Bret Easton Ellis careens full throttle down Mulholland Drive at dusk. The sun-bespectacled American author is behind the wheel of a black BMW E30 M3, his foot depressing the accelerator to the floorboard as he shifts up and back between second and third gears, the automobile snarling in sympathy and tightening around the road’s curvaceous contours.
Ellis reaches into the glovebox and produces a sleek glass canister three-quarters full of cocaine. Fingering the steering wheel, he skillfully removes the canister’s cap and measures out a small hill of the fine white powder onto a manicured thumbnail and raises it to his nostril and hastily inhales.
A complex combination of chemically induced endorphins rushes through his bloodstream and his pupils dilate as he adjusts the rear-view mirror, catching in it momentarily a glimpse of his own weathered visage, no worse for the wear, with a mind no less brilliant than ever before. Still got it, he says to himself, winking and discharging a gun-like finger at his reflection.
Ellis slams the steering wheel and emits a loud howl and shakes his head from side to side and sniffs again deeply, wiping the residual dust from his nasal passage with an index finger and rubbing it greedily upon his gums. A guilt-laden euphoria washes over Ellis, a flicker of nostalgia for the days when sniffing cocaine in a black BMW E30 M3 whilst careening down Mulholland might have seemed exciting and new. But time and routine have dulled the pleasures of transgression and Ellis now fumbles under the armrest for a particular CD case.
He locates it and opens it and removes the glistening silver disc housed therein and the disc disappears into the dashboard stereo system. Ellis cranks the volume knob clockwise, numerals scrolling faster than the stereo’s digital screen can display them, and the opening notes of Tim Hecker’s latest recording scorch the Santa Monica airwaves.
Forthwith the car and its captain are bathed in oceans of harmonic distortion and searing melodies that ache and yearn for some unattainable but nonetheless existent perfection, a lament to the heavens that the rapture is not materializing quickly enough, that this superficial plane lacks a more revelatory spiritual significance.
An expanse of twinkling lights stretches out in the distance and Ellis is struck as if for the first time by the inconsequence of his own existence and the magnitude and scale of creation, and of capitalism’s insatiability for its fruits and fields, a genocidal carnage once sweeping the American West where, right there, right then, his BMW’s wheels were busy skimming the asphalt.
Hecker’s score crescendos. The car shudders and its driver is teleported to a transcendent realm and Ellis’s soul fleetingly parts ways with his body and he is suddenly privy to an eagle-eye view of his vehicle as it twists and turns across the road that cuts a narrow swath westward from Cahuenga Pass in Hollywood to Sepulveda Pass and beyond. Soaring high above the valley, Ellis’s disembodied spirit cannot help but be overwhelmed by a sense of love and oneness with all that is gone and all that’s to come.
It is at this precise second that the car hits a bump and the compact disc skips off and out and Ellis’s soul descends like a balloon deflated and he snaps back, belted into the BMW’s driver’s seat. Had he attained nirvana just then while listening to Tim Hecker?
Ellis reaches for his iPhone which rests idly in the passenger seat and, finding it, he takes to Twitter to inform his followers eagerly of this near death, near life, experience. The tweet is immediately liked and retweeted hundreds of times and eventually, algorithmically, finds its way into the Canadian composer Tim Hecker’s feed where he reads it with a bemused self-satisfaction.
Hecker closes the web browser and toggles back to a screen with representations of waveforms and meters and faders and, sipping from a coffee mug, clicks a block of audio into place with a cursor.◼︎
No Highs is released 7 April 2023 via Kranky