I probably skewed my listening of Shaking the Habitual by going with the downloaded version of the album rather than the 2-disc physical copy. The CD versions end on two very different notes, the first with “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized,” the nineteen-minute ambient boiler-room feedback piece, and the second with “Ready to Lose,” which is perhaps one of the most traditionally-constructed songs on the album. It’s where these two tracks are coming from that marks the true split between the realization of the two halves of Shaking.
The title of “Old Dreams” was taken from a magazine article by the Swedish writer Nina Bjork, and refers to the ideas of great thinkers of the past (here in particular Karl Marx, I believe, though can’t confirm that), especially those who have considered deeply how we might best live with each other, how our communities might be constructed to encourage a more collective mindset, a social and economic togetherness rather than the individualism currently reducing our societies and earth to shambles. There is hope in “Old Dreams,” though it is a suspended hope, a hope mired in the void of inaction, of self-perpetuating cycles of greed and want. And yet it might spring free, might manifest, as hope will, as hope must.
If disc 1 closes with an ode to how past voices might preserve our future, the end of disc 2 abandons all hope, for hope is a thing of the past, and the truth is, Shaking seems to saying, we live in a time where we must be “Ready to Lose”: our possessions, our land, our blood histories, ourselves. Hope to preserve existence as we have grown accustomed to charts the quickest way to mass extinction, as Crake might argue.
In this instance abandoning hope is not an act of pessimism, however, for to abandon hope is not to give up, it is simply an admission that we are ready to enter the game, to play and fight to the end, regardless of the outcome. Right now we aren’t even in the vicinity of the ballpark, we are ignoring the fact that the game must be played, that it will be played whether we join in or not. Our fate will be decided without us present on the pitch. It is a simple truth, yet so hard to accept, that in order to win, you have to be ready to lose.