NPR logo Review: Autre Ne Veut, 'Age Of Transparency'

Review: Autre Ne Veut, 'Age Of Transparency'

Cover art for Age of Transparency. i

Cover art for Age of Transparency. Courtesy of the artist. hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist.
Cover art for Age of Transparency.

Cover art for Age of Transparency.

Courtesy of the artist.

Note: NPR's audio for First Listens comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Along with artists like How To Dress Well and Holy Other, Autre Ne Veut makes music that's sometimes categorized as "PBR&B," suggesting a point where indie pop (ironically) meets modern R&B. Autre Ne Veut's Arthur Ashin uses R&B tropes in his music, but rather than soundtrack a romantic moment, the songs instead voice the anxious thoughts that surround love. So while most R&B singers prowl the register somewhere between a pillow-talk purr and a sultry croon, only scaling upward toward a voice-cracking, la petite mort falsetto for emphasis, Ashin has his voice begin on the other side of that crack. Even in the standout tracks from his 2013 album Anxiety, he sounded as if he might unspool (or else shred a vocal chord) at any given chorus of "Ego Free Sex Free" or "Play By Play."

In the opening moments of his third album, Age Of Transparency, Ashin sounds more in control, his raspy voice accompanied by slow, resonant piano chords, flute and stand-up bass. But a half-minute into "On And On (Reprise)," his voice starts to hiccup and glitch, and then the music itself starts to melt, as if the tape has begun to get chewed up and then spit back out. There's no stable foothold to be found in this seeming piano ballad, as the music lurches, speeds and stumbles, the piano and voice skipping. While Ashin has had his own voice fray in the past, now the backing music splinters to a similar degree.

That isn't always the case with Age Of Transparency, though, as Ashin retains some of the sparkling R&B moves of his breakout Anxiety. There's the skittering snares in "Cold Winds" and the electro jitter of "World War Pt. 2." The beats and shouted chorus hit big in "Panic Room," as Ashin makes the "Latch"-like promise to "Lock you up tight and still make you think that you're free." And "Get Out" makes a few gospel moves.

What distinguishes Autre Ne Veut from Ashin's peers is the risk he takes in moving beyond banks of synths and drum machines to work with live instrumentation, only to then distress and warp it into unsettling new shapes. In the brooding "Over Now," the bass is bowed and the piano resounds in slow motion around Ashin as he remembers a now-still love affair. It moves along at a crawl, at least until the midway point, when a surge of white noise overtakes the song entirely, the sound of latent resentment and bitterness finally exploding. As with any tempestuous emotional outburst, Ashin then moves to smooth things over with a layer of strings. But the sound of crackling static remains, a personal disconnection signified by the sound of a wire no longer grounded.

Purchase Featured Music

Age of Transparency

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Age of Transparency
Artist
Autre Ne Veut
Released
2015

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.