awkward bedroom pop, if the internet had done it. Which we like the idea of.
He’s now embarked on a quixotic (or Stevens-esque?) project: releasing fragments of a story across multiple blogs each time with an accompanying song. Or multiple songs with an accompanying story. Whichever way you want to look at it. So…
Prologue: In the City of the Dead
In the not too distant future…
J, a journalist, watches as fascism begins to creep over the city, but can’t do anything to stop it. Anger and rage are encouraged by politicians seeking to solidify their power, and police turn a blind eye to gang activity. The streets are no longer safe as the gangs become increasingly armed and emboldened. But then one gang’s plan to upset the balance of power goes terribly awry, and brings about a zombie outbreak. There are mass casualties, including J’s wife, and society breaks down.
The city is quarantined from the rest of the world, not nuked, but to be contained and forgotten. The gangs become the power, rule the City of the Dead, and extort anything they want from the helpless. Innocents continually suffer at the hands of zombies and gangs. J is forced to fall back on his previous life as a synthpop musician, and convinces the largest of the gangs to protect him in exchange for John Carpenter soundtracks of their nefarious activities. He becomes a witness and chronicler of the City of the Dead, and a cynical survivor who kills when forced to.
But he remains torn by guilt, that he should have been a greater man, that somehow he could have prevented all this. That maybe he can still turn it around. How will it all end? What kind of life will he manage to find for himself IN THE CITY OF THE DEAD???
City of the Dead is, as the story suggests, a John Carpenter wish fulfilment fantasy (one we indulge in, a lot). Simple synth melodies and a subdued drum machine creating neon lines, tracing the grids of dangerous streets under midnight skies. You know where you are. There also, of course, the quite delicious idea of Alt’s gentle croon being directed at the supremo of some vicious street gang to keep things on edge.
As fun as ‘knowing’ the fantastical context of the production is, what makes this whole thing interesting is the line it runs between Carpenter and the subtly harder beat halfway through. It’s tempting to see the booming European clubs searing their brand into Digits psyche, pulling the whole thing away from homage. A dangerous game when you need some protection.