Phantom/Ghost: Perfect Lovers
e are, perfect lovers.
Besides the fact that we’re not there”
Dirk Von Lowtzow’s dramatic vocal proclamation in the middle of “Perfect Lovers” by Phantom/Ghost is probably one of the most stirring and melodramatic moments in the short, ever-broadening history of microhouse. Most people are familiar with the “Unperfect Love Mix” of the song which was done by Tobias Thomas & Superpitcher and placed as the emotional centerpiece of Michael Mayer’s landmark Immer mix. While the original version is surprisingly brisk acid house interjected by murky and foreboding synths, the “Unperfect Love Mix” ambitiously shifts the song into a classical/house hybrid and arguably turns out with the more definitive version. The first two minutes are sampled right from the most famous part of Mahler’s 5th symphony, the sentimental Adagietto. Instead of a paean to Mahler’s new fiancée, it sounds downright chilling and gothic, with the strings alternating from melancholy to downright ominous. Add to this some narcotic beats and Lowtzow’s deep, haunting voice and it adds up to one of the more mysterious house classics of the past few years.
However, the song took on a new meaning and poignancy for me this January as I visited the newly opened Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. One of the exhibits I happened to see in the contemporary art section was a work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres called “Untitled (Perfect Lovers).” The work shows two wall clocks set to the same exact time. While the clocks might seem to be a bit of a head-scratcher from afar, the title of the work certainly triggered off a myriad numbers of breeding ideas inside my head.
The main idea that comes to mind is that the clocks are representing the changing relationships we have in life. We may start in perfect precision with someone or something, but none of us are perfect, we start to minutely drift away from our starting point in time just like two clocks that slowly grow seconds apart. After a long period, we could be minutes or hours away from our point of origin, and we either decide to renew our old relationship by mending our ways (i.e. setting our clock back to where we started) or seeking out new people who match the state, “the time,” that we are currently at.
The clocks also seem to also be representing the limits of passion and pleasure. The ones that were on display were identical in design, shape, and color, but the hands on each are slightly different. They were naturally separated from one another. Since no human is an “atomic clock,” this innate nature to drift denies us perfection and shows the confines of passion as we grow in and out of sync with people in our lives.
So what does this have to do with “Perfect Lovers”? Well, seeing those two clocks put a whole new spin on the song for me. I feel it’s about that moment of perfection and implausible logic in life that we all live for. If life was just a constant flux of meeting people, learning new songs, discovering new recipes, and then drifting apart from them, then what is the point of even meeting someone or trying something new? Why even bother when things will inevitably go awry? Why? We do it for that shot to be able to transcend human nature, to achieve perfection with someone or something, even if it is only for one glorious second. That is why the “Unperfect Love Mix” makes sense, as it could only hope to offer us a glimpse of what we are looking for before dissolving into imperfection.
“We are, perfect lovers.
Accidentally, we’re no longer there”
This line shows how knowing Lowtzow is of his situation; one moment you are in perfection, and the next you’ve lost it without even trying. Perhaps this loss is why the song is so melancholic and dramatic, even if you are able to see the strains of hope in the original album version.
While I always enjoyed this song, seeing that work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres heightened my perception of it to a point where I’ll always have the two connected in my mind. It’s undoubtedly one of the very few house songs this decade to contain numerous layers of emotional and intellectual fabric. We may drift apart in the future, my dear reader, but I hope we are in perfect unison about this fact.