1. imagining entering (but will leave you to it)
2. the structures that are set in place
3. braiding and unbraiding repeatedly day after day
Caroline Park's newest album concerns itself with the "tensions that persist: physical frictions, muscles trying, and the body that continues to labor to survive." It's about the act of living, understanding that the many terrors of the everyday demand much of our time and energy. That we continue to press forward: a reminder of the systems that imprison us to such a life, a sign of our continued persistence, and the inevitable rendering of such terrors as quotidian.
The title Live Your Best Factory Life reads as witty sarcasm, but also as a command from an overseeing administrator. It's a self-deprecating acknowledgement of one's day-to-day struggles, and the former reading only exists because the latter is an all too familiar mantra that defines many people's lives. As such, listening to the record forces one to reflect on the automaton-like nature of their own. The back cover contains a poem that reflects on how such paralytic living can also feel transient. This isn’t a result of hopeful longing, but because of a refusal to believe such manner of living could be a "finite point of belonging" (in that it feels both infinite and is a dispiriting reality with which one could define their life). The poem's final line sums up the morbid state of affairs: "To imagine thriving, I must live my best factory life."
The album begins with a twenty minute track featuring two distinct parts. Its first six minutes contain a collage of hissing and popping that's akin to the sound of frying eggs. They resemble sparks, providing a miniature celebration for those getting up to see another day. As the song progresses, the crackling increases in intensity, and one feels the physicality of this speckled noise. It’s soon subsumed into a low rumbling ambience. This passage is far more muted, indicating the comparatively tepid routine that awaits. It’s in hearing this prolonged musical passage that one experiences the gradual decay of any initial happiness (or even more broadly, stimulation). It gets swallowed up in a monotonous haze, perceived as nothing but a distant memory by the track’s end.
“the structures that are set in place” is far more raucous but equally as trance-inducing. Buried underneath its metallic rattling is a lower pitched tone that grants the piece a meditative aura. In allowing listeners to find solace in the song's sharpened noise, Park depicts the eventual acceptance that people have of their own weary jobs. She frequently raises the volume to painful heights, and this oscillation makes "structures" feel hypnotizing and cyclical. In essence, she portrays a gradual but violent degradation of self that is nonetheless embraced.
After experiencing the album's first two tracks, it's fitting that its finale is meant to be a "call for some amount of hope." Throughout its 26 minutes, "braiding and unbraiding repeatedly day after day" presents a soothing drone that suggests blaring desert heat. Compared to the rest of the album, this track is far more accessible, as if conveying a certain freedom that's been found despite a complete assimilation to the "factory life." The repetitious imagery presented in the title doesn't manifest itself in an explicitly negative manner either. Instead, one only envisions an endless expanse of sand: there's no end in sight, but it's certainly beautiful. To survive the never-ending work cycle, one needs some sort of hope, but Park ponders whether it's "real or delusional." Even more, does it matter if such hope is a mirage? For most of the track, it doesn't seem so. But during its final two minutes, one hears the comforting ambience dissipate, and feels the weight of the silence thereafter.