“TESSERACT” and the Higher Dimensions of Subtronics

It’s 2005 in Philly. We’re introduced to The Gang in the first season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the Eagles are on their way to a Super Bowl and the war between Pat’s and Geno’s for “best cheesesteak” is still raging.

A 12-year-old Jesse Kardon is watching videos alone in his dark bedroom, engrossed in the metaphysical ideologies of Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku and Neil deGrasse Tyson. A couple years later, weed unlocks everything.

“I have crystal-clear memories of laying awake in bed as a stoned 14-year-old after secretly smoking out my bathroom window, thinking, ‘If I can think hard enough, I’ll be able to picture in my head the spatial fourth dimension,'” Kardon recalls. “And I never could, but it’s always fascinated me—the answers to, ‘What is reality? What is existence?'”

Nearly two decades have passed and he’s now headlining the world’s biggest electronic music festivals as the dubstep superstar Subtronics. We’re in his kaleidoscopic music studio nestled within his rustic home in rural Pennsylvania, chatting about his long-awaited sophomore album, TESSERACT.

The home studio of Jesse Kardon, who produces electronic music as Subtronics.

Jason Heffler/EDM.com

Kardon paints a picture of a headlong plunge into the abyss of a new era of his artistry with the ambitious album, which he says “wholly represents [his] personality.” His sonic portal? The tesseract, a “hypercube” concept wherein each side peels back and reveals not emptiness, but another cube, identical yet infinitesimally different.

Think of the tesseract as a secret room hidden within a regular room. You can peer through the keyhole, seeing glimpses of the larger space within—swirling colors, shifting shapes—but never truly stepping inside. It’s reminiscent of Subtronics’ music, forever morphing as you try to pin it down.

Just like in Dalí’s melting clocks, time becomes irrelevant in TESSERACT. True to the limitless nature of its namesake, the crux of the album is Kardon’s pursuit of artistic growth in a world he believes is unbound by the conventions of dimension theory.

In those parallel universes, who knows the limits of Kardon’s contrarian approach to music production? TESSERACT is his attempt to bridge the cosmic gap.

“I love heavy dubstep and I love bangers but I love so many other things as well,” says Kardon, who has a tesseract tattooed on his forearm. “So I feel like if I’m only releasing the banger tunes, it doesn’t really accurately represent me as much because there’s a lot more to my art than that. I feel really compelled and I feel partially responsible to share the entire spectrum of what I’m really trying to do and what I’m about.”

Despite the esoteric construct, you don’t have to be a scientist to appreciate the mind-bending implications of higher dimensions. In fact, electronic music production and quantum physics have more in common than you think—musicians weave many different layers of unique sounds to produce a song while physicists entangle molecules to explore the fundamental properties of matter, both demonstrating the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate parts.

Kardon doesn’t shy away from the philosophical vertigo of the concept, instead embracing it by weaving his signature sound with threads of wonder and unease. For example, he says the song “Omnidirectional” is what he imagines a black hole would sound like and “Quantum Queso” is akin to ripples in the fabric of spacetime. “Alien Communication,” which was co-written by Lykke Li, represents his take on extraterrestrial life while “Asteroid,” a careening collaboration with Excision, is self-explanatory.

After his debut album explored the geometric concept of fractals, the tesseract is Subtronics’ newest vessel for world-building as he attempts to capture and bottle the sounds of those unfathomable phenomena. He says he’s deeply inspired by Porter Robinson, whose albums he calls “universes to escape to.”

“I definitely have a desire to be a songwriter,” Kardon muses as he strokes his Keeshond puppy, Ellie. “I feel like the pathway to making long-lasting and impactful music is music that tells a story and really has a sentimental weight to it.”

Subtronics performing at the Tacoma Dome in Washington on November 24th, 2023.

Andrew Hutchins

Uninhibited when discussing his obsession with science, it’s clear Kardon is still that same wonderstruck kid from 2005. His artistry today has an existential nature, rooted in the idea that bad faith is a suffocating mask and authenticity demands a confrontation with the void. It’s vulnerable and even messy at times, but it’s undeniably honest—and therein lies its beauty.

“I think it would be dishonest to force myself into doing the same thing over and over again,” Kardon explains. “If I’m not making art honestly, the art is going to suffer and everyone will be able to tell. And if you’re not passionate about what you’re making, it’s very visible and it really translates.”

“As long as your intention isn’t to just make money and be famous, there’s no wrong way to do it,” he continues. “If you’re making art that you feel passionate about, you can do no wrong. Me personally, I love making art that’s only meant to elicit a response and I love making art that’s a story I’m telling.”

Kardon feels much more authentic when writing albums, he says, because the longer format affords him a larger canvas to tell genuine stories instead of chasing the fleeting success of singles and DJ weapons.

“Anything you can think of to do that other people aren’t doing, is a fat W,” he says.

Subtronics performing at the Tacoma Dome in Washington on November 24th, 2023.

Jeremy Verone

Ultimately, Kardon hopes his fans can listen to TESSERACT and formulate their own story. After all, that’s what makes the concept of higher dimensions so appealing—it gives us the chance to bend the script that tethers us to reality and co-author it in ways we couldn’t previously grasp.

He is effusive when discussing his adoration of the “Cyclops Army,” the name collectively adopted by his diehard fanbase. The degree to which they’ve supported his growth is not lost on him.

“The fans pay my bills,” Kardon rhapsodizes. “They are the reason that I get to live the life I get to live. I say it’s like winning the lottery—I literally get to live this speechlessly beyond-my-wildest-dreams life and I’m so endlessly, unspeakably filled with gratitude. And it’s 100% permitted from the fans. They did that. I get emotional thinking about how lucky I am.”

“Because really at the end of the day, we’re not celebrities,” he continues. “We’re nerds sitting at our desks, turning knobs.”

TESSERACT is out now on Kardon’s own record label, Cyclops Recordings. You can listen to the album below and find it on streaming platforms here.

Follow Subtronics:

Instagram: instagram.com/subtronics
Facebook: facebook.com/subtronicsofficial
TikTok: tiktok.com/@subtronics
X: x.com/subtronics
Spotify: spoti.fi/3jEqAfS

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