How many formats do you own? I know many of you own 8-track tapes, cassettes, CDs, different types of vinyl, DVDs, Blu-rays, and hybrids of said discs. But do you own any music that comes self-contained in its own electronic box? The Seagram Synth Ensemble’s new single “Ephem” only comes in this format, but it’s not that simple. “Ephem” is more than a piece of music. It’s a statement, an experiment, and an interactive art piece.
First let’s discuss the actual song “Ephem”. Much like the group’s 2019 album No Moving Air, this track has an atmospheric though melodic quality. A light beat backs up a couple of recurring and very enjoyable keyboard melody lines. A sound like a flock of seagulls soaring overhead comes into play. Things then get upbeat, and a nice fat bass synth sinks the hooks in. The track builds with more fun melodic accompaniment, and then strips it all back to something like it was in the beginning. It’s a great standalone song.
Learn more here in this extensive interview with Seagram Synth Ensemble
Here’s the catch. You can plug in a battery and a pair of headphones, power up, and hit play to enjoy “Ephem”. But you better pay attention because each time you play the song, it changes. Like an old cassette tape, each play degrades the sound ever so slightly, almost like the wear and tear that comes with physical media. Each time you press play, the track becomes slightly more distorted, thin, brittle. Eventually it will deteriorate and become unplayable. The point is to listen with intent, pay attention, and absorb the music. Now, there is a reset function, which is awful nice of the guys, but they discourage using it. At least that way you won’t be throwing your money away when it’s toast. Don’t forget the whole point of it though. To listen; to pay attention, because it will never sound exactly the same twice. Every single time you play “Ephem” will be a unique experience. Even the artwork on the box reflects this.
“Ephem” cost just $20 but is now sold out. (A reissue is possible but not certain.) Don’t expect these to turn up on the second hand market quickly. And if it does, pray that it comes with the instructions so you can hear “Ephem” like it was brand new.