Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety

by Charly Richardson Rating:8.5 Release Date:2013-02-13

On both sides of the Atlantic (and in New Zealand, as it happens), leftfield R&B and electronica are having a passionate fling. In fact, this fling is now a borderline full-blown, complicated relationship. Luckily, its musical offspring is maturing and finding its own voice. Step up, Arthur Ashin aka Autre Ne Veut (apt translation: Do Not Want Another). Following up his 2010 self-titled debut is Anxiety, an album so full of creativity and quiet confidence, it will surely cement his standing in this burgeoning scene.

A Brooklyn-based bedroom producer, Ashin utilises a broad palette of sounds. Busy, footwork-esque hi-hats, crisp snares, and chopped-and-screwed vocal snippets sit upon a dense bed of warm, shimmering synth pads. He even throws in the odd squawking sax, church organ, and dodgy choral-synths which wouldn't be out of place in an Enya record (luckily, the overall boldness and eccentricity of his production pretty much destroys any element of cringe-factor).

Indeed, whenever R&B is explored outside of the mainstream, artists must tread carefully, insuring they stay the right side of tasteful. But vocally, Ashin excels in all the right ways. Usually staying in the mid-high registers, he thankfully only exploits the full limits of an impressive, gender-defying falsetto sparingly. And when he does it's glorious. Truth be told, vocally this is closer to straight-up pop than R&B (some have placed Autre Ne Veut under 'avant-pop' - whatever).

His pop sensibility and strong melodies glue all his abstract influences and work-tools together. 'Play By Play' shows he can write a huge chorus to rival any pop star (well, their songwriters then). 'I Wanna Dance with Somebody' could be a 21st century tribute to Michael Jackson, while the simple, catchy vocal refrain of finale 'World War' is unlikely to leave you anytime soon.

Lyrically, Anxiety pretty much does what it says on the tin. We are taken deep into the mind of a man in an apparently continual cycle of unrequited love: "It's the last heartbreak that I'll ever have to do with us" ('Promises'); "I wanna be the one, you're wonderful/ and this is goodbye" ('A Lie'). It's not particularly novel or mind-blowing, but it's heartfelt and sincere. 'Counting', on the other hand, discusses the final phone call to his dying grandmother. The verse is mournful and withdrawn, the chorus an epic cascade of all-out emotion: "I'm counting on the idea that you'll stay". It's not surprising that 'Counting' was released as a single, it's probably the highlight of the album.

Anxiety is a bold record which has the potential to offer both underground and mainstream audiences a vision of what the future of pop might look like.

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