There’s this trend going around on TikTok where users joke about how “on-hold” music that companies use actually “slaps.” Maybe this is the newest form of library music, completely readjusted for a new capitalistic function. No longer is it scoring giallos or investigative news reports, but attempting to distract you from hour wait times with your healthcare provider.
Anyway, that’s immediately what I’m reminded of when delving into Max Turnbull’s newest project, the sprawling Scroll by Badge Epoch: customer service hold music. It comes off less like a cohesive musical thought and more as a pitter-pattered unfinished beat tape. Which is, ultimately, kind of what Turnbull was going for.
Culminating over the course of four years, Turnbull took these handfuls of melodious ideas and had Toronto sound artist Andrew Zuckerman cut and splice them into somewhat operatic journeys. His ambition is admirable, as this is less of a contemporary album and actually four song cycles, each garnering its own side of vinyl.
It’s the type of album that I really want to like, that I would put on while working my old record store job to signal to coworkers and customers that “Yes, I do think this is good and part of its challenging 90 minute run-time is what makes it so interesting.” But…I just can’t get into it. While its ideas are somewhat alluring and undoubtedly original, I can’t shake this nagging feeling that it's devoid of some integral soul. It plays out like reading a record-pricing guide of obscure musical auteurs gems instead of a heartfelt journal as Turnbull intended.
The goal of soundtracking this epoch of Turnbull’s life via his musical ideas is sincerely awesome and unique, the result is just more of a nebulous, Tik Tok scrolling mish mash of disconnected thoughts than a thematic unravelling of narrative parchment.
Maybe the problem with Badge Epoch’s Scroll isn’t the content but the vessel. If this were promoted as lost micro scores to ‘70s television then it would land more wholly. Instead, we’re left with a jumble of labored, funky on-hold music. At this point, we’re well aware that on-hold music can “slap,” but it’s usually with the knowledge that it’ll be ending soon.
Order Scroll by Badge Epoch album HERE