Songs for the End: ‘I Dedicate My Life’by Rosa Abbott | 12th April 2020
“People ask me
What I do with my time.
I dedicate my life.”
There is a conviction in Marie Davidson’s words that I find utterly compelling: “I dedicate my life.” It implies a renunciation of all other pursuits, pleasures and distractions, an almost pious asceticism, the fervour of which – equal parts passion and discipline – perhaps even borders on masochism. Just as the sub feels most free when bondaged into restraint, Marie Davidson points towards the sense of cathartic release that one can experience through wholehearted dedication to a creative pursuit.
In his review of Davidson’s album Adieu Au Dancefloor for Pitchfork, Kevin Lozano argues ‘I Dedicate My Life’ “conjures the beautifully unhinged spirit of Throbbing Gristle, with pointillist synths, relentless drums, and needles of heated noise that recall the profane and industrial heartbeat of ‘Hot on the Heels of Love’.” No wonder, I thought upon reading Lozano’s words, I had such an immediate reaction. ‘Hot on the Heels of Love’ could well be my favourite track of all time. Played at high volume through nightclub speakers (or even tinny Huawei headphones, to speak the truth), the effect of that song is physical, immediate and compulsive. Like many club-goers, I enjoy taking chemical substances to heighten the experience of electronic music. But with a track like this, that innate rushing reaction is so all-consuming that no enhancement is required.
Unlike Davidson, I do not dedicate my life to electronic music. Beats, sounds and synthesisers have the power to move me, to provide solace – even spiritual comfort. Though I have tried noodling around on Ableton before, I found clicking block-like arrangements into a digital interface counterintuitive. I’m convinced my brain lacks the patience and rationality required for such technical skill. And so my connection to electronic music remains purely intuitive, embodied. The acceleration of one’s heartbeat to 131 BPM. The rush of adrenaline induced by the incessant roll of an arpeggiator. Skin tingling to a lilting synthline.
Like Throbbing Gristle’s industrial whip-cracking before it, ‘I Dedicate My Life’ delivers a sharp punch to the solar plexus. Enunciated in Davidson’s Montreal twang, its starkly immediate lyrics provide a manifesto for creative pursuit: “When you work / When you drive in cars / When you are on the internet / I dedicate my life”. If I do not dedicate my life to electronic music, what do I dedicate it to? To not possess Davidson’s singular vision suddenly feels bereft. Her conviction is as infectious as her staccato beats; her creative drive as rapturous as the roll of her arpeggiated synth. Listening to this track on repeat stirs up a desire to commit oneself single-mindedly to something – anything. Work? Driving? The internet? By comparison, it all seems so banal.
Do I have the dedication of Davidson? Rarely. The distractions of dish-washing, WhatsApping, paying one’s rent can all stub out the fag butt of creative aspiration. Faced with the unending, amorphous days of life in lockdown though, and forced into a state of critical self-reflection, I find myself lured again and again by her unwavering conviction, her single-minded pursuit of self-expression through sound. And after five minutes and 49 seconds of lush synthetic escalation, to dedicate one’s life seems not only possible, but positively appealing.