[22 July 2012]
Brian Allen Simon, operating under the name of Anenon, has released an EP and a LP this year as intended companions. Companion pieces rarely operate on the level of success that Acquiescence and Inner Hue do. The only examples I can think of to have emerged in recent memory are Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy and Stage Names stints and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl sessions. However, in all of those cases the EPs (or in the Stage Names case, additional LP) has come after the LP. That makes the decision to release the gorgeous Acquiescence EP ahead of the Inner Hue LP a particularly fascinating one. Nothing is lost because of this decision but it does present the interesting idea of using an EP as an LP teaser in “intended companion” cases.
The first part of this companion release, Acquiescence, opens with a devastatingly beautiful track called “Clairvoyance” that calls to mind some of the best pieces from Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ gorgeous score work. A piano, an ambient drone and a dripping faucet all combine to form something that borders on haunting. It’s a gentle piece and its effect is immediate. “Clairvoyance” is one of the most engaging pieces to emerge from the classic/electronic hybrid movement that I’ve heard and it sets a remarkably high standard for the rest of Acquiescence. Fortunately, it’s not a false start. The title track follows and artfully blends orchestral segments with the slow, sparse, piano arrangement that softly breathes life into the electronic portions of the song.
“Equilibrium” continues Acquiescence‘s impressive streak by being a perfect middle piece. It’s the EP’s shortest track, running under two minutes, but also one of its loveliest moments. “Twenty Twenty”, the ensuing track, isn’t quite as welcoming as the first three, instead opting for a more foreboding, but equally effective, route. It makes for a fascinating entry that shows Anenon mastermind Brian Allen Simon still has a few tricks he can pull out of his sleeves. Then “Rites” hits, combining both the soft lush ambient atmospherics of the first three Acquiescence tracks and some of the more discordant and foreboding aspects of the track that preceded it, giving the EP somewhat of a cliff-hanger ending.
Luckily for devoted fans, the wait for what was next to come only lasted a little over a month, as Inner Hue dropped on the first of May. Fortunately, it extends Acquiescence‘s brilliance and holds up on its own. Once again, Simon opts to begin things with a beautiful and quiet piece that pulls the listener in. Anenon’s penchant for striking perfect atmosphere becomes pretty apparent around this time. Again, very few instruments are used but they’re used to wonderful effect and help the track, “Eighty-Four”, lead into “This Is What I Meant” perfectly. “This Is What I Meant” serves up another gorgeous atmosphere that clicks into an electronic-heavy segment that goes farther beyond anything on Acquiescence in terms of the complementary sort.
Then “Stone River” takes things for an intriguing turn. It’s Inner Hue‘s briefest track, stretching barely over a minute, and consists of a beautiful (albeit simplistic) saxophone solo that acts as a perfect transition piece between “This Is What I Meant” and the record’s longest track, “Murmurs”. Its first half drifts along in an ambient haze of bird calls and boom-bap before a gradual crescendo that includes an insanely frenetic saxophone solo before dropping off and doing a small rebuild in the final section. It’s an interesting exercise in tension and release but overall one of the weaker moments on Inner Hue. However, it’s immediately remedied with one of Inner Hue‘s most ambient tracks, “Embers”, which features the haunting vocals of Laura Teasley, who helps turn the song into an album highlight.
Inner Hue‘s second half continues to toy with the ambient genre and locks itself into a groove that it refuses to yield from. Fortunately, it’s a great one. “The Sea and the Stars”, Inner Hue‘s boldest moment, feels important and highlights what Simon can do when he’s playing outside his comfort zone. The end results point to very exciting possibilities for where Anenon could take his music to next. The title track is one of the record’s brightest and most expansive moments, offering further reprieve from the melancholy that enveloped the majority of Inner Hue‘s first half.
Inner Hue returns to that melancholia with its brilliant pairing of the final two songs, “I’m Awake Tonight” and “Entwine”. The former is one of the record’s starkest moments, a jazz-tinged keyboard-only atmospheric piece. It functions in the same vein as both openers (“Clairvoyance” and “Eighty-Four”) did and to the same effect. If the songs that preceded it felt a little too adventurous for some listeners, “I’m Awake Tonight” should have no problem in pulling them back in. “Entwine” acts as almost an epilogue to everything, once again functioning in quiet atmospheric mode before extending into soft ambient drones complemented by the slightest snare shuffle before closing out in a full minute of silence.
Acquiescence and Inner Hue do function abnormally well together and both offer some of the absolute finest examples of this particular genre to date. I wouldn’t be surprised if this sequence, given some time, were hailed as a masterpiece. There’s only the slightest of missteps to be found but even then, the missteps are fascinating enough to keep the listener involved. Simon’s doing exciting things with this Anenon project and I’m certainly looking forward to hearing more.