Last modified 12.09.02020

Dylan Seeger returns, and a toast to the unexpected

After another fascinating, often beautiful independent album fell into my lap, I got to thinking about the passivity of music discovery. Most of us - me included - could stand to be more adventurous

By Frederick O'Brien

Album artwork of 'Metropolitan Hospital Center' by Dylan Seeger

Two and a half years ago an American musician called Dylan Seeger contacted us about an album of his called Claye. Presumably mistaking us for a respectable publication, he asked if we’d listen to it. I did, and I liked it. We exchanged emails, and those emails eventually took the form of an interview.

The whole business was quite unexpected, and quite lovely. Seeger recently released a new album, Metropolitan Hospital Center, and listening to its ornate, ruminative arrangements and lyricism got me thinking about the possibilities of the internet, and how rarely I take advantage of them.

Take a cursory look at people’s professed fantasies and you’d think everyone was simply born in the wrong place at the wrong time. If only we were alive in the Age of Discovery we’d all have taken to the sea to fill in the blank spaces on the map.

Take a cursory look at people’s online habits and you’d know the above is bullshit. I include myself in this assessment. Homebodies to the last, we visit the same handful of websites and trust them to aggregate everything we could possibly want to see and hear and know.

Given the astonishing size of the web it’s remarkable how little we explore it. Really explore it. Listening to Metropolitan Hospital Center, I am reminded of the thrill of the unexpected. Music like this doesn’t often find its way to Spotify playlists. A near delirious strain of baroque pop, I happen to find it quite beautiful. It’s off the beaten track, true to itself and all the more alive because of it.

I am familiar with Seeger’s work because of his enterprising nature, not my own. His albums are tropical birds that landed on my windowsill. In the five years we’ve run this website I’ve sought out a grand total of one artist entirely on my own — that is to say, not through a friend, through an algorithm, or through the artist contacting the website. That’s a meagre return by any standard.

The return is doubly depressing because that one artist I did stumble across on my own, Paul Marchesani, was himself fascinating and immensely talented. Under the moniker Forest Kids Collective he’s building a shared musical universe one album at a time. How wild is that? Such brushes with the unknown have been among my favourite experiences on this website, and yet I slip back into passivity — receiving music rather than finding it.

Anyone who reads my reviews here knows I’m resolutely joyless about a lot of what we listen to. I listen to Seeger’s new album and I am grateful for the gift of the internet, of the platform it provides to artists, and of the opportunity for connection it provides all of us. I am also reminded that if I want to be enthralled by music I should go find it, not wait for it to fall in my lap.

Now more than ever I wonder if we are too passive about the music we consume, too trusting of labels and the mainstream press to tell us who’s worth listening to. Where’s the adventure in that when there are weird and wonderful treasures like Metropolitan Hospital Center to be found out in the wild?

I think, really, that I am writing this for myself more than anyone else. There are a lot of happy accidents to be had online, art to see, voices to hear, knowledge to accrue. Rarely will they come to me. I need to make a habit of exploration, of taking the chance to listen to things without being told to first. Maybe I will.

If it helps fills in blank spaces on the map for anyone else, all the better.