Antwood: Sponsored Content

Photo courtesy of Planet Mu

Sponsored Content is a creepy listen, intentionally packed with artifice.


Sponsored Content

Label: Planet Mu
US Release Date: 2017-09-08
UK Release Date: 2017-09-08
Artist Website

Apologies for the "meta" nature of this review, but there's very little avoiding it: Antwood's Sponsored Content is a cutting criticism of the business model that this very website runs on. The very first track is titled "Disable Ad Blocker". Perhaps you've noticed the many ads on this site. Perhaps you've even seen the site on one of the occasions where we have asked visitors to, yes, disable their ad blockers. For a site like PopMatters, ads are the primary source of revenue, and while blocking those ads may well lead to a more pleasant browsing experience for the reader, it also means that PopMatters doesn't get the revenue associated with them.

If PopMatters doesn't get revenue from those ads, PopMatters closes, which means that both PopMatters and the reader lose. (Related: Support our GoFundMe!)

The result, particularly in the case where the distributor of content is charged to evaluate the quality of some of the very products it is advertising, is a queasy co-existence in which the reader is expected to be able to separate advertisement from commentary. Antwood has mentioned in interviews that his initial inspiration for the album was the introduction of advertising into ASMR YouTube videos, a morally-ambiguous goal akin to subliminal suggestion. If there is demand for a product or service, there will inevitably be advertising dollars connected to that product or service. The more "creative" the advertisement, the more indistinguishable it becomes from the product or service it is attached to. Clearly, this constant consumerist push struck a nerve in Antwood.

Of course, parts of Sponsored Content are also connected to a break-up he suffered around the same time, which may have contributed to the bleak cynicism that so much of the album conveys.

How does any of this transfer to the music? Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie.

What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. "The New Industry" offers up the sort of beat that Ministry might have loved to stick walls of distorted guitars on top of once upon a time, and then a heavily manipulated voice begins to cry as the beats struggle to maintain control amidst beautiful, cirrus-cloud synths. "FIJI Water" offers something of a static-laden quiet interlude that builds to, yes, a heavily distorted and manipulated voice advertising FIJI Water, complete with extremely unsubtle water drops and shaky, skittering beats. "ICU" starts with a slowed-down but still instantly-recognizable Drake sample, which eventually breaks down into noise and beats with enough delay to approximate a helicopter. By the time the air-raid sirens appear, Antwood sounds as though he's gone completely off the deep end.

All of the chaos is reined in, however, for the final two tracks, the simultaneously peaceful and disquieting "Don't Go" and the hilariously synthetic "Human". The former, after getting an interminable Zuckerberg anecdote out of the way, pairs a stereotypically evil, pitch-shifted low voice saying things like "I am meant to serve" and "I will crush those who stand before me" with more of those extended lovely synths that snuck into "The New Industry". The latter is a ballad for electric piano and voice, except that the voice is quite clearly generated rather than sung, offering pitch jumps Celine Dion wouldn't even bother with and "words" that approximate Simlish or Minion-speak. By the time it shifts to a full synth freakout, it comes off as strangely triumphant, at peace even. For such a chaotic, willfully strange album, it is both out-of-character and kind of perfect as an album closer.

Antwood certainly gets his point across. It's the type of album that makes you uncomfortable, that's difficult to get through because it openly and outwardly avoids easy categorization or repetitive melodies. It's a creepy listen intentionally packed with artifice, with the occasional peek of a sense of humor to keep things from getting too dire. It's an album that makes a point without necessarily offering a solution. Maybe there is no solution; maybe the integration of into all aspects of our lives is an inevitable destination. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement.

But please: do disable your ad blockers.




Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.


Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.


The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.


Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.


Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.


Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.


Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.


Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.


Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.


The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.


ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.