"There have been people without cities. But what about cities without people?" - Saul Bellow
City of Signals serves as a soundtrack to short story of an abandoned city where the only remnants of human beings are the machines programmed to run without the aid of humans. Traffic signals direct empty streets. Automated trains glide without passengers. Computers still regulate themselves. The tape by Canada-via-Japan musician Joshua Stefane captures the emptiness and pathos that come with imagining a city without people in it. In it he captures the repeating, programmed pulse emitting sounds of digital code controlling mechanical objects while putting those sounds to the services of musical movements that tend to trigger emotions of sadness and wistfulness without being too sentimental. Light arpeggiated synth lines and long pulls of resonant drone intermingle with natural field recordings. Evidence that nature will eventually assume its rightful place. Trees growing in empty hotel lobbies. Vines choking rail systems and growing through broken windows. Conceptually and musically, it is hard not to imagine this being one of the best ambient releases of the year.
"Wow. This is really great. Endurance is Joshua Stefane (Witting?) from Japan and he creates some really beautiful and thoughtful drone. This album has a sort of narrative that is as tragic and melancholy as it’s audio sounds. You know how sometimes you spent a little longer than one might staring at some picture from the Hubble telescope that shows a supernova, exploding with the brilliance of 10 billion suns? You just let your gaze fixate on that before thinking about the other starts and systems nearby that have a front row seat at the destruction and beauty and how none of it matters while it all really matters? Well, this is what that sounds like.
The art is great and the type is handled well. I think the word I used above, thoughtful, is a good way to sum up the whole release… Find this if you can. "
"In Carlos Castaneda's book The Teachings of Don Juan, the "Human Aura" can be seen by anyone with some skill in the physic realm. Many repeated listens of City of Signals by Endurance, reminded me of Carlos' book, i read long ago. Joshua Stefane (Endurance), captures the unheard aspects of the physical world, the physic output of both man made and natural surroundings. Like The Teachings of Don Juan, Joshua's composition has resonance beyond our physical inputs.
City of Signals seems to oscillate from the reality we reside in, to the larger spectrum of the existence we are still neophytes at comprehending. An ambient crossing of what loosely can be described as a hazy unfocused line. Sounds within this composition float just above the the planets surface. Man made utilities creating an almost industrial tone. This is consistent throughout the ten tracks that make up City of Signals. There is more though, an ambient type of realization that makes this composition so beautiful. The harshness of the world we live in has been tempered with the process of delivering the scale of minuteness our world resides. Like a dream with infinite possibilities at any given moment, City of Signals conveys both time and space of an industrial landscape emitting energy into the vastness of the cosmos. The aural field is both infinitesimal and infinite simultaneously.
This cassette was originally released on Illuminated Paths in March of this year in an edition of twenty five. The copy used for this description is from the second release in June by Joshua in an edition of thirty. He has a few copies left on his bandcamp page, and they are also still available from Illuminated Paths. This is a very thoughtful body of work and will hold up very well for continued listening for years to come."
The quiet beauty and sheer stillness of abandoned cities must be breathtaking. To take in the crumbling facades, buckled asphalt, and low-hanging wires through which no current flows can only be a humbling experience. But what if a depopulated city sprang back to life? What if the traffic signals began to function, the sprinkler systems doused the cracked driveways with musty water, and the streetlights came on at night? Canadian ex-pat Joshua Stefane (aka Endurance, currently residing in Japan) posits this scenario with his short story and the accompanying soundtrack City of Signals.
In the empty metropolis, lonely birds sing along to the hum of the high tension lines, their tuneful chirps drifting away on the wind, unappreciated by human ears. Stefane puts himself in the center of such a scenario, droning along with an array of synthesizers, pumping out melodies that are as ethereal as the residual memories of the people who once called the city home. His elongated notes unfold quietly, struggling to be heard above radio static, the sequences of synthetic tone bouncing aimlessly around empty rooms. The City of Signals is a busy one; even though there are no homo sapiens to be found, Stefane has created his own brand of intelligent life. Thriving among the flora and fauna are artificial electronic “spirits” emanating their mysterious signals without a hope of response.
To experience the City of Signals, you must act quickly, as this cassette is ultra-limited: there are only 25 copies available from Illuminated Paths, and 30 available directly from Stefane himself.
Endurance is Joshua Stefane. Born in Ontario, Canada, now based in Nara, Japan. I work as a researcher and translator and spend most of my remaining time writing science-fiction and composing music.
The concept for this album developed as I was writing “City of Signals”, a short story about an abandoned city where automated radio signals and loop transmissions are the only things that speak of those who once lived there. Traffic lights direct non-existent commuters, passengerless trains slide mournfully along their tracks, and the efficient sound of pulsing generators fills the air. The city remains, but absent are those who gave its structure, technology, and convenience meaning.
This album is the soundtrack to that imaginary city, and as such the tone is largely elegiac and mournful, but also warmed by the presence of memory, expressed in slight, fleeting melodies, far-away bells, natural soundscapes, and the hum of soft radio signals.
The composition of the album took place in the sad winter of 2015-16, using a Sequential Circuits Six-Trak, Dave Smith Evolver, Roland SH-32, Teenage Engineering OP-1, tapes, field recordings, several old radios, and lots of patience.
released March 25, 2016
Originally released on Illuminated Paths in March, 2016.
Re-released June 20, 2016
Mastering by Overscan (Marcus Miller).
Cover Art by Joshua Stefane.
Cover Design by Kyoko Nishikawa.
Special thanks to Joshua Rogers, Paul Duchnay, Mike Thomas, Chris Olson, and Megumi Kagawa—all kind and careful listeners.