Nothing lasts forever, especially not music. Strange, though, how steadily we’ve learned to embrace that decay. In decades past, record companies bragged shamelessly about their cutting-edge ambitions, with stereo sound paving the way to a radiant future. Now, artists eagerly scavenge those faded dreams, enthralled in the crumbling decadence for no other reason beyond boredom or invented nostalgia. From the cassette dreamlands of Ariel Pink and the sun-warped transmissions of Tobacco, to the haunted tapes of the Ghost Box label and the a e s t h e t i c of vaporwave, the moldy mirrored halls of the ’80s have been thoroughly exhumed.
Nevertheless, even in this overcrowded field of history, Orchid Mantis (aka Thomas Howard) still manages to stake out an intimate niche. Rather than recasting ridiculous day-glo color schemes, or fetishizing romances as disposable as soda cans, “Repeating Hallways” floats like a butterfly between weary synthpop and introspective, Durutti Column-like strumming. The black-and-white cartoon nicked for the video stresses the distinction — while Orchid Mantis may broadcast from a time capsule, those transmissions don’t romanticize the past at all. Indeed, all of the clip’s glaring flaws — the distorted scale between monster and man, the sloppy jump cuts, the inane repetition — only magnify under Howard’s own glitched collage. And that could be me reading too far into a random video, but his older works, soaked with memories of the very recent and experienced past, rather than an imagined one, convince me otherwise.