Review: Airport - "Emily"

Airport - Emily
(2016 Memory No. 36 Recordings)

In the year 20XX, cinemas have been all but abandoned - new blockbuster films are made immediately available via Google's new subscription-based streaming platform for VR headset. Advanced soundproofing technology and 360° panoramic cameras now allow for a completely immersive theatrical experience. From the comfort of one's own home to the backseat of a minivan, those fortunate enough to own an Airport™ VR system can experience the thrill of total isolation - you slide the matte grey goggles over your brow, sending your viewing frustum into a state of total eclipse and force the silicone, anthill buds into their respective ear canals. You become increasingly aware of your breathing and heartbeat, your senses dulled. It's your thirteenth birthday and your first time strapping the thing on since carefully removing its twist ties and lifting it from its white plastic casing. 

Your index digit wanders your temple in search of a power button, eventually finding an indent on the Airport's™ surprisingly warm surface. Its innards begin to purr, sending friendly shivers through your whole body - the same finger edges toward the volume control to prevent an accidental jump scare. Luckily, the system eases into its main menu gradually, fading into a Nintendo-esque lobby housing grey, rounded cubes, stacked in rows and columns, bearing vague, geometric symbols. Dissonant sitar drones seem to pass by like extraterrestrial debris entering an orbit about your head. Using the control pad implanted on the headset's top left shoulder, you respond to a series of popups' interrogation: email, passcode, the usual. As your head turns, the questions' respective windows move with your field of vision, the sterile waiting room behind it slightly blurred.

Questions answered, you navigate through the Airport's™ digital streaming library until you reach Emily - you highlight the selection with your cursor, click and watch the film's thumbnail, a woman holding a wineglass behind a curtain of sunrise, slowly disintegrate in its state of digital solvency. For a few short seconds, all is black, as empty and warm as the center of a candle's flame. As soon as your eyes' rods and cones can adjust to the darkness, a slightly pungent peal of choral synth ushers in a brilliant burst of light, blasted through a cloudless atmosphere, ricocheting off the chrome construction of an imagined future - (the future of Jetsons utopias, of young adult fiction dystopias, of first person shooters: bustling, clean and sinister). Goliath robots stomp through city streets, hovering vehicles pass overhead, all is in a constant state of flux. Steel clashes against steel, unseen aircraft take off in the distance - Emily is the Futurist vision of Luigi Russolo set to the urgent, orchestral grandiosity of a Michael Bay trailer.


There's something about stepping into a simulation that makes it a childhood experience more exhilarating than any other - we feel small, but in control of our domain in Disney World; we can spend hours tweaking created characters in a video game; we tremble in awe while skirting past the shark tank at the aquarium. Airport's sophomore project, Emily, is the spirit of the simulation captured in pill form, forced down the throat of the the listener. Anthemic undulations of Spielbergian synthesizer are malleable jelly, molded by their surrounding tempest of stock sound effects - screeches, blasts and industrial din. The keening cries of keyboard are those of our consciousness exposed to this peephole glimpse of a reality just beyond it. Channeling emotive force I can't quite comprehend, Emily feels like a trailer for a coming apocalypse, a singularity of militarized beauty. This is music to charge into battle to, to reunite parent and child to, to detonate the enemy spacecraft to, to eat popcorn and don 3D glasses to...