Published Sep 30, 2015Not three seconds into Age of Transparency, as Autre Ne Veut's Arthur Ashin cuts his opening "baaaaa(-be? -by?)" and pulls it back with a vinyl squiggle, it's clear that his third album is going to be as brash, dramatic and unpredictable as his breakout 2013 full-length, Anxiety.
Sonically, Transparency treads similar territory, evidenced by the chopped and screwed synthetic choral vocals on "Panic Room," the thick, squelchy R&B synths of "Cold Winds" and the flanged, distorted guitar of the epic title track. Perhaps it's confidence after the success of Anxiety, but Ashin takes more risks here than in Autre Ne Veut's previous work, and they pay off. "On and On (Reprise)," is a particularly beguiling, dizzy composition, tossing the listener from woozy, pitch-shifted loops, crashing instrumental cacophony and Ashin's plaintive wails to gentle, jazzy piano chords and tender croons.
Those soft pockets of organic instrumentation are leftovers from recording sessions in which Ashin led an improv jazz ensemble through the songs' blueprints, and it provides the album with enough moments to breathe — especially on the title track and "Never Wanted" — that Age of Transparency feels less like the collection of singles Anxiety was and more like the cohesive, momentous artistic statement his best work always suggested he's capable of. (Downtown)