Published at: www.13thfloor.co.nz
If you’ve never heard of Alt-J, the Leeds-based indie rock outfit and one time darlings of the alternative UK rock press, then knowing that Thom Sonny Green’s day job as drummer for that band will be of little consequence. The band are festival headliners after just two albums (2012’s An Awesome Wave or 2014’s This Is All Yours) and a series of hipster interviews on all the right channels. Green’s debut solo album, High Anxiety, comes as a result of three years of stolen moments on tour with his band, recording in hotel rooms, parking sombre digital-ideas that were unsuitable for the main act. The final product collects up 21 cinematic instrumentals, named after cities (perhaps in honour of the locations they were created in) or one-word associations, ranging from slightly alarmed to full-on paranoia. This is entirely intentional given that Green himself suffers from anxiety and a hearing disorder. The most obvious example of the latter is on the intentionally distorted and muddy Large, which sounds like a 80’s synth song, slowed down and played backwards through an 8-track. Quite frankly, it’s bloody awful and the closest to Green’s conditions that I ever want to get.
The melodies that stand out most are Vienna, which very loosely references Ultravox’s big hit from the 80’s, and Oslo, which is a little lie a Boards of Canada out take. Ping might be lush and orchestral but, like much of the content here, seems incomplete. Several tunes here are no more that short repetitive samples without any reason to be here – not as an introduction to a longer piece or a bookend to a series of connecting dots. I want tunes like Preach, that rely of a loop of 4 keys to break into something, anything more than just an over later MPC sample. But it never did. The dense murk and sinister beats behind Cologne might have been created to resemble the imposing stone walls of a medieval city but just seem to be a 2 ½ minute trip up a dead-end alley. Green’s main condition it seems is not those above but that of self-editorial. And so, it goes, with none of these really don’t seeming to fit together beyond the artificial confines of their track listing. Play these on ‘shuffle’ mode and you get the same effect. Overlong, and meandering, these are soundtracks for an unfiltered movie, with no script or dialogue. sounding a little like a lot of other things. Many of our own beat ‘beat-meisters’ – Pacific Heights, for example – have a better grasp on how to deliver the perfect mix of digital composition with a story; a beginning; a build-up; some drama and above all an enjoyable journey. High Anxiety is mostly just a collection of sketches and ideas, unfinished stories, that one day might become a novel. Sadly, they were rushed to print without proper editorial controls in place.