Combining the tightly coiled energy of Interpol with the muscular shoe gaze of Swervedriver, IDLER WHEEL’s “Matches” ignites a blast of propulsive, melodic post-punk that races towards a rapturous finish. Toay, we have teamed up with Michael, the brain behind the project, to give you his special, eclectic list of his top science-fiction movies worth looking into!
Teased by the first single “Matches”, tackling the struggle to resist giving into a doomed relationship, and instead deciding to plunge in and embrace a kind of ecstatic, fleeting chaos, Idler Wheel’s new LP RUN STRAIGHT DOWN releases today on Candlepin Records!
The album title comes from William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel Count Zero – detailing a chase that’s thrilling, disorienting, and hopelessly against the odds. It feels like the world these days, feels like the music here: raw, neon, future-inflected, rhythmic, ascendant.
Michael’s inspiration for his top 10 sci-fi movies rundown is well aligned with the inspiration for the album., a novel by William Gibson. To dive deep into his science0fiction related influences, Michael sat down with us and highlighted some under the radar movies, how they informed the music and the style, and how these movies comment on contemporary issues that informed the music and its lyrics.
Fusing first wave post punk and shoegaze with a gothic, neon-tinged style, the songs on this LP deal with many themes recurrent in science fiction : memory, imagined realities, the loss of human connection, and escape. To serve as a roadmap of sorts for the album and its textures, as well as highlighting some under-seen classics of the genre, Idler Wheel gives you with ten sci-fi movies that inspired RUN STRAIGHT DOWN.
“My new album RUN STRAIGHT DOWN takes its title from William Gibson’s Count Zero, the second novel in his seminal cyberpunk “sprawl” trilogy.” – comments Michael Boylan.
World on a wire
Shot on 16mm by legendary Fassbinder, this paranoid cyber-noir tackled the concept of simulated reality long before it became a cliche in science fiction. The chic 70’s aesthetics married to the high concept plot is a stylistic counterpoint that I found useful in thinking through the sounds and textures on the album. The notion of escaping into imagined realities figures heavily in tracks like “Mind”, where I conjure potential futures for a sibling I lost when I was a child.
Under the skin
Jonathan Glazer has only made 3 features (as well as a long list of classic music videos) but each of them has arrived as a singular statement and vision. Most mainstream sci-fi makes the mistake of treating aliens as essentially malevolent humans. That is, not truly alien at all. Under the Skin renders ScarJo’s character truly inscrutable and outside of conventional understanding. Combined with an all timer score by Micah Levi, Glazer’s work acts as a constant reminder for me to lean into the elements of your vision that are unique to you – not compromising often creates its own magnetic force.
A fantastic, emotionally raw investigation of how and why the bonds of human connection get formed, UC is also an example of one artist taking the reins across almost all aspects of the creative process – acting, cinematography, editing, score. Collaboration is life, bands can make magic – but when you’re creating solo, you need reminders of how powerful a work of art can be when its issuing almost entirely from one mind. You’ll also note the horn blasts from the score in this trailer – “Promise of the Knife” opens with an homage of sorts to this fantastic sound design – simple, dramatic, signaling a storm to come.
This updated trailer doesn’t lie – if you love Alien, Solaris, or 2001, you owe it to yourself to screen Ikarie post-haste. Formally brilliant and deliriously innovative even today, it blew open the concept of dramatic possibility for movies in outer space. I search for new music and new sounds voraciously to help inform my own work. But I also love the experience of listening for the first time to something from 30 years ago that feels like it came out yesterday. Ikarie sometimes feels like the cinematic equivalent. That new thing you’re searching for might be buried somewhere deep in the past.
Most of the songs on this record deal with the concept of memory in some way – how we process it, how true it is, how it shapes us. Chris Marker’s brilliant film constructs a narrative of time travel, apocalypse, and grief entirely through the use of still images. It remains a landmark achievement both in science fiction and cinema, a reminder that a work of art is a two-way conversation, and you should trust your audience to make big leaps with you.
The song “Open Door” from Run Straight Down deals with the inherent unknowability of another person. No matter how deep you go, there will always be more mysteries the next level down. Possessor takes this concept to its scariest, most violent conclusion. While owing a great debt to his legendary father’s themes and style, Brandon Cronenberg charts his own path into the intersection of body horror and cyberpunk, crafting an exceptionally unsettling and propulsive thriller.
This album was recorded quickly, with very few overdubs or re-takes, in an attempt to capture the immediacy and rawness of these songs that I felt while making them. As such the project is more than a bit rough around the edges in a way that I like, and I was inspired toward this approach by another of Claire Denis’ remarkable late career turns, High Life. The film pushes deeper into the inescapable fact that no matter how far we go, we are all still human. Messy, chaotic, driven by primal urges, and dangerous. Led by fantastic turns from Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche, High Life serves as a reminder that messiness, unruliness is what makes art feel truly alive.
The older I get, the more I feel the real struggle in life is the one to create a sense of meaning. Holed up in my basement late night after late night, ultimately the only reason to do it is because I derive an incredible sense of purpose, excitement, and meaning from the process. That it’s never too late, that the whole of your story is not yet written. Another Earth is that idea conjured into reality. Made on a shoe string budget yet vastly ambitious, the film imagines a near duplicate of our own planet, with all the possibilities that entails – forgiveness, starting a new life, making different choices.
“Divide” off the new album deals with fighting your way through feelings of alienation and loneliness in the modern, internet-driven era. The song owes a heavy debt to early Interpol, who captured a similar anxious tone so brilliantly on their debut. Bacurau pushes these themes to their frighteningly plausible endgames, but more importantly does so in a way that forced me to think outside my narrow conception of the world and my privilege, by showing a world where the wealthy deploy modern technology to hunt humans for sport in a third world country. An important reminder that ultimately the divides we encounter are not mere happenstance – they are most often a tool of the wealthy and the ruling class, deployed to profit off of the less powerful.
Long before she became the first female to win an Oscar for best director, Kathryn Bigelow crafted this astonishing and heady sci-fi thriller about addiction, love, and technology that feels more prescient every day. An ambitious and breathless story about capitalism using technology to steal your humanity, only to sell it back to you in order to keep you in its thrall, Bigelow’s film never loses sight of the humanity and need for connection underlying modern life, and serves as an encapsulation of the themes at the core of RUN STRAIGHT DOWN. Punk, messy, ambitious, and human.