We live in treacherous times, sheltering in place across the world to slow the spread of a global pandemic. As we yearn for love in times of COVID-19, we contemplate the precipice of this era: do we stand on the verge of a new Dark Age or a new Renaissance? As arbitrary as these categories are, and as indistinguishable as they ultimately were for the average worker, the answer lies in us. Ambient guitarist Jeff Barsky, under the stage name Insect Factory, chooses compassion over cruelty.
Distancing is a short but immersive EP released just a few days ago to benefit the Manna Food Center, a charity that feeds thousands of hungry students. That our wealthy society even allows students to go hungry at all is barbaric; that we can come together to feed them amid worldwide catastrophe is the height of our humanity. Barsky weaves “Warm Clouds” into sonic existence through infinite looping echoes, using extended techniques on his guitar to coax alien electronic sounds through a pure interaction of the strings and volume knob—sometimes with the help of a handy e-bow.
Evoking imagery of rain, radio static, frost and fireflies, Insect Factory evokes eternity and vast landscapes out of a tiny home studio and an unassuming Telecaster guitar, drawing the mind’s eye out into a collective consciousness like a Jackson Pollock or Monet of sound. Like peering into the centre of a snowflake before gazing out into a vast blizzard, Barsky’s musical landscapes shrink the hearing self and expand the core of one’s spiritual being into the universe itself. It’s a purgatory that purifies, refocuses, and elevates the mind, at a time when the body politic may be crushed into dust under the weight of a microscopic killer. It’s what we need and what we deserve: a spiritual antiseptic.
Wash your goddamn hands.