For six weeks, everyone worked in different little studios, bringing ideas in and out to main rooms, auditioning riffs, futzing with samplers, pedals, gear, and synths until something genuinely surprising emerged. More than ever, Vernon was letting the band dictate the sound of the record: psychedelic and warm, dense and open. Even though there were plenty of false starts and dead ends, Vernon attests, “They’re all seeds—a mood that you can build around. I didn’t want to be worried about being the author of everything, it was more about trying to find something I can cruise on.”
The record presents many vocalists alongside Vernon, including 64-year-old piano man Bruce Hornsby, genre-busting contemporary crooners Moses Sumney and James Blake, rapper Naeem (fka Spank Rock), and the Brooklyn Youth Choir. “There is a certain quality that happens when you have all these different timbres and textures,” says Wasner, who also sings on the album. “It’s a sonic representation of what he was trying to achieve with the project itself. When you get comfortable with yourself, you start to realize the thing that brings meaning to your life is actually other people.”
Even so, Wasner admits that, more than anything, it’s Vernon’s singular voice, a multi-octave tear-jerker rooted in gospel and blues, that holds i,i together.
The album presents such a strange artistic vision, foreign to what came before but operating as though it were the culmination of a long tradition, that it seems to declare the power of weirdness itself. To be not just strange but singular, to reinvent a form in a way that you can dance to, to smuggle beer into the museum: This is the visceral thrill of art. We want to deny it on theoretical grounds, but we can’t. So we must revise our theories
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It’s a music business truth that the past is never dead. From ABBA The Concert to Dread Zeppelin, cover bands and tribute acts reunite the broken up, and reenact the great performances of yesteryear again and again with uncanny fidelity. Are these bands just good, clean fun, or are they the eager to please equivalent of junk television?
Sometimes it feels like the neon thumbprint of the 1980s never went away. It’s arguably the defining throwback aesthetic of American culture today, from the TV series we reboot to the prints we wear. And when it comes to its music, well, that’s even more ubiquitous: The decade was one of great upheaval and innovation, and the seeds it planted continue to flourish. It was a time when disco and punk were in tatters, its artists rebuilding from the rubble with new innovations to birth hardcore and new wave. Rock was getting more ridiculous, with Aqua-Net to spare, but it was also paring back into the thoughtful nexus that would someday be called “indie rock”—or it was throwing up pentagrams, getting sludgier and meaner, and turning into metal. Jazz and ambient were pushing their experimental borders, getting more cinematic and free. Singer-songwriters in folk and R&B were plumbing new depths of the human experience, getting frank about social and gender politics. And hip-hop was evolving at a head-spinning clip, expanding its reach and ambition along the way.
The band’s label, DGC, didn’t intend to promote Incesticide much, clearly considering it a low-stakes time-buying placeholder. Nirvana took advantage of that. Allegedly the band only put it out because Cobain got to make the devastating cover painting and pen the thousand-word essay for its legendary liner notes, which were an indictment of toxic masculinity, a corrective of the exploitative media, and an ode to the underground. Incesticide embodies the free space of punk more than any Nirvana album: part outsider visual art, part punk fanzine, thrillingly raw.
Autechre’s eight-hour NTS Sessions adds another level of the British duo’s legacy. Though it’s created by a computer, it will bring you to another plane of human existence if you let it.
Even when they are proudly flouting their influences, retracing the daisy chained 808 madness of Mantronix or the nauseating cacophony of early Coil, they claim full ownership. It’s not possible for Autechre to sound like anything except Autechre. And, with each new release, they somehow sound more like Autechre than on the previous one. The sound design is fuller, the programming more intricate, the shock of the new hitting just a bit harder than before.