Photography by Fana Feng
There's something singularly sublime about the goosebump. The way it prickles, nesting in the skin, all the while retaining a trace of the otherworldly. Byron Westbrook's latest piece, "What We Mean When We Say Body Language," off his upcoming Body Consonance LP for Hands in the Dark, not only elicits the goosebump but also plays with it, interrogating the uncanny connection it makes between the physical and the immaterial. Working to enhance and exploit the binaural qualities of stereo production—that is, the auditory illusion of a third tone produced when two slightly dissimilar tones pass through each ear—Westbrook fashions a horizon of dynamics, timbre, and feeling that shimmies and shimmers as the song swells across time. So close to each other, the binaural tones seem to skid against one another, against the ear, against the neurons. This dalliance, tense but generative, delivers a trace, a phantasmagoric residue that glows between two palpitating poles. And, though illusory, the binaural trace makes its mark on the body—as a fugitive cognition, an unthinkable body language that only exists in a fleeting excursion into the auditory cortex. Between the droning digeridoo and the brimming drum line, Westbrook cathects this sublime third dimension, one beyond the binarisms of anatomy and sound and fixable identity, into one that coagulates, consummates, consonates with the body. Good luck getting through it without a shiver.