Exactly the way you want to experience a lover. courtesy erik blood

Touch Screens is about pornography. And you know pornography when you see it—fucking is the image's entire meaning. We live in an age that has relocated such images from magazine racks and movie theaters to laptop screens and screens that are sensitive to our very touch. At this point, I have no choice but to recall something philosopher Graham Harman stated in a lecture I downloaded from the web: "Everything is an image until contact is made." Meaning, the lips of a person you want to kiss are only an image until the moment you have made contact. At that final moment, everything changes: The image becomes real; it has texture and a taste. Before contact, the image in reality has the same status as the image on a computer screen.

But neuroscience has shown that images, be they real or not, are always very real to us. Watching, according to those who study mirror neurons in our brains, is also doing. Watching someone fuck is also fucking someone. Touch Screens, however, never looks at porn directly. Its main concern is the moods and passions generated by the pornographic image.

I have listened to Touch Screens a hundred times. I know the record inside and out. I love it when an album seduces me so completely. The utter weakness of my lines of defense against the force of Touch Screens' 12 tightly packed tracks is a source of continuous pleasure for me. Something that approximates Barthian jouissance is felt when one surrenders to the erotic sounds and the vaporous mind of Touch Screens' maker, Erik Blood. Blood is a local musician/producer/sound engineer who has released two solo albums (one of which is a soundtrack for the Brazilian film Center of Gravity) and worked with Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, and the Moondoggies.

Before going further into this marvelous album, I have to bring up this scene in the movie Gattaca. Jude Law (a disabled man who is illegally loaning his good genes to Ethan Hawke, a man with bad genes): "What's Titan like this time of year?" Ethan Hawke: "What's Titan like? Titan is exactly like this... [He blows cigarette smoke into a wine glass, and the smoke erotically folds and unfolds above the wine at the bottom of the glass]. All the time, it's got a cloud around that's so thick, no one can tell what's underneath." With Touch Screens, we do know what's underneath: cocksucking, fucking, fingering, tonguing, thrusting, humping. But all we see (or hear) is the thick swirling, moist cloud above these graphic images.

The album's loud, boisterous, even aggressive opening track "Phenominal Pornography" has a singer who never comes out in the open. We know what he is going on about (images of people copulating), but the words we clearly catch are more suggestive than specific: penetration, stimulation, exploitation, frustration—the rest is a beautiful blur. The second track, "The Lonesome Death of Henry Paris," has a disco beat (in short, a fucking beat), a lusty base ("lush pornography"), and a singer who sounds like he has visited all the red-light districts of the great European cities. The third track, "Constance and Casey," alternates between being loud and orgasmic (thundering drums, raging guitars), and as calm and lyrical as the pretty tunes by Chicago's the Sea and Cake. There is nothing in "Constance and Casey" that's obviously sexual, but the sudden transition between the orgasmic and the beautiful is exactly the way you want to experience a lover: pretty when they are speaking to you, explosive when they are fucking you. "Amputee," the fourth track, has two parts: One expresses the kind of hurt or even panic you find in the early Public Image Limited records; the second part is a chill mix of punk rawness and mainstream funky foxiness. The first part is a man who needs to get laid; the second part is a man who is getting laid.

After the album's ambient middle, "(LaBruce)," we enter the pure pop/sex machine of "Share Your Love," and then "Lethur," which in my opinion is the album's highest achievement—a wonderfully bright ball of Brit-pop, late '60s funk, and erotic hiphop. If you listen to "Lethur" enough times, you begin to see the core of Blood's musical genius: Despite all of the distortions, the occasional slides in and out of spells of chaos and electronic noise, the tune is carefully, even lovingly, crafted. Indeed, you will not find one detail on this album that sounds accidental or carelessly placed—and yet Touch Screens doesn't sound forced or stiff or formal. Near the end of the album's descension from the clouds of porn, we enter "Today's Lover," a beat-heavy blend of punk, mid to late '70s Moroder, and a dash of dubstep.

Though the name of Blood's album references the way we access these images in our times—secretly from the internet—the mood this record captures is that of the older and more social practice of buying porn magazines in overlit convenience stores or watching porn in seedy theaters. Porn in our day is a lonely affair. Touch Screens does not express feelings of loneliness or privacy or secrecy. What it instead wants us to feel and enjoy is our collective addiction to dirty pictures. recommended