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Anti-Social Music - Is the Future of Everything

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Artist: Anti-Social Music

Album: Is the Future of Everything

Label: Peacock

Review date: Jun. 29, 2011

Don’t let the name fool you: Anti-Social Music specializes in the sort of left-field musical collaborations that, in retrospect, seem blindingly -- and welcomingly -- obvious. It’s a new music ensemble that’s been around for a decade now and, in many way it exemplify the ways in which the lines between new music ensembles and rock/pop groups have been blurred. It’s commissioned work from the likes of His Name Is Alive and dälek; its members have lodged time in the likes of the World/Inferno Friendship Society and Beauty Pill. There’s also the fact that Franz Nicolay, probably best known for the time he’s spent in groups like The Hold Steady and (more recently) Against Me!, is a founding member.

Is the Future of Everything is the group’s fourth recording. It’s a surreal excursion, covering everything from reset texts from an unexpected American writer to explorations of dissonance to ominous saxophones seemingly on loan from a jazz orchestra. Nine composers total are represented here, and an even greater range of styles, sometimes within the same piece. Witness, for example, Brad Kemp’s “The Game #2,” which encompasses modes both dissonant and aquatic.

Kamala Sankaram’s "The Bitter Suite" closes the album, and represents its apex. In its prologue, a cello slowly develops a melody even as a guitar supplies surreal interjections. Sankaram solemnly sings a text over it; glancing at the liner notes, one sees that the text’s author (something true for the entire piece) is one Hunter S. Thompson. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72 is the source of three of the piece’s six sections. "The Bitter Suite" is boisterous, irreverent, and sometimes brokenheartedly idealistic -- an unexpected yet surprisingly blend of words and music.

Some of the forms are more familiar. As the title might suggest, John Wriggle’s “Scooter’s Rag” hearkens back to the early 20th century for some of its musical cues, while sections of Andrea La Rose’s “Grunt Work for the Avant-Garde” tip their hat to the minimalist tradition, even as the piece’s title adopts a more skeptical perspective.

Given the range of styles heard here, not everything will click for every listener: David Durst’s “Correction,” for one, applies metatextual devices (and Nixon-era ephemera) in a way that seems more theoretically clever than actually enlightening. But there are unexpected pleasures to be heard on this album: passages both seductive and challenging; marriages of attitude and aptitude that soar.

By Tobias Carroll

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