Release Date: Feb 26, 2013
Record label: Software
Genre(s): R&B, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Alternative R&B
Music is a minefield, a battleground. From tritones to heavy metal, from “Hound Dog” to “Cop Killer,” from essentially any historical point and any ethnographic perspective, there has been some debate taking place, an argument to make, or an accusation against which to defend. Criticism, at its purest, is not a discussion of a singular quality, but of a wider, interconnected range of qualities.
Anxiety begins and ends with cliché. Grandiose opener “Play by Play”, after washes of synthesizer, kicks off with Arthur Ashin doing a dynamo Prince impression: “I said, baby!” he cries, falsetto in full effect. The melancholy “World War” ties the album up with Ashin lamenting, “Not gonna be, no way / No way you’re gonna be my baby.” Of all the possible words an artist doing R&B—experimental or otherwise—could lean on, “baby” is definitely the default choice.
Autre Ne VeutAnxiety[Software; 2013]By Will Ryan; February 25, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetPop music's recent fetishization by more underground and independent circles of music hasn't arrived completely without baggage. Nostalgia plays a great role in its adoption, but as much as that word is teetering on expletive and cliché, pop's more immediate and tangible emotional focus holds a great deal more weight than its place in a culture's collective memory. Or it should.
Autre Ne Veut is totally messing with my head. Arthur Ashin, that is—the solo artist who performs under said stage name (loose trans, “I Want No Other”). I swear sometime late last year I spotted Munch’s “The Scream” in advance publicity stills for Anxiety, only now the album art presents an empty frame above the same black backdrop. I swear I spent weeks obsessing over “Counting,” a collaboration between the bedroom R&B phenom and post-everything rhymesayer Mykki Blanco, only now the rapper’s zoom-zooming verses have vanished off the album version.
Autre Ne Veut's self-titled debut was the epitome of fringe back in 2010: someone with an unwieldy handle and a staunch commitment to anonymity making warped approximations of 1980s and 90s R&B on a label that primarily trafficked in lo-fi curiosities. By the time Arthur Ashin revealed himself in 2012, all of those characteristics had become basic tools of indie rock buzzmaking. Though prevailing trends have positioned Autre Ne Veut closer to the center of discussion, he remains quite outré on new album Anxiety.
Autre Ne Veut's self-titled debut and the Body EP were indistinct and luminous, more about the feelings Arthur Ashin channeled than easily pinned-down songs. On Anxiety, Ashin removes his music from its lo-fi trappings and, as the similarly minded How to Dress Well did on Total Loss, uses this newfound polish in even more expressive ways. Reuniting with Joel Ford and Daniel Lopatin -- who had Ashin contribute vocals to their album Channel Pressure -- and bringing in avant-pop sisters Jessica and Cristina Jo Zambri among other collaborators, Ashin gives Anxiety a sound that's slick but also slightly askew.
In 2012, neo-soul artists like Frank Ocean, Miguel, and The Weeknd emerged as if from an electric storm cloud. The shadowy “whoosh” became the primary color on R&B’s palette; experimentalism, the genre’s new currency. But any Daniel Lopatin cult member will kindly direct you to Autre Ne Veut’s self-titled debut as the true forebear of R&B’s transformation.
Brooklyn producer Arthur Ashin’s second album takes us on a journey through his innermost fears and desires. ‘Anxiety’ moves between smooth grooves and kaleidoscopic electronics, but it’s the sensual vocals that carry the record – whether it’s the rich caress on ‘Counting’, the slow whisper set against the hi-hats on ‘A Lie’, or the intense euphoria of ‘Ego Free Sex Free’. Many a late-night chat will take place about whether this should be called alt.R&B, indie R&B or plain old ambient electronica, but there’s no debate about it being one of the sexiest and most luxurious albums of the year so far.Kieran Yates .
Autre Ne Veut once called his music failure pop—the result of someone trying their hand at music they have no idea how to make. It's a familiar model at this point: DIY artist attempts pop, DIY artist strikes fools' gold in brilliant melodies submerged with fuzz. The NYC artist's 2010 debut, niche as it was, was good at capturing the tried-and-true pop ideals floating through the collective ether.
There is a recent trend in music writing of elevating a recent surge in popularity of R’n’B to a new wave of creativity in the genre. Recently, Solange Knowles astutely pointed out the problems with the way recent R’n’B has been discussed without a thorough knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the genre. This shouldn’t be to say that artists like The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, How to Dress Well, Miguel, and indeed Solange herself, aren’t brilliantly innovative artists, but perhaps that the recent shift in the way R’n’B is being discussed is more to do with audience than a sudden insurgence of innovation within the genre.
