Democracy Dies in Darkness


In Escape-ism, Ian Svenonius knows the future of rock-and-roll

September 5, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Ian Svenonius of Escape-ism. (Photo by Alexandra Cabral )

Spend enough time on the D.C. punk scene and you’ll eventually amass your own private library of quotables from Ian Svenonius, a rock-and-roll visionary whose everyday chitchat blends winking comedy with heavy prophecy. Way back in the year two-thousand-something-something, when everyone began huddling around an early social media platform called Friendster, Svenonius told me he had chosen to abstain for reasons I’ll never forget: “It’s just a way for the government to track the radicals.”

It made for a killing party joke that night — but in 2013, when news broke about the existence of PRISM, the NSA’s digital-surveillance program, it basically turned out to be true. Now, with Svenonius releasing “The Lost Record,” his second disc of solo-sneers under the name Escape-ism, I wondered whether he felt like his new music still radiated an aura of futurity.

“Yeah, for sure,” Svenonius says. “I mean, the whole concept is that a lost record was misplaced, and nobody appreciated it until a connoisseur in another era came along. A lost record was not made for the sensibilities of its milieu, but for a future sensibility. So there’s a prophetic idea to it, and every rock-and-roll group deals with that. ‘What we’re doing is not made for this context, we’re making something for the future’ . . . But ‘The Lost Record’ says, ‘Let’s cut to the chase, let’s circumvent that whole period that the record is lost in the desert.’ ”

And that’s not all that “The Lost Record” has to say.

“It’s the first record that’s made from the perspective of the record, I think,” Svenonius says. “You put on ‘The Lost Record’ and it says, ‘Hi, I’m the Lost Record.’ So it’s actually talking to you. Maybe your shoes, or your jewelry, and obviously, the car is going to do that very soon.”

Now would be a fine time to ask Siri or Alexa what the word “hylozoism” means, but you should obviously look it up in a dictionary instead.

Show: Opening for Shopping and No Age on Saturday at 10 p.m. at Comet Ping Pong. $15.

Chris Richards has been The Washington Post's pop music critic since 2009. Before joining The Post, he freelanced for various music publications.

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