Physical Therapy makes a chill-out album for the doomscrolling generation.
That compilation ended with a dreamy track from his Car Culture project. In what might be another instance of Fisher having an uncanny knack for being early, the theme of the project could easily be applied to the phenomenon of "comfortable" lockdown. You know—the white-collar, creative-class workers who "endured" the pandemic period with six streaming services and an endless supply of Postmates. Ok, he didn't predict that exactly. "I made all of this electro-ambient stuff last year and I was like, 'Woah this doesn't make any sense for Physical Therapy,' and came up with the name Car Culture being like, 'It's about the end of the world, car culture suffocating the planet,' but still making happy electro-ambient stuff."
Fisher's music is, at the end of the day, functional. He's a DJ at heart, having made his first edits on a Traktor setup. As such, now was the perfect time to drop Dead Rock, a chill-out album for an easily distracted, meme-addicted generation.
When we think of ambient music, which Dead Culture isn't exactly, we think of Brian Eno philosophizing, endless Twitter wars and bespectacled types standing cross-armed in art galleries. But the humor and playfulness that defines Fisher's body of work is here in spades, from the Led Zeppelin-referencing artwork to the music. Especially the music. Instead of contemplative pads, Fisher starts the album with mellow alt-rock loops ("Featherweight") and Vince Guaraldi-esque piano ("Waterbaby feat. Great Skin"), augmented by ethereal drones. When he does craft more traditional ambient cuts, such as The Orb-style "Fitness feat. Maxime Robillard," there's usually an ingratiatingly goofy element. On that one, he seems to have sampled a weight loss self-help tape about mental and physical power, an echoing voice yelling "Fitness!" in the background. "Talk Story feat. Great Skin" starts with a Reichian piano counterpoint, then a cartoonish, wordless falsetto starts up, and in come the synths.
In the press release for Dead Rock, Fisher refers to Car Culture as his most hypnagogic alias, perhaps a nod to the early 2010s hypnagogic pop scene that included the dreamier, early solo material of Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro. But it might just refer to the word itself—the liminal space between sleep and wakefulness.
There's something slight and ephemeral about Dead Rock, perhaps due to its short running length (38 minutes) or Fisher's refreshing refusal to take himself too seriously. The other great ambient record to emerge from what I'll riskily refer to as the Brooklyn-Queens techno scene, Huerco S's For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have), had a similarly insouciant feel, created as an intermission within a restless discography and then going down in history as an all-timer. It's too early to predict whether the same could be said for Dead Rock, but one thing's for certain: Car Culture is music for the moment, a relaxing antidote to doomscrolling.