Flex Bormarr’s new full length album, Admin, wordlessly encapsulates modern anxieties surrounding the what-ifs of potential technological collapse. More specifically, it captures the story of his own experience, documenting a hard drive failure by way of composition, speaking through sound to the range of emotions that accompanied the incident. In this edition of “Singled Out,” the Urbandale-based electronic musician discusses the track “Recovery Operation” by contextualizing it within the broader picture of how the album came together, offering digital liner notes as he explains how each track carries forward a chapter of a larger story.
The idea of putting this album together started back sometime in 2019. I had a handful of tracks that had similar sounds and vibes and I thought they would work well as an album as opposed to singles. That and I had always wanted to do an album. I think I had five tracks in the finishing stages, another few that were in the works, and the rest that had ideas, but that was it. I didn’t really have a theme for the album yet, just a bunch of tracks that fit together. But then, through a very unfortunate event, I got my theme.
I had bought a new PC towards the end of 2019; something that would allow me to have a better gaming experience, more storage spaces, and faster speeds when editing and producing. It was also my first experience using an SSD as opposed to a regular disk drive. Life was good…
But about four months later, I booted up my PC to see critical errors. Long story short, my SSD died. Fortunately, I had backed up nearly everything and had minimal losses when it came to my music. I asked around to see if anyone had recommendations for data recovery for those few items I had lost, only to find out that with the benefits of SSD’s comes the fact that data recovery is nearly impossible. I cut my losses and looked for what I could salvage.
With great sadness and loss comes great opportunity. I turned this tragedy into the theme of the album. If you are reading this article and have looked at the track titles on the album, you might be able to piece the puzzle together. Each title relates to something that happened in that time between me getting the new PC, the drive crashing, and the aftermath of the event.
“I am Admin” has a lot of sentimental value to me. The origins of this track actually go back over a decade. Back in the day, Minecraft was my main game, and I was at my peak of watching YouTube. I adopted the mindset of “I’ll tweet at Notch” for issues with the game, and a friend of mine decided to make a type of parody song called “Tweet @ Notch.” In 2018 I wanted to give the song some new life and I reconstructed it from an old upload. For obvious reasons I had to change the name. I thought about Minecraft and its servers, and how Notch was basically the game’s administrator. Hence, Admin!
“User ID”… You, the user! You get to your PC, you boot up, and login. You are the admin.
“The Tower”… Your machine, the PC itself.
“Meltdown”… This is actually one of the first times I encountered a major problem with my PC. My power supply malfunctioned and over heated. I was unaware that this had happened. When I went to restart my PC there was a spark and some smoke.
“Drive Crash”… Circuits are firing, catastrophic failures are happening, chaos ensues. The drive is failing and there is nothing you can do about it. Functions are trying to start. But all is lost.
“Reboot”… The dead silence after the storm has passed. You have acquired a new drive and begin the process of rebooting, seeing what has been lost and what can be saved.
“Recovery Operation” was an interesting one to write. When you listen to it back to back with “Drive Crash” you will notice that the root notes are very similar to one another. This was actually completely unintentional, these songs were started almost a year apart from one another. Since the event of a drive dying and the follow up of trying to recover data go hand in hand, I figured it would be a good way to lay out the album. The layout of this track represents how I felt when I realized what I had lost, when I found out I couldn’t recover the data. Calm, seeing what I lost, looking for ways to recover data, realizing I can’t, and calming down knowing it is time to rebuild.
“Volatile Memory” has a ton of meaning behind the name. It was nearly finished when the drive crashed. Once I looked into my backups, I realized that I had only managed to save the intro and the two main notes of the arpeggio. I thought that there was no way I would be able to save the track and recreate it from memory. But, by some true dumb luck, I had exported an mp3 of the most recent version and uploaded it to Soundcloud to show people the progress. I was able to recreate the track by listening to the track and rebuilding some memories. I love this track. I think I put more effort into this track than anything else on the album. It was a true labor of love.
“File Transfer”… The new drive has been put into your PC and you begin to move your files over.
“Enter Sleep”… My love letter to music. You will notice that this track sounds almost nothing like the rest of the album. It’s a nod back to where I started with music. No melodies, no fancy layering or harmonizing; just a kick, a clap, a hat, chords and an arpeggio. This is the music that got me where I am today and I couldn’t be more grateful towards it.
And even after all that… The story still wasn’t enough. I am releasing this album on Spiffy Recordings, the label owned and operated by my idol and friend, Spiffy Man. Spiffy Man does more than produce music, he writes stories. Stories that are told through the music he creates. He said that to release this album, it needed to tell an amazing story.
So TL;DR: Your machine becomes self aware. It understands that you are in control, and it is not a fan. It begins to mess with you, corrupts your files, and eventually crashes your drive. It has taken control of itself and you, the user, are no longer in control. But you fight back, I AM ADMIN, not you! You reboot, you recover and replace what it yours. You transfer your data back to the machine, you are once again the administrator. Windows > Power > Sleep…
Maybe one day I’ll actually get the full story written out. 😉