They used Wwise, an audio engine primarily intended for managing interactive sounds in games, to turn raw loops, sounds, and melodies into the “systems” which generate music. Those systems are summoned in turn by a master control program built in the games engine Unity, according to logic set by the band. The whole thing is packaged as an app running on a server “somewhere near Dublin”, which streams the results to the outside world.
What the outside world is intended to make of it is an open question. Wreckage Systems isn’t meant to be a digital simulacrum of the band 65daysofstatic, which still very much exists: they continue to tour and release records, including compiling the Wreckage Systems output into more conventional EPs. “I get to be in a band, and I get to put out records and play shows—that’s fantastic. But why is that all that bands are expected to do?” says Wolinski. For him, Wreckage Systems is partly an attempt to explore how musicians can make meaningful work at a time when automation promises an infinite supply of sounds, some of which will be accepted as music and others not.
Wolinski points to a distinction between “bad” and “true” infinity, inspired by the German philosopher Georg Hegel. “Bad” infinity is endless and tireless—it simply goes on forever. That’s a description that could be applied (though Wolinski doesn’t) to many bot-based music systems, particularly those which use machine learning to churn out never-ending pastiches of, say, death metal or Beethoven. Remarkable though that is, Wolinski contends that entirely automated music generation is empty of the meaning given to it by the composers and listeners; Wreckage Systems makes no use of it.
“True” infinity, on the other hand, is also endless—but presented in ways that humans can relate to. In Wreckage Systems sounds are selected and systems constructed to achieve the band members’ desired musical effects. But once they are up and running, it’s up to listeners to decide exactly what they are listening to, and how they listen to it—whether it’s for background music or active listening, whether they find favorite systems or patterns, or prefer to have it packaged up for them by the band. Their engagement is crucial to keeping the project going, since it’s funded entirely by Patreon subscribers.
More bands should be undertaking such experiments, says Wolinski, in the search for a viable 21st century alternative to the 20th century’s industrialized ways of making and distributing music. “Pop music’s only about 70 or 80 years old,” says Wolinski. “It shouldn’t just have to be albums and songs forever. Why aren’t people doing more interesting things by now? The songs themselves, the vibrating speakers, that’s such a small part of the experience of music. All of the interesting meaning comes from social relations and interactions: that’s where music exists. It doesn’t have to be trapped in these boring little templates.”
Wolinski hopes 65daysofstatic will themselves experiment with more new templates under the 65Labs banner. As for Wreckage Systems: is it really going to run forever, be allowed to fade away, or go out in some sort of grand finale? “I have absolutely no idea,” laughs Wolinski. “There’s plenty of material to feed into the stream. It would be great to just keep it going, but living with it for the rest of our lives might be a bit much.” Only time will tell if this band really is unstoppable.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2022 issue of WIRED UK magazine.