Collect calls are dying, a bygone of the era of fax machines and telephone booths; something your parents dealt with that faded against the digital age; the social and communication equivalent of balancing your checkbook. Somewhere out there are people with a romanticized view of all of these outdated technologies, clinging to a simpler world that, to them, moves too fast, leaving them far, far behind. Somewhere out there, too, are people that have moved beyond what they once clung to, overcompensating with a flawed understanding of the now. In a way, 18+ paradoxically represent both of these schools of thought regarding the then and the now.
Justin Swinburne and Samia Mirza of 18+, at least as far as the music world is concerned, confound what it means to be exclusively forward thinking or completely dependent on past influences. At once, they’re completely immediate. Collect is the kind of record that could only exist today, its sloppy derangement creating a soft collapse of sorts, reverberating across the medium, muddling the distinction between bad and good. But in the same way a cool uncle touts his understanding of Twitter or Instagram, so too do 18+ appeal to urban, youthful sensibilities. It’s at best authentic, at worst laughable, and nevertheless lovable. Yet, while the duo does offer a sense of instantaneousness and presence, the barebones lyricism gives the impression of a simpler time, when hip-hop was first being created, when pagers offered the most immediate communicative alerts, limiting messages to a mere one-lined crawl.
Similarly to the duality of Collect’s sparsely imaginative lyricism, 18+ utilize sexuality in a dim light, giving indication that their raw, animalistic urgencies are to be taken both seriously and ironically. When it comes to crafting music, whether that entails rhyme schemes, beat structures, or half-sung hooks, Swinburne and Mirza work through sleight of hand, giving listeners a half-second look onto the meaning behind their deceit, only to turn and ask expectantly if there was ever any trick to begin with. Lines like “Eat it for me/I eat it for you/Beat it for me/I beat it for you” give illustration to ten-minute writing sessions on the note pages of Swinburne’s and Mirza’s respective iPhones, where rough drafts become finalized album cuts without any review. At least, that’s the impression you get with the vast majority of Collect’s content: vague, domineering phrases bedazzled in sheens of sexual lust, which, when paired with their no-consideration-for-quality aura, create a deeply layered and surprisingly attentive look at what it means to live through exclusively sexual nature.
Exploring and exploiting sexual deviancy, Collect derives its title and meaning from the relationship between the collective terms ‘public’ and ‘private’. On Trust, issues of anonymity in the digital age were their main sources of inspiration. Here, the duo tackles the place of creativity in a space of separation and isolation, Swinburne having moved to Berlin, Mirza to Honolulu. This incredible distance has impassioned 18+, leaving them to communicate primarily through collect calls, their ability to bounce ideas off each other severely diminished. In spite of this, Collect pulled back the curtain ever so slightly more, giving indication that the pair so hell-bent on being too cool to try was in fact working through a façade of apathy, their glossed approach in simplistic beat-making unable to stow away the instrumental depth of tracks like “Drama” and “Slow”. And like so many of their contemporaries occupying the space of music whose quality is, at best, open to interpretation, their work is a hedonistically gorgeous display of intentional disjoint of style, seduction, and talent.
– Zach W.