New Yorker Arthur Ashin makes music under the name of Autre Ne Veut (French for “I think of none other”) that marries the effusive vocals and lyrics of R&B with the warped soundscapes of electronica. Anxiety – the second Autre Ne Veut album, following 2010’s self-titled debut – is a lush record, sometimes to the point of textural overload. It’s audibly the work of a producer who’s sweated blood over every single bar.
Arthur Ashin’s 2010 debut as Autre Ne Veut was a highly textured, baroque haze of art-damaged aesthetics and throwback AM-radio music—a psychedelic revenant of the analog degradation and halcyon days of mixtape culture to be filed under “hypnagogic pop,” a subgenre more concerned with fidelity and texture than melody and structure. Apart from the addition of empty effects, artists like Ashin, Ariel Pink, James Ferraro, and How to Dress Well are all about re-creationism and pastiche, painfully preoccupied with perfecting old ideas, but not particularly interested in—or capable of—creating new ones. Much Like Ariel Pink and Ferraro, however, Ashin has shed the lo-fi memory trappings of hypnogogia.
While depression and schizophrenia often forerun an artist’s output and image, anxiety disorders—such as the one that afflicts Arthur Ashin, mind and voice of Autre Ne Veut—are much less discernible, especially when the artist in question writes hooky R&B so curious and melodious it shakes off a deeper reading. Consider “Wanna Be Startin Something” as a working model: how many spins does it take to stop dancing, briefly ponder the message and suddenly realize MJ’s harrowing dread of a glad-handing, suffocating music industry? This exact effect and crucial disconnect is finessed across the entirety of Anxiety, the second LP from this Brooklyn producer/songwriter and his best-yet realization of sheeny pop subtly imbued with unsettling themes. It’s an entertaining record to hear, but at times a devastating one to listen to.
A few things have changed since the Brooklyn bedroom producer known as Autre Ne Veut released his acclaimed self-titled debut back in 2010. For one he’s now lowered the veil of anonymity revealing himself as Arthur Ashin, a cohort of Daniel Lopatin and Joel Ford (of Oneohtrix Point Never/Ford and Lopatin) whose Software label are releasing this follow-up. He’s even started giving the occasional interview to contextualise his leftfield R’n’B stylings and has already scrapped an album worth of material following label issues.
Arthur Ashin, the New Yorker behind the moniker Autre Ne Veut, might be the anti-pop Prince. Delivered with the same raw sexuality as the Purple One but without Mr. Nelson's radio-friendly hits, Anxiety has a healthy appetite for evasiveness, an intimately layered R&B disc that never lets the listener rest too comfortably. Just as "Counting" settles into its lush seduction of gentle synth and gasping falsetto, it's jarred by an errant saxophone blast.
In a recent interview, Arthur Ashin, the man behind the avant-pop, R&B bending Autre Ne Veut remarked, “I like the idea of being able to fuck with expectations, and for the music to be a Rorschach test, in a way.” This notion of the ability of music to mold to our interpretations and flourish within the boundaries of our mind, is a prominent feature of Ashin’s second full-length effort as Autre Ne Veut, the sterling and disorienting Anxiety. Opening track, “Play by Play,” begins with a series of electronic flourishes, the equivalent of pulling back a curtain of beads, and entering into the room that lies beyond. This room seems small at first, a closet with only Ashin’s voice and a rhythmic ringing in the distance.
It’s easy to project self-consciousness from under a cloak of anonymity. As the Weeknd, Burial, MF Doom and countless other less high-profile but equally shrouded artists can attest, the withholding of personal information and basic autobiographical details not only draws in fans with a sense of mystery, but it also makes you seem deep, troubled or complicated. What’s he or she hiding? Why all the secrecy? What do they have to lose? On Anxiety, the second full-length from Autre Ne Veut, now revealed to be the project of psychology grad student Arthur Ashin, these simple questions are cast aside in favor of a more penetrating and thoughtful form of expression: aggressive vulnerability.
‘Anxiety’ is an emotional pop album: by turns heartbreaking, overjoyed and horny, Brooklyn’s Autre Ne Veut (real name Arthur Ashin) strains every single fraught or wild emotion from his body through a haunting, likeable merger of mainstream R&B and oddball 80s electro.Two swigs Prince to one gulp Talk Talk, opener ‘Play By Play’ is the grandiose centrepiece. Ashin initially quips in a wavering falsetto, ‘And I said, baby / and I said, baby / and I said, baby / and I said, baby’; the song culminates with a female vocalist repeating, ‘Don’t ever leave me alone / play by play, play by play’. He sets the tone perfectly.