Music

Visionist: Value

Photo courtesy of Big Dada Records

Visionist looks to further understand himself as an artist on deep, complex album full of contrast.

Visionist's (a.k.a. experimental composer and producer, Louis Carnell) 2015 Safe album was an unflinching and profoundly personal chronicle of his issues with anxiety and mental health.



Visionist

Value

Label: Big Dada / Ninja Tune
US Release Date: 2017-10-20
UK Release Date: 2017-10-20
Amazon
iTunes

It was a dark, complex album with Carnell weaving in barbed, pointed beats and harsh cacophonous noises. It reveled in obscuring recognizable sounds and, while never an easy listen, could be savored for its willingness to take risks. It saw an artist with a clear, singular vision prepared to lacerate the divide between techno, grime, and dubstep.

New album Visions builds on the sound of his previous work. Visionist is keen to use his work to continue to analyze and evaluate himself through the process of making music. To the end, the music on Value sees him artfully balancing the contrasting feelings of strength and vulnerability. Often, the music is almost unbearably intense, even traumatic but that is adroitly counterbalanced by beautiful ambient passages as if mirroring his conflicting emotional state. In that way, it feels like a very personal album. However, this is still a more outwardly looking album than Safe, as he also explores broader issues such as the meaning of self, of gender and our self-preservation.

The buzzing, insectile like beginning of “Self" jarringly opens the album before giving way to noises that spit and hiss like the gradual release of steam pressure. Swirls of ambient, swirling synths and jagged mechanical noises do battle before leading into “New Obsession". Here, Visionist seemingly constructs a hip-hop style backing out of industrial machinery that whirs and cracks together. Coupled with the more ethereal synths, he creates an asphyxiating, almost nightmarish soundscape. Thankfully, “Homme" offers some respite, beginning with the bright, drip of keyboard and piano notes. Visionist incorporates Oriental sounding chords and instrumentation, creating the effect of feeling like stepping into the wondrous, expanse of a Japanese water garden. Suddenly, an intense flurry of synths breaches the calm before fading and being replaced by beautiful piano notes.

“Value" features noises and sounds that slam together like the deafening roar of shifting tectonic plates. Visionist again creates a scene of automated, mechanical chaos as more organic sounds clamor for room. It is this dilution of harsh, rasping industrial sounds with floaty chords and chiming notes that stops the whole thing becoming overwhelmingly intense. “Your Approval" is another refreshingly left-field move as it's the closest the album has to a recognizable song. The multi-layered, discordant backing judiciously frames the sumptuous, smoky vocals from Nashville-based singer Rolynne. Her vocals are suitably tender and often heartbreakingly fragile as she sings lines such as, “Blue sky, the winds try to drown me / And they tell me that I'm not worthy."

“No idols" features more automated, pounding beats that are again juxtaposed with organic piano notes. "Made in Hope" feels like more of a classical piece than techno with a gorgeously unhurried, sparse opening which sees Visionist wring tears from the piano. Notes echo and bounce, left to fly away before the whole thing becomes slightly more animated. The album initially continues in the same vein as if afraid to break the spell with the floaty and ethereal ambiance that opens “High Life". However, Visionist is only too happy to rough the sound up with notes that grip and tighten as if doing battle with an enormous metal snake that gently constricts. It's a stark example of how Visionist can magnify the pressures on the self in modern society through his manipulation of sound.

The album finishes with the echoing, glitchiness of “Exit(s)t", with interlocking, ascending and descending keyboard riffs that fragment, splinter and then tumble. “Invanity" is an intense, head spinning, whirl of all-out glitchiness. After a calm start, Visionist creates a maelstrom of aural havoc like walking into an amusement arcade as all the machines malfunction at the same time.

Value is not an easy album to listen to and nor should it be. It is a deep and involving work with Visionist exploring his self-worth as an artist and how the process of making music can both give him strength and leave him vulnerable. A bold, ambitious album that once again finds Visionist truly worthy of his forward-thinking moniker.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image