Discovery Zone | Exploring Time With New Album 'Quantum Web"

Featuring New Single, "All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go"

Written by

Mariam Bagdady

Photographed by

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Photographed by Janosch Pugnaghi

We typically find ourselves thinking about time. Whether consciously or not, the elusive ideals of something so flowing and ever-present stays alive within our minds– waiting to be brought back into perspective once again. There is a lot to discover with time, and if given the chance, a whole new narrative awaits. It is a value musician and multimedia artist Discovery Zone is all too aware of. As she reconstructs her definition of music in the means of the conceptual and interconnected, she reflects on that transcendence of time. How it ebbs and flows, and within these ideals her latest album Quantum Web was born. 

Considered the experimental pop-project of New York based artist JJ Weihl, Discovery Zone welcomes a new evolutionary phase with Quantum Web. Arranging the past, present, and future as an interconnected transformation of time, the album brings together luminous vocals and galvanizing instrumentals to find clarity as it relates to us. With it’s release comes her third single “All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go,”  featuring a dynamic video as well that intertwines the immaterial with the material. Time is not just spoken within this project, it is appreciated and understood.

You mention how your forthcoming album, Quantum Web, made you think about the past, present, and future – how did this materialize into the music?

In quantum physics,  time is treated as a variable, not a constant. So in a way, both conceptually and musically, this record is constructed like an interconnected web with no real beginning point or end point. As music is consumed mostly through streaming platforms these days, I wanted to create a modular collection of songs that could be “consumed”  in any order, but also that weave a cohesive narrative when experienced from beginning to end. During the recording process of “Quantum Web,” I used a Mirage Sampler quite frequently, incorporating my own voice, different instruments, and recycled bits and pieces of my first record. By integrating elements of my first record “Remote Control”, including actual sound clips, and also some of the same hardware, there is a continuity that runs through the songs, an attempt at both capturing and transcending time. A lot of the songs on the record are about transformation in different ways - which wasn’t totally clear to me while I was writing it. Transformation is often experienced in a non-linear way. Seasons are cyclical and repeat. Time is a flat circle, like a record.

In the video for "All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go," what themes are conveyed through the virtual world and the angel journey, and how do they connect with the broader message?

The video for All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go follows an angel avatar in a virtual world that stumbles upon a flaming portal that leads her straight into an earthly garden in “reality." Although the virtual world might resemble a game, there are no objectives other than playing the game itself, which contains many different games, much like our own reality. Describing a game like Second Life could very well be describing the “real world’. Angels and avatars hold many parallels in that they are not embodied but resemble the human form. In theology Angels are often described as “intelligences” or “messengers”,  transcending a physical form, similar to how we describe artificial intelligence. Virtual realms hold many parallels to the realm of spirits, existing outside of “material reality." So I thought it would be an appropriate avatar to embody, traversing both immaterial and material gardens. An angel avatar and a human in an angel costume, somehow mimicking each other in an attempt to transcend their respective forms. The heavenly garden spoken of in theology melting into a garden created from code. Both inhabited by messengers, trapped in paradise.

How has your experience in Berlin and your previous work influenced the development of Discovery Zone, both musically and thematically?

When I first moved to Berlin, I started a band called Fenster. We put out 4 records and made a movie and toured a lot. That was the first band I ever played in and I learned so much. I taught myself to play bass and slowly got more and more familiar with recording and production. It was not something I ever thought I’d be doing with my life, but I sort of let myself get taken away by it. Discovery Zone emerged from my desire to learn more about music production and explore sounds and songwriting on my own. I never studied music or music theory so I have a pretty limited set of tools, which has allowed me a lot of freedom to explore sound and different instruments from a more intuitive place - or at least that’s what I tell myself. But I do think that Discovery Zone (named after the now bankrupt chain of child entertainment facilities) is about embracing limitations. Like walking through the plastic world of a shopping mall, there is beauty in the confined spaces of corporate reality if you know how to find the trap doors.  

With Quantum Web drawing influence from 80’s sophisti-pop and digital bubblegum, how do you navigate through these diverse genres and choose how to merge them into your own?

As much as I love getting lost in conceptual  labyrinths, I make music from a pretty intuitive and emotional space. It starts with a feeling and then the ideas form around it. Aesthetically, it can take many forms - covering a spectrum of modern production and cold sounds, to warm warbly sounds achieved through analog approaches. I’m not a purist, and I love to combine elements that don’t logically fit together, I just follow my ear. I do, however, like to choose a few pieces of gear to work with while writing, to give the overall sound some cohesion. I used a Korg Triton workstation a lot during this record, and I think it adds a sort of sparkly, digital crystal coating to the palette. And then there are the samplers that nicely degrade sounds and bring them into a more watery misty world. I like hearing these elements co-exist. Like listening to time travel. 

Is there a spiritual affinity you have relating to your creative process? If so, what does that look like?

The first song on the record is called “Supernatural” and it was inspired by a youtube video I came across claiming that “actual angels” were captured on tape singing and playing instruments. While there is still no conclusive explanation for mystical phenomena such as those viral angels, I think that the internet is its own form of consciousness that contains and transcends everyone who is participating in it. Web portals are still portals. I like to think about music as a portal, too. I’m trying to be open to receive whatever signal comes through in the moment, like an antenna. In that way, I think I’m just a piece of something bigger, tuning to a frequency. I also love this philosopher David Bohm who wrote this book called “Wholeness and the Implicate order.” He also came up with the concept of the Holographic Universe, which was later expanded upon by Michael Talbot. There is something that intuitively makes sense to me about this way of seeing - that ultimately everything is connected and that fragmentation and separateness are illusory. Bohm writes““[T]here is a universal flux that cannot be defined explicitly but which can be known only implicitly, as indicated by the explicitly definable forms and shapes, some stable and some unstable, that can be abstracted from the universal flux. In this flow, mind and matter are not separate substances. Rather, they are different aspects of our whole and unbroken movement.” So to answer that question, my spirituality looks something like a hologram. 

How do you feel about AI's role in music? 

I think there is infinite potential in the creation of algorithms that are designed to “think like humans,” but in the context of our corporate dystopia, it’s getting quickly out of hand. There is something we love to hate about “AI” - the uncanny valley effect is haunting us as technology begins to encroach further and further into the human zone, creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia that permeates the ad infested increasingly scammy world where we no longer know what is “real.” I think it’s a really slippery slope and we need to be careful with how our work is used for the profit and the benefit of companies. We need to be cautious of becoming fascinated with new toys, with our own reflection, and we need to deeply understand and be critical of how these algorithms are being trained on huge data sets of actual artists without their consent. I think artists need to be compensated more for their work and be paid better by streaming services for a start. We need to protect our intellectual property and our fellow artists. Until we learn how to treat each other better, our AI algorithms will continue to carry out the same nonsense we inflict upon each other. So I think there needs to be some massive inner transformation on a global level before we are capable of creating anything worthwhile on a mass scale in collaboration with “AI.”

What do you hope for listeners to feel and to gain when listening? Do you want them to feel as though they are in this otherworldly setting? 

Once the music is out there, it doesn’t belong to me anymore and I would love to hear how YOU feel listening to it. There is a sweet kind of sadness in the illusion of separation and the longing for connection, and the deeper reality that underneath, we are all part of the same thing, too vast and too small to see. Some kind of Quantum Web. I hope that these songs can transport you wherever you need to go. Zooming way out and way in, in all directions.

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Discovery Zone, Quantum Web, JJ Weihl, New Album, Music, Mariam Bagdady