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Positive Feedback ISSUE 65
january/february 2013


Nosaj Thing, Home
by Michael Mercer


nosaj thing

Home, the new album from Nosaj Thing, is a liquid ambient masterpiece. It showcases one of the most endearing things about experimental electronic music: there are no sonic boundaries. Now I'm not saying acoustic music has reached its artistic limit, I love soulful Americana, singer/songwriter stuff, even hardcore live music. There's just something about electronic music exploration that moves me. In the last three decades electronic music has managed to not only infiltrate other genres, but help shape their sound as well. Just look at the beat structure in poppin' hip-hop today. It's dance music. The dubstep craze? Check out the wobblies, the earth-shattering wavy basslines associated with the genre, and listen to what's pumping behind some of the biggest dance music hits right now. Look at the evolution of what used to be called trip-hop for example, Portishead, acid jazz, or acid house, the influence electronic music has had on contemporary pop is undeniable. All that said, the underground still runs the "overground," the populous. Music that flourishes in the streets, at underground events, and on the tongues of young music devotees, eventually finds a way to the top 20. Unfortunately, by the time it gets there it's been so homogenized and marginalized it can feel lifeless, like a consumer machine just looking to suck money out of you.

Albums like Home live in another place. It's a grand fusion of wide-open, airy soundscapes, and intense percussive elements that hit with such velocity they're captivating to hear on a resolute system; especially one that goes deep down into the greater depths with speed and precision. From the slow panning synths weaving around minimal spacey elements in the title track (plus a wicked ripple-in-a-pond sounding bassline) to the sharp synth pads on "Glue" and the gliding metronomic pulse of "Phase III," this album is addictive. I've been playing it all weekend. Still not tired of it!

There's so much sonic exploration going on in electronic music today. It's an endless pool of creativity. The collective drive to explore new sonic frontiers using machines as instruments can yield results that sound alien; wholly new. These machines range from hardware to software. Electronic artists have access to more tools than ever before in the history of recorded sound. With such a wide variety at their disposal, it's easy to get caught up in all the technology; to overdo things sonically; leaving little space to work with in order to create a feeling of depth and connectedness. Artists that transcend the technology sound bigger than the sum of their parts.

Synthesizers, drum machines, sound generators (as well as the digitized version of these tools) have birthed, in my opinion, some of the most fascinating musical arrangements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It doesn't matter what you use when creating music. I realize this will always be a divisive issue, especially in the audiophile world, but in the end it's all art. It's left to interpretation by the ear of the beholder. Whether you've got a Casio or a Fender Strat, they're merely the chosen delivery mechanism. The sounds of self-expression are what counts. Nosaj Thing's arrangements sound focused while venturing further into the endless possibilities of electronic music. It's refreshing, deep, and mellow; the perfect thing to listen to while driving or reading, hanging with your loved one, or alone in the office. I can't get enough of it. Fans of Brian Eno's ambient music, Aphex Twin's ambient masterpieces, or bands like Portishead or Mogwai might dig this record. Nosaj Thing has cemented their place as great electric songwriters with Home. I couldn't give the album a higher recommendation. It's also going in my personal audio demonstration arsenal. The recording is top-notch: coherent from top to bottom with loads of depth and width. Though it's early, this is my number one record of 2013 thus far!

Check out "Glue" from the album here: