Immersion is Wire’s Colin Newman and his wife Malka Spigel (from Minimal Compact). Sleepless is their fourth album, after Oscillating (1994), Low Impact (2000), and Analogue Creatures Living on an Island (2016). Making use of analogue synths and some guitar under the spiritual guidance of kosmische titans Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh, as well as 90s post-rock like Tortoise and Seefeel, the duo evokes the hallucinogenic aspects of insomnia on their most focused and satisfying album so far. Matt Schulz of Holy Fuck contributes some percussion, as well as Hexenschuss. It’s done some interesting things to Mr. Flagglenack’s brain, inspiring this hypnagogic story… | Buy
It had been raining. A lot. Summer thunderstorms. It was clearing off now. Water continued to drip off buildings in the city. You could still smell it through the heat of metal and concrete. Vapors rising from the pavement and machines gives the futuristic city an eerie but comforting haze.
Omric had barely noticed it. He had been busy. Thoughts were holding his brain captive again. It was never easy being the lead designer and conceptualizer for Io toys, but his fascination would never let him do anything else. Some of his creations had made many people very happy. He relished the idea of that. Needed it. More than anything else, the pursuit of the joy from bringing others joy consumed him.
On this day, his emotions seem to mirror that of the climate outside his tall building. Big, booming ideas echoed through his head, while the rain of constant logistic complications were making it difficult to make his latest vision a reality. But the rain outside had ceased hours ago now. He missed that part. The storm had passed, and the Sun was giving up on this day.
Oh, and it was Friday. The majority of the staff was already gone, enjoying time with family and friends or preparing for weekend plans. Omric felt like someone had invited him to something, but could not recall what it was. No matter, though. His passion required no distractions at this moment, but it was time to unplug from the corporate machine for a bit. Time to go off the grid, as it were, and pursue his vision in the freedom of his personal dominion.
Omric always enjoyed riding the train. Things that moved without a visible force intrigued him. He had a hand in developing the toy trains produced by Io, and always enjoyed ideas of expanding the miniture worlds that Io could manufacture. Night had overtaken the world now as Omric sat in his train car and watched people come and go, often imagining what their destinations were. People were curious things, and constantly moving. This was the center of his latest passion. The miniture worlds that Io had imagined were vast and imaginative. Children and adults would spend hours building Io kits and imagining their own worlds. As great as they were, however, their was something missing. Even if the toy trains and other various machines had motion, they still felt somewhat static. Never changing dioramas that lacked a life force. Yes, they had little people, but even if they had motion, it was merely repetitive. This is what currently consumed him. How can we make miniature people that can actually interect with their enviromnent? He almost missed his stop while being lost in his thoughts, but he departed from the train, exited the tunnel and made his way to his spacious apartment, a veritable museum of what his company had produced, and, furthermore, what it was capable of. He was home, where he could get lost in pure imagination.
Many dioramas greeted him coldly as he oversaw his miniature kingdom. Lands of mythical fantasy converged with elaborate cityscapes, past, present, and future, as various product lines meshed together. Robots and monsters struggled for dominance over here. Wizards and fairies were at war in a land of dragons over there. A seemingly busy airport was buzzing with predetermined and repetitive activity. A farm was going through the motions of producing food that no one would ever eat. And so on. After muddling through a meal, Omric set off for his “lab”, where he could experiment with his latest concept, the Micro Sapien. Previous attempts had all led to frustration, as propulsion had always been the problem, along with a useable form of artificial intelligence that could operate on a level this small. For something so tiny, the power needed for his vision was larger than anticipated. This was the 19th iteration of the Micro Sapien concept, and he was closer than ever to making his dream real.
Computers whirred to life as simulations were set in motion. Body parts of tiny androids were categorized in different levels of development. Circuitry on the tiniest scale was neatly organized and waiting to perform it’s purpose. Magic happens here. It was the place he loved the most. Here, he was Dr. Frankenstein, creator of the life force that would bring endless possibilities to his tiny empire. And tonight he had an idea, one that would keep him awake for a long time. There would be no sleep this night.
Concentration and focus were needed to unravel this mystery. Lines and lines of computer code danced before his eyes. Fusions of various tiny energy sources hummed, buzzed and whirled as miniscule gears and hydraulics manipulated tiny body parts as even smaller computer brains attempted to contemplate where they were and what they were going to do about it. It seemed as though it was working. Eventually, two Micro Sapiens seem to be having a conversation, or at least be examining each other in the wonder one might encouter of beholding yourself in front of you.
At which point, they merely collapsed, energy depleted. The AI seemed correct, but agian propulsion was the problem. More head scratching for the obsessed Omric.
Saturday afternoon. Still sleepless, but lacking no energy of his own, Omric pressed on. Absolute effeciency was required for his Micro Sapiens. After many frustrating hours, indeed, months at this point, a revelation came crashing into his brain. As to what that actually was, I have no idea. He probably wouldn’t share it anyway, with patents, inventor’s glory, and a fortune at stake. Regardless, whatever the idea was, it was brilliant, as now a Micro Sapien had been moving around now for hours. Moving through landscape of Omric’s empire like a tourist, it discovered all manner of things. It took in the wonder of skycsrapers that towered above it. The mythical musings of a fantasy land were just as real as eveything else. The micro brain could make some sense out of all of it. Attempts were made to made to interact with static humanoid figures to no avail. It finally stopped doing this. It realised that it could conserve energy by riding on the train provided for it. It was learning it’s world, but energy was depleting.
Whatever this new energy source was, Omric had also developed ways for his world to produce it. His miniture farm was now able to harvest this force, and consumption was built into the Micro Sapiens core. Other tiny humanoids eventually worked the farm. They spent time interacting with one another and manipulated their environment to their programed needs, pausing to “refuel” when necessary. It was working. Dr. Frankenstein had done it. Elation and euphria are words too small for what Omric was feeling.
No time to stop now. Self expression could now be explored. Omric devoloped “artistic” Micro Sapiens that could explore “moods”. One of the places in Omric’s giant micro city was a nightclub, The Hovertron, where “people” were dancing, albeit in the repetitive way everything else worked. No longer. Now strangley dressed Micro Sapiens inhabited the venue, moving to and fro, entranced by rhythms produced by the artistic Micro Sapiens. Computer generated music flowed from tiny speakers as self expression from Omric’s lifeforms started to take shape.
There was a knock at the door.
The Humming Sea
It was Monday morning. No, midday. Omric had worked through the weekend and not reported for work. Nor had he responed, or was even aware of, the multitude of messages sent to him concering his whereabouts or condition. Visitation to his residence was required. In opening the door to his micro kingdom, his visitors became the first to witness the humming sea of activity that Omric had produced. Things were happening all over now as tiny androids tried to work out all the various things in their universe. Omric had fulfilled his dream. Now others could share his fascination.
Well, perhaps not all of the androids were content. Emulating human experience inevitably leads to some bumpy patches. Some become over zealous. Others begin to lack the will to actually do anything except consume delicious energy from the farm. All sorts of “emotions” are explored by the Micro Sapiens. A success in the eyes of Omric, but a corporate liability to the likes of a major toy manufacturer like Io. Tweaks will have to be made.
Seeing is Believing
Tweaks are indeed made. Technology is introduced for a human to actually connect with a Micro Sapien, enabling a human to see through the eyes of these little androids. “Thought Waves” can be transferred to instruct or guide these Micro Sapiens through their world. The little androids can become avatars of sorts to perform at the whim of their creators. When not connected to a human, the Micro Sapiens can still do as they wish, but their programming alters with human pairing. Omric and his associates at Io have apparently succeeded in making themselves into gods over their new creation.
Some Micro Sapiens are not entirely okay with this development. This could cause problems.
This is the story of how Io became the most successful toy company in history. In fact, they became the most successful anything in the corporate world on planet Earth. With technologies produced by Io, clean, renewable energy was finally a reality. Avatars became much more than entertainment, eventually allowing humans to explore and colonize the outer reaches of space.
The “New” Sapiens eventually became larger and became an integral part of human existance, willingly serving the gods that made their existence possible. The much feared machine uprising and takeover by the Sapiens never happened, due to the “Hand That Feeds” protocol. This was put into place when some of the Micro Sapiens attempted a revolt, which was easily squashed by their human gods. The New Sapiens were never able to figure out how to overide the new protocal. They were never made that clever.
Man and machine could now live as one, a machine race coexisting with their gods in complete harmony. All thanks to a toy company and an inventor with a sleepless weekend.
– Hermi Flagglenack