There’s a big difference between the mandatory isolation we’re all currently enduring and voluntarily separating oneself from the noise and pressures of the world outside. Toronto based producer Sam Lewis is a big advocate for staying inside but self-imposed solitude can get tough for even the most seasoned of hermits. On his latest single as Pleasure Craft entitled “Nothing Ever Happens,” Lewis drifts freely within his own mind on an immeasurably vast sea of boredom that stretches beyond the horizon, propelled forward at a snail’s pace by the faintest breeze of casual anxiety.
“Nothing Ever Happens” is a bit of a sonic departure for Lewis who typically constructs his synth-forward compositions with the dancefloor in mind, packed to bursting with energetic beats and enthusiastic shout-along hooks carefully designed to inspire uncontrollable hip shaking. Dip just below the surface of those Friday night beat factory tunes and it’s pretty apparent that while Lewis works to make people dance, he just doesn’t necessarily want to participate. An extraterrestrial DJ hovering above the crowd, observing the tribal undulations in the detached manner of an hourly anthropologist that can’t wait to clock out and go home for the evening.
In trading beats for vibes Lewis pulls back the curtain on his private life even more, bringing the isolationist undercurrents that have been a strong motivator of his work straight to the top, a full on sea change that embraces the kind of lo-fi chillwave aesthetic that marked Toro Y Moi’s earliest recordings and were a hallmark of Washed Out’s High Times. Chillwave as a concept has always been more at home being at home, even after the Instagram filter-ready sounds were co-opted for sun-drenched drone footage romps on exotic beaches and esoteric rumination on the cultural idiosyncrasies of a certain Pacific Northwestern city. Lewis wraps the true essence of chillwave around himself like a warm blanket for “Nothing Ever Happens” but through one of the folds a tiny draft enters his sonic cocoon, sending a chill up the spine and implying that there is potentially too much of this good thing called being alone.
The lyrics fall like dust bunnies throughout the track, hovering momentarily in the still air giving the listener just long enough to think about the fragile detachment and melancholy complacency occupying Lewis’ mental state, but one line in particular falls with a thud like a heavy textbook knocked from a shelf by a passing housecat. Dense with meaning and startling upon impact, Lewis confesses “maybe I’m scared or maybe I’m just there to prove I have nothing to do, and now the entertainment gets bored of you.” This is the moment his status as a conscientious objector retreating from the frontlines of life’s endless skirmishes sinks in, giving way to the realization that his peaceful protest falls entirely on deaf ears. Even the empty, endless scroll of social media and the vapid filler of buzzworthy binging regards Lewis with an apathetic sigh. “I lost my restaurant job, I can’t see my friends, I’m addicted to Instagram and I can’t go home but I can still make music so that’s cool,” says Lewis about working on “Nothing Ever Happens” while riding out the pandemic. Overcoming fear and finding a reason for being, even while being alone, is the key to thriving in separated circumstances and Lewis found his reason in creating music.
A DIY video accompanies the single characterized by a wall of claustrophobic blackness sparsely illuminated by the glowing screens of cell phones, digital windows on the outside world. Lewis performs alone in silhouette, at times barely discernible from the shadows that surround him and reveling in his oneness with himself. Vocal harmonies earn singer Mingjia Chen a cameo appearance in a distant corner of the frame, descending a bright stairwell with headphones firmly in place. Like Lewis, Chen is also separating herself from the rest of the world, choosing the stairs over a crowded elevator and blocking the cacophony of existence with a curated soundtrack to her own personal journey. Lewis and Chen are together in the video but separated physically, a Venn diagram of existence overlapping for fleeting moments of song, facilitated by thin tendrils of communication connecting even the most reclusive of individuals with whispers of existence across the void and enabling the creation of something beautiful.