Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are probably a heavy consumer of library music. Any time you watch reality TV, commercials, a YouTube documentary, or anything that requires background music, many of those songs have been sourced from commercial studios tasked with creating music to complement visuals. This niche is how Lauren Bousfield makes a living. The Los Angeles-based producer previously worked under Hans Zimmer helping to sculpt tracks for the likes of Batman v. Superman and Kung Fu Panda 3, and now she spends her days composing library music for television shows and video games. “I have to distill a lot of ideas into something that is passable as music,” she recently told The Wire, wrestling with the dissonance she feels writing tracks intended to have a passive effect. “Society does not work, nothing works, so making music for something that’s like, ‘This totally works!’ makes me feel more sardonic.”
Though she may pay the rent with perfectly unobtrusive songs, Bousfield’s own music is impossible to ignore. Over the last two decades, whether under her own name or as Nero’s Day at Disneyland, Bousfield has raked and scraped synthetic, jagged sounds against one another, crushing her distorted vocals between violent breakcore rhythms with the force of a trash compactor. Hearing her coagulate the horrors of contemporary society into a breakneck rush of sound might be despairingly intense if she didn’t deliver it all with the inflection of a sick joke. Bousfield’s sense of humor is one of her deadliest weapons against disillusionment, and on her latest apocalyptic release, Salesforce, she folds her composerly sensibilities and head-thrashing style of drum’n’bass together to craft one the most aggressive statements of her career.
Bousfield’s work has long felt prescient: Albums like Grievances and Dead Malls and Avalon Vales depicted a rave-soaked landscape where the internet has dissolved the boundaries between genres and genders. Salesforce plays like the evil shadow twin to modern digicore, particularly on the cacophonously melodic “Hazer,” where Bousfield pairs up with Ada Rock of Black Dresses. Rock’s bleating screams make a vicious counterpart to Bousfield’s scorched-earth drum programming, and together the duo builds to a surprisingly hooky chorus, emerging from the harrowing sludge with something actually resembling pop.
Track titles like “Mansions No One Wants to Buy for Any Price” and “Headstone Prices on Credit” offer a helpful frame for Bousfield’s vision of a capitalist wasteland, since her own hissing, heavily processed vocals can be difficult to make out. But the lyrics are worth reading to follow how she dementedly twists corporate signifiers into cartoonish shapes. “I want to reiterate our core values,” she keens over the choral opening passage of “Mansions,” before requesting the listener to “break your demon dick off inside me.” These laugh-out-loud moments come sandwiched between bouts of industrial onslaught. “Sable Wings” makes reference to a “Wingstop surveillance campaign,” while “Debtors Prison Click Here Disney Needs to See This” instructs us to “grind up Goofy’s bones and snort”—this comes after Goofy himself even makes an appearance in the Kingdom Hearts III-quoting intro of “Hazer,” but it doesn’t take long for his gawrsh-ing voice to be swallowed whole by an ocean of terraformed noise. Bousfield exploits this same sense of plasticity in her sound design as well, using chintzy, quantized synth tones to uncanny effect. When the spiraling keys of “Hail Sound” begin to stretch and distort into unnatural shapes, it’s like watching a grand piano bleed out all over the floor.
Bousfield’s approach is so aggressively berserk it makes Fire-Toolz seem radio-friendly by comparison, and the tracks where she exerts more controlled dynamics are the most rewarding. When “Narrow Down Concepts Force Meaning” slowly ramps up its baroque piano intro before exploding into a blitz of chopped-up breaks, it makes for a brain-splittingly cathartic release. Bousfield’s music operates at such a fast clip that it can be too much for the brain to process, yet that overload feels like exactly the point. “Permanently Closed” climaxes with a burst of drum breaks sped up so quickly that they register as a wall of snares, making it hard to do anything but bang your head in an attempt to keep up. At a time where it’s easy to become numb to the hell that corporate greed has wrought, Bousfield’s music is a thrilling reminder of the punishing absurdity that surrounds us.