Autre Ne Veut // Counting // February 25, 2013 // Software
One of the most interesting and refreshing things to witness during the last couple of years was underground producers and left field singers approaching the commercial pop medium without any restraint, caution or shame that has been associated with mainstream music from the days when selling out was still a honest to god possibility. Brooklyn’s Arthur Ashin, better known as Autre Ne Veut has been putting his own shameless karaoke singer quality towards house driven r&b for years now but while his previous material was more quirky than engaging, Anxiety finds him at his most pop focused and easily approachable without losing the emotional grit.
Anxiety is Autre Ne Veut’s second studio record and just like it was the case with fellow East Coast weirdo cum crooner Tom Krell, it finds our protagonist polishing things up and delivering a much more cohesive set of songs that are easier to approach and easier to enjoy without the need for them to go on a full out experimentation simply just to be counted as credible. Even though the music on Anxiety has a much broader appeal than that found on Ashin’s self-titled debut, it still has its own charms that are unique to Autre Ne Veut (just when you think that Counting is the biggest crossover moment of the year, a broken brass section crashes the song out of a standard comfort zone). Despite the something jarring traits and some pretty unnecessary glitching here and there, Anxiety mostly plays by the rules established by others and plays them well. Anxiety isn’t as left field as some will make it out to be but at its best it feels like a warped pop record that shares many traits with the likes of Rihanna while at the same time being a bit more willing to get emotional. And while pop stars will try to force you into thinking that they’re real, Autre Ne Veut outdoes them by taking the Tumblr pop sound and giving it a romantic baggage that feels essentially vacant. This is the “making luv” music for the moments when you’re fucking someone you aren’t in love with.
At its heart Anxiety is a 80s synth driven record with some very now 808 percussion splattered all over the place. Ashin’s vocals themselves may be an acquired taste. While he is no longer sounding like a broken hearted knob at a karaoke, his voice is colder and more electric than your average r&b wannabe. This is especially clear during moments where his lyrics are the most generic. Majority of Anxiety is what you expect from an r&b record, told from an outsider perspective. It’s the moments when Ashin drops filler like “baby”, “girl” and “sexy body” that make him feel rather removed from all these things that he’s saying, in a good way. The approach reminds us of that Grimes LP from last year where the protagonist searched for humanity at the level of basic pop while at the same time feeling removed from it, unexcited by the possible outcome. It may feel as if Ashin is channeling all the pop stars that don’t write their own lyrics and don’t channel their own emotions but make no mistake, even if lyrically Anxiety is the fairly standard “love, sex and death” trope, Ashin gives his all to make you believe that this is no fluke.
A couple of years ago everyone was comparing Autre Ne Veut with How To Dress Well but Anxiety and Total Loss are miles apart. The latter drowned itself in its own sorrows and came across as pale and humourless shell of fading skin. Anxiety on the other hand is a sad record that is its own therapy. Ashin, clearly a classically trained vocalist, sings like he has nothing to lose and at his most sexually charged, comes across as Prince for the generation that get their sex online, something that the real Prince is not aware of. Anxiety is a great combination of tension and nothingness, not to mention that its gushing with hooks. Ashin has spent his career creeping in the shadows but with material as classically strong as it is essentially very now, we think he’s ready for the spotlight.