The name Antonionian probably isn’t going to ring any immediate musical bells for the majority of people. It’s only when you find out that the moniker belongs to Jordan Dalrymple – one sixth of experimental group Subtle – that you get any sort of clue of where he’s going to be heading on his debut. Naturally he’s retained certain elements from that sound, but Antonionian definitely feels like a departure, a fresh start with a new role as solo frontman and vocalist.
At just over half an hour in length the record is short, almost as short as an EP by modern standards, and a full 16 minutes shorter than Subtle’s last record ExitingARM. Oddly enough it doesn’t actually feel that short at all, because the mood is changed and built across the 30 minutes in such an absorbing manner.
Dalrymple has been a percussionist since he was three and ‘The Desert’ is thus a predictable but fitting opener. Crunching, lo-fi drums engulfed in feedback-laden electronics create a hazy and almost psychedelic atmosphere which draws you in. These qualities can be found across a lot of the album (the live drum work in particular maintains a pleasing lo-fi quality) but as early as second track ‘Another Mistral’ Antonionian starts exploring the pop capabilities within this framework. Beginning with a twinkling keyed riff and gentle acoustic strumming the track moves pretty swiftly into the biggest sing-along pop chorus of the record. It’s not hard to imagine a unison of fans singing ‘And she’s gone, no no no…’ back at Dalrymple in the near future.
Whether he realises he has a knack for a good pop melody is another question. His voice seems to be lacking conviction at certain points, as if he’s ready to dip his toe but not to take the plunge. It works well on ‘The Ride’, his heavily treated vocals becoming another musical instrument rather than standing out, but on ‘Vanquished’ it feels like they could be turned up in the mix just slightly. Of course it’s impossible to know if the album was recorded chronologically, but by ‘The Desert Pt. 2’ his voice sounds a lot stronger and assured, standing comfortably beside an abrasive, fuzzed-out guitar riff.
‘Pull True’ is as fitting a closer as ‘The Desert’ is opener, with Dalrymple amalgamating a great deal of his previous sounds into a concise three minute burst. The same drum sounds start proceedings alongside subdued singing and a jerking, two-key piano rhythm, acoustic strums maintain the melody while stuttered vocals and a wash of glistening electronics build the track into a brief but resounding pop chorus. Antonionian at its heart may be a testing ground for an artist with new ideas and responsibilities, but the results are a whole lot more complete and gratifying than mere experiments.
Antonionian is out on 15th of March in the US on Anticon, and 21st of March in Europe on Discograph.