Brooklyn’s Arthur Ashin–Autre Ne Veut–has drawn a new blueprint for emotional music with his newest album, Anxiety (Mexican Summer). Each song on Ashin’s second full-length album is a focused take on emotional music in a post-emo culture with a distinct and highly conceptual pattern:
For the full effect, prime some blown-out synth pop reverbed in double- and triple-tracked vocals, lyrics concerning death, some no-holds-barred sexual encounters of the ambiguous nature, and dance with oneself in a closed room with no music or lights.
Finally, coalesce together in a self-aggrandizing and humorless pit of cleanliness and pseudo-optimism.
The first few steps are nothing new. Before vocal pop music became a staple of AM radio play in the mid-1940s, musicians and composers stressed emotion through a careful structure of rhythm and timbre. Specific sounds evoke specific emotion; the human condition was boiled down to a series of grand gestures and postulation. This has been an archetype in every major genre since; there exists a brand within which modern music lives (especially without lyrical manipulation).
In Anxiety, Ashin has essentially created a grandiose modern take on emotional rhythm and blues. The knack he has for arpeggios and scale interpretation adds a robustness to an otherwise raw form of love and longing.
The best albums often strike balance between source and soul, with words exemplifying the tone of the sound. Ashin has the fortune of a sprawling catalog of old and new from which to use, making Anxiety almost like a logical crossroads between ’80s synth, ’90s rhythm and blues, ’00s reverb aesthetic, and modern post-Internet judgment. The key word is “almost,” because he has also created a lyrical landscape of the aforementioned pseudo-humor and optimism, virtually untapped by his predecessors.
He tells you it’s okay to attend a sexually charged situation with platonic wonderment in “Ego Free Sex Free.” The impending death of his grandmother has a slow-burn mentality, and to express these feelings is normal and terrifying in “Counting.” And the constant and often counter-productive battle for self-realization is comparable to a bellicose struggle for superiority in “World War.”
This style of Ashin’s, in a way, is the new emo–a transference from inward to outward expression via the constantly growing sprawl of sociability and reaffirmation that sometimes it’s okay to socialize with just yourself.
For what a blueprint is worth, Ashin seems to have one in his control and then completely ignores it; his take on emo has traditional roots but you’d hardly qualify this as “emo” music per say. For Ashin, this music is his modern take on pop music first, then adding his own roots as a damaged man: ten years ago, you’d have found bands like The Used or My Chemical Romance doing the opposite to different, if not great, success. A century and a half ago, you’d have found Ashin doing the same thing because that’s what popular music was back then. Perhaps he’s a romantic, 15 decades too late.
But this fact adds a mystique to the music in the form of unpredictability. It is an interesting concept that artists should rarely, if ever, attempt for the sake of vanity. He makes a person work as a listener, learning about music and the potential of music with every note.